Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ironman Louisville Training Weekend

First of all, a big thank you to the folks at for putting on such a great training weekend.  Secondly, I'm not sure if it made me more confident or more freaked out about the race, now in (gulp) less than 8 weeks.
The Ironman Louisville Finish Line --
Where I hope to arrive before midnight on August 26
Jamie and I had spent the previous week in Indianapolis visiting my parents, and decided to make this our first kid-free mini-vacation.  I realize that only total tri-nerds would spend that time at training weekend, but we decided to make it fun.  We got a room at The Brown Hotel downtown, which is right near some great eateries.  If you are going to burn 4,000 calories over the course of the weekend, you might as well indulge.  We had lunch at the Bluegrass Brewing Company (the best part:  Bourbon Bread Pudding for dessert), then explored the city a bit.  They were having an... interesting... convention down by the riverfront with thousands  of people in costume (sidenote -- it was 102 degrees.  No way I would stay in some of these costumes in that heat.)  I resisted the urge to get photos of every conference participant I saw, but did get some pics of us with a hearse parked in front of the Galt hotel.
Jamie's new ride
A new friend for me!

We walked a mile up the river and finished up with dinner at a lovely little place called Hillbilly Tea.  I had "Chicken Fried Tofu", which despite the name was positively gourmet.  Then we headed back to the hotel to try to get some sleep before our big day.

The Swim
This was just to give us a feel for swimming in the Ohio.  The Ironman Louisville course starts out on the dock at Tumbleweeds restaurant and goes "upstream" in the place between Towhead Island and the shore, then turns around and is downstream for the remaining two miles or so.  We were allowed to do as many laps as we wanted in the sheltered area behind the island.  The leader of the training weekend said "There are two reasons Ironman Louisville doesn't sell out. The first is the heat.  The second is this river -- people are really nervous swimming in the Ohio."  Well I'm not.  I've swam in the Potomac and in the Indy Canal.  It doesn't get worse than the Indy Canal - my pink swim camp turned brown and never recovered.  So I jumped right in while most people were peering nervously at the muddy water.  It was nice and warm and there aren't any sharks or jellyfish.  I did one lap and got out.  17 minutes.  This was my first time in open water with the Garmin and it was ridiculously inaccurate.  I'd love to believe I did .77 miles but... no way in the world could I do that in 17 minutes.  

The Bike
Jamie and I decided to start out together and he would head back at the 60 or 80 turnaround, and I would do all 112.  It was already 90 degrees at 8:45 a.m., and much of those at the training camp had opted to skip the swim and head out early and beat the heat , leaving at 7.  The group we took off with only had about 5 riders and we quickly lost the three guys in front who were hammering it at 20 mph.  (Side note:  This was the fittest group of people I have ever seen and I started to feel very inadequate pretty much immediately.)  
The first part of the course was flat and I started thinking that people exaggerated the difficulty of this race and that really, it wasn't so bad.  I'd done Casa River Century with all those hills, no problem, this couldn't be that bad, right?  There was a long climb and then we were at the first aid station.  Jamie and I filled our bottles and we headed off for a ten mile out and back, which the guy at the aid station described as "some rolling hills -- you'll really enjoy it!"  We turned and came upon a steep descent.  My bike computer registered 38 miles and hour -- whee!  Except that meant I had to go UP that hill on the way back.  And yes, on the way back that 38 mph turned into 8 mph.  Still, I was feeling good.  Jamie and I headed on to the main loop.  I stopped to use the restroom at about the 33rd mile, and Jamie said he thought the next aid station was in three miles.  I started looking for it but didn't see anything.  I pulled into a church to look at my map and a couple guys stopped to ask if I was okay.  They told me that the next aid station was after the next left turn so I put my map away and followed them.  As we passed through the town of L'Esprit I heard Jamie call out "What was THAT???" at the top of his lungs.  I figured some car had cut him off or something.  I had almost no fluids left and it was in the 90s.  After the left turn and a couple of miles I stopped to look at the map, which told me the aid station was not until we reached the 50 mile mark.  We were at 42.  What happened to the one that was supposed to be at 38?  Jamie rode up behind me and I showed him the map.  "Why didn't you stop when I called out to you?"  -Jamie  "You called out to me?"  -Me  "Yes, when you were hammering up that hill I called out to you - you missed the aid station!  I have no water!  We have another 8 miles til we get to water!" - Jamie   "Well... maybe we can stop at a gas station?"  Except there wasn't one for those next 8 miles - just a lot of hills.  This course was just full of hills.  Look how happy we were to get to aid station!  
  They had a nice lunch spread (barebeque) in addition to the Ironman nutrition (Infinit, gels, etc.) at the other aid stations, and we stayed at this one for awhile.  It was only getting hotter and I still had a second LeGrange loop to complete (Jamie was just riding straight back to the start, giving him 80 miles total.)  So I took off by myself.  
   This is where it really started to get hard mentally.  The first loop, I could take the hills,  It was a good 10 degrees hotter, I was by myself, I was tired, and I still had another 62 miles on the bike.  I tried to break it up into smaller sections -- at 56 I could say I was halfway done!  At 68ish, I pulled into the aid station I had missed the first time around.  There wasn't much left for us -- most of the folks that actually did all 112 had left early, and with the heat a lot that left at 9am had opted to stick to one loop.  Another woman pulled in and showed me that her gear shifter had just broken, which happened right after she started the second loop.  The fact that she was finishing anyhow and hadn't called SAG to pick her up was motivation to keep going.  I took off again and caught up with a few riders from Indianapolis.  We made it to the 50/ 80 mile aid station, checked the weather (99 degrees) and took off to "get this thing over with."  And then at the 83rd mile I got a flat rear tire.  NOOOOOOO!!!  I stink at changing tires.  I opened up my seat bag and realized to my horror that I didn't even have a CO2 cartridge with me.  Ugh.  I called Jamie.  He had just finished the 80 miles and was not in the state to drive 40 minutes to bring me the pump (forget picking me up -- I was finishing this thing.) I felt too guilty to call SAG since they made a big deal about how we needed to be able to change flats.   I flipped my bike over just stared at the rear tire.  At about this time a couple of Latter Day Saints missionaries drove past and stopped to see if I needed help.  One of them knew how to change a tire so she showed me how to get the rear wheel off the chain.  She didn't have a pump though.  Aside from the woman with the broken gear, I wasn't sure if anyone else was finishing the whole course.  And then lo and behold, two guys came pedaling around the corner.  They had CO2!  They changed my tire!  They will have good Karma forever!  And I will make it my mission to learn how to change a flat on my own in the next couple weeks.  Really.  I am going to practice and practice and practice.  I thanked my four new friends, called Jamie (who says to me "I'm just warning you - that last 30 miles is bad.  It looks easy on paper but it's bad.  Bad bad bad."  Just what I needed to hear.), and headed off.  Mentally it was tough - it was hot and there were still little rollers -  but this was the "easiest" part of the course, with a net downhill.  I reached the final aid stop, filled up my 42 oz fluid bottle for the fifth time that day,  chatted with and again thanked the men who helped me with my tire, and got on the road again.  I. was. so. tired.  I was so ready for that bike computer to say 112.  While the first few miles of the course flew by, each of these felt like eternity.  When I was about 9 miles from the finish, Jamie started driving loops around the course and honking at me.  He is awesome.  He said he was ready to die the last ten miles and knew I would need some motivation.  When I finished, he had the A/C blasting and potato chips in the passenger seat.  I collapsed, he racked my bike, and we set off for the hotel.  I knew I needed to run a mile or so just to get a feel for running after such a long time on the bike.  I spent the car ride convincing myself to do it.  I changed into running shorts and checked the temperature.  101.  Perfect.  I ran for 11 minutes.  Good enough.  
That bike course is brutal.  Total elevation gain:  3,450 feet. That's a lot of climbing, especially with temperatures in the high 90s/ low 100s.  Anyone who tells you Ironman Louisville has "a few rolling hills" is seriously underestimating this course.  We collapsed in the hotel for an hour or so, then cleaned up and went out for a fantastic celebratory dinner at Doc Crow's.  Check out our dessert.  Yes that says "Brown butter praline ice cream with Bourbon caramel ribbon atop CINNAMON PORK RINDS  sprinkled with CANDIED BACON topped with a Bourbon Cherry."  A local specialty.  And it was good.  Really good.

The Run
All I can say about the run is these other folks doing the tri-camp run really fast.  After riding the night before I planned to take it easy.  I asked the other folks what pace they planned on going, and most wanted to go at about an 8 minute mile.  No thank you.  I fell into step with a couple that was going about 9-9:30s, and found out they were also from Virginia.  They were fun and it was nice to have company.  We had started the 13.1 run loop about 2 miles from the actual start, and when we crossed the "finish line" at Fourth Street Live at 11ish miles we were so close to my hotel that I decided to just run back to it and get a shower in before checkout.  So I only did 12 miles.  Good enough.

It was a great weekend.  We finished it off with brunch at a fantastic place called Toast on Market.  I think we ate out more this past weekend than we did the whole of last year. Too hard to eat out with a baby and a three year old.  My parents are awesome for babysitting.  

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