Friday, September 10, 2010

Ironman Louisville (Belated) Race Report

OK, I know, I know. It’s been over a week and still no race report! And I don’t even have the excuse that I was busy trying to make it perfect. But I do have the excuse that I just started grad school full time on Wednesday, and the past week has been pretty nuts between that and moving. We’re almost moved in to our nice new apartment, and I’m pretty settled into all of my classes, despite the tons of work they’ll be generating, so life is at least semi-back on track. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is entirely devoted to my IMKY race report.

Without further ado…

Pre Race

Transition opened at 5:30, so at 4:30 I was awake, trying to eat a bagel and drink a ton of fluids, and out the door. Because we had stashed everything in transition the night before, it was a pretty simple morning. Got to transition, got everything set up, and was generally feeling pretty calm. Then, a .75 mile walk down to the start of the swim. We got there and were wondering why everyone was sitting in front of the portapotties.

I got bodymarked, and dad realized that they were all people in line. Honestly, people must have been there since the night before- I kid you not, I saw an air mattress. We walked and walked and walked and about a mile alter got to the end of the line. I looked at the guys in front of me and asked if this was the line for Springsteen tickets. They laughed, but I guess that joke makes the most sense if you’re from NJ. Anyway, I chatted and ate, and was still feeling good. The guy behind me kept asking if I was nervous though, which did little to relax me.


The Swim

Once the line started moving, it moved quick. Before I really knew what was happening, I had a surge of volunteers pushing me into the swim chute yelling “keep running!” We went off the 2 docks 2 at a time 2 seconds apart, so before I really realized just what was happening, I was in the water and swimming. It was crazy. Because I started far back, it was pretty rough going. Got elbowed, kicked, and generally manhandled as I crawled my way up. The problem was that I kept getting slowed down because of all of the random people in front of me breast-stroking and popping out to sight. Seriously, there was a traffic jam at the turn buoy! I just kept telling myself to stay calm and just keep going. No crazy antics, just stay calm and KEEP SWIMMING! We swam under a couple of bridges, which was pretty neat, and then before I really realized it, the end was in sight! I got out of the water in about 1:18, which was kind of slow for me, but with the washing machine effect of having to get around so many people, I was ok with it. My only issue with the race setup was that they had so few buoys, it was almost impossible to sight sometimes. You had to assume that everyone knew where they were going and follow blindly until a buoy finally came into sight.

But… out of the swim and into bike transition! I ran into the changing tent and was shocked at how many people were totally changing! I was wearing my bike stuff so I crammed my shoes and helmet on, pulled my Rutgers jersey on over my head and booked it out of the tent, pausing to get copious amounts of lotion everywhere. Ran out, mounted, and took a deep breath… 112 miles to go.


The Bike

The bike started FAST. I was passing people, and feeling really good. (My results are a tribute to this, my average for the first part was 19.5). I was expecting a flat course, but it was more accurately described as rolling. A lot of the time, it was kind of tough avoiding drafting, and I felt like I got slowed down a lot because of it in some segments. I had a nutrition plan in place and I was sticking to it, feeling good, despite the fact that it was getting HOT out. I was refilling my bottles at every station, drinking as much as possible between them, and generally trying to stay calm, but stay going at a steady clip. I didn’t want to be beat for the marathon (though in retrospect I might as well have been) and I was trying to conserve energy. It’s amazing how fast 112 miles goes by, and how exciting it was when we passed through LaGrange and just could hear the crowd going crazy for us. I made a few “friends” on the bike, men and women, because we had a group of about 25 of us that kept constantly passing and re-passing each other. It made it fun, knowing who had just passed you so you could head for them on the next hill. I'm glad I have this picture of me smiling, because honestly, this part was fun:

By the last 20 miles or so, I started having some “respiratory issues,” which made me aware that I was probably getting dehydrated. As I said, I had been drinking as much as I could. Everyone that reads this is all to aware of my issues with IBS, so while I know I wasn’t drinking as much as I should, I was drinking as much as I possibly could without making myself sick or cramping. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. As the miles ticked off, I knew the marathon was going to be tough, but I tried to stay focused. I definitely slowed down a bit towards the end, but still ended the bike with an average of 18.5 mph. Not too shabby, though I wish I hadn’t started losing it at the end.


The Run

… to call it the run is kind of an insult to running. I got into transition, actually changed shorts and threw on a running top with Rutgers Cyclocross written in marker on the back. Represent!! I charged out of transition, planning to eek as much actual running as I could. I made it to the first aid station, got through that walking, and started running again. For the first couple stations, I wasn’t feeling great but I was surviving. But then… my lungs started really hurting. It was like how I felt during Rev 3, but worse.

I found this online about dehydration: When the body reaches 10% fluid loss emergency help is needed IMMEDIATELY! 10% fluid loss and above is often fatal! Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Muscle spasms (YES)
  • Vomiting (Dry Heaving, but still…)
  • Racing pulse
  • Shriveled skin
  • Dim vision (YES)
  • Painful urination (YES)
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing (YES)
  • Seizures
  • Chest and Abdominal pain (YES)

So I was in greaaaat shape at that point. But still, Death Before DNF! (As my dad reminded me from the sidelines.)

I should clarify- if I was breathing through my nose, it wasn’t so bad. And this was around mile 5 or so. I kept going, running when I could, walking the aid stations, drinking as much as possible. The ice cold sponges definitely helped, and made me feel a lot less gross. The problem was, I couldn’t eat. It was making me super sick and the idea of eating was making me dry heave.

Around mile 10, I started dry heaving. Which is the worst. All I wanted was to actually throw up, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Still, I kept run-walking.

When we hit loop 2, I felt a little better. It is amazing how short 13 miles seems when you have 127 finished! I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to finish, and that kept me going. People were great- I talked to a lot of other racers about IM and about cyclocross, but by mile 15, my lungs were not thrilled with me and talking hurt. By mile 20, I couldn’t really drink, and I was walking way more than I was running. The problem with dehydration, I learned, is that once it starts, no amount of drinking is really going to help when you’re still racing. It was depressing, my legs felt fine but I couldn’t breathe or drink. I wanted to run but every time I did, I thought I was going to fall over. Everything hurt except my legs and I just wanted to keep running. I was watching the clock tick away past my goal times that I could have made, had I been able to take in more fluids. And that hurt. Still, kept going.

Anyway, finally hit those last couple miles and started trying to run from cone to cone- run one cone, walk the next, run one, walk one… And after what seemed like forever, the finish line started to come into sight. Rather, you could hear it before you saw it. A dull roar that you could hear 4 blocks away. And knowing that I wanted to run across the line, and knowing that medical help was just blocks away, I gave it everything I had, ran through the cheering crowd, and finally got to hear that I was an Ironman. Final time: 13:37. Way more than I had planned, but faster than I thought I would do once I started hurting.

It was incredible. Now, I’m not one of the people that had a terrible race and decided to do it again immediately. Maybe if I wasn’t planning on trying out the whole short course “career” thing next summer, things would be different, but as it is, I want to focus on what I’m good at, not keep trying this. At least, not anytime soon. I have very high hopes and expectations for myself as a triathlete, and I realize I need to play to my strengths. But, that being said… it was a pretty great feeling.


I got this finishers picture taken- I felt like I was about to fall over but still remained goofy as hell.

I went to the medical building, met a lovely man who- while waiting for his own medical care- made sure that I got taken in and seen quickly, and got pumped full of IV fluids thanks to a whole lot of amazing volunteers. The EMTs there were fantastic, and super nice, even though they were probably sick of us by the time I got there. When I was shaking like crazy from the IV, one of them even took off my shoes and socks and tucked my feet under the blanket- now how’s that for service? I got a t-shirt they had left over from a local 5k to put on instead of my wet race shirt, and when I got home, I wrote on it in black marker “I was in the Ironman medical building and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Everyone’s a comedian.

Dad and I finally made it out, I called mom and Robbie to update them, and then we went in search of vegetable broth, which was all I wanted to eat ever again. Nothing was open, but we finally found a grocery store open 24 hours. We went in, but obviously they didn’t have preheated veggie broth waiting for me. We did find a microwave in the coffee area and a can of soup in the soup aisle though, so I creatively decided to buy the soup, pour it into coffee cups and cook it in the microwave. 70 cent broth has never tasted so good! I drank one cup there, and then went back to the hotel, sat down in the hot shower, and drank the other cup. It was simultaneously the most awesome and pathetic I think I have ever felt.

And may I say, I highly recommend getting an IV after any race- I felt great the next day, not sore at all! (though, to be fair, like I said- my legs felt fine during the race, it was my lungs that were failing to cooperate.)

Anyway, that is Ironman in a nutshell. It was an experience. I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I pushed through to finish. I’d like to say that next time I could do better, but honestly, so much of what happened was because of things I can’t change with my stomach, and the 98 degree heat. I would choose an IM in a cooler location, but other than that, I don’t know what more I could do. It’s been great though- more on this later, but starting school when every teacher has been doing “getting to know you” exercises in class and they ask for one thing about us, I’ve gotten to say, “Well, 4 days ago, I did an Ironman.”

“Swim 2.4 miles. Ride 112 miles. Run 26.2 miles. Then brag for the rest of your life.” -Commander John Collins, Ironman Triathlon creator

4 comments:

Keith said...

Congrats on getting through a very tough day. But be careful what you wish for. At IMC lots of people wished for cooler weather than last year. We got that, and the med tent was swamped by people with hypothermia. Several people crashed their bikes because they were shivering so much they lost control. Which must be a horrible feeling.

So, what's next?

Jon Gilchrist said...

INCREDIBLE. Way to go for sticking it out!!

Molly said...

what's next is most definitely CYCLOCROSS!! followed next year by some serious short course races. i'm stoked to really focus on doing the olympic distance seriously.

and thank you!!

Anonymous said...

ouch. your blog comes up in a search about the death in the swim in this year's race...