IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Ironman Louisville 2009 Race Report

Most of the crew was heading down to Louisville on Thursday, so I decided having one extra day down in Louisville and hang out with my fellow Ironman (and Ironman-wannabes) friends would be a good idea. Athlete check-in for this race was a little bit like a game of pin ball. We bounced from one table to another, doing just one little task at each instead of taking care of everything at once as my other Ironman events have been. It was a bit frustrating, but the lines did seem to move quickly. I scooted right through the expo as I have a rule not to buy any event merchandise until after I FINISH the event.

The next day, a group of us headed down for a little swim-bike-run race warm up. I slipped on my new skinsuit and jumped in the water. Much warmer than I expected! I quickly jumped on BC's toes - and despite an expert drafter, kept hitting him because the water was so dark that even though his feet were just inches in front of me, I could not see them. This would be a critical thing to know during the swim portion of the event. Once out of the water, we did a quick run and hopped on our bikes for a very short ride. The roads in Louisville do not have a shoulder and the motorists do not seem very enthused with sharing the roads with cyclists. We were buzzed several times, including by a semi. Enough riding.

The day before the race, more spectator friends arrived but I didn't see much of them. I tried to keep to myself and be focused for the day. I felt amazingly calm and prepared for this weekend's event. Went down to drop off my bike and transition bags only to be forced to have an "escort" take me to my place on the bike rack. It was very distracting as I wanted to find the routes through the transition I would take the next day and my escort just kept chatting away. Did not like the fact that they would not let me in there to just do my thing by myself so I could focus.

All local restaurants were PACKED forcing us out of town for a dinner that ended up being a little later than planned. Back to the room, I laid out everything for the morning and went to sleep. Surprisingly, I DID sleep! Woke up at 4am, time to chow, despite not being hungry. Met BC down in the lobby and walked over to transition. Ran into more of the south side crew and we shared some laughs as we finished the walk to transition. Once inside, pumped up the bike tires, put my fuel on the bike, a quick stop for BC to drop off special needs bags and we were walking to the swim start.

Body marking was smooth and quick as they had plenty of volunteers lined up for duty. Quick stop at the porta potty and we went to find our spot in the long line of athletes lined up to get in the water. HOLY COW - this line kept going and going and going. Here we were, more than an hour before the race was to start, but all these people made it a point to get in line early for the swim. I refused to sacrifice sleep to get in line early and now I was questioning my decision. The line seemed like it went on forever. I don't think there were more than 100 athletes behind us in line - this meant 2900-ish athletes were getting in the water before me. This could be trouble. But it was too late to worry about it and there was no way I was cutting in line (even though I think it could've easily been accomplished).

We sat on the cold concrete sidewalk for about 40 minutes before the pros started and the line moved a bit. It was kind of like a marathon start, where everyone runs a few steps, then abruptly stops, then people run again, etc. It was about 7:36 when I finally crossed the mat and jumped in the water. Sighting was difficult with the angle of the sun, but I felt like I had to look a LOT because there were a lot of people in front of me and I also knew that I could easily get kicked in the face because you couldn't see anything in the water until you were right on top of it. We came to the turn at the end of the island and people were standing. That's right, STANDING. They were walking through this portion of the swim, kicking up muck from the bottom. The water turned really cold, then really warm and we rounded the turn back into the main part of the river. I went wide to avoid the traffic but found myself WAY too wide. I spent what seemed like a lot of time trying to get back closer to the shoreline. The swim felt long and when I got out of the water and hit my watch, I about panicked. This was about 9 minutes longer than any other Ironman I've ever done. What the heck happened here? I am like CLOCKWORK when it comes to the swim! Could the course be long? Strong current? Were everyone's times slow? I didn't have time to think about it. I just hoped it didn't mean I was going to have an "off" day.

I ran to transition, picked up my transition bag (volunteers were there, but not really helping anyone by handing them bags as I've experienced in the past), and ran into the tent. There were many other athletes in there, again, something I'm not used to - no volunteer help again, so I methodically put the items on in the order I pulled them out of the bag. One quick look around to make sure I left nothing behind. I then stuffed my skinsuit, cap and goggles in my bag, placed it in the pile with the others and went out to find my bike. As I ran to the mount line, I was already worried about how cold I was going to be on the bike, but I didn't even bring arm warmers, so I just needed to suck it up. Got to the line, watched athletes on both sides of me struggle to get on their bikes with shoes clipped in (WHY do athletes do this when they've not practiced it??!??), jumped on my bike and headed out on the roads of Louisville.

The right side of the road is a little rough the first few miles. The road was congested with other cyclists, but I knew once we hit some hills, this would break up. We rode through some very pretty tree-covered streets before making a left turn onto a busier street. Soon I got to the part of the course I had ridden in my training. I was constantly reminding myself to slow down, but I was feeling great. We got to the out and back (the "finger") and I prepared myself for the challenge ahead. This section of the course is pretty tough and dangerous. The hills are decent and the declines get you moving with some speed. And, as usual, there are always the guys that like to jockey with you. They'd fly by me up a hill only to have me re-pass them on the downhill or flat section. I like to count how many times we go back and forth before they fall back and stay back. It helps pass the time. This section was shady and I was pretty cold. I knew, though, once out of this section, I'd have a good amount of sun warming me up!

Smooth and relaxed I rode, keeping high cadence, focusing on taking in my nutrition at the intervals I set for myself. First pass through LaGrange, where we get the majority of the spectators, I quickly tried to scour both sides of the street to see if I could spot any familiar faces. Disappointed, I rode right through the town seeing no one I knew. The sharp left on Ballard School Road brings on some nice challenges. All the athletes got quiet and I take the opportunity while spinning up hill to get out of the aero position (not out of the saddle) and stretch out a bit.

I pass by the familiar gas station on the corner (the one that is especially nice to cyclists and even offers us free ice!) and I know I'm nearing the end of the first loop. Temperature is perfect, though now I start to notice the wind. I'm so directionally challenged, I have no idea if this will make it harder or easier for the next loop. Second pass through LaGrange, I manage to see the saint and Schabel waving to me. I smile and give them the thumbs up so they know I'm feeling good.

I was excited to get back on to the busy street that means I'm on my way back into Louisville. I am now extremely uncomfortable on my bike seat and though my legs are feeling strong, I find myself standing and coasting a lot to give myself a little relief. I was told the way back in was a slight downhill - I like slight downhill (who doesn't?), so I took advantage of this and focused on keeping steady power to the pedals. I was conserving a bit for the run because it's always been a challenge for me to hold it together in Iron distance races. Feeling pretty good, but really want to get off this bike now.

Another quick stop in transition, this time a volunteer handed me my bag and another ran into transition with me. She took my helmet and tried to help me, but there really wasn't much she could help with besides taking my helmet and cycling shoes. I packed all my nutrition in my back pocket, grabbed my visor, took a quick look around and headed out on to the run course. Immediately, something wasn't right with my right foot. It hurt every step. I think my feet got a little too cold on the bike and it went numb for a while. The feeling was coming back, but not in a good way. I wondered if I was going to be able to run. As this was happening, my legs felt heavy - heavy like they did in Arizona. When I did Ironman Arizona, the legs felt heavy from the first step of that marathon and that lasted for the whole 26.2. Thankfully, this was not the case at Louisville. After about a mile, I started to get a rhythym and it felt good. I was getting passed left and right, but tried to stay focused and slowed myself down. This time, I saw him and Ramsey yelling to me as I was running. I turned a couple corners and heard them yelling down the street. It was echoing down the street lined with tall buildings and I had to laugh at the sight of them running, yelling after me. It gave me a good little boost as I headed out on the run course.

As soon as mile 7, I started gaining on some of those runners that flew by me in the first couple of miles. I simply held my pace. I jockeyed with a woman in an age group younger than me, but she really didn't want to chat. I had a hard time trying to remember when I was supposed to take my gels. I took water at every aid station, whether I was taking a gel or not. Sometimes, they'd give me warm water and I'd have to chase down a cup of ice. Some aid stations, they seemed to just be holding out Gatorade and the people handing out water were too busy pouring more water into cups, so I'd have to run to the table to get the water. I knew I was dehydrated and it was a challenge to try and get in enough water without filling my stomach with too much fluid.

I looked for more spectator friends because I KNEW they were out there, but didn't see anyone. It was good to see BC heading out on the run but he was too far back. I was hoping he would catch me so I'd have some company. I saw Shoemaker a little after that and we exchanged a couple words. Saw some interesting things on the first loop of the run: spectator sitting in his front yard with his parrot in a cage on his lap, a dude running with a blue furry chicken on his head and then - a guy that looked like he was running in a skinsuit. Yes, the kind I had on during the swim. He was running in it. Not sure if my eyes were deceiving me, but it definitely caught my attention. What was his deal?

Came on in to finish the first loop and lots of spectators lined the course on both sides of the block we ran completely around. Just by luck, he was able to get this quick shot of me heading back out on loop two, still feeling pretty good. At this point, it was about Mile 14 and I decided I was running too fast. I knew I could not keep this pace for the rest of the run so I purposely slowed down. I saw Peck who said he felt tight, but he smiled and was determined to get this thing done. Came up on Pat who was clipping along and yelling after me, "You'll never make it!!" Laughing was using up my breath!! As I ran, I watched as I unintentionally slowed my pace even more. Now I'm starting to hurt and I'm wondering why I am killing myself out here. I forced myself to pick up the pace, though it wasn't by much.

I started counting down the miles: 8 more to go, 7 more to go, now just a 10K. I forced myself to keep running despite my legs screaming at me to stop with just 5 miles to go. My quads were aching and I was worried as I felt the onset of a cramp coming on. A guy running near me sounded like he had a metronome, but no, it was some pill or something he was carrying in a plastic container that was bouncing around with every step making a REALLY LOUD clicking noise! It was annoying, but I couldn't run fast enough to get away from him! The last time I passed by "Inspiration Station" it seemed the inspiration girls needed a little inspiring themselves. They had lost a lot of the energy and enthusiasm they had the first couple times I passed through there. Now just less than 4 miles to go - do I need to take another gel? Just do it, you have it with you and it certainly can't hurt! Besides, then you don't have to carry it any more!

Saw Mel looking strong on her run and BC giving me some much needed words of encouragement. I started coming in back to where all the spectators were gathered and I could now hear the crowd. I was checking my watch and blinking because I was sure I was seeing things. Could I really be finishing this thing in under 11 hours?? I heard Bill yell to me - I heard Anna yell to me - and then I made that turn where it was a straight few blocks into the finish. And there was Mel, yelling, cheering, running and trying to get my picture. I couldn't help but smile as I had looked for her and all my other spectator friends all day and had seen no one. It was go great to see her out there, cheering for us - and I was about to wrap the day up with a breakthrough performance. I was trying to remind myself to smile as I crossed the finish and once again, I heard it - pronounced CORRECTLY this time - "MJ SLIKAS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"


Samantha said...

You are awesome!! Great race report - congrats on Kona too!

Adrienne said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! you so rocked this race and can't wait to join you in Kona!

Jeff said...

congrats MJ. that is very encouraging. cant wait until i do my own

2 Ironmans in 1 Week said...

f*ckin' amazing girl. VERY few people truly inspire me but you are now officially on that list.

Ron said...

MJ, Just read your blog of the race. Nice description of how you were feeling and what you were going through. Look forward to your Hawaii race and recap. Hope to do lunch before then if you have time.

LaVonne said...

Great job MJ!

Jane said...

MJ, you aren't only smooth, steady, and strong, you are FAST. Congratulations on a totally rockin' race.

The (IRON) Clyde said...

Great race report're just too d@mn fast, that's why we missed you on the first loop through LaGrange....we were looking for you, must have went through just before we got there.

KONA!! Awesome.

J2 said...

amazing! great performance. great report.

Kickstand Pam said...

YEAH! I loved reading how you were feeling through out the day. I was worried about you and the cool morning and I was wondering if you were counting the miles down on your run. Great job MJ! I'm so happy for you. :)

Louis Hayes said...

Awesome MJ!

Kate said...

Congratulations! So fun to read how the day progressed! thanks for checking out fit-ink too :)