Wednesday, November 11, 2015

IMLOU--Part One (Better Late than Never)

So. . .

The last time I logged onto this blog, I was two and a half weeks post-IMMD and shared with you 140.6 Miles of Smiles, a detailed race report of my first Ironman triathlon.  It was full of all of the details, all of the pictures, and all of the emotions of the big day.  It was a magical event but one that I had no intention of repeating any time soon.  The training, the preparation, the money (um, hello, have you seen what they charge to do this stuff?) was enough to make me think twice about registering for another 140.6 right away . . until a girlfriend called me and said, "Hey, I think I am ready to do a full."  So, of course I agreed to join her on the journey.  After lots of talking and researching, we agreed on Ironman Louisville (IMLOU), paid the big bucks, and then sat back and waited for the training cycle to start.

Well, not exactly.  In the meantime, I completed my first 50K in January 2015 and snagged a marathon PR (4:35) at Quintiles Wrightsville Beach in March 2015.  However, as the months passed in early 2015, I knew that Ironman training was right around the corner.  I had continued to swim and bike throughout the Winter and Spring to go into training with a decent "base" in addition to running all the miles my body and schedule could handle.

Training for IMLOU was pretty unremarkable.  I used the same training plan that I had for IMMD since it had resulted in a successful race.  I knew that IMLOU would have more climbing on the bike (duh, Cambridge, MD is pancake flat), so I had to plan my rides to incorporate more climbing practice and elevation gain.

As training progressed, I found myself riding and running faster than I had when I was preparing for IMMD.  This was a huge confidence boost going into race day.  With the exception of pool closures in the months of August and September (hello, peak times for me to get the miles in), training went well.  Unfortunately, the same was not true for my friend that I had registered with.  Shortly into the new year, she had a huge set back and was unable to ride or run for a while.  Sadly, she was forced to pull from the race and I felt a bit lonely preparing for the big day.  While training for IMMD, I had the hubby and lots of tri friends to chat with about race day fears and excitement in the days leading up to the race.  This time, poor hubby had to field all of the tears, fears and worries that I threw at him during training and race weekend.

One huge fear, as always, was the swim.  In early September, there was an algae caution on the Ohio River (not exactly a pristine water source anyway).  All recreational activities, including swimming, were banned due to toxic blue-green algae.  I was convinced that the swim portion of IMLOU would be cancelled based on all the reports I was reading. . .  but with Ironman, "Anything is Possible", and the recreational ban was lifted less than 48 hours before race day.  As I read the update on our drive to Louisville, I was filled with panic--I hadn't been able to swim as much in the weeks leading up to the race because of pool closures, but I wasn't worried because I thought the swim would be cancelled.  The hubby tried to ease my fears, reminding me that I had a strong swim base and I was going to be fine.

When we arrived in Louisville on Friday afternoon, we quickly checked into the hotel and I set off to pick up my athlete wristband and packet for the weekend. The Ironvillage was within walking distance of the Galt House (our hotel) and I was able to take a good look at the river on my run over to Transition and Packet Pick-up.  The water looked a bit murky and a little choppy, but I pushed that aside as I got checked in.

We spent the rest of the evening exploring Fourth Street live (the site of the finish line!) with another couple who was there for the race, discussing race details over dinner and contemplating a practice swim early on Saturday morning.

Although our friend, Coach E, decided against a practice swim, my friend A convinced me that it would be a good idea to hop in the water just to get a feel for it.  So. . .  I got up early and headed down to the swim start along with lots of other eager athletes.

Practice swim. . . check.
Choppy-ish water. . . check
The practice swim was pretty laid back. . .  as long as you had your timing chip on your ankle and your swim cap in hand.  There were a few buoys set up with water safety monitoring swimmers along a small swim loop.  A and I pulled on our wetsuits, caps and goggles and made our way down the chute and into the water.  The water was a chilly 69 degrees and immediately took my breath away.  As usual, it took me a bit to calm down and get settled.  I took the opportunity to get a feel for a possible current (slight?) and an idea about the clarity underwater (pretty much nonexsistent--very similar to swimming in Jordan Lake).  I only took a short swim in the water and was ready to hop out, still feeling a bit of anxiety about the swim portion on Sunday.  I ventured back to the hotel to get changed and enjoy a day with the family.

The kiddos were registered for the Ironkids race--something that had not been offered at other venues we had been to previously (IMMD and IMRaleigh 70.3).  When I arrived at the hotel, they were dressed and ready to run!  We made the quick walk back over to the Ironvillage just in time for the race.  The little guy completed the 1/4 mile race with the hubby and The Reporter and I ran the one mile race together.

We grabbed a quick lunch after the race, checked my bike and bags for the next day (all of those things have to be checked in prior to race day), and discussed driving the bike course.  I had mixed feelings about seeing the course ahead of time--either it would be reassuring that I was well prepared for Sunday, or I would have a complete meltdown and crawl under the car seat when I saw what was waiting for me. . .  Off we went to preview the course.  As we drove the majority of the course (IMLOU has a 30-ish mile loop that you repeat twice, so we only had to endure that once on the preview), I kept saying things like, "Oh, this really isn't so bad," "this looks very doable," "Oh yes, this will be fun."  The hubby nodded and agreed with each statement and kept driving, eyes on the road.  Meanwhile, I was silently crying inside, throwing any time goals out the window, just praying that I would meet each cutoff on the course.  The course description for IMLOU is "rolling hills".  Maybe "roller coaster of hills" would be a better description.  I read a description post-race that said "IMLOU was 112 miles of 112 hills". . .  I would completely agree.  I knew, after that preview that I had my work cut out for me the next day.  Later, the hubby confessed that the bike course looked like a beast to him, as well, but he knew that if he said anything I would doubt myself.  Smart guy to keep that quiet, right? :)

We ended out course preview at the Garage Bar for my ritualistic meal of "pizza and wine", joined by Coach E and his wife.  The atmosphere was relaxed, so I tried to push my nerves to the side as I downed a glass of Merlot and enjoyed a great meal with friends.
pre-race ritual. . . every time.

After dinner, the hubby and I decided to take the kiddos to the pedestrian bridge that links Kentucky to Indiana--yep, more walking.  Although I should've given my legs a rest, it was worth the walk to get a full preview of the swim course from the bridge.  (I may have had a brief panic attack thinking that the swim was waaaaaay longer than it actually is, because I totally lack the ability to judge distance.  This took a "suck it up" talk from the hubby and a reality check on exactly where the course would go.)  It was an excellent chance to think about dividing the course into smaller parts to make it feel more manageable. . .  something I was thankful for the next morning. 
kiddos getting their wiggles out!
a peaceful ending to the evening

I would be swimming where that boat was traveling in a few short hours. . .
When we returned to the hotel, I double checked my gear that I would need in the morning (tri suit, wetsuit, body glide, etc) and tried to get to sleep at a reasonable time.  To my surprise, I fell asleep pretty easily and woke up to my alarm at 4:00am. . . 

Race day was here.

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