By Brian Reynolds
This past weekend I went out for my 2nd outdoor ride in prep for the Tri race of the season. When I grabbed my aero helmet for the ride I still had my race sticker from Ironman Louisville. While removing the sticker it brought back so many memories. Here is a flashback to that race.
The Swim – 13:38 – The weather on race day was far from ideal. The temps were in the high 40s to low 50s and it was raining all day. The 67 deg water temp was going to be the warmest part of the race (with wet suits of course). At the start I even had a coat over my wet suit to stay as warm as possible. A few minutes before the swim start the race announcer said that the currents in the Ohio river were too strong which meant the swim course would have to change. The modified course just had us swimming down current .9 miles. I was disappointed that they had to shorten the swim since this is one of my strengths, but it was the right call.
The swim was a rolling start so I seeded myself in the top 20. One by one we jumped off the boating dock to begin our Ironman journey. We were given little information on the new course which made it a little challenging finding the swim buoys. I could tell the currents were strong since the buoys were almost floating away. The swim went by quick since it only took me a little over 13 mins to finish. The leaders were probably no more than 30 seconds ahead of me. When I got out the water I felt very fresh and warm.
T1 – 6:53 – This was probably the longest T1 transition of my career. It was still raining when I got out of the water. I had to take a lot of time to dry off and put on 4 layers of clothes. In addition, I also placed hand warmers in my gloves and toe warmers in my shoes. There were other athletes putting on layers of clothing so I didn’t feel the need to rush to make up time. After changing, I ran to my bike with my bike shoes to help keep my feet dry.
The Bike – 5:09:38 – My goal for the bike was to keep warm and ride steady. My legs felt great starting out and I passed a few riders within the first 20 mins. The light rain and 50 deg temps continued during the ride. The 4 layers of clothes I had on kept me warm for the first 30 mins before I became soaking wet. After that I was getting cold especially on the downhills because of the windchill at the faster speeds. In fact, I actually looked forward to the uphills because I was able to stay a little warmer.
The bike course was a lollipop route. The first and last 10 miles of the course were flat. The lollipop loops were the toughest part of the course due to the hilly terrain. When I began the first loop I was already having thoughts of wanting to drop out. There was a little voice in the back of my head that kept whispering “drop out and call it a day”. I’ve never had these thoughts this early in the race. I’ve never been this cold and uncomfortable in a race which was the reason why I wanted to call it quits and get to a warm place. However, it made me feel better when the male pro who won the race said afterwards that he thought about dropping out during the bike leg!
I just tried to tough it out and keep moving forward. When I finished the first loop my split was 2:32 which was on pace for a 5:04 bike time. When I started the 2nd loop there were a lot more athletes on the course. At one point along the course it got so congested that I had to slow down going up a hill. I lost all my momentum up the hill and I had to walk my bike because the hill was so steep.
It did stop raining halfway through the ride and I did feel slightly warmer. The hand warmers inside my gloves stopped generating heat after 2 hours so my hands got cold which made it hard to grab bottles. During the last two hours of the ride I could hardly squeeze any liquids out of my bottles That said, I was looking forward to getting off the bike.
T2 – 6:45 – When entering transition my hands were too cold to even unlace my shoes when I dismounted off my bike. It felt good to get off the bike and not have to deal with the cold windchill anymore. My legs felt stiff and heavy as I ran through transition which is typical for me during an Ironman. In the changing tent I changed to a dry pair of socks but kept the same clothes I had on during the bike. I wanted to err on the side of being too warm for the run because I could always remove layers.
The Run – 3:13:34 – Starting off on the run my biggest concern was my left hamstring cramping up. I took it easy for the first mile and gradually worked into the pace. I started off at a 7:30 ish pace and by mile two I was just under 7 min pace. I got stronger as the run progressed. I felt great from miles 3 to 10 as I was running between 6:40 to 6:50 miles. As I approached the halfway point my energy levels were starting to drop off a bit.
At mile 12 I found out that I was in 3rd place in my age group and only 2 mins down from 2nd place. This news gave me motivation because if I could finish in the top 2 I would get a Kona slot. When I got to mile 14 I was given the news that I was in 2nd place! I was laser focused at this point to hold my position and not give up any time. However sometimes good things must come to an end. At mile 18 my left hamstring began cramping up every few minutes and my energy levels continued to drop.
For the last 8 miles I was forced to slow down and I was taking in as much nutrition as I could stomach. My only goal at this point was to keep running and not walk. I knew the longer I kept running the better my chases were of holding my Kona slot. When I got to the finish line I didn’t have a clue on my placement. Fortunately, I only got passed by one athlete and I managed to finish 3rd. I would have to wait until the next day to find out if I qualified for Kona.
The next day were the award ceremonies and the Kona roll down allocation. I would find out that the top 3 in my age group got Kona slots which meant that I needed to plan a trip to Hawaii in October next year:) This made it extra rewarding to have kept running during the final miles of the marathon because 4th place was only 2:20 minutes behind me. I was thankful to cap off my 2018 triathlon season by not giving up on myself. Perserverance was taking me to Kona!