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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Run



I ran in my bike shoes down the side of the transition area. I had been needing to pee for about 20 miles. I yelled my race number to the volunteers. I ran towards the volunteer who had my bag except it was not my bag. It was close but no cigar. She asked me my name and it did not match the bag. She started to apologize profusely. I just pointed to the number written on my arm and said, “Don’t worry about it – It’s not a big deal.” The exchange took only a few more seconds and I was in the changing tent.

This would be another full Monty change. I was going to ditch my cycling jersey and shorts and don another unitard. I had found in my training during the hot humid Southern Mississippi summer that my regular running shorts would get saturated – soaking wet. Then I could / would start to develop some chaffing issues. So it would be another unitard that has tight, but not really compression, legs. I pulled off my cycling jersey with the pockets still full of gels, bars and tire changing equipment. The shirt weighed a ton! Next the shoes and shorts came off. I put the unitard on all the way and then socks and running shoes. But as I ran to exit the tent I pulled the unitard back off of my upper body. I wanted to get a layer of sun screen on my arms and neck – but even more important I still needed to pee!

Just out of the water.


I ran out of the tent and the volunteer pointed me to the left to exit the transition. I pointed and ran right straight to the port-a-loo’s. No lines again and I was in and out in a flash – although it felt like several minutes. As I exited the port-a-loo there was another volunteer pointing me towards the transition exit – I told her I needed to grab my watch from my bike. I ran the 10 or 15 rows to my bike and unhooked my GPS watch. I finally ran towards the exit that all of the volunteers had been pointing me too. I had my GPS watch in my hand and asked yet another volunteer to buckle it on my right hand (I still was going to be wearing my Heart Rate monitor on my left arm). Yes I was double watching it today!

I crossed the timing mat at the transition exit and hit the lap button. I had thought that I had set the watch up for ‘multi-sport’ mode but it was still on cycling mode. It would take me a minute or two to fix the settings (while running) and get it to display the correct running mode. I had set the watch up to help facilitate the run / walk plan. The watch was divided into 4 segments to show the current lap (so I could easily see how long I had been walking), the average pace for the run, the total distance for the run, and finally the total time for the run. I also still had the heart rate monitor displaying the elapsed time for the race as well as my heart rate. Some might say information overload – But I tried to use all of the information to execute my plan.

T2: 6:55

Start of the bike.

Enjoying a pop tart.

Hard climb up a hill.



I started the run with my legs obviously feeling tired but nothing major. The crowd at the transition exit was huge and I ran what felt like a comfortable pace. I looked at my heart rate and it was dead in the middle of my ‘Long Slow Distance’ training run paces. I felt like I could push much harder but I was dedicated to the plan! The run started us out towards downtown and then up and across a bridge. I was chatting with another runner and we talked about some goal times for the day – he wanted somewhere in the 11’s. I was still hoping for something around 12. We were running the same pace as we turned back across the bridge.

Leaving the bridge.


Then my watch beeped to indicate a mile had been run. Actually since I had to restart this segment on the watch I had ran about 1.35 miles. I shut the run down and started a fast walk. Someone behind me asked me what my strategy was and I explained the whole save the legs for later in the race by walking one minute per mile. I then took off again. The timing of my walks was way off of the locations of the aid stations. I thought about resetting the distance on the watch to better sync with the water stops but I thought that it might confuse me a little later in the race – I can get a little loopy when I have depleted my glycogen stores. So I walked a minute the first mile and then walked a few second for the first aid station. I took some Gatorade and a gel. Back to the run. I was going to work the plan without exception for the first 5 miles and then evaluate how I was feeling. While my body was a ‘little’ tired I was feeling good. It was still early in the run but the walk breaks were fantastic. I remember several long runs in the heat of the day where you get up high in mileage and you HAVE TO STOP. I would feel defected – almost broken. It is always hard to get going again. With this run / walk method it felt like I was in so much more control. The watch would beep – I felt good enough that I could keep running – but it was time for a fast walking break. I felt like I could do this all day. It never got unmanageable. I was also running in the same pack of people. They would pull away from me during the walk portion but I would just about catch back up to them. I was running faster than they were when I was running.

At about the mile 10 or 11 mark I was starting to pass more people (since it was 2 loops these people could have been twice the distance of me but looking at the athletes it did not appear that way). People were starting to suffer while I still felt pretty good. I came up on my special needs back and decided to take it – once again I did not really know what to put in the bag. I ended up putting another one of those super energy drink cans (I still have never had one), some cookies, a clean, dry pair of socks in a zip lock bag and a small bottle of ibuprofen. I really did not need to change my socks – I had feared that they would be soaking wet like they get in Mississippi. Anyway, shortly after the bag pickup there was a park bench and I sat down to change my socks. I guess I am a little cheap and I did not want to throw away a good pair of running socks so I put the dirties in the zip lock bag and stuffed then in my back pocket. I also put the bottle of ibuprofen in the pocket. I left the energy drink on the park bench and threw the cookies away. This quick change cost just a couple of minutes. The clean dry socks actually did not feel as good as the ones that I had been wearing but this would prove to not be an issue.

Speed Graph of the run.





The bottle of pills in my back pocket sounded like a metronome. Click, click, click. It was keeping rhythm for me. Every time I would pass someone they would look at me. One person asked me it the sound was driving me nuts – it was driving them nuts! I said not really – it was actually kind of keeping me on pace. We were not running next to each other for very long so it would not bug them much. I had been watching my average pace slowly creep up the entire run. I hated to see it climb from an unsustainable low 8 minute per mile to just over 9 minutes per mile. I tried, with my mind, more than my body to keep the pace in the high 8’s but I was not willing to risk 10’s of minutes at the end of the run to obtain this mid race goal.

Amount of walk time.


Finishing the first loop was a tease. You got within about 100 yards of the finishing shoot and had to make a sharp right to start the final leg of this Ironman. It was nice to know that there were only about 11 or 12 miles left. It was daunting to realize that there were still 11 or 12 miles left. I have never run a marathon – in fact I think my longest run this year was 18 miles – I ran that once about a month before the race. I am a runner at heart and I did run countless 12 – 15 mile runs and bricks but never anything over 18 this year (in years past I have ran 20 – 22 mile runs on occasion – just being stupid). But the run walk was still working for me. At about mile 20 I realized that all of my goals were going to be met for this race – if I stayed on target. 10k is still a long ways to go when you have more than 10 hours on your feet. But this is where I thought about breaking 4 hours in this Ironman marathon. This should not be happening – this was not in the plan – this should not be possible. I tried to pick the pace up a little and it wasn’t picking up. The only other alternative was to lengthen the run segments (there was no way that I was going to decrease the walk). I was now running about a mile and half between breaks. This was working – my legs were tired but they were still falling one right in front of the other. I tried - I really did - to run the entire last five miles but I could not will myself to do it. I think this was more mental fatigue than physical fatigue. I walked again at the 5k mark and also took a small walk with 2 miles to go. I was doing the math in my head and if I could just finish the run with 9 minute miles I could get the sub-4hour done. It was not going to happen – too little – too late. I came up upon the second loop / finishers shoot again. The volunteer made sure that I knew that I needed to be on my second loop before going straight. I assured him that I was finishing this race – I had the miles! The shoot was lined with so many people. It was a spectacle. I was relieved more than excited about finishing, however, I allowed myself to embrace the moment. As I neared the finish I pumped my arm in the air to mark the event. I was now an Ironman – I barely heard Mike Reilly but I knew he said it. I crossed the finish line and stumbled a little bit and the volunteers, the catchers, held me up, threw a solar blanket across me and put the finisher’s medal around my neck. They were so supportive – they made you feel like a million bucks.

RUN: 4:02:40 (9:15/mile)

TOTAL TIME: 11:19:14

After finishing I was a bit lost. I never saw Jodie and went through the paces of getting my finishers shirt, hat and picture taken. I saw Jodie at the end of the shoot and she was snapping some pictures. I was so glad to see her. I really wanted to share this with her. To err on the side of caution she wanted me to be checked out at the medial tent. I was feeling fine but why not. If they thought that I needed an IV or something then I would take it. It turns out that I was just fine – no problems. The DR did suggest sitting down for a few minutes and maybe getting a massage. No complaints here!

I went and got a massage, there was no waiting and then grabbed a piece of pizza. I was really not hungry at all. Although I was not bloated I felt like I had been eating all day. After the pizza I wanted a bagel with jelly. This let me know how tender my mouth was, I presume from all of the salt and sugars. I had to throw the bagel away – it felt like sand paper. This Ironman has been an awesome experience.

I started this blog exactly one year ago today. At that time I wrote that I had never swum 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, or ran 26.2 miles – much less in one day. Now I can say that I have achieved all of those distances and I am an IRONMAN.

I would like to thank the many friends, family, and bloggers who have offered advice and encouragement over this past year. The since of community has been wonderful and I appreciate all of you!

Now I finally get to take that 140.6 sticker off of my night stand and put it on my car.

12 comments:

  1. Awesome job man. I really enjoyed your journey. you are a talented guy and you should be very proud. Now you can display that sticker with pride. Congrats? Now here is the question.....WHATS NEXT?

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  2. Again, congrats, and thank you so much for sharing the journey along the way.

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  3. JUST AWESOME! CONGRATULATIONS, IRONMAN! Thank you for sharing and detailing everything you've done.

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  4. Congratulations, Ironman. You sub-12 hour finishers get all the special treatment ;-)

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  5. Wow! James this is an amazing thing to accomplish!I still remember taking those swim lessons earlier in the year and you making a comment about what it would be like to swim so far in your IM. Not only did you swim well, you did all the rest and in a super time! Congrats!!!

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  6. Hell yes you get to put that sticker on your car! No more alarm clock motivation for this IRONMAN. Yep, never gets old, I tell ya, never gets old. You executed perfectly, it was a perfect day. Congratulations!

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  7. That run was unreal. Congrats again.

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  8. Congrats on the Ironman - and congrats on the 1-year blog.

    Interesting to see that we ended up with almost idental +/- a few seconds, run times - yet our paces were so different. You're particular implementation was what I was aiming for...

    Congrats!

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  9. what a great way to celebrate 1 year of your blog! Congrats on being Ironman, incredible! Excellent pics too :)

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  10. Congratulations! What an awesome job you did of documenting your journey and I have to say reading your entries about the swim, bike and run gave me goosebumps. I have a dream to do an Ironman and you have given me inspiration and hope!

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  11. excellent race report! and pop tarts on the bike, i'm borrowing that one :)

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  12. congrats james on a freakin awesome race and fast time! i love the fact that you ate poptarts during the race :)

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