Ironman Louisville – Race Morning

It is 03:30 Sunday morning and my race starts in just under four hours.  I’m having a light breakfast so it is out of my system before the swim starts at 07:00. It has been quite the long haul to get here, and now we will see if everything comes together for me today. That is the biggest challenge of doing a 140.6 mile race – it is simply impossible to predict with any confidence how things will go. The once certainty is that it will a long day with a certain degree of discomfort 🙂

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Lis and I drove down from Washington D.C. on Thursday.  We spent that night at Staunton VA with Steve Wray, a friend from Lis’ high school. We had dinner in Staunton and were very impressed with the beauty of the old town—home to former president Woodrow Wilson. Steve is a cyclist and looked good after his regular summer riding. Pity I was never able to organize a cycling weekend with him.

The driven from Staunton to Louisville was long. By mutual consent Lis drove most of the way, since my driving drives her crazy. West Virginia was lovely and we did parts of it with John Denver singing ‘Country Road’—seemed fitting. With the mountains and rivers, forests and stunning views it has been a favourite of ours for visiting while in the USA – almost as nice as New Zealand. Kentucky was more rolling pastureland so not as visually attractive. We are dreading the drive to Toronto on Monday as it will be the flat farms of the midwest.

Our GPS got us to the Marriott Hotel which was very nice. I was using my points from all my stays in Georgia/Armenia so the price was right! It was only a ten minute walk from the race transition site so could not have been much better situated.  After dumping our gear we wandered over to the race expo to register but we got their late.

Thursday evening was the Endurance Nation team dinner. I have been following their training program since November-first the off season program and then their Ironman program. Or should I say following their program as much as I could given 172 days of travel overseas and a bike crash which took me out of action in May. It is a ‘community’ which works together online so it was great to have this meeting with 25+ other athletes and their support crews. The noise level at the Old Spaghetti Factory was something else!

We sat at the end of the table with Paul, Kris, Casey, Nemo, Matt and Sandy. It was interesting hearing their stories and experiences. Paul and Kris were locals so were able to fill in more details on the race. Sandy was a photographer who had the biggest camera I’ve ever seen. Hopefully we can score some of her photos!

My gluteous medius and IT band have been acting up lately so I booked myself in for an ART massage on Friday morning. Laura was brilliant and so I extended my 30 minute treatment to one hour—even though she challenged my fairly high pain threshold! If anything causes me major problems today it will be this. She was also a local, and filled me in on a lot of interesting aspects of Louisville and its people. Sounds like a challenging place to earn a good living, even as a very good professional masseuse.

It was then time for registration and the race expo. Unusually, we had to stand on a Tanata scale which recorded our weight, body fat and level of hydration. I was where I expected to be except with the hydration which they said I was down on. News to me as I was so hydrated yesterday it was a challenge to drive thirty minutes!

After completing registration—pretty minimal swag—I went through the expo and collected a shirt. Lis and I were kindly given VIP passes by Susie who I trained with during the triathlon camp, her family owns Phily Insurance which is a sponsor. From there I went to the swim exit area where the Endurance Nation (EN) coaches were giving their race talk on the four keys to success.

The EN coaches attend most of the North American races and give these talks. There is also an excellent DVD which is what put me on to them. About half of the people there were EN athletes, while the others were interested new comers. Even though the EN athletes have heard it many, many times over, it was still great to be reminded one final time:

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  • Execution, not Fitness. All we’ve done for the past many months is build a vehicle. Ironman racing is about how we DRIVE that vehicle, it is NOT about the vehicle. The majority of athletes on race day are fitness-focused but we need to follow our race plan. Or as Rich put it, look yourself in the mirror and say I did not train for nine months to have you ruin the day for me.
  • The Line. Nothing on race day really matters until we reach The Line on the run. The Line is the point at which continuing becomes very, very difficult—typically mile 18. You define success as simply not slowing down at The Line. EVERYTHING before The Line is simply about creating conditions for success for when the Line comes to you. I can relate to this as on both my previous races I had troubles in the run big time.
  • The Box. all day long we are going to race inside a box defined by what you can control. The question is: "What do I need to do right NOW to create the conditions for success at The Line? Is what I’m doing right now counter to this goal?
  • The One Thing. What is the one thing that put me into this race and will keep me going when my mind says time to stop this silliness and quit.

I’ve repeated the four keys over and over and I have a race plan. The challenge today is to keep to it. Take it easy on the swim as it is just the warm up for the bike. In transition slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. On the bike, take the first 60 minutes easy at 165 watts of power. Avoid power spikes, even on hills. Ramp up to 175 watts for the race, with 185 watts on long hills and 195 on short, steep hills. Eat my 275 calories an hour on the bike while staying hydrated. In transition slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Run the first six miles at my target pace +0:30 then see what I can do. Walk 30 steps at each aid station both to give the body a break and get nutrition. At mile 18 suck it up and try to finish strong.

Sounds easy on paper – now I will just have to do it!

It’s 04:40 so time to get ready to go to transition. Thanks to all my friends who supported me – and especially my long-suffering and wonderful race sherpa Lis.

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