Well, it’s almost been two weeks now that I crossed the finish line at Ironman Louisville for the 4th time, and I’ll have to say each time I cross it, it’s an amazing feeling no matter how many times I’ve been there. I’ve really thought long and hard how exactly I was going to write-up this race report as the days leading up to race day, race day itself, and the week following was filled with so many highs and lows. Today as I was sitting having lunch and coffee digesting Ironman with Rick and Nancy I glanced down at my wrist and quickly knew how I was going to talk about 2011 Ironman Louisville. On my right wrist I wear a bracelet given to me for my birthday (Friday before race day) by someone I respect as an athlete, individual, and has given much of her life to the sport of swimming and triathlon. She is a mentor to me as well as many other athletes and the bracelet really sums up this entires year’s journey. So here it is.
Training for this year really began last October. We had been to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and I came back fired up. I started training with Breeda and I think at best we could call my overall strength as very minimal at this point last fall. I remember the first core session and I was actually intimidated by a TRX band, and thinking I was the biggest klutz. Together we started out with small goals, and quickly over time we worked our way up to longer intervals, more burpies, faster running paces, and other good stuff. We also looked at my diet, way of training, intensity, duration, etc., made a plan, thus started the journey to Louisville 2011. I really do believe that any goal in life is achievable when you start out small, have a good plan, and a great support system. I learned so much early on, and it was a beginning of a great relationship.
January soon rolled around and I was FINALLY getting faster at running. It seemed like for so long I couldn’t break the mold of long and slow, and with some gut wrenching track work I finally was getting some speed. During this time I made it known to some close friends that “yes, indeed I wanted to go into Louisville with eyes on maybe picking up a Kona spot.” It was a lofty goal, and under this goal we had many sub goals that we wanted to achieve. We had been to Kona to see Rick race, and I had some years of dropping some considerable time on the same course, and it quickly made me think “how much more can I do”. I had vowed that even if I didn’t make it to Kona this year, that I’d continue this big dream of mine in the years to come. I truly think anytime you enter into such a demanding endurance event that crossing the finish line should be your first goal, and then let your other goals be “chasers”. For me personally dreaming big pushes me as an individual, in all of my training and life activities throughout the training year. And like I tell my boys, once you have a dream and you talk about it openly, you “cement it”.
After almost an entire year of a change in training, nutrition, and several other lifestyle changes we were headed down back to Louisville on Thursday, August 25th. We (Joel, Thomas, and I) actually arrived earlier in the afternoon, and we were able to not rush to athlete check-in. It was a much more relaxed drive down. Got checked in, and later meet the rest of the Stevens Point gang and went to the Hard Rock.
The next day, Friday, Derek and I planned to do our annual pre-ride the course. The whole support crew comes along, we do lunch in LaGrange, and I would say it ranks as one of my favorite things to do during race week. We rode about 20 miles of the technical parts of the course, and headed back into Louisville to get ready for the Welcome Banquet. At the banquet we meet up with Hillary and what fun that was, and had a little conversation with Mike Riley.
Saturday morning came quickly and Rick and I meet up with our families down at the Ohio River for the practice swim. I couldn’t believe how warm the water was. There didn’t seem to be too much of a current, and after a 20 minute swim called it good. We spent the rest of the day getting organized for bike and gear check in, and did some sight-seeing around town.
Race day morning was pretty uneventful. The plan was to meet up with Derek, and get to the swim start as soon as we could to avoid being in the back of the line for the time trial start unique to Ironman Louisville. It was nice to have the family along, and it just set the tone for the day…lots of laughs, and Derek and I were pretty calm, and I didn’t sense any nervousness from either one of us.
THE SWIM: 2.4 miles
Shortly after 7:00 a.m. we were off and swimming. Heading up Toe Head Island was easier this year. It didn’t seem like anyone else was swimming, and for the first time at an Ironman I wasn’t having to swim over anyone and things were going smoothly. As we headed a tad out beyond the island we then turned around the furthest bouy and began swimming down river. Everything seemed to be going well. I kept reminding myself to keep focused on what I was doing…swimming…and not even think of the biking and running that lay ahead. I thought of many people along the way down the Ohio, and just kind of talked to myself. At one point during the swim I felt like I was cramping in my right side and I attributed to it at the time that I was doing too quick of a stroke turnover. I slowed down my turnover and tried to extend myself further out. I exited the water, was happy with my time, and now it was transition time.
I quickly ran through transition and was handed off my bike bag. I don’t remember having any volunteer help me in the midst, but one yelled from the tent as I was exiting that she’d put my bag all back together. It was now time to settle in on the bike.
BIKE 112 miles
If there is one thing I really like about the IM Louisville is the bike course. You get a longer stretch of flat going out and coming into downtown Louisville. I’ve always used this stretch of the course to “settle in” going out and “settling down” coming back in. The bike seemed to go really fast this year. I think coming back year after year you know the course better, and can breakdown the 112 miles a lot easier. By far one of the highlights for me is seeing family and friends in LaGrange. It’s a quick bike thru, but it lifts a spirit by leaps and bounds. The one thing I noticed this year was how much easier it was climbing the hills, and I wasn’t so gassed after doing so. After passing through LaGrange the second time it occurred to me that I hadn’t used the bathroom, nor did I have the urge to, and I was taking in 1-2 bottles of liquid an hour. This brought on a little concern, but I forged ahead. Slowly after about mile 70 my right side of my abdomen started feeling “full”, and bloated. It was there, but not painful. Towards the end I was getting tired of being on the bike, that kind of feeling that you just want to throw the thing away, I was tired of the wind, and wanted to run.
Came into T2 and it was pretty uneventful. Nothing beats the feeling of trying to run after 112 miles of rolling hill biking. But I was so eager to run.
RUN- 26.2 miles
I had finally reached a point with Ironman where I was excited to run the marathon after a long bike. I am incredibly grateful for such an amazing training plan put together by Breeda. Unknown to me when I started out on the run that a solid year of training with Breeda, a will to never give up, and the support of my family, friends, and a few racing out on the course (Rick, Derek, and Hillary) would be the “fuel” that kept me running through a motherload of unexplainable pain.
I ran out of T2 with a smile on, and so glad to be using my running legs. By mile 2, which placed me up on the bridge over the Ohio I realized how bad my right side hurt. In a desperate attempt to make things better quickly I made myself sick, and it relieved a lot of the pressure I was feeling. I came running off the bridge on pace and life was good.
I yelled to Joel and Thomas (maybe Nancy was there…not sure) a quick hi, and was on my way. As I was running I thought of a lot of things, but most of all these thoughts floated in my head the first 12 miles: “never, never give up”, and “geez….I am finally running like I want to be. So thankful!” Somewhere around mile 12-13 it felt like I had been shot in my right side. I kept looking for a wound or blood streaming down. I quickly found some relief breathing like I learned to in child-birth classes. Yes…this was worse pain than child-birth. The worse was stopping at aid stations and then having to start running again. I remember every time gritting my teeth and screaming, as it hurt so bad. The only other thing I remember is getting a nudge from Diane somewhere on the course, saying “go” to Rick, Derek, and Hillary. I remember nothing else. From what I’ve been told I was “ugly”. I didn’t have anything good to say. In hindsight I am glad I don’t remember that run. It’s almost as though someone was looking out for me that turned my mind off, and saved me from being intimidated by that run in the future.
THE FINISH LINE- 140.6 miles
I do remember lighting up like a Christmas tree coming down 4th Street to that finish line. It’s the most amazing and undescribable feeling coming down that finish chute. A smile emerged on my face and it felt just as magical as the first time. When I crossed and stopped it felt as the though I had entered another world. I had a smile one minute, and the next minute was grimacing in pain. It was as though my body couldn’t decide what it wanted to do. I was 45 minutes faster than I was in 2010 and almost 4 1/2 hours from my first IM in Louisville in 2008. I was happy with my time.
I had the greatest volunteer at the finish line and she stayed with me for a while, and before long I was on my way with Joel and Thomas to get a massage. IM Louisville by far has the BEST volunteers hands down!! Thank you to each and everyone of you!
Once we got to the massage area and I was ready to check in but I had forgotten my name, race number, or where I was from. I asked for a bag, and was quickly brought over to medical. When I arrived in medical they told me my blood pressure was low. I knew the numbers, but what I didn’t realize is how dangerously low it was. 3 IV bags later I was on my way, and back in the hotel. Something I do remember from the time I crossed the finish line to getting back to the hotel was walking with Rick and Nancy and joking that I wanted to stop at White Castle and the Love Boutique. (inside joke, but it made me feel normal again). I am so thankful for Joel- thanks for getting my bike and gear, dealing with medical, and the endless race day support; Thomas- you are a trooper. Not only did you get to see another Ironman, but you learned what happens in medical, and you’re still so excited to do an Ironman; Rick and Nancy- what can I say. You are not only my stone, but my family’s stone when it comes to these crazy things we do, and you’ve played such a big part in this lifestyle. Thanks for helping us out in medical. (The most exciting news that I got in medical that Rick had placed first in his age group by over 1:20 and was headed back to Kona. It was the icing on top of the IV bags).
At the awards banquet Thomas got to meet up with Big Sexy again (Chris McDonald). One of the things we love about Ironman is the inspiration that our kids get from not only the age-groupers but the pros as well.
A lot has happened since that August 28th night when I crossed that finish line. We returned home to Wisconsin and in the days after the race I really felt miserable and still in pain on my right side. I was hospitalized for three days and a week ago today I had my gallbladder and appendix removed and had a liver biopsy. The doctors have concluded that on race day I had a gallbladder attack, and my body was fighting through it, and how I ever finished that Ironman is truly a miracle. They have no answers on how I did it. Had I not adopted a healthier lifestyle (more plant-based) during this past year this most likely would’ve happened sooner.
This year has been life changing for me in so many ways, and I am thankful for all the gains I’ve made and I can’t wait to get back to training. I’ve had a lot of time to think lately, to read, to talk with friends, those that I respect in the sport, and I am lucky on how things turned out on race day. The numbers and symptoms weren’t in my favor yet I pulled through. And I couldn’t have done it alone. I have so many people to thank for a great year, and I am afraid I am going to leave someone out- Joel, Thomas, Henry, Sam, Breeda and family(Get Fit Now LLC), Grandma Billie, my local Ironman/triathlon family, my friends who’ve stood by me through the thick and thin, the Hostel Shoppe, Dr. Wally at ProActive Wellness, DivePoint Scuba and Adventure Center, and many more that I am accidentally forgetting. Without all of you, Ironman wouldn’t have been possible.
Thank you also to Ministry Health Care- Dr. Selwyn, Dr. Swiecki, Dr. Shittu, Clare Cullen, and staff, for such great care and getting me back closer to good health so that I can be swimming, biking, and running soon again. Your honesty, persistence, and care was amazing. Keep doing what you’re doing, and Dr. Shittu- keep on biking as I’ll be looking for you when I am!
Thanks again Breeda for “taking me on” and here’s to 2011, and looking forward to 2012!
In the meantime I am in some serious recovery mode. This has been the hardest part of the year. All of a sudden what you love doing is taken out from under you. I am looking forward to coming back stronger and I am anxious to see what 2012 holds in store.
Thanks again for all your support, and remember no matter what kind of race you’re training for in life, you have the ability to change other’s lives along the way.