Ironman Louisville 2017 Race Recap

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017

October 14, 2017

Ironman Louisville – What a day!  After 30 weeks of training, straining, and complaining I have finally crossed the Fourth Street Live! finish line!  And what a finish line!  And to finish my third Ironman with my teammates once again makes it all the sweeter.  Here’s the recap of my week leading up to and my experiences and memories of Ironman Louisville 2017!  (Brace yourself –  Tons of photos and tons of paragraphs ahead!)

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INTRODUCTION:  My four other Gunner teammates and I felt a little too emboldened after having a great race at Ironman Lake Placid in 2016, so we kidded around and prompted each other to do another in 2018 until we got serious about it.  Louisville kept coming up as a strong possibility.  I knew Ironman Louisville would fall around the same time of year as the Chicago Marathon, so I had to make a decision – Ironman Louisville or the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s premier event.  When the gang decided that Lou was a go, Alex, Dave, Jeff and I all applied and Ironman Louisville was on our calendars.  The only Gunner missing was John, who had just welcomed a new baby to his growing family and would have to opt out this time.  He was definitely there in spirit!

Once again, I decided to use Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit 30-week competitive training plan with one major change.  I decided that the swim plan was too exhaustive for me, with three swims per week that were mostly 2500 yards or more.  My swim technique is by no means something to be proud of, but I think it’s about as good as it is going to get.  And after swimming 1:18 at IMLP, I felt that I could cut it back and still do well.  So I switched to the Just Finish swim plan of the book until I decided that was too much as well!  I ended up doing most of my swim training at home in my own pool, two 45 minute swims per week.  I focused on good technique during those swims and figured that if I could swim 45 minutes without being drained, swimming another 30 to 45 minutes in a race would be no problem.  

With that major change to the swim plan, I also decided that this year I was going to gun a little harder and step out of my comfort zone in other areas too.  I had a full aero disc wheel for my bike, but had chickened out using it in Lake Placid and in other races as well.  I finally just said screw it, and threw the dumb thing onto my bike and trained with it.  I rode that thing all spring, summer and fall and quickly came to the realization that I was way too conservative of a Ironman triathlete.  I’m using the disc wheel, dang it.  I almost chickened out using it on race day with good reason, but I held my ground.  

The links to my thirty weeks of training can be found here:  Race Week is Here!

The call to the gate has been played!  Now, off to the race!

 

WEDNESDAY:  The plan was to caravan as a group down to Louisville.  Jeff needed a ride, so he took the train to Mokena and I picked him up and we waited until Dave and his gang pulled into town.  A quick trip to Mindy’s restaurant for a dinner and off we went to Louisville.

We arrived in the city sometime after 1am and started to check into our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown.  That’s when we were greeted by one of Louisville’s finest – 30 cents guy.  This guy was asking for money, but the strange thing is he was only asking for 30 cents.  “It’s ONLY 30 CENTS” was his request, which he made over and over again.  Funny thing is I had 30 cents in my pocket, but there was no way I was giving it to him.  Pro tip:  If you’re going to beg for money, be nice about it.  And don’t be weird and request some stupid arbitrary number like 30 cents.  What the hell do you buy with 30 cents anyway?  

 

THURSDAY:  After breakfast with the gang, I did a quick 3 mile run. We then all walked to the Ironman village to register and pick up our packets. Seeing that my birthday was coming two days after the race, I decided to treat myself to some early birthday gifts.  After buying a cycling jersey, tri kit, zippered hoodie, two t-shirts, a hat, a visor, a long sleeve tech shirt, and two coffee mugs, I decided that was plenty for now and to save some for the finisher’s jacket on Monday.  

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Walking to the Athlete Village

 

After exiting the Ironman store, we were just in time for the Athlete Briefing, a course talk that they say is mandatory, but it’s not like they take attendance.  It pays to go to it though, as each course is different, and there were some changes to the swim start at Ironman Louisville.  Not long into it, we encountered weirdo number two.  I wish I had taken his picture, but he appeared to be a somewhat inebriated version of Tulio from “The Road to El Dorado” and Dave Navarro.  

 

This weirdo’s M.O. was to stand on the outside of the Athlete Village and stare at us.  He later made entry and stood and listened to the course talk as well, like the drafting rule changes were the best advice he had ever heard.  Maybe he was considering a last minute entry into the race.  Last I saw of him, he was doing chin-ups on a parkway tree.  

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Watching the non-Mike Reilly voice of Ironman Louisville, Dave Ragsdale.  He did a great job.  Apparently Alex was too cool to wear his backpack like the rest of his Gunner teammates.

 

We did a little course reconnaissance, seeing that the transition area and the Swim Out was nearby.  I kind of wish we hadn’t looked at the water because we saw a bunch of floating logs and debris in the water, and of particular note a group of about six or so fish.  Yes, I know that there are fish in the water.  But these things were insanely HUGE!!!  They looked almost prehistoric, and moved their mouths super slow, almost like they were silently telling us that they planned to dine well on Sunday morning.  

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Their mouths were literally big enough to swallow a softball.  I’m not kidding.

 

After a late lunch at an Italian place on Fourth Street Live (I had the spaghetti pie), we decided to drive the bike course.  If looking at the water was a mistake, we should have also skipped the bike course drive.  It was not what I was expecting.  Rolling hills in Illinois must mean something totally different in Kentucky, because these things were relentless and looked horrible.  Nothing we could do about it at this point.  It was probably a good idea to see what we were dealing with, but it certainly didn’t look like fun.

 

FRIDAY:  I got up and ran a four mile out and back on the run course and thankfully found it to be pleasurable, i.e. no hills. Now it seemed like Louisville was being taken over by Ironman triathletes and their families.  It was getting crowded and the excitement was starting to build.  We attended the athlete welcoming ceremony on Fourth Street Live and were treated to a pretty decent band and a really inspirational video about some of our fellow Ironman competitors.  

Dinner was at TGIFriday’s, and I stayed up and greeted Kari and Ben who arrived late.

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Four Gunners enjoying the welcome ceremony.

 

SATURDAY:  Kari and I got up early and had breakfast with Jeff. He talked me into doing the optional practice swim and I’m glad I did.  It was a simple ten to fifteen minute dip, but it always helps me realize that the swim course isn’t anything to worry about.  The water temp was mild, free of debris and man eating fish. Upon getting out of the water, I ran a mile with Ben, who had just returned from his own run.

Upon getting back to the hotel, I double checked my gear bags.  

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After debating about what to wear last week, I decided that I would stay true to the Gunner team and wear the team tri kit.  I brought the water shoes so that I could walk without stepping in triathlete piss that covered the path to the Swim Start.  I’m glad I did.
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Nothing special here.  I opted for the white arm warmers made from tube socks over the black long sleeve cycling shirt.
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The weather looked to be cool and possibly rainy, so I threw in this windbreaker that I bought at Dick’s on Friday.  Once again, I’m glad I did because I grabbed it and used it later on the run.
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I added a short and long sleeve team shirt in case I wanted to change, but I ended up staying in the kit.  I drank some of the Gatorade, and to my surprise had only enough of the baby powder to put in one shoe.  I opted for the visor over the hat.  I need to make this simpler.  There’s too many choices.
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Stopping traffic to take a group photo.  Jeff, Alex, me and Dave (l-r).

After packing up, our group walked to transition to rack our bikes and drop off our bags.  About 3/4 of the way there, I realized that Ben was carrying the Bike Gear Bag, and I had thought Kari had the Run Gear bag.  She wasn’t carrying it.  Oops.  Just like that I had my first freakout of the day.  Did I leave it in the hotel room?  On the elevator?   In the lobby?  On a street corner?  Kari was kind enough to walk back to the hotel, find it in the room and grab it.  All was good with the world again.  It’s a good thing I am married to one of the greatest sherpa’s of all time.

My gear bags were in a great spot, third row deep and all the way down at the end, thanks to the row ending with my bib number:  2400.  That made it super easy to find.

We stopped at a pizza place for dinner and then headed home to get off our feet and chill out for the night.  It was race day eve!

 

SUNDAY RACE DAY!

The alarm went off at 4 am, and I got up and took a shower.  I don’t usually do that, but I took Dave’s advice and let it wake me up.  I felt pretty good.  I got dressed, ate a bagel and some banana and gathered up my Morning Clothes bag and headed down to the lobby to meet up with the crew.  

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Looking mostly awake, but slightly terrified.

 

We shuffled our way to transition and checked our gear – added water bottles, checked the tires, made sure our gear bags were still there – then it was off to body marking.  I think body marking is somewhat strange and useless.  I guess it makes it easier to identify our bodies if we drown, crash off a cliff, or have a major grabber on the run.  Oh well, I try to have fun with it and I requested my usual smiley face on the calf.  That’s about as close as I will get to getting an Ironman tattoo.  

Louisville had somewhat of a unique rolling swim start that underwent a change for 2017.  It was still a rolling start, but instead of a first come/first serve method of getting in line, you self-seeded yourself into a grouping based on your predicted swim finish time.  I was overthinking this too much, because my swim PR from last year at Lake Placid would have put me in the 1:20 group, but I also knew and expected that the Louisville current aided swim would make me faster, and I should possibly get in with a faster group.  That morning Dave opted to go into the faster group and I played it conservative and stuck with the 1:20 to 1:30 group with Jeff.  My thinking was that I would rather swim around and pass others than have faster swimmers swim over me.  

As we approached the dock where we enter, I could hear Ben yelling for me even with my ear plugs in.  I ditched my water shoes and Jeff and I opted to join the line of the swimmers jumping off the closest dock.  “Why should I swim an extra 10 yards?” was my thinking.  I waved to Ben and Kari and then jumped in and started my journey.

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Jeff and I acknowledging our superfans.
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I hesitated before jumping in because I didn’t want to cannonball the girl in front of me.  Looks like Jeff beat me into the water!  I’m already in fourth place!  Geronimo!

 

THE SWIM

2.4 Miles > 1:09:18 > 78th in M50-54 A/G > 716th Male > 957th Overall

Equipment:  Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuit > Speedo Rx smoke goggles > Hearos swim earplugs > EPIX Custom Triathlon Kit (all day) > Garmin Forerunner 910XT (all day)

As soon as I was horizontal in the water I felt at ease and in control.  The water was slightly cooler than it had been the day before in the practice swim, but it felt perfect.  I reminded myself to dial it back for about 10-15 minutes and make sure I don’t get above a perceived Z2 effort.  The course has you swimming upstream around Towhead Island and then a little further into the Ohio River until you reach the turn buoy.  Just as we passed the island, it seemed like the water temp dropped about 5-10 degrees.  I saw another athlete post a similar reaction, so I know I wasn’t misperceiving that.  A little after I made my way over to the turn buoy I felt it warm up again.  Not sure what was going on with that.  There was a little bit of choppiness to the water in the last third of the swim, but I just made sure to rotate in the water a little more and had no issues with it.

After a little contact turning around that first buoy, I began the remaining 2/3’s of the trip back.  I’m terrible when it comes to sensing slight changes in the wind and apparently the current as well, but I could tell that I was quickly closing in on the bridges we had to swim under.  It was no time until I got past the last bridge and could spot Joe’s Crab Shack, which was near the Swim Out.  I started swimming a little harder in that last 10 minutes and was amazed when I saw my watch time of 1:09, a PR by almost 10 minutes.  

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My Garmin swim map.  I’m amazed at how “straight” I swam.  Most of the jagged parts were due to me avoiding groups of other swimmers.

 

The Ironman Louisville swim was without a doubt the most painless, cramp-free, quickest and most enjoyable of the three Ironman swims I have done.  There were no fish, no logs, no odors, and nothing that was unexpected.  It was awesome.  

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SWIM > BIKE TRANSITION – T1

11:14

After getting out of the water I immediately saw Ben and Kari and most of our cheer crew.  I jogged up to the wetsuit strippers and let them do the job.  Then it was off to T1 and find my Bike Gear bag and my bike for the next part of the race.  

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On my way to T1.
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Found my pile of money (bike) and headed to Bike Out.

 

THE BIKE

112 Miles > 6:12:14 > 78th Place M50-54 A/G > 698th Place Male > 840th Place Overall

Equipment:  Specialized Shiv Pro Triathlon Bike > Specialized Trivent Expert Cycling Shoes > FLO aero wheels 30 front/Full back > Louis Garneau Superleggera Aero Helmet > Garmin Edge 500 Bike Computer > Feetures Mini Crew Light Cushion Socks > Homemade Tube Sock Arm Warmers > GU Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean Energy Gel in Two GU Energy Gel Flasks > Salt Stick Dispenser with Salt Capsules

The bike ride had been on my mind since driving it on Friday.  We had seen the hills on the two looped portion and they did not look all that friendly.  But the main player of the day would not turn out to be the hills, it was the weather.  

We had been keeping an eye on the weather for a couple of weeks, and it was shaping up to be a hot day in the 80’s until the last few days prior to Sunday.  The temps were predicted to be much cooler, which was welcome, however that also meant that a cold front was expected midday, bringing gusts of around 30 mph and strong sustained winds for the day, as well as the chance for rain and thunderstorms.  The thunderstorms didn’t materialize, but we did have light rain and strong gusts.  

I had made the decision much earlier in training that I wasn’t going to wimp out anymore by not using my full disc aero wheel, and I had racked my bike with that full disc wheel for the race.  And even though I managed to somehow stay upright in strong crosswinds, it was not easy.  I found myself several times leaning very aggressively into the crosswind, hoping not to get blown off my intended line.  It was hard.

Heading out of Louisville was amazingly gentle, a fast ride made possible by a flat road and a super strong tailwind.  The first ten miles I had averaged about 21 mph and it was easy riding.  

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Flat and fast along the banks of the Ohio River on River Road leaving Louisville.

 

I finally got to the turn for the loops and felt the crosswind for the first time.  And then the hills started.  After riding them a little I realized that they really weren’t all that bad.  Compared to Wisconsin and Lake Placid, these were not as bad.  The climbs were pretty short in duration, and there were plenty of screaming down hills thrown in as well.  My Garmin registered a top speed of 41 mph, and there were several descents in which I hit 30+ mph.  

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Heading through LaGrange for the first time and being greeted by the gang.  I was feeling pretty good here.

 

Upon getting to LaGrange, the weather was warming up.  I had tossed the arm warmers in the transition in town and could feel myself sweating a little more.  My Garmin said the temperature had risen into the low 80’s, but I don’t think it got that warm.  I would say mid to upper 70’s.  It lasted maybe thirty minutes and then it clouded over, got cooler and started to sprinkle.  

The rain was pesky, never really completely wetting the roadway to the point were I felt it was a concern.  But now that it was raining slightly, and the temps had dropped, I went from being slightly warm to being uncomfortably cool.  It wasn’t unbearable, but I did regret not keeping my arm warmers.  

At Mile 45 I found myself riding mostly alone and got a little concerned that I missed the second loop turn.  I finally caught up with the next rider, who was standing and pedaling, and I asked him if he was on his first or second loop.  He said he was on his first loop and that the turn for the second loop is still ahead.  Immediately after asking him the question though, I realized why he was standing – he was urinating.  I almost laughed at him while he was responding to me, but I was able to contain myself.  Triathlon is weird.  

The turn for the second loop finally came and off I went back toward LaGrange.  I stopped at the aid station there and found the toilets (I don’t pee myself, although there were times I considered it).  Upon exiting I was greeted by a volunteer who had a table of miscellaneous stuff – pretzel sticks, chips, grapes, and other stuff.  But it was the Vasoline that caught my eye.  I had forgotten to apply some Glide in T1, so I grabbed a stick full of the goo and stuck it in my pants.  I rode pretty comfortably after that.  The volunteer said the Vasoline was pretty popular.  No doubt.  I also stopped at the Bike Special Needs and grabbed the little yellow jacket I bought.  I thought I might need it again, seeing that I had already seen the temps drop once.

After getting through the second loop and turning back west, I could see that the weather ahead of me looked awful.  And it was really windy at this point.  Around the 90 mile marker I passed Jeff and said hello.  He said hi back, but didn’t appear to be in the mood to talk.  We must of rode a similar pace back because he later came out of T2 right after me.  

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Finishing up the final mile or so of the ride.

 

I pushed a pretty hard pace between 90 and 105 miles or so, but then decided to relax a little on the rougher River Road and spin my legs to recover for the run a little bit.  I was pretty glad to come back into Louisville and get off the bike.  It was a great ride, especially considering the brutal weather and the challenging rollers, but I was glad to be heading in for the run.  Had I not stopped in four of the aid stations, I probably would have saved 10 minutes on that ride.  In all, the bike course is challenging and technical, but plenty of fun to ride.

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BIKE > RUN TRANSITION – T2

9:03

I was amazed to once again see Ben yelling for me there at the end of the ride.  He really did a great job making sure to be loud and get my attention and cheer me on.  Every time  seeing him and the others was a big emotional lift.  

I dismounted and started the walk into transition, where along the way I handed my pile of money (bike) off to some kid who couldn’t have been more than 10, and continued my post-ride shuffle into the change tent.  I could see the amused look on many of the spectators getting a good chuckle at our hunched over and hobbled walk.  I was even laughing at some of the others as well.

In my bag I had packed a large baby wipe and used it to towel myself off.  Even if it was just for the refreshing smell, it made me feel better.  I grabbed my bib belt, shoved my feet into my shoes, and opted for the visor instead of the hat.  I kept the rain jacket in my back pocket, and I am very glad I did.

 

THE RUN

26.2 Miles > 4:05:07 > 24th Place M50-54 A/G > 341st Place Male > 434th Place Overall

Equipment:  Boco Visor > Nishiki Weather/Wind Resistant Cycling Jacket > Hoka One One Clifton 3 > Fuel Belt Bib Belt with Pouch

When I came out of the change tent I was surprised to see Jeff.  I had passed him on the bike and never saw him pass me back, so he must have been right behind me.  He was trying to determine if waiting for a portable toilet to open up was in his best interest, and I saw him jog off to a set further up from Run Out.  But he was right there with me, and I knew he was going to be chasing me down soon.  

I was barely out of T2 when I saw Dave’s son Maxwell, who was cheering like mad.  He was telling me that I only had a little run of 26 miles to go.  Funny kid.  Kari and Ben saw me again and I advised them that Jeff was right behind me.  They took this bit of information somewhat nonchalantly, and it dawned on me they new exactly where everyone was at.  “Yeah, we know he’s behind you.  Now get going!”  

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Already tired of running and I haven’t even left T2 yet.

 

Kari and Ben had discovered that Louisville has a bike share program and decided to hop a couple of bikes and chase me around the first part of the first loop.  I would get up the road a little and then out of the blue Ben would yell “GO Papa!” which usually took me by surprise.  He even caught me once coming out of the porta-john, at which I just shook my head.

Right after that potty break, I saw that Jeff had caught up with me.  It was then he said he had crashed on the bike!  No wonder he wasn’t up for small talk out on the bike course when I had seen him earlier.  He said that some dope had passed him and then stopped right in front of him, causing him to crash and being tossed over his handlebars.  He ended up with a pretty good sized bump on his forehead, but seemed to be doing okay.  

Jeff and I jogged together for most of the first four miles of the first loop out, but my desire to walk the aid stations and multiple porta-john breaks caused him to gain a little distance on me.  I had been passing some gas quite a bit, a common occurrence which many of the other racers also experienced from the sound of it.  The saying in triathlon is “Never Trust a Fart,” and I had already “trusted” about a half dozen of them, so I was playing it safe by continually wasting my time in the toilet.  But after awhile, I must have gotten most of the gas out of me and never felt the need to go again other than pee breaks.  I was staying hydrated pretty well, and was content with my hydration and nutrition plan on the run.  I was hitting the Coke and chicken broth, and eating the pretzels/potato chips and bananas when I felt like it.  I kept up the gel intake at every 30 minutes as well.  I never ran out of energy on the course.  

Jeff knew that one of his former bosses was in the race and they met up on the run course somewhere around the 7 mile mark.  I had started to creep back up on Jeff, and when I saw them jogging together and sharing their experiences of the day, I decided to try to sneak by and pass them unnoticed.  But Jeff saw me and gave me some well wishes for the rest of the race.  It was at that point that I thought he might be struggling a little.  

Up next for me was seeing Alex, and I jogged with him for a little while.  I came to realize that he was about 5 miles from being a two time Ironman and I was still on my first loop.  We didn’t stride together for long, and he was off to finish.

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Alex was gunning for the finish, and I was hamming it up on the first loop.

 

It wasn’t long until I was also near the finish; however, I had to make the turn for my second loop.  It’s somewhat of a sickening feeling when the halfway turnaround point is very close to the finish line.  I was feeling really good at this point and figured that if I was still doing well with 10K to go, I would probably start my kick.  And that’s what I did.  I got lots of “great pace, Chris” and “nice run” from the spectators, who could read my name on the front of my bib.  I did like the fact that the fans along the course could cheer for you personally.  It freaks you out the first time, and then you figure it out.  

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Another picture of me running, just because I kind of like this one.

 

The turn at the end of the out loop was near the 20 mile mark and it was now go time for me.  I felt really good. I picked up my pace and was running just under 8 minute miles and passing a good number of runners.  Around the 22 mile mark I drank a little chicken broth and it wasn’t long after that that it seemed like it wasn’t settling so well.  I started to get slightly nauseated, and I burped a couple of times, which seemed to alleviate the nausea.  When I hit the 24 mile mark, I was now pretty comfortable.  I had ran this out and back on Friday, and had done this run back once already in the race.  It was time to hit it.  I had set a goal for myself pre-race that I wanted to try to break 4 hours in the run.  I knew it would be close because my half marathon split was a little over 2 hours.  But I knew that I had pushed pretty hard the second half, and was kicking to the end.

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I was dueling it out with this girl for the last mile.  She “chicked” me in the chute.  Maxwell was the first to see me approaching and was yelling for me to get to the end.

 

As I approached the finish chute I took a look at my watch and noticed that I was clearly going to be under 12 hours, far exceeding my goal of being sub 12:30.  The emotions of finishing started to hit me.  I can get a little emotional during the race – finishing the swim, and the start of the run both got me a little choked up.  But coming in to this finish line was amazing!  It was supercharged with excitement, and I was flying high on adrenaline.  As I came down Fourth Street Live! to the finish it was almost a blur.  I couldn’t hear any music, or even the announcer introducing me and saying the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  Just as I was crossing I almost got tripped up on the rug and almost did a complete faceplant!  But I was able to collect myself and finish the race, even if I was an emotional wreck.

The Ironman Louisville run course couldn’t have been better.  Flat and fast and the volunteers were awesome.  A four hour and five minute marathon after biking and swimming 114.4 miles seemed impossible to me.  4:05 is quicker than some of the stand alone marathons I have run.  Even I’m impressed.  Just like the slogan says, “Anything Is Possible.”  

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THE FINISH

140.6 Miles > 11:46:55 > 43rd M50-54 A/G > 479th Male Overall > 600th place Overall Finisher

Equipment:  A cot, a blanket, a bottle of water, Base Salt, and an Ironman Louisville Finisher’s Medal

I ended Ironman Lake Placid 2016 in pretty good shape.  I was able to walk, talk, and do other stuff without much effort.  This time was the complete opposite.  I was a blubbering mess.  I wanted to keep moving, but the finisher chute was quite short.  My finish line catcher was amazing, and stayed with me while I tried to figure out what the heck was going to happen to me.  At some point I saw Ben and Kari and walked over to greet them at the fence.  I let it out.  The catcher asked if this was “normal” – lol.  I handed my hat and finisher’s shirt to Kari and tried to collect myself.  But I could tell I was starting to get chilled in the low to mid 50 degree temps.  I asked the catcher to walk me to the medical tent.

Once inside the medical tent I was directed to a cot, had my blood pressure taken (110/70, 80 bpm) was told to lie down and had a blanket placed over me.  I was now in full shiver mode and from my prone position could see that there was IV bags hanging all around.  As I laid there wondering when they were going to give me the IV, I came to the conclusion that they probably weren’t.  They had provided me a water bottle, and I still had my Base Salt container, so I figured I might as well start getting my electrolytes up on my own.  I started licking the salt and trying to absorb it sublingually, and kept pushing the water.  I suppose I laid there for thirty minutes and finally sat up.  The shivering was over, and I was feeling better.  My nurse Stacy walked me to the porta-john and I knew at that point I was doing much better.  

I was allowed to keep the blanket and was very thankful for that as it was 50 degrees out and the wind of the day had not subsided at all.  As I walked out, I took a look over at the recovery tent where there was more food and drink, but I could see that Ben and Kari were waiting for me on the other side of the fence.  The area where the Morning Clothes bags were being held was nearby and I went over and retrieved mine.  I met my wife and son and said lets go back to the hotel.

After a shower and a change of clothes, we walked back to the finish area and had dinner at TGIFriday’s.  I needed some salty carbs and protein, so I ordered some soup, a steak and fries.  I ate what I could and was feeling much better.  

Since this race didn’t have a hard finish at midnight, and the fact that it was cold and my left leg was getting super sore, we decided to pack it in and not watch some of the final finishers.  I kind of regret not sticking around for what is usually the highlight of the day, but I had no more to give to the day, and my crew was also tired of chasing me around.   It was time for bed.

 

MONDAY

I was anxious to get up and get breakfast so we could get over to the Ironman store in the Athlete Village.  I wanted to get that finisher’s jacket that Ironmen seem to covet for some reason.  Kari and I flagged down weirdo number 3, a cabbie who was done with his shift for the night, but decided he could drive us to the Great Lawn where the Athlete Village was located.  He was a little strange with his conversations about once owning a yachting jacket like the America’s Cup guys use, but at least he could give us a lift.

I expected that there would be a line and wasn’t let down.  It was pretty long, and since we had gotten there late I figured all of the jackets were probably sold out by now.  But we decided to stick it out, and since the awards ceremony was about to begin, we had something to occupy our time while we stood in line.  

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The line to get into the Ironman Store tent.  During the days leading up to the race they didn’t seem to give a damn about how many people were in the store.  But post-race, they would only let about 10 people in at a time.  Dumb.

 

Once inside the store, I found my jacket in my size and we bought a couple of t-shirts for the girls and made a beeline out of there.  It was time to check out of the hotel and hit the road for home.  

 

POST RACE ANALYSIS

Ironman Louisville was awesome.  It produced another personal best for me and a time that I am really proud of.  I’m amazed that I went from being in 992nd place overall after the swim, to 840th overall after the bike, to 434th overall after the run.  I had moved up hundreds of places after that awesome run.  600th out of 2,273 finishers is also pretty awesome.  

I highly recommend Ironman Louisville for anyone looking to find a fast and contact free swim, a challenging but interesting bike course, and a flat and fast run with an awesome finish line like no other.  

 

THE GUNNERS

Alex:  10:14:57 > 5th Place M18-24 A/G  PODIUM FINISH > 155th Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher

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The kid is a natural.  Look at that smile – HE LOVES THIS SPORT!!!

 

Dave:  11:40:20 > 41st Place M50-54 A/G > 548th Place Overall > 3 time Ironman Finisher

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The All-Time Undisputed King of Ironman.

 

Jeff:  12:14:27 > 107th Place M45-49 A/G > 802nd Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher

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A legend at overcoming bad luck.  I’m pretty sure he PR’d all three disciplines at Ironman Louisville.

 

THANKS

As usual, I have many to thank.  My friends at work, who probably regret asking about my training once I start answering.  Thanks Lou, Micah, Jeff, Julie, Mary, Tracy, and the others, and especially my Super Fan, Carl!  I’m still not getting the tattoo, Carl.

Thanks go to the Mueller’s, who like us had to sacrifice to make sure Jeff could get his training in, especially with moving to Downtown Chicago, and having a recent high school graduate off to college in late August.  Jill, Emma and Charlie, thanks for coming to the race and supporting us and chasing us around.

Without Carla securing our hotel needs for every race we do, and doing such a great job at it, we would probably be staying in a dive hotel an hour outside of town.  Instead we had wonderful suites in downtown Louisville, right next to the finish line.  Carla, you are the best.  And to the other DeForest’s, Max and Zach, and Lizzy and Alex’s girlfriend Kennedy, thanks for cheering as loud as you did.  Seeing you guys was great.

To my son Ben, it was a great relief having you there.  Thanks for chasing me around the course, running with me before the race, and going and retrieving my pile of money (bike) and gear bags, and putting up with such a long day of Gunner racing.  I really appreciate it.  

And lastly, a huge thanks to my endurance partner in life, my wife Kari.  Thanks for keeping me on task during training, allowing me to go do those crazy long rides all the while we were loading our lives with a new home, a recent college graduate, a second year college student, and a busy high schooler in a competitive marching band who was also learning to drive.  Thanks for being there for me as always.  I love you.

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Beauty and the Beast, (r to l).

 

Thanks for reading!  On to my next adventure – my first Boston Marathon in 2018!  

 

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P.S. – I was searching the lost and found photos and was surprised to see a picture of weirdo #2 walking on the bike course.  Tulio and Dave Navarro, am I right?

 

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Ironman Louisville 2017 – DAY DONE!
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Sprinting in the Beater

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 19 – July 24 > July 30

I’ve always been somewhat self-conscious about my body.  As a kid my mom would take me to the “husky” section of Sears to buy my clothes.  I always swam in a t-shirt to hide my chubbiness.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable for me if my two best buddies didn’t have bodies that would be suitable for modeling.  (They still have those bodies.)  Even in my high school and young adult years, I would always buy a shirt that was a size larger than I need.

I started running like most people do – to lose a few pounds.  I did lose a few pounds, but my body shape stayed the same.  Not sure why after almost 28 years of running that I would not be rail thin like most marathoners, but it never happened to me.  I am a slightly slimmer version of the same body that I have had since I can remember.

But when I started triathlon, things changed.  First of all, one of the reasons I stayed away from triathlon was that I didn’t think that I could wear that skin tight clothing and be comfortable with how I felt and looked.  Especially in the early days when they wore bikini style shorts.  I can remember buying my first tri suit at Endure It! in the western suburbs of Chicago.  I tried a two piece and remember thinking I looked like the Michelin Man.  After that I tried a one piece suit and thought that it wasn’t too bad.  Often times I would throw a t-shirt over it just to make me feel a little better about myself.  But after getting a few races under my belt, I looked around and realized that it wasn’t all that bad.  I saw all shapes and sizes of people squeezed into Lycra, and in reality I wasn’t the shape that my mind imagined myself to be.  Triathlon seems to be giving me more than I had bargained for.  I’m getting less conscious about my image.

This weekend I did a sprint triathlon.  I was thinking about how I looked in comparison to others at the event.  Not sure why, but I did.  I was admiring this one guy who looked like he was a former pro.  Fortunately for me he was in the 55-59 age group and I didn’t have to worry about losing an age group spot to him (He finished 3rd overall).  He had the look that I wanted but somehow can’t achieve.  As somewhat of a car buff, I envisioned myself much like a souped up beater – a car that looks rough on the outside, but is all pro-stock under the hood.  The term “sleeper” also comes to mind – a car that is so tame looking, but packs a wallop.

I took my time in the water, but once I got to the bike I let it rip.  I ended up surprising myself with a 21.8 mph average over the 11 mile course.  When I got to the run, I played my strategy right.  I allowed myself to settle in and not go crazy that first mile.  I ended up running a 20:46 5K, nearly matching my personal best for road raced 5K’s this year.  That was surprising as well.

The biggest surprise was when I saw the results on the screen at the finish line – 1st place in the M50-54 age group, and 9th place overall.  I wasn’t expecting that.  But I guess nobody expects the beater to have a supercharged big block under the hood.  Sometimes not even me.

TOTALS:

3 Swims – 3300 yards this week / 60050 yards total

3 Bikes – 33 miles this week / 9426 miles total

7 Runs – 30 miles this week / 565 miles total

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Standing tall on the top step.
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Nice race week break.  Back to work in Week 20

 

2017 Manteno Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When:  07/29/2017, 8:00am

Where:  Manteno, Illinois

Distance:  Sprint:  400 yard Swim, 11 mile Bike, 3.1 mile Run

Results:  1:02:40 – 9th overall, 1st place M50-54

I expected to be underwhelmed with this race a little.  There wasn’t much information to be found online as I looked into this race.  The club that hosted it doesn’t really have a website or Facebook page that I could find, the host location (Manteno Sportsman’s Club) had just one post on their FB page, and the sign-up website didn’t list the race distances or provide a course map at all.  I was kind of in the dark about it all.  I ended up emailing the listed contact on the registration site and asked for info.  A day later I was emailed the athlete guide.  At least I now knew when packet pick-up was and when transition opened.  When I did sign up for the race I asked my wife Kari if she would be interested in doing the duathlon.  She committed and we joined the field.

I set my alarm for 4:30 am, but had a really restless night of sleep.  I got up and got ready, while Kari groaned.  We hit the road around 5:30 am and drove the 25 miles or so to Manteno, Illinois.

After arriving, we picked up our packets and walked our junk to transition.  It was a rack it where you like transition, so I chose an end rack location not far from a large tree for ease of finding the bike.

I decided to burn off some race anxiety and ran a couple loops of the run out course.  After that, Kari and I walked around trying to stay warm on a somewhat cool 63 degree summer morning.

Race day water temp was 80 degrees, so no wetsuit.  I did see one guy with one on, but he also had a white swim cap and I remembered hearing that a guy with a white cap would be in the water helping the unsure beginners in the water.

There were four swim waves – Men 39 and Under / Men 40 and Over / Ladies 39 and Under / Ladies 40 and Over.  I was in the second wave and sized up my competition.  I didn’t really see anyone in the M50-54 age group, but I knew there had to be a few.  There was a guy in transition who was a first timer and I answered a few of his questions in transition.  He approached me on the beach and asked more questions.  I was glad I could offer him some advice.  He was a little nervous.  I hope he did okay.  I didn’t see him at the finish.

SWIM:  400 Yards, 9:07, Average pace 2:17, 3rd in A/G, 58th Overall

The horn blew and I waded into the water as others ran.  The water was perfect.  Smooth and a comfortable temp.  We got to the one turn buoy in fairly good time, and I was feeling pretty good.  There was some bunching up, and some minor contact, but it settled down and we all began swimming straight back into a blinding morning sun.  I felt like I had a great swim, but was surprised to see my time in the results.  I guess that includes the run to T1, but I know I swim faster than that.  I got to T1 and spent 1:16 getting ready for the ride.

BIKE:  11 Miles, 30:14, Average speed 21.8 mph, 2nd in A/G, 10th Overall

I got to T1 and decided to go without socks.  I got ready as fast as I could and took off running out to Bike Out.  Once on the bike I took off.   I hit 27 mph leading out of the event site and was amazed how easy it felt.  A few turns later I was out of the town and in cornfields, passing numerous first wave starters and most of the duathlon competitors.  I got passed by one guy on the bike, right around the 0.5 mile mark.  He and I left transition together, but he mounted his bike before the bike mount line and the referee told him to dismount and mount after the line.  I wonder if he got a 2 minute penalty.  But he blew by me, and I was still doing 25 mph at that point.  He must have been ticked.

The course had two hairpin turnarounds, which weren’t that big of a deal.  I had to slow for a slower rider at the second one, but I ramped it back up quickly.  The day had started to become slightly windy, but there were enough turns where you weren’t dealing with a headwind for a long stretch of time.  There was a cop standing at the bottom of the hill with a radar gun.  I went by him at 27 mph.  Later on at the awards ceremony, they crowned the faster rider at 35 mph I think.  They gave him an award.

I hustled back to T2 and made the quick change to running in 1:14.

RUN:  3.1 miles, 20:46, 6:42 per mile pace ave., 1st in A/G, 8th Overall

I started running and immediately wondered if my heart was going to explode.  It didn’t and I quickly settled into race pace.  I passed a guy about 1/2 mile into the run and he said I was crushing it.  He probably thought I was crazy, because I certainly did.  But I just started going and picking off runners one by one.  It wasn’t until about the 2 mile mark that I saw two guys running together in my age group.  They said I should join their old man group and run with them, but I gracefully declined.  I kept my pace going and they didn’t try to match it.  I’m glad they didn’t, because the results showed that I beat them both by 19 seconds.

FINISH TIME:  1:02:40, 1st in A/G, 9th Overall

After finishing, I recovered with some water and walking around.  I found friend Brian Swift, a para-triathlete who had done the swim portion of the relay, while his kids did the bike and run.  Very inspiring to watch him do the swim.

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Not long after that I grabbed my camera out of transition and went to watch Kari finish the race.  We cooled down and had great conversation with a few others we knew and some new triathlete friends we met.

After getting some pizza and a banana, I decided to check the results and was shocked to see that I had finished 1st in the age group.  At the awards ceremony, I took my place on the highest podium, a first for me, and received my award, a drinking glass etched with 1st place on it.

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I’ve won 1st place in my age group before, but never got to stand on the top tier of the finisher’s podium!

CONCLUSION:  

Even with my questions about how well run the race would be, it turned out to be a great day.  The venue was more than adequate, the lake was very nice, and the bike and run course was all on pavement that was in great shape.  And Kari confided in me later that she actually had fun!  I would definitely do this one again.

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Two happy campers ready to head home.

RACE RESULTS:  http://results.itsracetime.com/results.aspx?CId=17095&RId=276

 

Short Run on a Long Day 2017 Race Recap

When:  6/21/2016, 7:00pm

Where:  Frankfort, Illinois

Distance:  5K

Results:  20:45 Official, 20:42 Garmin watch – 16th overall, 3rd place M50-54

I went into the my fourth running of this race with low expectations.  I haven’t really focused on any sort of short speed work due to training for Ironman Louisville, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give a 5K a try.  And by try I mean gunning as hard as I can.  But the race ended up being somewhat educational for me.

For this race I decided to wear my heart rate strap and monitor my heart rate through the 5K to see if my max HR is anywhere near the 220 bpm minus your age.  This method is an easy way to determine your max heart rate, which you can then use to set your heart rate zones to train in.  However, many don’t trust the calculation for some reason.  I’m 53 years old, so using the 220-age formula I should have a max heart rate of 167.

So if you are going to use a 5K to see where your max heart rate is you should do a little warm up then go all out at max effort for 5K.  So I strapped on my Garmin and the heart rate monitor strap and let it rip.  Here’s what it told me:

 

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Not sure why there is a 10 second difference in the moving time and the elapsed time.  That may explain the watch time vs. the official time.  Maybe I lost a little satellite connection somewhere on the run.  I did not stop for anything until the finish line.

 

And the 5K field test revealed a peak max heart rate of 169 bpm, with an average of 163 bpm.  And the times that I glanced at my watch during the race I usually saw 166 bpm staring back at me.  I guess the 220-age is accurate enough for me.

 

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I was also surprised to see that the Garmin nailed the 3.1 mile distance exactly.  

 

Okay, enough of the scientific stuff.  Back to the race.  I got there much later than I usually do and parked in the neighborhood next to the park where the race starts and ends near my friend Dian’s house.  Lo and behold, Dian was actually outside!  We chatted up ourselves a little bit and she thought the race had started already.  Silly Dian.  I explained that the runners will warm up prior to the race.  She thought that was nuts.  Gave me a chuckle though.

Over at the park, the usual suspects were there:  Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club made a strong showing, Tinley Track & Trail was also present.  Mr. Mustache Runner guy was there, with his shirt tucked in as usual.  And many more familiar faces.  It wasn’t until the race was almost ready to go when Nate Troester showed up at the start line, and I knew our eventual winner was finally here.

The guy that starts the race stands right in the middle of the road, orders us not to run him over, tells us not to start until he says “GO!” then proceeds to say “Okay, let’s go” prior to saying “On your mark, get set, GO!”  Park district run races can be really strange. In the old days, races were run by runners who kind of knew what they were doing, and these park district guys don’t look like they run much.  Anyway, at GO! we all took off and tried to avoid the dumb cherry picker thing in the path of the race route that has a guy up there with a camera.  So dumb.  You never see the pictures on their website or Facebook page, but damn, they got to have a cherry picker right on the road with a camera guy taking pictures that no one will ever see.

I had picked my mark, a guy named Chris S. who is in my age group and started just in front of me.  I decided to hold his pace for as long as I could.  That didn’t last long.  I might have held on to him for about a half mile before I could tell I had maxed out my heart rate without even looking at my watch.  I watched him pull away.  That move of trying to stay with him got me through the first mile with a 6:18 split.  NO BUENO!  So much for the negative split strategy.  He kicked my butt again, as usual.

After the first mile I decided to dial it back a touch and find my race pace comfort zone and found myself running with a guy wearing a Ironman Racine 70.3 t-shirt.  We were pacing together pretty well.  We turned off the path together and on to the side street to head back and about 1.5 miles into it we got passed by some kid.  “Damn kids” I muttered, and Racine man agreed.

We ran together until the 2 mile split (6:47 min/mile) and he started to pull just a little bit ahead.  I tried to match pace but I had spent too much energy on that first mile.  He pulled ahead about 50 yards with about a 1/2 mile to go and that’s how it ended.  The third mile split was 6:53 min/mile for me.

I checked the race results and learned Racine man was in my age group.  He got 15th place overall, 2nd in the age group.  Since this park district run race only awards the top 2 finishers in each age group with a medal, whereas most races go three deep, I knew I wasn’t going to add a medal to my medal rack this time around.  You win some, you lose some.

Here is page one the results:  Shortrun

Overall, it was a good race for me.  I found that the 220-minus age max heart rate calculation is nearly exact to my actual field tested heart rate.  I got to race some good competition.  And there was pizza at the finish line.

 

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A tie dye participant shirt.  Yay.  

 

2017 ET Batavia Triathlon Race Report

When:  6/11/2017

Where:  Batavia, Illinois

Distances:  400 yard Swim, 14.7 mile Bike, 4.1 mile Run

Time:  1:19:01

Back for the fourth time to do the race in Batavia.  I really enjoy this one.  It’s a quick swim, rolling hills bike route with plenty of time to go fast, and a flat and fast trail run.

This week I experimented somewhat with pushing my limits a little.  I decided to use my full disc aero wheel on the bike, something I chickened out with a year ago.  I also decided to swim without the wetsuit, thanks to the water temperature being just warm enough for my comfort level.  I’m glad I didn’t have to fight with it to get it on and off.  That is a chore.

The temperature of the morning was comfortable, but the day would get warm later.  It wasn’t bad on the bike, but I did start to feel it somewhat on the run.

 

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Satisfied with my pre-race transition set up.  

 

SWIM – 7:16 minutes, 208th overall

The swim started well for me.  I felt like my pace was good.  I got to the turn and made it to the backside of the swim and kept swimming.  It is pretty shallow in this part of the man-made, sandy bottom public swimming hole, and most people walk the back side of it.  I decided to keep swimming until about 10 yards from the turn for the second lap.  Once swimming again, I found myself in a much crowded field of swimmers, as more had joined in on the fun, thanks to a time trial type start.  But I made it through and started walking the back part of it earlier, just like everyone else.

T1 – 1:44 minutes

Getting to T1 was quick, no need to fuss with removing the wetsuit.  Grabbed my bike gear and bike and was gone to Bike Out.

BIKE – 40:58 minutes, 21.5 MPH average, 36th overall

There is a sharp climb right away which sent my heart rate into the red, where it would stay for quite a while, most of the ride actually.  I really pushed myself on the ride and it paid off with a quick ride.  There was some cross wind, but it didn’t last long.  I ate a gel just into the first mile, and one more just before getting back to T2 to fuel for the run.

T2 – 1:18 minutes

RUN – 27:43 minutes, 6:46 average per mile, 27th overall

There was a slight deviation to the final mile of the run as the trail near a public works facility was under construction.  Fortunately, the detour had a nice downhill leading back to the bridge that takes you back over the Fox River and the trail on the other side to the finish.  The run was going well, but I was feeling the heat a little even though it was almost completely shaded.  I took water at the water station twice and splashed it on me and in me as best as I could.  I passed a lot of younger racers and not seeing hardly any in my 50-54 Age Group.  That’s because they were ahead of me!  There was one guy with 50 written on his calf.  I decided to pace with him for a little while and then pass him in the last mile if I could.  He had is bib on backwards, and I realized his bib was white, which meant he was in the duathlon (run/bike/run) race and not in the triathlon.  So, knowing that I wasn’t really competing with him, I decided to push tempo again and pass him.  He must of saw my 53 on my calf and he reacted.  Once we got to that downhill at about 3.25 miles, he took off.  I started to chuckle because I knew he was racing me even though I wasn’t competing with him in his event.  I slowly worked on catching up with him, but I knew that I didn’t have to worry about him.

When I got back to the finish, I cooled down and got some fluids in me.  I knew it would be a while before the award ceremony, so I decided to walk back to transition, take a shower, gather my bike and junk and take it to the car.  I then drove back to the VFW where the finish line area was located.

I decided to grab a couple pieces of pizza and check out the results.  Fourth in the age group – no award this year.  I was kind of expecting to finish a little higher than the 3rd place I won last year, but just didn’t have it in me.  Upon review the posted results online later in the day I realized my swim time did me in.  It was a full minute slower than last year!  I’m not really sure why that is.  It could be the wetsuit I guess, but I really did feel like I swam pretty well.  Oh well.  The swim ranking had me 208th overall.  That is really sad.  I also dropped in the overall ranking from 2016, from 23rd to 37th.  The guy that beat me for 3rd place beat me by 7 seconds.  One glimmer of hope, the 2nd place age group winner was a 50 year old, so he is the newcomer to the rank, whereas I am starting to age into the next group.  Not my day, I guess.  Maybe next year I will be kicking butt in the 55-59 A/G as the young gun.

 

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Still proud of my medal.  Glad to add it to the rack.

Here’s the link to the race results:  http://cc247.raceresults.space/2017/2017_ETBatavia_OA.htm

 

 

2017 Summertime Stride 5K Race Report

When:  6/3/2017, 8:30 am

Where:  Mokena, Illinois

Distance:  5K

Results:  20:57 Official, 10th overall, 10th Male overall, 1st place M50-54

http://www.thtiming.com/images/2017_stride_overall.pdf

When I show up for a 5K I tend to start scanning the people gathered around, looking for the usual suspects, the people I will key on as my competition.  Since school was officially over for the high schools, I figured I would see a handful of high school age runners, fresh off of their track seasons, and there were a few.  I also saw this kid who looked about 9 (the results indicate he was 11), and he had the “look.”  Short running shorts, a set of wrap around sunglasses, and New Balance shoes that looked like racing flats.  It was about 40 minutes until start and he went out for his warm up.  I knew a runner when I saw one.  I also saw a guy wearing a Calvin College Track Team singlet who looked fast as well (he was the eventual winner).  It wasn’t until I saw Nate Troester, a local guy who wins every race, that I knew for sure that I certainly wasn’t going to win this race!

My wife Kari joined me in this race as it is walking distance from our house.  We walked down to the park about 3/4 of a mile away and signed up.  It was starting to get warm, and the race start time of 8:30 am was not helping.  Much too late to start a summertime race, in my opinion.  I tried talking Kari into gunning from the start, but she’s happy to run the race her way.  I was already starting to build adrenaline for the start time.

I did some easy warm up and then headed to the start line.  I’m always amazed at the number of slow people and kids at the front of the line.  One guy said he’s staying back to let the rabbits go, but this guy was in the front as well.  I dislike the tight corral type starts.  They are too crowded, and filled with too many slowpokes at the front of the pack.

A couple of minutes later a horn sounded and we were off.  I was surprised that many of the kids were holding tempo pretty good at the beginning, but by the time we got a half mile into it the first small climb appeared, and they started to drop off.  It was also in that first half mile that I was surprised to see Nate Troester standing there clapping for everyone.  I guess he was just hanging around.  I was happy to see that I had just picked up a finisher’s spot!

At the first mile, a local kid named Merrigan was running along with me and not far off the first place female.  We went through the first mile in 6:25 pace and I thought she would be good.  But later I found out she had a sore knee from an earlier mishap and ended up dropping out.  I kept pace behind the first girl for the next mile, as I also chased the one grey haired guy up ahead of me.  He was moving pretty well and not showing any signs of letting up.

After the turn around, we climbed the few remaining hills and settled in for the last mile.  I caught the first place girl and passed her.  I could see the grey haired guy up ahead, but he was pulling away, as was the kid with the sunglasses.  That kid knew what he was doing, running the tangents and basically picking off more and more runners.

I tried using the last downhill to pick up pace, using it to pass an 8th grade kid, and then accelerate through the last turn for the last 10th of a mile.  I couldn’t catch anyone ahead of me, and there was no one directly behind me to worry about, so I glided in across the finish in 20:57.

I grabbed a water and dumped it over my head to cool down.  I then walked back to the turn and waited with my daughter Rebecca for Kari to finish.  She came by looking very strong, but I tried to tell her that she was getting out-kicked by a 5 year old!  She didn’t care.  To get beat by a 5 year old would have killed me.

When the results were posted I was surprised to see that I finished 10th, and first in my age group.  I would have bet that the grey haired guy ahead of me was in my age group.  It turns out he was 58!  Smoking fast for 58!  I also checked the results for Kari and learned that she medaled as well, taking 3rd in her a/g!  Well done!

In all, it’s a fun local race, and I thoroughly enjoyed the run with my wife.

 

2016 Chicago Marathon Race Report

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After getting a personal best and a Boston Marathon qualifying time at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, and then missing the cutoff by a half minute, I felt like I had a score to settle after that disappointment.  I knew however, that trying to improve on a marathon best that was ten minutes faster than my previous personal best was not going to be easy.  But this year was shaping up to make me well prepared.

 

TRAINING

Leading up to the marathon I had already had a pretty good training season, thanks to training for and completing Ironman Lake Placid.  The training for IMLP started in late 2015 and 30 weeks later got me to the finish line in the third weekend of July.  (You can read my IMLP report here:  https://anamazingrun.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/2016-ironman-lake-placid-race-report/ )

I usually follow a sixteen week plan for the marathon.  The plan I follow was created by Nike and was promoted by the Chicago Marathon.  I was already into Week 2 of the training when I finished up the Ironman.  So I wasn’t really starting at the beginning, seeing that I just finished a marathon as the plan had just began.  But I needed to dial it back a little for a post-IMLP recovery and it was easy to slide in to the plan where I needed to be.  (Here is the plan I followed:  https://assets-chicagomarathon-com.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014_Advanced_Final.pdf )

So I eased into the plan, adding a few bikes into the mix, and kept checking off the weeks until race day.  My longest run was a 22 mile run that I didn’t really want to do, but I got it done.  Most of the training was pretty warm, and I struggled to train at a tempo that was near my goal of being under 8 min/miles.  But I knew that training and racing were two different things for me, and the summer heat would hopefully be gone by race day.

 

MARATHON RACE WEEKEND

I went to the expo on Friday midday and found it to be very crowded.  I usually buy some race day clothing at the Nike store, but after seeing how long the line was to check out (it actually went outside of their exhibit and wrapped around it!) and being disappointed at the junk they were selling, I almost passed on it.  But I ended up buying a white event t-shirt and a new set of red shorts, along with a new visor.

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A selfie at the race expo.

 

Saturday was busy as usual for my family.  I was glad that everyone was around for the weekend though.  My son Ben didn’t have a XC meet and ended up coming home from college to watch the race.  My daughter Ashley was excited to come home and watch the marching band home show that my youngest daughter Rebecca was involved with.  I ate a pasta meal with the family at Gatto’s, and then made the trek into Chicago to the hotel.

My usual plan is to walk to the gate where I enter for the corrals just to make sure nothing has changed.  Then I walked around a little, grabbed a muffin for breakfast, and a sub sandwich for dinner and headed to my room.

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The Art Institute of Chicago flying the “W”- GO CUBS!

I walked through the lobby and got a glimpse of Joan Benoit Samuelson, which was pretty cool.  I made it to my room and tried to find the Cubs playoff game on TV.  Very disappointed to find the channel it was on wasn’t carried by the hotel.  I tried to find it online, only to find that I could only get simple live updates on some dumb MLB website.  So I monitored that while I pulled up the Ironman Championship live stream from Kona.

 

RACE DAY

My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I got up and got ready.  I made a cup of coffee, ate my muffin and started getting myself race ready.

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I laid out my options and decided to run in the red shorts.  Pretty bold decision for me!

 

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I figured out how to use the timer feature on my iPhone.  I texted this picture to my wife so she knew what to look for during the race.

 

I took my own advice and headed to the corrals at 6 am.  In the past I have waited too long and had to stand in line waiting to get in.  The wait was minimal this time.  I walked to the corral area got in line for the toilets.  Took care of that and then found a place to sit on the sidewalk outside of Corral B and just relax.  People watching was interesting as usual.  I saw actor/comedian Rob Riggle getting escorted to the front of the race even though he was wearing an E Corral bib.  Must be nice being a celebrity.  At about 7:10 am I ate a gel and drank the last of my Gatorade and then used it to inconspicuously pee into before entering the corral.  Once in the corral we listened to the National Anthem, watched a group of geese fly over almost on cue, and started moving forward.

 

26.2 MILES

My plan had been formed by virtue of not making it into Boston.  I would shoot for a sub 3:25 marathon, which meant holding about 7:50 min/mile pace.  My strategy was to run even splits until either 5 miles, 5K, or less to go seeing how I felt at those times and then push as hard as I could to the end.  Race day was perfect – temperature in the 50’s at the start and rising slowly into the low 60’s.  There was a moderate breeze that concerned me a little, but I knew we were going to have a great day to run.

Mile 1:  7:36 split – I was running comfortably and wasn’t surprised at this split.

Mile 2:  7:41 split – Another good split, nothing out of the ordinary at this point except I felt like I had to pee again.

Mile 3:  7:44 split – This is the tempo that felt good and I hoped that I could maintain.

Mile 4:  7:43 split – Locked into that tempo.  I was starting to sweat somewhat, which surprised me.

Mile 5:  7:39 split – Into Lincoln Park and moving along well.  Could really feel the wind here and it definitely cooled me down with my sweaty shirt.

Mile 6:  7:46 split – Soon after leaving the aid station where volunteers were yelling “Gatorade” and “water,” we were met with a guy yelling “cigars, cigarettes.”  Funny.

Mile 7:  7:40 split – Getting as far north as we would be, I was glad to be turning around.  But as soon as you do, you get hit with the smell of breakfast.  Gets me every year.  Smells so good.

Mile 8:  8:20 split – Just before the Mile 8 marker I saw the toilets and saw my chance.  I had the need to go since the start and I knew I would have to make one pit stop.  As far as pee breaks go, this one was typical, but I think that it cost me the sub-3:25.  I didn’t try to make up the time here, I just got back on the pace I had been running.  I also took my first salt capsule at the aid station.  I wasn’t thinking that I would need them today, but the amount of sweating I was doing made me commit to taking one.

Mile 9:  7:42 split – Somewhere in here I tossed the homemade tube sock arm warmers I had.  I had rolled them down, but kept them in case it got cold.  I kept my gloves, but just held on to them, mainly for personal memento reasons.

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My first Chicago Marathon was the 1999 LaSalle Banks sponsored race.  They passed these gloves out at the expo to everyone.  I kept them as a souvenir.  I accidentally grabbed them for this race, which meant if I tossed them I would wouldn’t have these keepsakes anymore.  I ended up carrying them throughout the entire race, occasionally wiping sweat from my brow with them.

 

Mile 10:  7:49 split – Okay, for some reason the race would be a let down for me if I didn’t see Elvis in this mile.  Upon turning onto North Avenue, I could hear the music.  Normally he is right next to the roadway, but this time he was up a little higher and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get my fist bump.  But I saw an opening and went over and yelled “Hey Elvis!” and he met my fist with his.  Made my day.

Mile 11:  7:45 split – Mile 11 is pretty much a straight shot back into the Loop.  Kept up my pace.

Mile 12:  7:45 split – Somewhere in here I found myself running with a guy carrying an American flag.  He was a very popular guy.  The crowd was making noise for him and I got energy from that as well.  But after the flag hit me in the face a few times, I knew that Flag Man and me would have to part ways.

Mile 13:  7:44 split – Another very close split time and I got through the 13.1 mile marker in 1:41.49.  A quick calculation in my head told me I was doing just fine and looking at possibly being closer to 3:20 than 3:25.  I saw Kari, Ben and Ashley for the first time through this mile and it gave me a boost.  I could tell Ben was following my splits closely and was cheering me on like I usually do for his races.  Made me proud.

Mile 14:  7:42 split – A little faster, probably due to seeing the family and starting to head through the Cheer Zone of the route.

Mile 15:  7:38 split – Another faster split time as I headed into the Dead Zone of the race.

Mile 16:  7:58 split – Not sure why there is a 20 second difference.  Maybe I hit the split/lap button too early in the previous mile.

Mile 17:  7:55 split – Okay, now I realize that I’m edging closer to 8 min/mile pace.  As long as I kept it under 8’s I felt I’d be okay.  I saw my family again and got another lift.

 

 

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Running with the masses at Mile 17.  Looks like the C Corral was moving up.  I ran with that IM Moo guy for a while and was going to talk to him about the race, but he was wearing earphones.  

 

Mile 18:  7:53 split – I wasn’t feeling bad, I just couldn’t get back to the 7:45’s.  I was walking a little more in the aid stations, making sure I was getting a good drink of Gatorade.

Mile 19:  7:46 split – Heading into Pilsen and feeling pretty good still.  I could really feel the head wind now.

Mile 20:  7:55 split – At 20, I knew I was doing good but chose not to push any harder yet.

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I think this must be right around the 20 Mile mark, where Kari snapped this photo.  

 

Mile 21:  8:05 split – Okay, lots of distractions in Chinatown – the music, crowds and of course the photographers distracted me enough that may have made this a slower mile split.

Mile 22:  7:50 split – It was at this point I made a choice to hold off until the last two miles before pushing hard.  I made the same decision in 2015.

Mile 23:  8:07 split – (See note below)  Just a 5K to go, and I got my last gel in me.  Here’s where in your mind you are ready to turn to the finish line, but the course takes you south and then east for a block until you hit Michigan Avenue for the final stretch.  I tried picking off runners that were ahead of me, one at a time.

Mile 24:  8:07 split – (Miles 23 and 24 were averaged as I missed the marker for Mile 23 and hit the lap button around 9:20 or so.  I added them together and averaged them for the splits.)  I felt like I was really pushing, but the effort was all in my head as it was taking that effort physically to maintain what I perceived as a fast pace.  With two miles to go, I put my head down and started running.

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Last time seeing the family and the last time getting their much needed pick-me-up.  For the second year in a row, we finished the last two miles into a head wind.  My bib number would not stay down into the wind.

 

Mile 25:  7:47 split – That’s more like it, although I thought I was running sub-7 at this point.  Toward the end of this mile I saw a sign that read “800M”, meaning 800 meters to go.  But my mind read it as “BOOM”, a saying my fellow triathletes had in the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin race.  Either way, it was a positive for me.

Mile 26:  7:41 split – The fastest mile I had run since about Mile 14.  I turned and climbed “Mount Roosevelt” and it seemed like an eternity.  A quick left and I was checking my watch to see how close I was to 3:25.  I sprinted with all I had left.

Mile 26.2/FINISH:  3:25.08 – Missed being under 3:25 by 9 seconds.  But that really didn’t disappoint me at all.  I had just gotten my second Boston qualifier, a BQ-4:52 as they say, which should be more than enough to get me into the 2018 Boston Marathon.  If that’s not fast enough, I’m not sure what else I can do.

 

POST RACE

The finishing chute was a blur.  I was really having a hard time moving forward, almost staggering and felt really drained.  It wasn’t long and they handed us a bottle of water.  I started sipping on it and then grabbed another salt capsule out of my fuel belt and downed it.  I made my way to some misting fans and just kind of hung out there a little bit until moving on.

I chose an older lady out of all the volunteers to put the medal around my neck and wrestled with my emotions a little bit.  Seems strange that after 16 marathon finishes, I still get a little choked up at finishing a race, especially when I set a personal best or have a great race.

I shuffled along picking up a banana, an apple and a bag of goodies and then saw the group of guys handing out the mylar blankets.  They were pushing them like they were car salesmen or something.  They were trying to get people to laugh and it worked.  I got my blanket and headed for the gate.  One last picture as I walked out and then I made my way back to the Hilton to meet my family.

After a quick shower it was a two block walk to Devil Dawg’s on State Street for the usual post event lunch.  Another successful Chicago Marathon in the books!

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It is mandatory to eat at Devil Dawg’s after any Chicago race.

 

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The tracking app was pretty good this year.  Above are my 5K splits. Post race results indicated that I finished 3745th overall, 3148th out of the men, and 201st in my M50-54 age group.  

 

RACE EXTRAS

Here’s some of the details of my race that helped me get another personal best and Boston Qualifier.

  • Running Gear:  Nike 2016 Chicago Marathon Event shirt (not the participant shirt – that is a no-no in my book!) and visor, along with Nike Flex running shorts with the built in mid-thigh liner, all purchased at the expo.
  • Arm warmers made from new tube socks.
  • Polyester gloves.
  • Skin Glide lotion for my feet to prevent blisters.
  • Two Band-Aid flexible fabric bandages to cover my useless nipples.
  • Louis Garneau Mid Ride cycling socks.
  • FuelBelt brand bib number belt with pouch.
  • ASICS Gel-Exalt 3 running shoes.  I have been running in some of the cheapest ASICS shoes I can buy.  They were great.  I had broken them in two weeks prior to the race.
  • Three Salted Caramel (extra electrolytes, caffeinated), and four Root Beer flavored GU brand gels.  I took one Salted Caramel about 15 minutes prior to the start, then one gel every 30 minutes.  Two Root Beer, then one Salted Caramel until they were gone.
  • Four Salt Stik brand salt capsules.  I took one at the hotel at about 6 am, and then took one every hour after the first hour.
  • One cup of Gatorade at every aid station, with an occasional water as well.
  • Timex Ironman 50 lap watch.  I have a Garmin 910XT but don’t trust it.  The Timex Ironman has never let me down.