Today I’ll write about my observations and what happened during my Ironman weekend leading up to race morning. This post is more to help me remember in years to come what actually happened race weekend. So please skip this post if you’re not inclined to learn how we spent our time in Kentuckiana. Tomorrow I’ll post how I actually completed Ironman Louisville, including my approach to training and whether or not I pooped during the marathon.
The weekend started for me on Wednesday. We loaded up the bike and the kids in our van and we didn’t look a lot different from those Okies heading towards California in The Grapes of Wrath. We packed a cooler full of food and we had another large bag of “snacks”. We carried every electronic device we owned including two computers, a PC and a Mac. On top of all that I had my gear and everyone had at least a suitcase full of clothes (there’s five of us, by the way). So there wasn’t much room to spare. I don’t have a bike rack for the van but the bike fit on the inside nicely once I removed the wheels and turned it upside down.
We headed east to Louisville. Actually, we headed east to New Albany, Indiana. We stayed in a Best Western on the Indiana side of the river. We passed through St. Louis and spied the arch just like every road trip movie. From there it was I-64 east through southern Illinois and Indiana before arriving in Kentuckiana.
The Best Western was OK, but again, we looked like a bunch of Gypsies after we loaded all of our wares onto a cart to wheel into our room. We swam in the pool, which was actually quite nice, ate some Subway, and then settled in for the evening. The next day I had to go check in.
Check in started at 9AM. We got down there around 10. Check in was at a nice hotel in downtown Louisville. I think it’s called the Galt House. We should’ve stayed there, it would’ve been so much more convenient, but we’re always looking to save a buck. Check in didn’t take very long as there were no lines for me. I got in, signed the waivers, got banded, got my swag bag, looked through the shop, bought some Chamois Butter, and was done by 10:30.
So, what to do until the athlete briefing at 2PM. I don’t think the athlete briefing is mandatory. I don’t remember seeing that it was in the athlete guide, but I like to go to make sure there’s nothing I’m missing. On the Ironman Louisville Facebook page there were a lot of rumors swirling around and I thought I’d get the real deal at the briefing. But to kill time unitl then we walked down the street to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. We took the tour, got our little wooden bats, and then headed back up the street. We still had a little time so we ate at Hard Rock. Remember when it was cool to have one of those shirts? Apparently it’s not anymore, and the food is so so. On par with Applebee’s really, and that’s not saying very much.
At the briefing they did say there were no plans to shorten the race. That was circulated on Facebook and there was even a local news story on TV that suggested it was a possibility. The reason people thought they would shorten it was because of the heat and humidity, but the officials said no, there were no plans to shorten it. That was a relief, because who wants to compete in a shortened Ironman?
By the way, I love watching the local news in any town I visit because it’s all exactly the same. Just change the names of the towns and the neighborhoods and you’ll think you were watching news from your local station. I watched the NBC affiliate, WAVE TV 3, while in Louisville, because one of their anchors, John Boel, regularly competes in Ironman Louisville. So right off the bat WAVE TV had the most Ironman cred. At least for me. You can decide for yourself.
Where was I? Oh yes. After the briefing we headed back to the room, swam in the pool, ate food from our mobile pantry, and finally hit the sack. Since I got all my check in done on Thursday, I had no responsibilities on Friday. So we went to Churchill Downs where they run the Kentucky Derby, ate some lunch down by the Ohio River at a local pizza joint, and then went to Louisville Water Tower Park. Now, I know that sounds boring as all get out, but if you are in Louisville you should check out that place. It is very nice, and nicely preserved, and you will see the largest steam engine you will ever see there in one of the old pump houses. The buildings were built during a time when people thought that even pump houses should look like Greek temples, and the water tower itself (which is actually just a pressure relief tower) is a magnificent piece of architecture. By that time I had been on my feet enough and wanted to go back to the room, so same routine as the night before.
Saturday. T-1 until Ironman Louisville. There was a practice swim down by the swim exit at 8AM, but I skipped it in favor of sleep. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep Saturday night. Gear check in was at noon. We got over there shortly after 12 and I dropped off my bike and gear bags. At the 70.3 races I’ve been in we always had to drop off our bikes the day before, but not all our other gear. We had to drop off our bikes, and bike gear, and our run gear on Saturday. In most ways it was convenient because we wouldn’t have to mess with any of it in the morning. In other ways it was inconvenient becaue it was supposed to rain that evening and I didn’t want all my stuff to get wet. I put my shoes and socks down in a Wal-Mart bag, tied it up, and then put that down in my gear bag and tied it up. It rained that night but honestly my stuff stayed pretty dry.
Now, it just so happens that my grandmother and my aunt live in New Albany, Indiana. When I signed up for Ironman Louisville I didn’t realize that New Albany was just across the river from Louisville, so it was a nice coincidence that I was racing near where they lived. We went over to visit Saturday afternoon. We chatted and got caught up which helped take my mind off of what was coming up the next day. We said goodbye and then headed back to the room for the same routine as before, except I didn’t swim in the pool.
As expected, I hardly slept Saturday night, and then the alarm went off at 4AM. Transition opened at 4:30 AM but I had no intention of getting down there that early. This was race day, the day that was looming on my calendar for so long was finally here! Should I chicken out? Should I withdraw? What if the water is cold? What if I don’t even make it through the swim? What if something else? What if? No. I was going to at least start this race. Besides, my family would’ve killed me if I dragged them all the way to Louisville only to back out at the last minute.
That’s some of what happened leading up to race day. As promised I’ll get down to the nitty gritty of the actual race in my next post. I might even mention the horrors of the transition changing tent. Remember that chamois butter I told you I bought? Ideally you’ll never have to see another grown man apply that to himself, but seeing it is part of what makes you an Ironman! Thank you for reading.