Ironman Louisville – Old Man River

In my last post I mentioned that I arrived in Louisville on Wednesday evening. The race was the following Sunday. What I didn’t mention was that I tried to never be seen without a water in my hand. I determined to stay hydrated up through Sunday. I did pretty well because I felt like one of those people in the TV commercials for the drug that treats over-active bladders. I was constantly in the restroom. I also made sure I never got hungry. I ate regular meals and loaded up on vegetables as much as I could. Nutrition wise I felt good heading into Sunday.

I also did some light work outs and stretches Thursday and Friday morning. I ran on the treadmill for a half hour on Thursday, followed by stretching, and I pedaled a stationary bike for a half hour on Friday followed by more stretching. I took it easy Saturday with no work outs.

So Sunday morning rolls around – 4AM the alarm goes off. I get up and start getting ready. Everything is ready to go, I just need to get my tri suit on and get the family going. I eat two boiled eggs, drink a cup of coffee, and start sipping on a Powerade. We all get out the door by 5:15. None of us would see the hotel room again until around 10PM.

The kids with their dad

The kids with their dad

I get to transition and start setting up my bike. I borrowed a fellow competitor’s pump but I couldn’t get it to work. I was too embarrassed to bother him any more so I just handed it back and said thanks. Later I took my bike up to bike support and got my 100 psi in both tires.

Once transition is ready to go, the family and I head towards the swim entry, Tumbleweed Park. It’s about a mile from transition. On the way I munch on a Clif Bar, but I can’t get it all down. We get to Tumbleweed, I get body marked, use the port-a-john, kiss my wife and daughters, fist bump my son, and make my way to the time trial swim start. In the meantime I drink a coconut water and suck down an energy gel.

The Louisville swim start is a time trial start. It may be the only Ironman race in America with such a start. All the athletes line up, and once they fire the cannon, they go one after the other, jumping off one of two docks into the Ohio River. Have you ever stood in a single file line with more than 2,000 people? I can now say I have, and though I didn’t plan it this way, I somehow managed to get in the back of the line. There may have been 10 people behind me. If I had known where I would be in line I never would have started walking to the back of the line, I would have let it come to me. I seriously walked about a mile just to find the back of the line, then I had to walk all the way back, following the line, just to get back to the swim entry.

Dead man walking

Dead man walking

But here it was! I was walking down the dock. I put on my swim cap and goggles, gave a final wave to my wife and kids, and jumped into the Ohio River. Your time starts once you cross the timing pad just a few feet before you jump. I was so excited, apparently, that I forgot to start my watch. I swam for a couple of minutes and remembered finally to start it.

That's me in the standard issue white, black, and red Pearl Izumi tri suit

That’s me in the standard issue white, black, and red Pearl Izumi tri suit

This was not a wetsuit legal race, which meant the water temperature was above 76.1 degrees F. The water was not bath-water warm like I heard it could be. It actually felt perfect; just cool enough to invigorate you but not so cold as to chill you. After swimming just a few strokes all of my anxiety about cold water faded (for a while).

Big head

Big head

On the above pic, my wife said just as she went to snap the photo the people in front raised that big head, which was just as I was jumping in. I’m holding my goggles, by the way, not my nose.

After jumping in you swim up-stream, but you’re behind an island and there is very little current, if any. I didn’t notice any current. Someone said the distance from the docks to the turn buoy was 9/10 of a mile. I figured I’d get there in 35-40 minutes, and I was right on time. Just as we cleared the island, and before we got to the buoy, I got into a very cold current of water. I don’t know where it was coming from but it had to be 68 degrees or colder. Now I’m thinking this is how cold the main channel is going to be. Oh, this is not good. This water is cold! But alas! After maybe 75 yards I cleared that current and found the warm water. I made the turn at the red buoy and I’m heading for home down the main channel of the Ohio River.

I’m not a great swimmer and though I expected to finish the 2.4 mile swim in an hour and forty-five minutes I still had this nagging worry that I wouldn’t finish or would take longer than the two-hour and twenty-minute cut off time. Once I started swimming downstream I quickly forgot about the cut off. I knew I was going to make it.

It had stormed the last couple of evenings in Louisville and the extra run off helped to increase the speed of the current. At least that’s what I heard. Whatever the cause, swimming down stream was like walking on one of those moving sidewalks at the airport. I stopped to get my bearings at one point, and when I looked up at a buoy I just kept drifting on by. All I had to do was tread water and I made forward progress, but I wanted to save some time so I kept on swimming. I exited the water down by Joe’s Crabshack and my watch said 1:15! What? Holla! That swim was awesome! 1:15 is not a great time for real swimmers, but for me it’s like I’m Michael Phelps up in here.

I exit the water and make my way toward transition. Transition was a good quarter-mile from the swim exit, so most of us jogged in our bare feet. I still felt well enough to jog. I wish that held true for the second transition, but we’ll get there later.

I get to transition, the volunteers help me get my bag, and I run into the changing tent. I’d never experienced a changing tent at any race, but apparently a lot of folks like to change out of what they swam in and put on cycling clothes at an Ironman. I was prepared to wear my tri suit all day, but what I did do is put Chamois Butter on my sensitive areas. Chamois Butter doesn’t sponsor this blog, but let me say that stuff did the trick. I wore that tri suit, which has a thinner chamois than cycling shorts, for 112 miles and did not develop even one sore. I felt comfortable all day.

It’s here that I can’t say enough about the volunteers. They were great all day. The fellows that worked the changing tent deserve special recognition. They had to watch dudes like me put that Chamois Butter in places to which you should never see another grown man reach his hand. Add to that the heat and humidity inside that tent. God bless those guys.

I truly meant to wrap up this race, but we’re already at 1,200 words, so please allow me to hit pause and I’ll continue with the bike tomorrow (or the next day). I had already posted some work out data from 10/01/13 through 08/23/14 below, so I’ll leave that there for now. If you cut to the chase, from the time I signed up for this race to race day I worked out, on average, a half hour a day. Not saying that’s right or wrong, it’s just how it worked out. So, if I can complete an Ironman with that volume of training, I’m sure you can too, but more on that later.


# of Work Outs

Total Time
18 hours 34 minutes

Total Distance
27.33 miles


# of Work Outs

Total Time
72 hours

Total Distance
1,151 miles


# of Work Outs

Total Time
71 hours 51 minutes

Total Distance
477 miles

Total time working out 10/1/13-8/23/14

164 hours (0.5 hours per day)

About The Pretend Triathlete

Just a 46 year old trying to stay in shape. Not pro-athlete in shape, just 46 year old guy with a family and a house and a job in shape. Signing up for races is the best way I've found to do that. I blog about things that happen to me and things I observe while training and racing. Let's do this!
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