10 Thoughts On Ironman Louisville #IMLOU

1.  Ironman Louisville was extremely organized and well supported.  There was never a time when I felt out of sorts or had to wait.
2.  I hated that Saturday’s practice swim gave the river a “huge current” label.  There’s no question is was strong, but the fastest swim time (46 minutes) was not out of line with previous years.  In fact, two years had faster times (2009 and 2010) and two others had the same fastest swim time (2007 and 2023).
3.  The swim channel was very congested and full of contact.  It’s also longer than I thought after watching for two years.  I clocked it on my bike the day before and it’s at least a half mile just to get to the main river channel.
4.  Despite multiple warnings, I still underestimated the distance to the first turn buoy.  I’m guessing it’s around .7 miles or close to 1/3 of the course that is virtually upstream.
5.  The roads on the bike course were actually very nice.  I’d heard how rough they were but I didn’t experience that (except for a few times when I tangled with the rumble strips and coming back on River Road).
6.  I didn’t think there were any really hard climbs on the bike course.  It was all rolling stuff that I mostly covered with downhill momentum.  That’s not to say it isn’t difficult.  There were more hills than I expected and the heat makes a big difference.  The out and back is dicey, but the road wasn’t as narrow as what I expected from the horror stories.
7.  They moved the bike dismount this year and (by my fault, I’m sure) I missed that information.  That was a brutally long run in bike shoes (I stopped halfway to take them off).  I was fully planning to leave my shoes on the bike, but by the time I realized we wouldn’t take that corner there was no time.  For the life of me, I do not understand why the city or Ironman doesn’t pay a handyman a couple hundred bucks to fix that lip coming off the sidewalk onto the road.  It’s been like that since I started watching 3 years ago.
8.  When your friends tell you there is no shade on the run, believe them.  It’s really quite comical when you see a 10 foot patch of shade from an overhanging tree and you think it is heaven.
9.  The finish line is great.  The proximity of everything to downtown is awesome.  Loved ambling about in Louisville.
10. Conditions were very difficult, not only by Louisville standards, but for any Ironman.  Consider this post on SlowTwitch by 3rd place pro, Patrick Evoe: EVOEQuote

Why My 2nd Ironman Means More To Me

I’m trying to pull together a race report for Ironman Louisville, but it’s not coming easily.  My first race at Wisconsin was off-the-charts excitement, but round two was much more Zen.

Wisconsin was a “prove it” race, while Louisville was more grabbing a lunch pail and going to work.  My finish was faster the first time, but in many ways I feel better about the second because of when it happened and how I got there.

It has been a wild year that’s brought on many changes.  I’ve become more selective, disciplined, and finally put a boot on the ground in pursuit of real passions.

I finally got the courage to walk away from a job that paid me well, but drug me through the mud.  And I slowly built my health to a place that resembles what I envisioned when I started running two and a half years ago.

Real change takes time, and I’m far from finished.

I turned so far inward over the years that most of my social behaviors were muddled in lies or contorted behavior just to fit in for the moment.  Everything was starting to seem fake.

I thought Ironman Wisconsin was the turning point, but it wasn’t even close.  I was on an extreme high for a few weeks, then hit a ugly low.

I signed up for another half-triathlon a couple months later and it was a terrible experience.  It poured gas on the fire and I was starting to lose faith in my path, but thankfully I remembered one of the most powerful things someone ever told me, “Big breakthroughs in life always happen right after some of your toughest times.”

It’s true.  Nothing worthwhile comes easily.

We are always being tested by the universe and from Wisconsin until about two months ago I was fighting a tough battle.  I had a bad race in New Orleans this Spring and almost threw in the triathlon towel, but something was telling me to hang on.

In May I signed up for Louisville.  It wasn’t something I really “wanted” to do, but felt like I had to make another big commitment to drag me to the other side.

Sometime In June everything started clicking.  I began to truly understand what my job was doing to me, and at the same time began to regain confidence the corporate world had stripped.

I started to really believe that life wasn’t all about making money.  Then one day I wrote this line in my journal:  I would rather starve following my passion than go through the rest of my life numb.

From that point on, I felt the stress melting from my bones.  I started to enjoy training and felt healthier, all while letting go of the pressure I felt at work.

I’d made a breakthrough and began the process of closing the door on a job I’d held for 15 years. I let go of the symbolism of my “title” and focused on my soul.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I should be doing next, but knew I couldn’t discover it without starting.

So I walked into the wild without a map.  All I had to remember is one direction . . . forward. And that’s pretty much the strategy I took into Louisville.

Maybe all of this is teaching me how to have faith.

Ironman Louisville Volunteers #IMLOU

I’m not sure what Ironman puts in the tonic they feed race volunteers, but it should be a staple in the diet of humanity.  I have been to endless charity functions and goodwill events, but not many cultures detach from ego like Ironman volunteers.

They deliver the perfect balance of calculation and compassion.  It’s the ultimate example of respecting the walk in someone else’s shoes.

This was my second Ironman and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty this is not a fluke.  I was humbled at Wisconsin, now I reflect with a deeper faith in the evolution of consciousness.

From check-in to medal-distribution, the volunteers felt like a seamless extension of myself. They asked important questions with complete sincerity and served humility as an endless commodity.

On Saturday, the Louisville sky opened wide and the nicest woman patiently walked me through transition procedures in pouring rain.  I couldn’t help but chuckle as she finished the speech with flat hair framing her face.

She stood in mud with a wide smile providing the most mundane details and it seemed like the happiest moment of her life.  Just then her son walked up and she introduced him as a future Ironman.  They both said they’d be cheering for me out in LaGrange and I believed them.

The Swim Start ran as smooth as a Swiss watch.  The body markers were plentiful, and the guides were pointing out potential hazards on our way to the Ohio. When in the water, there didn’t seem like one time when there wasn’t a kayak in sight.  It was all quite remarkable.

My first trip into the transition tent was an eye-opener.  A sweltering, sticky mess of half-naked men preparing for a 112 mile bike.  I simply can’t fathom how anyone could spend more than 5 minutes under that canvas, but these guys were incredibly patient and cordial, not to mention coming out of the woodwork with the precision of German engineers.  Who makes these people?

Helmet, shades, shoes, check.  I gave my bag to one of three guys begging for it and headed to my bike.

The sunscreen-volunteer-position has always puzzled me.  On one hand, it’s a sloppy mess, on the other, you get to rub people’s bodies all morning.  They were tactful, proficient, and professional in their technique.

I pulled my bike from the rack and something felt wrong.  That’s when I realized I was still wearing my swim skin, which would have made for quite a story, but an awkward ride.

My first thought was to run back to my bag, but no less than two guys were there to do it for me. The skeptic inside thought my ROKA was a gone for good, but sure enough, it was resting peacefully in my bag later that night.

The aid stations on the bike course were absolutely perfect.  Super long and full of expertly placed volunteers that knew how to hand off a bottle.  Long arms, loose hands.  I took water at the start, doused myself on the way through, then grabbed another for my bike at the end. Never came close to having a problem.

My second trip into the tent was just as pleasant (other than the fact that I had a marathon on my brain).  I de-cleated, grabbed my visor, handed my chrono watch to the volunteer and he gave me my Garmin.  I clasped it tight and the band broke.  The volunteer casually held out my chrono and I put it back on for the run.

Oh, the run.

I am going to go on a limb here and say the Louisville run course volunteers may collectively be some of the most patient and well adjusted people on earth.  From mile one, I was a complete mess and somehow they knew my language.  They were plentiful in their praise and gracious in their actions.  Whatever I needed was mine without a hint of hesitation.

Over the course of 26 miles the aid stations were oasis’s in my desert.  Those orange shirts were the most welcome site of the day.  They numbed the pain and gave me hope.

And the young lady who “caught me” at the finish line.  Perfectly in tune with my disorientation.  I stumbled, handed out hugs, forgot my train of thought.  The whole time, she waited.  She was with me until I took my picture and hobbled out of the chute.  A perfect ending to a storybook romance with my new extended family.

Regretfully, I don’t remember the name of one volunteer, but if I run into one on my travels I will give them a resistance free hug to let them know how much I appreciate, not only their support, but the way they choose to live their life.

Ironman Louisville Volunteers

Ironman Louisville In The Rear View Mirror #IMLOU

Louisville to Nashville isn’t that far by car, but, as I shifted around in my seat to subdue the pain in my ass and hamstrings, it occurred to me that I nearly covered that 177 mile hike on human power alone just a day before.  It’s quite a testament to the capability of the body, mind, and spirit.

One hundred and forty point six miles in the hot Louisville sun.  It was both excruciating and lathered in bliss.

It was great to be surrounded by family and friends while I loosened up to jump in the imposing Ohio River.  I have scanned those waters for years by bridge and shore, now I was about to be smothered by its aura.

The bike ride through horse country waited as a mystery.  I knew it would be tough, but wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of another 112 mile ride.

And the marathon sat waiting as hot concrete in downtown Louisville.  The final test of grit and strength.

In the final days before an Ironman, you rest.  You hope to infuse recovery into the muscles you have uncerimoneously shredded for months.  A nervous energy builds as you somehow try to prepare your body and mind for what they are about to face.

Even moments before the swim, I was not fully aware of the implications.  It was almost surreal.  Circling my arms in a swim skin, watching as one by one, people jumped from piers to innagurate their day of pain.

I felt good.  I was relaxed.  A truly remarkable transformation in two years.  Over the next 12 hours and forty two minutes I would go through heaven and hell.

Race report coming soon.

Ironman Louisville Transition
Love the look this guy was giving me.

 

 

 

 

 

Any Other Night of My Life #IMLOU

So, I’m living most men’s dream come true.  In a downtown hotel with a bachelorette party in the next room.  Too bad it’s the night before my Ironman.

I ran into the mother of the bride and told her the deal and she suggested I meet the girls.  I explained that I have spent a lot of years in their shoes and don’t want to be a dick about it, but just wanted to know their schedule.

They assured me they will be going out fairly early, coming home late and passing out.  Last night they were true to their form.  I actually woke up around 3:30 and heard them coming up the hallway going, “Shhh” to each other.

Pretty cool… in reality, if I get to sleep early enough and they come home around 4:00 that would be a perfect way to wake up.  I’m still weighing the option of trading rooms with my mom, however.

——–

We’re headed to transition soon to cheek our bikes and drop bags.  I hope to have a pre-race report after dinner.

One note, we did a practice swim, bike, run today and the most noticeable factor is the current of the river.  It rained like mad last night so the current is pretty strong for the down stretch.  Swimming into it, however, is no picnic.  Luckily most of that .6 or so miles up stream is protected.

It is definitely hot, but appears it won’t be the reported 100 degrees.  I am serious when I say this, but I truly think I would rather be biking or running in this heat rather than walking.  Yeah, I say that now.

Until tonight . . .

My Bro rockin' the video for Crushing Iron with Allie directing
My Bro rockin’ the video for Crushing Iron

The Simple Things In Ironman Are . . . 5 Bucks #IMLOU

I had a minor panic attack the other day when the clasp of my Garmin broke.  I called all over town to see if any of the running stores had replacement bands.  Nobody had anything in stock.

Today I was holding that same watch in my hotel and a wild thought crossed my mind.  “Maybe I should try taking it to a watch repair shop.”

Ha . . . yeah, right.  Watch repair shops went out of style in the 90’s, right?

I sheepishly asked the Concierge if there happened to be a watch repair shop in the neighborhood, and without missing a beat she started running her highlighter over the local map, then drew a big “X.”

“Yep, right here.  You’re about 4 blocks away.”

“What?”

This sounded too good to be true.  I took the map without asking for the name or address, and looking for the old theater this “watch repair shop” was next to.  I fully expected it to be some kind of surf shop/indiglo hipster place selling disposable neon watches, but then I saw it with my own eyes, “The Watch Shop.”

photo 2A tear dropped on my cheek as I swung open the door and heard it knock against a real bell.  Within 4 seconds an older gentleman with one of those telescope deals on his eye had sprung to his feet and was graciously asking how he could help me.

“Well, sir, this could be a long shot, but I broke my running watch and I was hoping maybe you could help me out for my race on Sunday.”

“Let me see what ya got there, son,” he said with the confidence of a brain surgeon.

He quickly deduced I had “broken off my tongue” and matter-of-factly asked if I cared what color the new one was.

“Heck no, any color is better than duct tape.”

He neither found that comment funny or annoying.  My baby Garmin was already under the bright lights of surgery.

Then he got a phone call and was rattling off “watch lingo” faster than an auctioneer.  He laid out 3 different scenarios to his inquisitive customer.

“You could go gold plate, or imitation, or 20th century gothic . . . ”

I scanned the room and all I saw were . . . watches.  This guy had brand focus down cold and I knew I was in good hands.

Suddenly I felt almost petty in his world.  Here I am bringing potentially the finest Watch Surgeon in the South a rubber wrist band and asking for a tongue replacement?  What a joke, he must have thought.  He was surely more caught up in his conversation about Gothic and gold.

Two minutes later he approached the counter, “Well, I can still talk on the phone and work.”

photo 1He handed me my watch and it felt like I was holding a priceless relic coming from his hands.  The man who has built and repaired watches for Louisville’s finest citizens.  I didn’t have to ask, but knew for certain he had repaired watched for Muhammad Ali and maybe even Colonel Sanders himself.

“Five bucks,” he said looking at my Muncie 70.3 shirt.

“Muncie Cardinals, huh?”

“Yeah, I said, but we all know the real Cardinals are in Louisville.”

“Yes, they are,” he said handing me my hand written receipt, “and they fly for the first time of the year on Labor Day.”

I fastened my watch, then heard the clang of the bell when I opened the door before turning around, “Sir?”

He stopped in his tracks, “Yes?”

“There are some fine establishments in Louisville, but from what I have seen, this is on top of the list.”

He waved, sat down, then started repairing another watch.

photo 4

 

 

 

Let Go Of Control #IMLOU

I’m staying with my friend Sarah, her man, and her two very large dogs.  We had a great time talking about our days back in Rockford, Illinois (where we met), design, and watching my dog feel out the giants.Ironman Louisville

Around 11:00 I went to the spare room and found a bed straight out of the woods, literally built from tree branches.  “Damn, this is like being at the cabin!”

I sat down, laid back, then realized we might have a problem.  While the frame was badass, the actual mattress felt like I would be sleeping on a piece of white bread.

For a brief moment, I gazed over the edge and considered sleeping on the floor.  The paranoia is stupid crazy the week before Ironman and I feared I’d wake up with a sore back.  But, I decided to give ole Wonder Bread a shot.

I did my best to relax, and melted into the mattress like Peanut Butter and Jelly.  The traditional scurry of thoughts about the swim, bike, and run rushed through my brain, then I drifted off to sleep until I woke to soft cries from my dog and her new friends at 7:35 am.

Not only did I sleep well, it may have been the best sleep I’ve had in months.

For years I worked in an industry that was fueled by conflict.  The argument, the fight, and good versus evil.  Slowly, I have been remembering that life is much easier when you go with its flow.

I am all for healthy discussion and search for the truth, but instigation and agitation are dead end streets.  I really believe that news, and talk radio are built to stoke your anxiety and reinforce conflict in society.

Over the last few weeks there is a building sense of calm building inside me.  Not only about the race or my lifestyle, but everything in the world.  Sure, there is a lot of fucked up shit going on, but the more I realize it’s out of my control, the better my mindset and more good I find in people.

And what’s the number one thing that is out of my control?  The weather.  News holds this one over you big time.  “We’ll keep you safe!  Be prepared! Blah . . . ”

The weather is what it is.  I knew this race would be hot.  5-10 degrees won’t make a difference.  I need to ingest a lot of fluid and make sure I don’t forget sunblock.  Other than that, it’s all pretty much what I expected, and out of my control.

And now I’m seeing reports of potential storms.  Bring it on!

Last night I didn’t have control, and this morning I couldn’t be happier about it.  I’m gonna carry that attitude into Sunday and accept whatever Mother Nature delivers.  I’m kinda even hoping Ironman adds a little burning coals section like those Spartacus races.

IMpatient

I Have Arrived In Louisville #IMLOU

I had only been running for about 8 months, I had done one Sprint triathlon, then watched Ironman Louisville.  I registered for Ironman Wisconsin two weeks later.

Now, I am back to where it all began.

photo-2

I remember the first time I looked from this angle.  Jim pointed to the Island just beyond the white bridge pillar and I just thought that sounded ludicrous.

“You swim out and around that island, then back to here,” he said with first hand experience.

I love moments like that because it truly seemed impossible to me.  I was so excited to see people do it in front of my eyes.

Today, I walked up to the same place as bib number 379 and stared into the distance again.  It’s funny how much difference a couple years make.

It still seems far, but I could feel my blood boiling inside.  It was all I could do to stop from jumping in just to feel the water on my skin.

I also remember the first time I saw this bike transition full.  It’s the kind of site that drops your jaw.

imageToday it was eerily silent.  Patiently waiting for frantic activity the next two days.

And there was this.  That strange, indecipherable gear-bag area to those who don’t understand.  It was a tad muddy, but I’m certain it will dry out by Sunday.

photo 1And yes, I am checked in.  Thursday is totally the way to go.  It took about 5 minutes to get my chip, which they tell me I will need at the practice swim on Saturday.

photo 2So now it is time to rest.  I’m pumped to see everyone tomorrow.  Please say hi if you recognize me.

 

 

 

The Real Reason I’m Doing Ironman Louisville #IMLOU

2daysTechnically there are still 3 days left before Ironman Louisville.  I’ve been counting down, but keep forgetting to add the hours, and occasionally, like now when it says 23, that number is substantial.  Hope I haven’t been freaking you out by leaving out a day.

Then again, many scientists argue that time is an illusion.  Which makes me wonder, if there is technically no countdown clock, what is the real reason we’re racing Ironman?

Slowly, I think I am figuring that out.

Last year I was racing for many of the “wrong” reasons.  Namely, I was trying to impress everyone, except myself.

I launched like a rocket at the moon, but when I got there, I didn’t have a plan.  I celebrated for days before realizing, all that drive and energy was burned seeking a symbol.  A time, a conquest, a medal.

IMWI-Finish-Small2I wanted to be an Ironman.

But then, I was an Ironman, and, that alone didn’t open my world to happiness and satisfaction.  I’d forgotten the real reason I signed up in the first place:  to break up the plaque forming in my veins.

I wasn’t going to do another Ironman this year.  I didn’t see the point in all the suffering.  I suppose, that is proof that I was learning.

But I kept working out on my terms and started to find joy in the training.  It was no longer “workout until I can’t move,” but exercise to unleash more energy.

Eventually, I registered for Louisville, but it still wasn’t for the right reason.  The “glitz” is what ultimately drew me in.  I wanted to be a part of the parade.  I wanted to matter.

Now, just under 3 days from the shot of the cannon, I am looking at racing from a completely different perspective.  I have accepted that I am simply excited to test my mind and body.

Ironman is one day and simply another in a long list of life’s deadlines.  It’s a test to see if we can finish what we’ve started.  A metaphor for all of those projects and dreams we want to complete.  The more we finish something difficult, the easier it becomes to fold your laundry.

Have you thought about why you are doing an Ironman (or marathon or whatever)?  There can only be one reason.  We do it because we enjoy the challenge, and ultimately believe the process will help us get closer to the person we haven’t quite uncovered.