Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ironman Louisville Goals and Pre-Race

Where do I even begin with summarizing my training for Ironman Louisville?  Is it possible to concisely describe 417 hours of training in the past 9 months? For those into numbers, that’s an average of 10.7 hours of  swimming, biking, and running per week.  Broken down, that's 311905 yards of swimming, 225 hours of biking, and 97 hours of running. 

Here’s the brief summary.  I had a great base season with consistent long runs of 14-15 miles, lots of power work on the bike, and three times weekly dates with the pool at 5am.  If the base season had a weakness it was my neglect of strength and core work, which happened once a week.  Things went really well until they didn’t.  Toward the very end of June, just as volume was building and my confidence was peaking, I was injured.   A stress fracture in my hip meant I was unable to run for 6 weeks.  Suddenly it was the middle of August and my run workouts consisted of 1-2 miles a few times per week.  I replaced the time pounding pavement with more time in the saddle (including four 100+ mile rides), hoping that at least my bike would be stronger.   Slowly I added back in a long run once per week (9, 10, 11, 13, and 14 miles), but each was followed with several days of nursing a sore hip.  In the final weeks, I was confident about my swimming and biking, but very nervous about my ability to run 26.2 miles.  On top of that, I hadn’t done any long runs off the bike to practice my run nutrition. 

My last week of training I ran 14 miles and felt the best I had in months.  Perhaps, just maybe, I could pull it together for a race day marathon.  Taper was rather uneventful and much better tolerated than last year.  I was patient, relaxed, and generally was pleased with how fresh my legs began to feel.  Our Charlotte Ironman training crew celebrated with a fun dinner at Cowfish.

Here are my race goals that I wrote down the week prior to the race:
Swim:  55-60 min based on pool swims of 4000 meters in 1:01 and wetsuit legal water temperatures
Bike:  6:05 – 6:15, average 160W, avoid spikes >FTP on hills
Run:  On a perfect day, I’d love to run sub-4 hours.  In reality I don’t think that’s possible.  I want a strong first 13 miles and then my hip will dictate the last 13.  If I have to walk because of hip pain, I will.  No quitting, regardless!

I told my friends and family to see my cross the finish line somewhere between 11 and 12 hours if things went according to plan.

I arrived in Atlanta from Charlotte on Thursday evening, and then together with my parents we made the 6 hour drive to Louisville on Friday.  En route we stopped at Crema in Nashville for a latte and fruit tartine.  It was so delicious we returned on our drive back home again on Monday.  

We stayed at the Marriott Louisville Downtown and I can’t say enough good things about the hotel.   Clean, quiet, centrally located, and  a great breakfast.  The walk to transition was less than a mile and the hotel was just 2 blocks from the finish line.   Friday activities included an Ironman Foundation lunch at El Camino (our team raised $210,000), race check-in, an athlete briefing, wandering through the expo (sadly, not very impressive), and some relaxation.

Louisville leaves much to be desired, but it was cool to see the original facades being left in place while the remainder of old buildings are being reconstructed

The appearance of the Ohio River was initially much better than I anticipated.  Just weeks before the race all water activities had been banned due to toxic algae blooms resulting from run off, lack of rain, and warmer than average temperatures.  Miraculously (and just a bit suspect), the few miles of river that Ironman needed to host their swim was suddenly declared safe for swimming the week of the race.  Meanwhile, the hundreds of miles of water on each side remained "toxic".

Just as I was starting to feel a little better about the polluted water we would be swimming in, I caught site of this gem near the swim finish.  Lovely.

Dinner on Friday night was at Volare, which had been recommended to me from a medical student from Louisville that was rotating in Charlotte.  It turned out to be a fantastic recommendation!  My meal consisted of eggplant rollitini around ricotta and topped with marinara and a balsamic drizzle, and a vegetable side of broccoli, roasted beats, and polenta. 

In celebration of Mom and I’s birthdays, they brought out two desserts and I broke my “no dessert for 2 weeks before Ironman” rule and had a few bites of vanilla bean crème brulee.  It was totally worth it!

Another year older and another year that Mom and I celebrate our birthdays together!

Friday night I slept really well and woke up ready for my pre-race bike and run.  I rode 35 minutes along River Road and then ran two miles with Dad.  After seemingly endless rain in Charlotte, it was nice to finally ride outside.  Breakfast that morning was in the concierge lounge at the Marriott, and included hearty portions of eggs, potatoes, granola topped with blueberries, and cantaloupe.  In a quest to check out local coffee spots, we grabbed a maple latte from Please andThank You.  Their chocolate chip cookies were advertised as the best in Louisville, but I harnessed some mental strength and avoided the temptation.  

Our next stop was Churchill Downs to explore the Kentucky Derby Museum and tour the grounds.  As easy as it would have been to kick my feet up and spend the day relaxing, I’m glad I was able to take in some culture of the city.  

I learned lots about the horse breeding, training, and racing that gave me a whole new appreciation for the Kentucky Derby.  

We learned that the ticket prices for the Kentucky Derby range from a few hundred dollars for standing room only in the center of the track, to a few thousand for for track level seats, to undisclosable amounts for the elevated seats in "millionaire's row".  I guess we'll stick to watching the race on TV in the comfort of our own home.

Lunch at Wiltshire Café was a meal that would make any vegetarian’s stomach very happy.  It was a cozy bakery and café with just a few tables, but the food was phenomenal.  I had the hippie bowl (quinoa, lentils, brown rice, black beans, sweet potatoes, smoked tofu, sprouts, avocado, sriracha, lemon vinaigrette) and a slice of white bean hummus multigrain toast (avocado, herbs, lemon vinaigrette).  

Before I knew it, it was already mid-afternoon and time for bike check-in.  We walked the mile from the hotel to transition and I dropped off my transition bags and my bike, and did a walk through to understand the routes in and out of the transition maze.

Prior to dinner I did some last minute organization of the seemingly massive amounts of gear and nutrition required for race day and then spent an hour in my Normatec boots.  

Dinner at Harvest was a bit on the early side after a late lunch, and combined with my blunted appetite from taper and race nerves, I really wasn’t hungry.  Nonetheless, I managed to stomach a bowl of butternut squash soup, some crackers, and okra while watching the end of the GA v TN football game. 

I was in bed Saturday night about 8pm and spent some additional time in my boots, watched a refresher on changing a flat tire (fingers crossed that I can continue my luck with only one flat tire ever!), and then rehearsed my race plan before falling asleep a little before 10pm.  In a few short hours it’s go time!

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