Here we go again, 2011 is the 4th time going to Louisville of its 5 year existence (however 3 years ago I did not race because of 3 broken ribs 3 wks prior- just trained there).
I really like the bathtub-like 86 degree warm water, even though it is in the Ohio river, which is probably not the cleanest. The 2011 edition brought a much smaller pro men’s field and a larger and strong pro women’s field. The men’s race had 2010 champ Paul Ambrose, 2009 champ Chris McDonald and 2nd place 2010 WI Roman Guillaume amongst others. With the new points system for pros wanting to go to IM Hawaii, athletes now have to be more selective in their race choices. Less pros also means more time totally alone (like me).
After having 2 cortisone shots in my shoulder and not swimming for almost 6 months (then limited to 2-3x/ week), I was not sure what to expect in the swim. As well, I fought a long 2-year battle with tight and sore gluts that greatly impeded my long distance and speed training; thank heavens for x-country skiing in Valcartier. Finally, IM Louisville was also going to be my first “real” race of the year after riding an extra 10miles at Mooseman 70.3 in June. I attended the World Military Games in Brazil the 25th July, as the CF coach of the program. This was an amazing experience and the race was the same weekend as IM LP, which is normally a staple in my calendar. I was just going to do the best I could, confident that I could not have done any more and I would be content what my body was to give me on the day.
Fast forward to race day. The taper went well even though I did my longest run of 2hrs, in over a year, was 2 weeks before the race. Once in Louisville, it was quick to see that the temps were going to be much warmer than Quebec or Brazil (winter there). The first day the mercury hit 102 F and it stayed in the 90’s with high humidity all week long. Race day however, was going to be slightly cooler, as the forecast was for 85-90 deg. Bring on the heat!
Race morning at 05:00 it was 76, so no real need for warm-ups and there is a 1.5k walk to the swim start, so no sense in wearing too much clothes. The pro mass start is 06:50 with the age-group athletes starting at 07:00 separated by 3 secs each. I chose to start on the right side (big mistake to find out later) and figured it would give me an exit route if I was getting hit. However, there was a pro women just on my left that was losing the main group and I could not get over to where they were. After realizing I was not going to get around her and she was not going to move over I chose to slow down, let her go and go to the left side. The next 3.5k she was 5-10m in front of me and the guys I wanted to be with, and they were 10m ahead of her. This gap grew the last 500m-1k and we ended up 45-50sec behind them (55:20 instead of 54’somthing). I had a tough time staying strong in the swim and thought I was actually much slower- like 1hr, so somewhat content. The Orca swim-skin was an amazing suit to have over the uniform. No neoprene (not permitted), but water just “runs” off of the suit- amazing.
Photo by Larry Rosa
The bike was next and it is my second year (Timex partnership) with the Orbea- Ordu. I am really growing to love this bike. It took a little time to get used to, but it is light, responsive and aero; what more can anyone want in a fast bike. I rode the whole way solo, aside from passing two faster women swimmers (Biscay and Kraft) the first 5-15k. I followed my HR, watts (250-300) and rpms, so able to comfortably ride 4:50 on the hilly bike course. The hills are mostly short and steep rollers like IM WI, where a strong guy can “roll over” most of them. I wish that I could have been able to do another 2 loops of the bike instead of having to run a marathon. Kind of funny that my athletic background is actually running (have done 32min for a 10k), I guess that is what injuries will do.
I got off the bike in 6th, the 3rd consecutive year I got off in 5-6th place and the same time as 2 years ago when I went 9:01. The run however this year turned into a “death march” and my only two facets to focus on were short and quick strides (efficient and prevent cramping) and hydrate at every aid station, to stay in the top 6. The temps were around 86 and humid, so I had seen tougher. I started 2-3min behind 5th and 7th was 6mins behind me, so my goal was to now finish in the top 5.
Photo by Larry Rosa
Luckily the top 5 pros get a bike to lead them to ensure a safe route, so once in 5th after mile 13 after Roman from France pulled out (a VERY nice guy!), I was able to chat with the 5th place biker. Once Paul Amey pulled out after dropping from 1st-4th, I then only had the 3 fast runners ahead of me, so now my goal was to stay in 4th,who was now 2mins behind me with 10k to go. I managed to finish 1:30 ahead of 5th and sometimes one gets rewarded for days that are not their best due to uncontrollable circumstances (other athletes also having difficulties).
Many thanks out to Timex and all those who have helped me in doing what I love.
Happy training and next up on the calendar are 70.3 Syracuse and IM AZ.