2010 Ford Ironman Louisville Race Report
I cannot tell you how pleased I am with my entire experience here in Louisville. Every aspect of this trip and race couldn't have turned out better. How great it was putting in my best placing race to date and representing Little Caesars in the corporate Newest Online Casinos with No Deposit Bonuses town of Pappa Johns Pizza and Pizza Hut! I finished 4th place overall and couldn't be happier with the day (except that I was still in 3rd place with 3 miles to go and couldn't hold on, but that's racing!)
Not only did I have have a great race, but I also had the opportunity to spend time with the Little Caesars franchisees in the Louisville area and meet their wonderful families. It was great seeing all of the orange Little Caesars shirts out on the course!
From my perspective, this race was a breakthrough in several ways. First, it was my highest placement to date. Second, I was able to use a similar execution plan as I did in Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June with a similar result. To be able to back up these results has given me more insight into and confidence racing this distance. Maybe most importantly, I finally executed on the swim the way I knew that I could for the last three years. Now that I've finally put together a swim more indicative of my abilities, I know I can do it again. This was the swim breakthrough I needed.
What was interesting about my lead-up to this race was that in the couple days before the race, I had more pre-race nerves than I've ever experienced. I had a load of anxiety. I was sleeping horribly if at all. Rationally, I knew I was fit and ready to race. I felt confident and should have been pretty relaxed, but for some reason, the nerves set in. I can't thank my parents enough for being so great in those days before the race when I was having my bad jitters. They did a great job of keeping me as relaxed as possible in the ways that only parents know how to do.
I had the opportunity to meet with the Little Caesars Franchisee Co-op for the Louisville area
The second fastest Little Caesars vehicle in Louisville after my bike.
By race morning I was more relaxed than I had been for days. When I woke up at 3:40, I had a calm confidence making me feel that I knew it was going to be a good day. We were staying at the race hotel, so all the pre-race logistics were easy and seamless. I finished my pre-race routine early and had some time to relax before the swim start. As soon as I jumped into the water to warm-up, I knew I had a good feel for the water that day. I've been playing around with the best way to taper my swim for races. This time, I actually tapered my swim less then ever before. I think keeping a decent swimming volume helped me keep my feel for the water better than in the past. I'd noticed that I was swimming faster Ironman time trials in training than I was in races, even at the end of huge training weeks. So I came to the conclusion that when I tapered my swim too much, I was losing my feel for the water. Easy swimming isn't very taxing on your body, so by keeping some volume, but lower intensity, I felt like I could keep my technique during the taper.
I also decided to start harder in the first 800M of the swim than in my last few full Ironmans. My plan was to swim the first 10 minutes hard and then assess the situation. After some good bumping and jostling for position, I was at the back of a strong group. They slowly pulled away by about 10M and I couldn't close the gap. I glanced back and saw that I was pulling a group of about 5-8 people. I thought “no way am I pulling these guys around,” so I moved to the side and slowed for a few strokes to let someone else take the lead. I nudged my way into second position and sat there for a while. Somewhere around the turn, a couple people wiggled away and put about 10-15M into me, but they themselves spread out. I was holding the gap pretty even but not making it back up. Eventually someone came around me, who happened to be one of my buddies from Austin, Jason McMillian. I jumped on his feet and he pulled us up to the next two or three people. For the last 10 minutes or so we had a nice neat line. When I came out of the water, I was with people who normally swim 2-4 minutes faster than I have historically. I knew I had a great swim which upped my confidence. Also, coming through transition and seeing many more bikes on the rack than in the past made me happy.
When I got on the road, I could see lots of pros just up the road, which again usually it takes me quite a long time before I start the catching on the bike. All of these things together were huge confidence boosters. I felt really strong starting the bike and my Quintana Roo CD 0.1 felt fast and comfortable. The course's first 10 miles are flat before we hit the hilly 92 miles. I really had to hold back at the beginning because with no wind on the flats, feeling fresh, it would have been really easy to start too hard. Early on, Dave Harju and I linked up and after a few passes back and forth we decided to work together (legally of course!). We wanted to catch the next group of guys 2 minutes up the road, so we put in some efforts, but could never get the guys in our sights. The two of us were in no-mans land. I made sure to keep very controlled. I knew I could have biked another 5-8 minutes faster, but as I had done in Coeur d'Alene, I wanted to have running legs.
Dave and I stuck together. He was a demon on the downhills and would pull away, then on the flats and some uphills, I'd take the lead. Biking with him made me realize that I need to work on maintaining power on the pedals on the downhills. We started the second loop and I felt good. It was getting toasty, but nothing I hadn't experienced living in Austin or racing in Malaysia or China. The second bike loop was nothing short of NUTS. My only complaint for the race is the congestion on the bike as the pros come around for our second loop. The race puts 2500 cyclists on about 27 miles of roads, so the people are stacked 3-4 wide on the road. Most cannot handle their bikes and are swerving all over the roads (mostly because we are catching the less experienced cyclists). Then you have oncoming traffic limiting your ability to swerve wide, and it is just a dangerous mess. We really had to back off on the second loop just to avoid people. I kept my frustration in check knowing that all the pros had to bike through the same people so we were all similarly affected.
When we hit the turn off for the finish, there's still a good 25 miles to the end and unlike past years we had a headwind for the last hour. I think it affected everyone. Afterward, I examined bike splits for the last 25 miles and everyone took a hit to their average speed. I passed about 3 guys in those last 25 miles and pulled into transition in 5th place. After the obligatory post-biking duck waddle through transition, my run legs felt solid when I got out on the road. In the first mile, we had an out-n-back across a bridge. I was about 5 minutes behind 4th place. My parents yelled to me that 3rd place was struggling. I felt like if I held solid, I could catch those guys. On my way back, I got a look at the competition behind. In the 5 minute behind me were about 4 guys, two of which were Max Longree (DEU) and Sergio Marques (POR), two of the best marathon runners in the sport. I remember thinking “oh great, I've got two of the fastest runners chasing me.”
The run is flat but hot. My legs felt solid, but the temperature was my biggest limiter. I was really struggling in the 96 degree heat to keep myself cool. My first 6-8 miles felt great. Fourth place was walking at mile 6 and I moved up a place. By then, I could see 3rd place up on the horizon. Over the next 4 miles, I slowly closed the gap and moved into 3rd place around mile 13. Rounding the turn for lap 2, I was hurting but still felt sustainable. My parents yelled some position information to me, but soon I could see that Max was maybe 3-4 minutes behind and he looked strong. When I hit mile 15, it got really tough. My legs were okay, but the dehydration was wreaking havoc on me. I stopped looking at my mile splits on my watch because I knew they were going in the wrong direction. Those last 11 miles were miserable. At the final turn around around mile 20, I started my watch to see the gap to Max. I thought that if I had 3 minutes or more, I could hold my fade on to minimum to the finish. He was only about 1:15 at that point and again he was moving fast.
Over the next three miles, I did what I could, but I could feel him coming. I knew it wasn't good when his lead cyclist pulled up next to mine. He sat right behind me for about 30 seconds and then put in a surge, the likes of which I've never had pulled on me. What he didn't know was that by that point I had absolutely no fight left in me. I had already played all the cards in my hand by mile 23. After he passed, I was hurting so badly that I was wondering if I'd be able to finish. The last three miles felt longer than the previous 23. It felt so great to cross that finish line!
Quick interview with local media at the finish line
The Michalek family, Louisville's Little Caesars family all came out in force to cheer at the race.
I couldn't be happier with my day. When I look back, I really wouldn't change any part of my execution. I had fun out there (expect miles 15-26 of the run). This race also has made me excited for the remaining races this year. I think the oral surgery yesterday was good to force me to extend my post-race rest because I'm so excited to get back to training and racing!!
Awards podium from left: 5th - Sergio Marques (PRT), 4th - Me, 3rd - Max Longree (DEU), 2nd - Martin Jensen (DEN)
I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing this year. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. Champion System Clothing provide me with the best race and training clothing. Quintana Roo's CD 0.1 is one fast machine. Xterra Wetsuits are providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Ausin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.
After the race, we went to the Jim Beam distillery with our friends Terra and Zane Castro for a little recovery bourbon. When in Rome!