Louisville Kentucky – Tying the World Record.
I was coming off a great race in Mont Tremblant. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet Eric Oscarson at Ironman St George. He had lost a ridiculous amount of weight and won the “biggest looser contest” at the event for the male who lost the most amount of weight training for an Ironman. Due to the insane weather issues in St George, Eric fell victim to his second DNF in two years. There is no quit in this man and he found his way to Ironman Louisville, third time is a charm. Eric e-mailed me and invited me to join him and his girlfriend Mandy for the weekend. I gladly accepted and arrived in Louisville past 11pm. Eric and Mandy were there to greet me and take me to our hotel – thank guys!
In the morning, we headed down to check in and expo. Nothing special here, but I do like it when Recovery Pump is at the expo so that I can take a seat and get some much needed recovery. One thing I did notice was how hot and really humid it was. In 2010, one of my athletes Kyle, did this race for his first Ironman and had a horrible experience, which was no fault of his or mine. The race ran out of water… So needless to say, I was concerned to come here, given their track record. But on the other hand, I figured a race couldn’t make this mistake twice…. or could they… I took advantage of these recovery boots at the expo. Every little bit helps when your trying to breaking a world record.
After check-in, we headed to transition to pick up our bikes from Tri Bike Transport (TBT). Like a charm, mine and Eric’s bikes were there. Mandy went for a run and Eric rode his bike to make sure everything was good with his set up. I have gotten lazy and just did a quick spin on the path to make sure the Venge shifted through all the gears, then walked to get a Subway. I continue to note the heat and make special note to continue to drink and stay hydrated.
I was invited to a mid-afternoon meet and greet down on the famous Fourth Street for the “I am Tri” club. They had a huge spread of donated products and items up for winning in their raffle. To get in, everyone paid $10 dollars for for an entry into the drawings. A person could enter as many times as they wanted. I was given the opportunity to speak for a few minutes, introduce myself and talk a little about my cause. They had told me that they would donate a portion of the proceeds to my cause, by no luck thus far. I t was still nice to get a chance to expose the charity to some new people.
We made our way to the athlete dinner, where they had a local artist playing the guitar and signing as we all took our seats and got our food. The food was fine and the program was pretty boring. I believe it was the mayor of the city who offered a ‘toast’ to the athletes… I’m pretty sure he was drunk. The highlight of the dinner was the ‘biggest looser’ contest. I have only seen this one in St George and now at Louisville. They start with a low number and keep going up and when they pass the amount of weight you have lost, then you sit down. The last man standing wins! Once again, Eric was the last man standing and was called up on stage to accept a small gift from the WTC – a bag, YES! Eric’s accomplishment is massive and hopefully on this his third try at an Ironman he will be successful and conquer. He has worn his athlete bracelet from IM St George and committed to not cut it off ‘till he crossed that finish line. Pure determination and perseverance!
We packed our transition bags and headed to bed for the night. We slept in, just enough, before snagging breakfast and heading to the scheduled pre-race swim down at the race site. The swim was in the Ohio river, so we could only swim during this practice 2 hour session. The swim was scheduled to be a non-wetsuit swim. I just wanted 15 minutes in the water to see how the good ‘ole BlueSeventy speed suit felt. After the swim, we had time to kill before we could check our bikes in and leave our transition bags.
I try to get an item from each race that is unique to the area. From Louisville I wanted a mini replica of a Louisville Slugger bat. So, it was off to the Slugger museum to see what we could find. I have little-to-no interest in major league baseball and was happy to be able to just tour the gift shop and get what I wanted. We had killed enough time, enjoyed a sub and was now were able to grab our bikes from TBT to put into transition. It was still hot and humid outside…check! Eric wanted to make pasta dinner for himself. Mandy gathered all the items at the grocery store to do so. I just grabbed a small bag of small potatoes and would simply cook them in the microwave. When we got back to the hotel, Eric discovered that there were no pots, no pan, no cooking anything…. he he. Plan foiled. Early to bed… it’s time to tie a World Record tomorrow.
Race day Louisville Kentucky – #20!
I slept well and Eric and Mandy did not ;( An Ironman is a long day, whether you are crossing the finish line first, middle of the pack or dead last… it’s a long day and a good night sleep is always a bonus. We headed out the door and found some great parking nice and close to the race site. I really prefer the races where we can drive to the site and NOT have to shuttle in. Ironman Kentucky is a unique swim start (like NYC which will NOT take place in 2013). It is a time trial start where athletes jump in the water one at a time and your start time is when you actually jump in. There are pros and cons to this. PRO – it is not a mass start and the fight at the sound of the gun is almost eliminated for the athletes. CON- it is not a mass start. Although time trial is safer, the mass start is very exciting for both the spectators and athletes. PRO – you can start when you are comfortable and ready to go. CON – you have to line up super early to get an early spot in the line to assure yourself you don’t spend half your morning WAITING to start.
I went to find the shortest potty line and lost track of Eric. I quickly made friends with people near the front of the line, as I didn’t want to wait even loner than I already had to for the start of my day. Unfortunately, the time cut of for the day is still midnight for all athletes. Your swim cut off is 2:20 from when you start, but for the day it is still midnight giving the swimmers who had to wait in line for more than 45 minutes less time to get to the finish. This may be an issue for Eric, this being his third attempt to conquer the day. I jumped in the water and swam around the island before trying to catch any current back to the swim exit. I felt good throughout and just settled in. I know boring right…. I am sorry these have become routine and some people out there are looking for more conflict and more struggle…(I stage some for you later this race). I got out of the water feeling good and headed out on the bike. The bike was a 12 mile or so finger out before starting 2 loops. The course boasted of rolling hills and a fast downhill finish. The temperature was cooler than I anticipated and I was happy with the current heat. It didn’t feel like we were melting out there. They say that if you want to best prepare yourself for temperatures in Kona, Louisville Kentucky is a good option. It simulates Hawaii conditions well with the heat and humidity. I rounded the first loop and headed out for my second loop. I was getting my nutrition perfect, taking in more fluids and the right amounts of electrolytes. A few miles into my second lap, things got really congested. Being one of the earlier athletes in the water and a decent biker, the first lap was nice and wide open. The second loop became very congested with late swim started and bikers who were on their first laps. It actually was dangerous navigating through all the athletes. A few minutes after I started on my second and last loop, I came up on Eric. He had successfully navigated the swim and was out on the bike course doing well. I asked him how he was doing and he didn’t respond with much enthusiasm. The course for the day seemed to already be getting in his head. I told him he could do it and that I would see him on the run or at the finish line. I continued on my way weaving in and out of all the first lap riders.
I finished my second loop and I wasn’t feeling super hot. Legs were heavy… no one was home (in my body) when I wanted to push on the gas. The fast downhill finish previously boasted about by race staff, seemed to be exaggerated. The winds were up a bit and the way in seemed more up hill than down. I was hoping for an easy 12 mile spin into transition to get ready for the marathon. I hated my bike at this moment. I wanted off and I certainly didn’t want to run a marathon. But I wasn’t here to quit or DNF. I finished the ride and took in every last drop of nutrition I had on my bike and in my pockets. I needed to figure out how to feel better and get a bit or energy to my legs.
I left transition felling a little better, VERY happy to not be riding anymore. I took my fuel belt with me, which was armed with 2 run flasks filled with 2 EFS liquid shots each (total of 1600 calories for the marathon plus any race provided nutrition I would need). The run started with a quick out and back over a big bridge, before a 2 loop out and back. I started running with a guy and he said he was looking to run a 4 hour marathon. I said, “Stick with me and I’ll take you right to it.” About 2 miles down the road, I apologized and told him I would be slowing down and if he wanted to make his mark he should think about forging down the road on his own.
I couldn’t seem to get my legs back under me and my only goals on the day were now to keep my stomach happy, keep up on my electrolytes (its now really hot) and try to cross the finish line under 12 hours. I stumbled around the run course taking big swigs of my liquid shot and every aid station and chasing it with water. My head started to get a little foggy and I worked hard to keep the calories (all liquid) coming. By mile 18, I had gone through both run flasks and all 1600 calories I was carrying. Typically I use one flask (2 – 400 calories EFS flasks) during the first 13 miles and use the second one, depending on feel. I was out with 8 miles to go and wanting and needing more. I stopped and walked through every aid station taking on liquids and trying to cool my core down. They had big garbage bins full of ice at every mile, where they had sponges waiting for the athletes to keep them cool. I don’t like emptying out a sponge on my head as the water runs down my body, which is great for cooling me down, but consequently gets my feet wet and has the potential to create unwanted or needed blisters. My solution to this personal annoyance, was to walk up to the giant pails of ice and dunk my head completely under water. Then I would quickly put my hat on to keep my head wet and cool. This seemed to be my best option to try and stay cool and keep my feet dry. I also use my trick of carrying ice in my hands, until it melts, in an attempt to cool down the blood flowing throw my hands. Then it goes to the rest of my body and keeps me cool.
I was hot, tired and energy-less. I remember with about 4 miles to go, I really wanted to be done… I didn’t even want to start this marathon, but somehow made it to mile 22. I stumbled up to a tree and just leaned up against it and hung my head. I heard someone yell, “Come on Cowboy, let’s go!” When someone cheers directly at, or for me,I can’t help but to do my best and respond. I pushed myself up off the tree and headed out running again. I did a great job with my nutrition, stayed on top of it all day and didn’t have any tummy troubles. Despite these efforts, my body just couldn’t get enough. I started to cramp heading into the finish. I had about 2 miles to go, when I saw Eric heading out for another loop. We both looked at each other and didn’t say a word to each other, we didn’t need to. He knew I was hurting and I knew he was feeling the same. We both looked up, nodded and kept right on going. I had my watch on, and knew I was going to be close to my goal of keeping it under 12 hours. I pushed the last mile to get there. Coming down the finish shoot, I made a very conscious decision to appear worse off than I really was, this would ensure that I would be a candidate for an IV. They typically don’t hand IV’s out, un-like their cookie cutter finisher medals for 2012, at the finish line. With my next Ironman race in 6 days, not seven, I needed to ensure my recovery got a kick start. After all, I would be breaking the world record next week and I thought a good reward for tying the record would be an IV!
I slowed right before the finish line, tilted my head and stumbled just a bit. As I crossed, I could see them rushing towards me so I started to go down (I had to make it look and feel very real). Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in perfect conditions and I certainly wasn’t feeling great, but I didn’t NEED to have my legs give way at the finish. It was a nice touch and my first steps to ensure an IV. They asked if I wanted a wheel chair, as the medical area was a block or so away. “Perfect!” I thought, “a chair!” They ‘helped’ me into the chair and whisked me off to medical. Even after all that, they wanted to see if I would start to feel better by drinking water and chicken broth…. I needed to take this to another level. I was deserving of this IV and my $650 dollar entry fee gave me full rights to it! I think IM entry should include a complimentary IV without questions, the $15 dollar backpack, a $3 Finisher shirt, and the $2 dollar finisher medal The experience, however, is priceless, which is what keeps us coming back despite all our complaints and gripes. These gals were tough and obviously instructed to keep the IV’s under lock and key. After a few cups of broth, I told them I thought I was feeling better and they tried to help me up…. Time to implement phase two of project, “Give me my damn IV’. As I stood up, I pretended to feel very light-headed, woozy and even expressed a need for a garbage to throw up into……. BAM! “Can we get a bag of IV over here please.” Yes! Success! And it’s a about time too. They hooked me up all perfect and the juice started to flow. 30 minutes later, I felt great and left medical to eat some post race food. Chocolate milk and pizza sounded great and I took my fill. After gathering my stuff, I settled in for a post race massage. Then I tried to find Mandy and get an update on my man Eric.
She said she had just sent him off on his final lap and that his spirits were up a little from the previous lap. If he was able to maintain his current pace, he would make it, he would become an Ironman…but it would still be close. Had he started up with me for the swim, he would have had lots of time to spare. But remember that the midnight cut off doesn’t care if you were the first or the last athlete to enter the water. Mandy took me back to the hotel room so I could Skype with Sunny and the kids. I tracked Eric’s every step on-line and sure enough he DID IT. What a perfect example of perseverance! Most people wouldn’t even try lose the weight and take on the challenge of an Ironman. And, if they did, most people would have quit after failing on their first attempt. Surely the ones who tried a second time would have quit after failing at their second attempt at Ironman glory… But NOT my boy blue who keeps getting up after getting knocked down again and again! And NOT THIS TIME, BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA! YOU ERIC, ARE AN IRONMAN! I gained a ton of respect for Eric as he persevered and overcame the struggles and obstacles along the way. He kept his eye squarely on the prize and NEVER gave up! He wouldn’t settled for mediocrity. Eric didn’t care that he was almost last in the race. Eric didn’t care who beat him or by how much. Eric has his life back! Eric ha his health. Eric didn’t quit! Eric did what he said he was going to do! See you at IM Arizona my good friend!
When Eric got back to the hotel, I greeted him with a hug and a high-five. I asked if he was hungry, ‘cause I was I ran out at 1 am and got us both some taco bell to celebrate. What a great day!
We all slept just ok and once awake, we headed to the athlete breakfast and finisher merchandise expo. The food was not as good as I wanted it to be, but Eric got some great finisher gear from his major accomplishment. With a later flight, and not much motivation to do anything, we decided to go check out Churchill Downs racing track. We wanted to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve never been into horse racing, but while in Kentucky, I wanted to see the Louisville slugger factory and the race track for the Kentucky derby. We went, we saw, big deal