Last year Dougie and I were chatting after a 70.3 and he had said he wanted to attempt his first Ironman. After some research we landed on Louisville.
I set us up with a rigorous training program for the summer. It was grueling and very time consuming. (Big shout out to our wives Abbe and Danika for putting up with our 10-12 hour training days.) We executed it to a tee and now it was time to race.
Doug and I had the car packed and were rocketing across Manhattan by 4PM on Thursday. The wives were flying out to meet us the next day.
2 hours in we stopped in rural PA for coffee and some snacks. At the Starbucks this kid practically yells at me, “I love that shirt! Where did you get it?” He was referring to my Brooklyn Brewery shirt, I too love this shirt. I was bewildered at this question in this day and age of the mighty internet. I told him you can get them at the brewery. This puzzled him further. “Where is that?” “The Brooklyn Brewery is in Brooklyn.”
10 minutes later in a drive through line a few young kids working saw the bikes and said, “Do you guys do racing, or do you do triathlons?” Dougie and I smiled and looked back at them replying, “A little bit of both.” This was all happening as spooky church bells were ringing in the distance.
We made it out to a place just south of Pittsburgh that night. We checked in and then hit the local Smoky Bones BBQ to have some beers and apps.
The following day we had another 5 hours on the road. Sipping on coffee and chatting we had just passed from PA to West Virginia on into Ohio, when we saw a State Trooper pop out onto the road. At the same time a guy on a motorcycle zipped by. He wasn’t going too much faster than us, but enough to draw attention. We were like, “I bet he pulls him over.” And just like that the lights come on! But guess what Mr. Speedster did? He sped up and tried to outrun the cops!!! I have never seen a high speed chase before so I was like, “Dougie, try and keep up!” No dice. They must have been doing a buck fifty. 5 miles down the road we saw them and luckily no one was hurt. The officer was getting out as the perp was laying face down on the street hands out. Busted. Thanks you Ohio for making our morning memorable.
My father used to make this stuff when we were kids during football called Cincinnati Chili. It was basically a red bean and ground beef base chili served over pasta with grated cheese. Since we were coming up to Cincinnati, Doug and I had an idea to go get some Cincinnati Chili IN Cincinnati! (I can now officially spell Cincinnati.)
We stopped at Camp Washington Chili, in operation since 1940. It was some of the best I have ever had. Red beans, ground beef, diced onions, cheddar cheese and franks red hot served over a bed of spaghetti. A perfect blend of carbs and protein! The staff was extremely friendly. We even made friends with a few locals once they heard we were from NYC. This older guy (he had just turned 80) who was busing some tables came up and asked how we liked it. “Fantastic! Thanks!” Our server later informed us that he was the owner!
Off to Louisville! It was at this moment when they announced that the swim wouldn’t be cancelled due to the algae blooms! It would in fact be a full Ironman. Game on.
We met the gals (who had arrived just after noon) at a local spot down the block from the hotel. After a quick hello we went to check in as time was fading on us.
Dougie and I are All World Athletes as we were in the top 2 percent of finisher last year. It came with promises of special check in lines and other fun things, but I have to say I was let down by the whole program. None of what was promised existed aside from our ‘Black Swim Cap’ which was pointless. It actually seems less attractive when you think about if you needed to be rescued in the water, no one would spot a black swim cap.
The rest of the day was spent gallivanting around town trying whiskey flights and eating amazing food. It was Abbe’s birthday so we planned a special dinner at Proof on Main. Delicious!
Saturday morning was the practice swim. The outside temperature was 48 degrees but the water temperature was 71… refreshing! The gals watched us from afar before taking off for their run. Abbe is running the NYCM and Danika the Philly Half.
The rest of the morning was spent packing up our 5 bags, Morning Clothes, Bike Transition, Bike Special Needs, Run Transition, and Run Special Needs. It’s tedious business.
Once we dropped the bags and the bikes at transition it was like a huge weight had been lifted. All the anxiety, all the training, it was all locked into firing position.
We had a lovely outdoor lunch with the wives and just took it easy the rest of the day. That night we took a cab to an Italian spot called Volare. It was perfect.
I had some red wine that night to relax and it totally worked. My body and mind were so exhausted that I fell asleep at close to 9PM. That is a record for me! In fact, sleeping before a big race is a challenge in itself.
Up at 5AM and ready to rock. I was not nervous, the training was there, it was just time to execute and put everything together like a puzzle.
It was pitch dark out when we left the hotel to walk the 10 minutes to transition. The air was 46 degrees with a predicted high of 70 later in the day.
We spent a hot second in transition. Everything was queued up and ready to launch. We then walked the mile, mile and a half to the swim start… march of the penguins.
It was crazy at the swim start. There is a rolling start to Louisville where everyone lines up and then proceeds into the soup. People had been camping out in the cold to hold front line positions! We walked and walked until we were at the end. We were maybe 2/3rds back in line, no biggie. We made friends with all the people around us, laughing it up.I munched on my peanut butter sandwich and sipped on water.
The sun had started to rise and it was a beautiful sight, as if an old friend had showed up to cheer.
The canon fired and we all cheered! It would be another 30 minutes until we made it up to the docks, but it happened fast. I put my ear plugs in and filled up my morning bag before handing it off to the volunteer. I fits bumped Dougie and we hit the water.
I loved the swim. You set off down this narrow channel (maybe 800M) around an island before headed back towards the city. We were told that there would be current against us until we hit the return point but I think it was the opposite. It was easy shooting down the channel and we were really cooking! It was foggy right on top of the water, that mixed with the red orange sunrise made for quite a sight.
I struggled at the turn buoy past the island. It just felt like churning waters and I couldn’t get a solid rhythm down.
Once I was midway down the second half of the island I was able to start making steady progress again. We were about to go under 2 sets of bridges. Right before I came upon what I thought was a dead body and got super freaked out. It was this older guy floating on his back with his arms out stretched and eyes closed. I was like, “Holy guacamole, I need to flag down help.” Just then he opened his eyes like and rolled over starting to swim again. Whew!
Swimming under this bridge that was being constructed I could see a giant gap in the roadway that hadn’t been completed yet. It was way cool but I kept envisioning a runaway truck careening off the gap and into the swim course.
Approaching the swim exit one thing I noted was how great I felt. I could have done another mile I think.
I popped out and got my wetsuit stripped. Then, as I was running off I heard and saw Abbe and Danika cheering! They had a great position right by the exit.
I hauled ass (it was cold) and made it into T1. As I was going into the men’s tent I saw Dougie! I made my way deep into the crowded tent and found a seat in the middle. I changed into a full bike kit and had a long sleeve jersey on due to the temps.
I jumped on my QR and shot off into the bike course feeling great. It was noticeably cold and I was happy to have long sleeves and gloves on.
It took me a few miles before I got into the groove. I was watching my heart rate and not my MPH. I noted that I immediately had a splitting headache. I was pissed as this was a new obstacle I had never faced.
Miles 16-24 are this wicked out-and-back with some monster hills. There were caution signs everywhere as we bombed down the big ones. These roads were narrower so it was really intense. One wrong move and you were head on with a pack of bikers. On the way out there was a biker down and emergency people tending to him. We had to slow and move in a single line to pass. A guy three riders behind me was like, “C’mon guys, speed it up!” And I was like, ‘Who the F is this ass behind me?’ I am sorry, when someone is hurt, possibly very badly, ‘racing’ takes a back seat. We can all live to race another day. I slowed up and let him ride by me a few miles up. As he passed he nodded to me to which I responded with a death stare.
My head was pounding at this point. I had been pushing my helmet around to see if that would help to no avail. Then, I reached back and released the tightener and instantly I felt great! I had been squeezing my brain!
We hit the first loop (of two loops) and I was still feeling great and making steady progress. The course was starting to get gorgeous now, with us passing horse farms everywhere. They were majestic horses too, the kind that might race in say Churchill Downs, which was on the run course.
The best place to cheer on the bike is this small town called La Grange. The streets narrow and they are lined with spectators. There is even a DJ. I liked this part because imagine a pack of bikers in aero coming in hot at say 20 MPH and everything gets tight around you. I immediately think, ‘Death Star Run!’ and channel Luke Skywalker and R2.
As we hit the 60 mile mark I started to feel this headwind that everyone was talking about in the swim start line. It was nasty. Luckily (or not so luckily) I was about to turn into the second loop. By this time I was feeling slightly less peppy but soon got my energy back. We pit stopped at the Special Needs and I swapped out my water bottles. I slammed a coconut water as well. My helper laughed as he produced a giant bag of gummy bears. “Gummy bears?” he smiled as I just waved for him to give them my way.
Back on the road I snagged a few, all of which were lemon. Really? No red? C’mon!
Miles 80-90 were a bit of a struggle as my back was getting tight and every time you stretch the headwind catches you. Aero is the only way to deal with the wind.
I finished the bike feeling great, ready to get to this run. Ready to get into my strongest suit and do some work.
In T2 I changed into running shorts and a running shirt. I felt so fresh! I slammed a coconut water here too.
As I hit mile 2 Abbe, Danika and a surprise guest, my Aunt Dee Dee! I stopped and gave everyone hugs and kisses. Abbe ran along side of me, I wasn’t fully in ‘run mode’ just yet so I was a bit untalkative.
I knew I had executed a good swim and a good bike, but not my best. I decided that I was going to drop the hammer and give em a show on the run. I pretended this was no different from any other marathon and tried to block out the earlier part of the day.
Out to mile 7, back to mile 14, out to mile 21 and then back home. 4 segments.
I was just drinking water and Gatorade, flying through the aid stations. I saw my friend Jen (who would go on to win her AG) flying by here and gave a shout, “Jen! Go!” As we hit the first turnaround it all clicked in. No more post bike wonky-ness, just running.
I kept my aid station visits quick and tried to keep my momentum up. As I was making my way back to down I passed Dougie and we high fived as I yelled “Doradooooo!” Then I ran past our crew and Abbe ran with me once more. She said “Honey, you are throwing down a 7:30 pace!” I had no idea, I was just running to run.
I grabbed a Gu from an aid station at mile 17 which helped a bit. I was also alternating between coke and chicken broth at every other aid station which seemed to work. I was so excited at the last turnaround. I was now on segment 4!
I was getting a lot of great crowd support out there now. People were chanting, “Great pace! Keep it up!” I was fired up. The sun was going down so my shades came off. My quads were now burning like crazy so I just took it mile by mile. I saw Dougie again at my mile 24 and gave anther high five.
I took a left, then a right and saw the Ironman finish. I slowed my pace a bit to let the woman in front of me have the finish line to herself. I crossed with a 11:27:49! Not my best Ironman time, but one that I am happy with. I ran a 3:26 marathon, which is my fastest in an Ironman.
Abbe, Danika and Aunt Dee Dee came and grabbed me after I passed through the chute. They asked what I wanted to do? “Sit down.” was my response.
We made our way the half a block to our hotel lobby bar and posted up. Aunt Dee Dee bought me a beer and I had a giant plate of french fries. People always wonder why you are not immediately hungry after an Iron (or Half Iron)? When you train your body to run on liquid nutrition all day it takes a little while for you to crave solids again. I asked how Dougie was doing. He was to finish at 9:30 so I went up and took a quick shower.
That shower was amazing!
I found the gals out on the course in front of the finish and we anxiously awaited Doug to arrive. 15 minutes later there he was. We cheered our faces off as he crossed the finish. ‘Doug Dorado YOU are an Ironman!’
We grabbed Dougie and went back to the hotel bar where we had more beers. I ordered a huge plate of fried chicken (as I was now hungry after burning 10,000 calories). Jen and Mark came by to hang as well. She won her AG and her third Kona ticket!
We then went out to watch the midnight finishers. What an epic and emotional time. For those of you not familiar, midnight is the cutoff time for the race. You need to cross by then to get your medal and IM status.
Imagine, out of the distant darkness a figure moving toward. Everyone starts drumming on the sides of the finish chute and as the runner approaches it gets louder and louder until we all erupt into cheering! Epic, simply epic.
We said goodbye to Jen and Mark and then hit a bar. I was up the latest I had been up (1:30AM) in a long time, which is ironic as I should be sleepy. We all turned in after that. It felt great to have my head hit that pillow.
This was my third (and far from last) Ironman distance. It made me realize why I love the sport of triathlon once more.
Big ups to Dougie D for nailing his first Ironman! I put us through hell in the training season to get us in shape for this thing and he survived. Congrats bro!
Super big ups to Abbe and Danika who have put up with us while we trained the long hours and only talked Ironman talk 24/7.
Thanks Louisville, you put on a top notch race.