2 weeks. That’s how much time I gave myself between racing IRONMAN Chattanooga and Louisville. Basically that would mean 2 weeks of kicking my feet up and resting until it was time to head out. Unfortunately, after a relatively hectic return to work after Chattanooga, I woke up Friday morning feeling what was to be the beginning of a cold. My immune system being shot from Chattanooga coupled with not great sleep and a couple coworkers having strep throat meant that the perfect storm had been created to cause me to come down with something.
Since I was to simply be laying around mostly between races anyways, I just attempted to do that even more. My throat had mostly recovered after the weekend and by the time we had left for Louisville on Wednesday, all that seemed to be left was some chest congestion and coughing that was mostly only noticeable with deep breathing. While I had admittedly debated going through with competing in Louisville, I was confident my symptoms would be resolved by race day and I would be good to go. The workouts in the last few days leading into the race may have included some extra coughing and mucus, but it seemed I still had decent fitness from a couple weeks ago.
Rebekah, Charleigh, and I made the trip via minivan which took a little over 16 hours split into 2 days. Everything went relatively smoothly and it was fun seeing the different parts on the country again, especially the snow as we left Colorado! We arrived at my home stay from the previous year who had graciously offered to let us come back (thanks Mckenzie!) on Thursday night. Friday was fairly uneventful other than the Pro meeting and some race preparations. Nearly the entire start list showed up for this race meaning somewhere between 25-30 guys. Saturday included the practice swim before heading to brunch with my Dad and Laura who had come to see the race. Charleigh got to have her first taste of solid food since it was her 6-month birthday and she had some sweet potatoes that she may not have been too fond of!
That afternoon while prepping my nutrition for the race, I found out that my drink mix container that I had brought was full of dry black beans. We have been using some of the containers to store food and apparently I had grabbed the wrong one when we left Denver! Rebekah ran down to the Ironman Village quickly and picked up another kind of drink mix and I just had to hope that I made the right choice for race day given the circumstances.
Race morning was cold and wet as anticipated by the forecast. Louisville was projected to be about 50 degrees at the start of the race with rain being almost constant. I typically enjoy these conditions for racing, so was actually looking forward to it working in my favor. After a smooth morning, I arrived ready to jump in the water before being told that the race organizers were making some changes. Since the current was so strong in the river, they were eliminating the up river portion of the swim. Changing our 2.4 mile swim to about 1 mile, and all down stream. This was okay with me as most of my coughing seemed to be flaring up during swimming as that’s when I have to breathe the deepest. The race was delayed another 35 minutes to allow for the changes and then we were into the water and jockeying for position!
By the time the canon went off pretty much all of the Pro men had floated ahead of the start buoy due to the current pushing everybody. There was a ton of room so there wasn’t much congestion at the start. After the first couple minutes of swimming, everybody that had started on the left side of the line (including me) were being signaled to go right in order to stay next to the orange buoys typically used for sighting. It seemed that they were now wanting us to use those as course guides so a small group of us spent the next 30 seconds or so swimming perpendicular to the swim course, and slightly upstream, trying to get where we were supposed to be. It definitely wasted some valuable time in that short of a swim, but there was nothing to do about it now, and there was still a long day of racing ahead.
I came out of the water just ahead of Andrew Talansky and Adam Otstot and got to work blazing through transition to head out on the bike. I made the decision to not wear much cold gear except for gloves and the massive amount of Vaseline that I put everywhere prior to the swim. I typically race well in the cold and was looking forward to seeing how not sweating a ton would affect my race. With the gap I created in transition I had a nice quiet first 5-10 miles with nobody in sight ahead or behind me. It was only a matter of time before Talanksy came by on the bike. Unlike in Canada, though, I was actually able to keep him in touch for awhile. Just as I was about to decide let him go, Greg Close came by and I decided to keep in touch with him. This led to the 3 of us staying pretty much together for a long portion of the ride. I was feeling strong and super pleased that I was able to keep pace with guys that I previously would not have been able to touch.
As we hit the middle portion of the first loop the pace got even hotter and it became apparent that we were about to catch a large group of athletes that had formed ahead of us. After continuing to stay on the gas, we made the catch and arrived to the rear of this group around mile 50. For a few miles it was pretty much a long line of nearly a dozen riders which comprised all of the top 10 excluding Sam Long who had made a break off the front. There were 2 motobikes going back and forth by the group to keep things legal. A penalty in these conditions would have been absolutely terrible so it seemed most were extra careful to ride clean.
Just prior to starting the 2nd lap, I started to watch most of the group pull away as I just wasn’t able to put out the power anymore to keep up. It wasn’t any faster than we were going before, but it seemed that I had just run out of gas. I was still able to ride away from a couple guys, but soon I was in no man’ns land and my energy and power were steadily dropping. It didn’t take long after this for me to start noticing the cold. Where I had felt fine before while pushing hard, every downhill left me colder and colder as I just wasn’t able to warm back up. I started to look forward to the uphills simply so I could try to get warmer even though the energy to get up them was massive.
It wasn’t long before this progressed enough for me to start shaking uncontrollably causing difficulties for me to stay steady on the bike. I was determined to see things through until I came to the 70 mile mark and realized I had over 40 miles left of attempting to ride with no real way of warming back up. It was here that I pulled the plug and ended my race.
This was my first time ever having a DNF in a race (excluding Zwift racing…). I had always taken pride in that and have typically held the attitude that I should do whatever it takes to finish a race. But for whatever reason, I am not as let down about this race as I would have expected. Despite less than ideal conditions leading up to and during the race, I was in a position riding well with the leaders in an Ironman. I continue to be surprised by the evolution of my racing, especially given all the other things I have on my plate at this point in my life. Had a few things been different on this day, I’m confident that I could have been fairly competitive in the race.
There are plenty of things I could “blame” or excuses I could make. The weather. Being sick. Biking too hard. Nutrition being off. Whatever. But at the end of the day, what happened is over and I made the decision that I did. I am glad I was able to return home safely and happily with Rebekah and Charleigh after another 16+ hour drive and a ton of experiences had and friends made. Next up is IRONMAN Arizona the weekend before Thanksgiving. I am eager to get back into some consistent training after nearly a month of either being sick or tapering/travelling for Ironman races!