Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2009 Ironman Louisville

Ironman Louisville
Louisville, KY
August 30, 2009

Matthew Amman

56th Overall
10th Age Group

What I saw in Louisville, Kentucky before I even started the race let me know that this was going to be ugly. As the son of a hydrogeologist and serious fisherman, I know a thing about water quality. The Ohio River is barely suitable for swimming. Add in floating timbers and logs, swimming is hazardous. As for the bike roads, the road surface itself was nice but there was absolutely no shoulder. The road ended at the white line. I was little taken back by the whole venue.

Horrible, horrible! Imagine lining up at 5:15 am to sit on road pavement for a 7 am race start. And because I was about the 1,200th person in the 2,700 person line, I started around 7:25 am. This was a time-trial start and I certainly prefer the mass swim start.

After jumping in, we had to swim a narrow channel for a 1/2 mile or more. The congestion was terrible. I had to swim with my head up most of time until we rounded the turn buoy and headed out into the river. The long swim to the exit with the river's current was easy. I exited with a disappointing time.

The first 2:13 on the bike were uneventful. I kept the effort ridiculously easy to save it for the back half of the bike.

At 2:14 I got a flat tire. Luckly it was the front wheel. I never did take the time to look for a hole. It did not matter, I needed to change it. It was my first time changing a tubular and made a few mistakes. Using a razor blade to cut the tire, I thought I cut all the way through the base tape. Nope. When I pulled with all my might to get it off the rim, it would not budge. I tried the other side. No luck. I thought this might be game over. After a closer look, I saw that I failed to cut the base tape. After cutting it, the tire came off. When putting the spare on, I found out it was not pre-stretched enough. Luckily, an IM race photographer was right there to help. With his assistance, I managed to muscle it on. I inflated the tire and was on my way at 2:21. Poof! seven minutes gone.

I pushed a bit after the flat tire to minimize the time damage. I also had to start dealing with road traffic. I passed a number of cars plus a truck with a horse trailer on the left. Yes, I said the left. Without a road shoulder 2-3 feet wide, often times motorists were stuck behind slow cyclists and simply had to wait patiently to pass. Well, when the faster cyclists like myself are on our second loop of a two loop bike course, we were forced to pass both the cyclist and the vehicle on the left.

The final 50 miles were a little hard to pace, akin to the first 50 miles. The rolly-polly hills made for a pedal, then coast feeling... similar to when riding with a group of cyclists. A powermeter would have helped out a lot.

In the last 10-40 miles somewhere, I got another flat tire. It was a slow leak that I did not notice it until the last few miles.

I felt really good running out of T2. I walked the first 2 aids stations like planned. I plugged along comfortably while watching my fellow competitors put on a show.

Guy #1 in my age-group passed me in the first 200 yards coming out of T2 running sub 7. No problem I thought, he'll die later. He never did.
Guy #2 not in my age-group was insane. He ran past me just after the 1 mile mark running 6:00 pace. No problem, he'll die later. He (Evan MacFarlane) never did. For the first 3.38 miles he ran 20:17 at 6:00/mile ending with a 2:55 marathon.
Guy #3 Viktor Zyemtsev and winner of the race running sub 6:30's.
Guy #4 Luke McKenzie and second place overall running sub 6:30's.
Guy #5 running around 7:30 pace and I just could not respond.

So about 5 five guys me passed on run. Not too bad I thought. Except for one, I was not confident enough to run in anybody's shadow and try to hold on. Based on how I felt last year at IMWI, this was a positive run and I looked great while doing it (according to my family and friends watching). My form was good, light on the feet, relaxed arm-swing, no side-stitch, and no stomach distress.

I crossed the finish line in 9:53. I was happy to go sub 10. As for qualifying for Kona, I needed to go a 9:48. Doing the math, the flat tire did me in. Frankly, the whole experience left me sour. Ironman corp. did a fantastic job; it was the venue (swim and bike course) that really irritated me. Ironman Wisconsin was a five star experience. I'll likely stick to my home turf next time.

A month ago an acquintance asked me why I race. It's a question I have struggled with for a couple of years. This particular Ironman race gave me a two-fold answer. First, when life fails to demand my time, efforts, and talents either professionally or personally or both, I seek it out in the form of a hobby. Currently, triathlon quenches my desire for success and hard work. Second, I found out what makes me tick. I have a hard time racing against myself or the clock. To win races or beat rivals I mentally have to say, "I'm better than you and I'll turn myself purple to prove it." A lot of front-of-the-pack racers are like that. I am no different. But at an Ironman race far away from home, I had neither a chance of winning the race outright nor a rival--somebody that I could say to myself, "There is no way I'm going to let him beat me." So what happens to me under those conditions? I coast and that's exactly what I did. If you saw me racing last year at IMWI, you could see the agony and exhaustion. I was digging deep to try to catch my rivals up the road. I gave it everything I had.

My future in Ironman racing is uncertain. I feel that there is much work to be done both physically and mentally to hit the ceiling. But like most hobbies, it's just for fun and if something else comes along that fosters the same feelings as racing I might just hang up the swim cap and goggles, sell the bikes, and use the running shoes to mow the lawn.

- Breakfast 3 Powerbars, 1 can Red Bull
- Bike: 13 Powergels; Chocolate is fine; Avoid Vanilla; Try Strawberry/Kiwi
- Spare Tubular plus trying bringing along Vittoria PitStop for flats
- Run: Loop 1 alternated coke/gatorade; Loop 2 just coke
- Salt tablets: 4 on bike, 2 on run (Salt stick); try more on bike and run

Heart Rate Data:
Swim 163 bpm
T1 144 bpm
Bike 135 but failed to work for last hour (likely was 145)
T2 122
Run 143 ave

Run Splits:
1 -7:54/pace 147 bpm
2 -7:19 141
3 -7:17 147 bpm
4 -7:41 146 bpm
5 -7:27 147 bpm
6 -7:40 147
7 -7:49 149
8 -7:25 146
9 -7:46 152
10-7:45 149
11-7:47 144
12-7:53 145
13-8:10 141
14-8:18 140
15-8:18 150
16-7:50 140
17-7:55 140
18-8:01 138
19-8:20 135 (started walking aid stations)
20-8:23 135
21-8:27 135
22-8:14 136
23-8:35 137
24-8:24 138
25-8:51 135
26.2-10:29 135


Jennifer Harrison said...

Hey Matt! THANKS for the RR! I did not know you were doing KY or I would have tracked you all day! NICE work out there except for your flats (grr). It is always the things we can not control! Funny you talk about IM KY. The people that live down there love it, but an athlete from Chicago asked me about it today and I said, "STAY LOCAL AND TRAIN and race on the IM WI course!" So, I hear ya! Sorry you missed the Kona slot, but your 9.53 is super! Congrats on a great race, Matt. Hope you are enjoying some R&R now!

Tim said...

Hey Matt ... congrats on your sub-10 hour Ironman. Talk a few weeks to digest everything - you seem to have had a less than perfect IM experience the 2nd time around.

I would try to qualify for Kona again if I were you ... you're so close - try a 70.3 to qualify rather than an IM.

If you're looking for an amazing IM race experience try the Roth Challenge in Germany. It's not a Kona qualifier anymore, but I was a sensational race - crowds in 150,000 range and top notch race management.

Congrats again on a great tri season ... I enjoy the blog.


Chris Wichert said...

Hey Matt,
I know Louisville wasn't the result you were looking for but you were still one of top age groupers out there despite a flat tire. You've a really solid year of racing at all distances. Your speed at the shorter stuff will transfer to Ironman, it just takes a little time. Look at Henkels early Ironman results as a pro, not too impressive but he's a stud now! A fall and winter of consistent running will get your running to next level.

Congrats again on an impressive season.