Posted by: Dana | September 6, 2010

Ironman Louisville 2010 Recap

I had asked Erin Lopez to write up a race report from her Ironman Louisville. Here it is!

Sunday (Race day)-

I woke up at  4:15am and ate PB &J and downed 20oz of Gatorade. S. went to get food from Panera since they were making breakfast for the supporters and we planned to meet up at transition. I walked out of the hotel to the transition area at 5am and saw S. right as I was exiting the hotel. Perfect timing since I was in a elevator full of nervous triathletes that hardly anyone said a word.  So it was great to see a friendly face.  Transition area set and ready to rock at 5:30am. Began the ½ mile trek (it seemed longer) to the swim start and body marking area. The line was already formed for the TT swim start and we walked another ½-3/4mile to the end of the line and it was not even 6am yet. The swim start would be at 7am for the age groupers and 6:50 for the pros.

Swim- 1:14:40 total time/ 40th Age Group/ 730th Overall- 1:57/pace per 100meters

No warm-up was done because of the massive line so I was a little nervous about how I’d feel once I started swimming. Does running to the dock count?  I finally enter the water by jumping off the dock. I asked the volunteer if I could do a cannonball and she laughed and said “hurry and get in, the timing chip has already started.” I took the first 5-10mins to warm up and settle into a pace. Not too much banging around with anyone until the turn around point. At that point I got hit in the back of the head, timing strap was yanked off my ankle, and people were standing up because it was shallow. Once I made it around there I got a few more blows to the head and even got kicked straight in the face. NOT FUN! I was certain that I would be getting out of the water no less than 1:30, but to my amazement as I helped by one of the volunteers up the stairs, my watch read “1:14”. NICE!

T1: 8:02

I stopped to get another timing chip and got it reactivated. The volunteers were so nice in finding my transition bag so I figured that I gave the lady a hug. She smiled so big and sent me off to the changing tent. Put so much chamois butter on that if it was a normal day I would have slipped right off the seat, but seeing that the temperatures were already climbing into the 80’s at 9am, I would be ok. I tried to rinse myself off as much as possible as my once white tri-top was now brown after exiting the Ohio river. Um…gross! Downed some Powerade and donned my gear and off I went.

Bike:  6:29:57 35th age group/ 1039 overall- 17.23 mph avg. pace

It was nice and flat on the way out to the first out and back portion. Then it got hilly! There was one hill that it seemed like it took forever to climb. The other wasn’t too bad because I just bombed the downhill portion and was able to get up to 40mph. WEEEE! Soon after we passed through the town of La Grange and it was spectacular! There were so many supporters out there in the heat cheering us on and it was in the perfect place of the race as there were some lonely miles out there. S. was standing on the side of the crowd on my second loop through town and that brought a HUGE smile to my face. I tried to stay on schedule with my fluid/calorie intake which was 2/3 of a water bottle per hour, but I started to suffer from a pretty bad headache, which I know came from the heat bouncing off the asphalt.  I had a hard time eating anything solid but at mile 38 and 60ish I was able to eat pieces of banana. Headaches galore! HOT HOT HOT! At mile 50, I saw my coach on one of the motorcycles and I smiled and gave him thumbs up as I was just getting over the headache.  Soon after that I saw my buddy J. and he was not having a good day. He said that he was run off the road and his front wheel was bent into a taco shape. Knowing what a strong athlete he is and his goal for racing Kona, I told him to keep going and that he’ll be ok.  He continued on and soon after I saw him getting assistance from a bike tech in getting a new wheel. Thank God!

After a while I started to worry because I was drinking a LOT of fluid between the water and Gatorade and not once did I have to pee. Finally at mile 70 I had to go, which turned out to be good “pausing” point because I got my “special needs” bag in which I restocked my Gatorade and put on more chamois butter. Around mile 80 I started to see people drop like flies. Some already laying on the side of the road, others pulling off, and some leaving in an ambulance.  Then I saw J. again and thought “oh no!” He said that he was just hurting too bad and today wasn’t his day. He then told me to keep pushing and to race within myself.  He’s an amazing human being to have been racing on the “worst day of his life” (his own words) and keep encouraging others to push forward.  As the miles packed on I continued to see more people on the side of the road looking defeated and even more ambulances pass us by with athletes on the way to the hospital.  Before I knew it I saw the 100 mile marker and my spirits lifted and the pain seemed to disappear. This was now the time to start preparing myself mentally for the run.

T2: 7:37

I cannot thank the volunteers enough for their help. They were simply amazing! My personal volunteer emptied my run bag, held out my socks, and made me drink coke/ water, and shoved ice down my shirt. I thanked her endlessly and soon after I was off on the run. I kept my coaches words in my head that I had better keep my heart rate lower than 155 which is my aerobic zone or else I was blow up and not be able to finish. I had come this far, I WILL FINISH.

Run:  5:37:57 46th age group/ 1066 overall/ 12:53 avg. per minute mile pace

The run was as good as I could have hoped. Pain didn’t settle in until late in the run and I stayed focused on keeping my heart rate low even if that meant I was running an 11-12 minute mile.  I caught up to a guy that I was standing in line with at the beginning of the race with and he was hurting so I slowed down and asked if he was ok. He said that he should have followed my race day strategy by keeping his heart rate low because now his was shooting up with each step he took. I convinced him to run and our 2nd mile was a 9:05 pace. As the miles progressed we continued to run/ walk, but his heart rate would not lower so he told me to just leave him and continue on. Shortly thereafter, I saw S. and A. jumping up and down and cheering me on. They were so amazing! Seeing them so much on the run helped me push past the heat and mental pain of seeing people passed out on the side of the road. I ran every mile and walked through the aid stations to ensure that I was taking in enough calories.

The only “solid” type of calories/nutrition I could take in was oranges and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good…in the beginning.  At mile 22, it was a completely different story as absolutely NOTHING tasted good anymore. I couldn’t drink my Gatorade anymore because it was making me nauseous, chicken broth tasted like dirt (although it really didn’t), soda was too sweet and oranges just tasted like acid. Water was the only thing I could stomach and even that was hard to get down.

The run of an Ironman is an eye opener for sure. I saw a guy hunched over run-walking and then his legs went straight and he fell on the ground with wicked cramps in his legs. Another guy in front of me passed out WHILE HE WAS RUNNING and hit his head on the concrete…Grown men and women crying because of the pain, and some of the fittest human beings I’ve ever seen walking because they can no longer run. Matter of fact, I only saw ONE of the women pro’s not walking. I kept my aunt’s words in my head “race your own race, don’t pay attention to what others are doing”, and it helped tremendously. I talked to so many people along the 140.6 mile trek and they were all extraordinary in their own way.

For the most part, I was feeling ok as far as muscles and headaches go until mile 17. That was when my bad knee decided that it would stop working so I was reduced to walk pretty much that entire mile.  I kept telling myself that if I didn’t get under my goal time of 14hrs that I was not going to get my Ironman tattoo because I didn’t earn it. So I forced myself to run 5 minutes and walk for 2 minutes for the rest of the marathon.

Before I knew it, I began to see the lights and hear the sounds of cheers from hundreds of supporters at the finish line. I came up on a woman and asked her if this was her second loop and she said “yes” so I told her “let’s finish this thing running!” She smiled from ear to ear as we blazed through the crowds to hear our names… “Erin Lopez, US Coast Guard, You are an Ironman.”

13:38:14 total time. 46th in age group, 1066th overall out of 2,940 athletes.

So there it is. I can finally say that I completed an Ironman. This has been a dream of mine since I tore every ligament/tendon what have you in my right knee 6 yrs ago and was told by the doc that I would never be able to walk correctly again, much less run.  I wish I could remember his name so I could send him a thank you card. 😉

I want to thank everyone for their support and love throughout this amazing journey. First off, there are so many people that have helped me in the past 10 months that I could not possibly list them all, but please know that I appreciate it all. Coach Mark, you were awesome in keeping my behind in check and pushing me at all of the right times. My better half, I could not have done this without you. From going on training rides/runs in the freezing cold/rain, to setting up my trainer for after work rides, to swimming endless laps in the pool, you are amazing. My triathlon family- Sue, Don, Jim, Karen, Bob, Heidi, Kim, Amy, Christine, Alanna, and Mike…I look up to you guys so much. Thank you. Last but not least I would like to thank my family. I don’t think people realize how much support it takes to train for an Ironman much less complete one and without you guys it wouldn’t be possible.

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