I emphasize experience because it was much more than a race on any particular day. The race was meticulously planned, goals were outlined with my coach, and the process of training began. All of the miles, the races, and the focus this year were geared towards executing a smart race in Louisville. After an explosion in 2014, there was some unfinished business to attend to in Kentucky.
Travel to Louisville packed like you a ready for a blizzard - Check
Andy, my husband, and I showed up early to get acclimated, and of course he made fun of me for packing like I was going on a ski trip. The plan was to do everything in my power to stay warm and I was determined to stick to that plan. As the week progressed, more teammates flooded into Louisville to include Big Sexy himself and, most importantly, my brother Robert. After a little swimming, biking, and running every day leading up to race day, race morning finally arrived and it was time to put the plan into motion. Lets skip all of my idiosyncrasies because I'm crazy and just say that I checked on my bike in transition and made the journey to the swim line along with thousands of others. Time seemed to be flying and before I knew it, the national anthem played and we were off.
The Swim - Get in, get, out, get warm (or as warm as possible) in T1 - Check
It was a beautiful 69 degree, brown, currentless bath in the Ohio River. A lovely way to start the morning! There was a lot less current than expected, but that is something you can't control so it wasn't worth dwelling on. With so many years of swimming under my belt, I don't worry too much about the swim.
The Bike - Try to stay warm, do not over-bike, stay within yourself, stay smooth - Check
The bike course is very honest. The hills are a little bigger than rollers and the pavement is smooth as you roll through beautiful countryside with roads lined with supporters. It was a very cold start and there were the crowded sections on the second loop and a few cars in the way but that is part of the game. I'm truly sorry if I yelled "left" at you on the bike course! Sometimes its difficult to navigate on crowded sections and yelling left is the safest way to notify people you are there.
Robert and I agreed he would be in certain locations on the bike course to provide a little insight as to how the women’s race was breaking down which was very helpful. I'm pretty sure he worked out intervals to text updates to my coach as well! Biking is on my list of strengths, which gives me some room to play. I needed to bike to the front of the women's race on course and do it very comfortably to make sure there was some juice left for the run. The other critical factor was making sure I consumed all of the nutrition I planned to consume - a steady diet of Infinit Nutrition. One woman down, two women down, three women down and the plan was working. The last 20 miles back were not crowded and I rolled into T2 very comfortably with a nice cushion.
The Run - Do not give in, do not stop running – Check
Everybody has something they have been working on and running has been my something. For those of you who know me well, you know I write a few motivational words on my arm and draw on my wedding band in black permanent marker before the race starts. It’s important to know what motivates you and then use it for motivation when you need it! This year my coach's family was not camped out on the run course offering up the best high-fives but Robert, Chris (Big Sexy) McDonald, and the Big Sexy contingent were camped out at about mile 1.5. The women were flying out of T2 behind me and I was a bit unsure of my ability to go with them. I got a high-five and some words of wisdom from Chris and the same from my brother, and it was time to get moving. I quickly dropped to running as the third female on course but because of the time trial start, I still was working with a buffer. Coming through the halfway point I felt surprisingly strong and received very pointed directions from Chris, "Turn your brain off. It's time to go to work." His tone was nothing short of direct to make sure I knew there was only one option. Miles 15-20 were dark, very dark. I saw my brother at mile 17 on Chris's QR PRsix and I don't remember if we had an exchange, I just know he was there. At mile 20 he said, "The gap is holding." With six miles left to go, it was time to push the needle over to empty. I decided there was absolutely no way I was giving into the run and I knew nobody was running faster in front of me. Opportunity. At mile 22 Robert found me again and screamed, "it’s going to come down to seconds." I found out later that he lied to me because I was holding the lead by 30 seconds. He knows me well and he knew it would be better to lie to me at that moment.
The Finish - Do not stop running until you are safely across the line - Check
Although the pro race was removed, there was an opportunity to put Big Sexy Racing on the top of the podium at a race Chris has won four times. The countdown calculator was hard at work. The 22 mile marker actually translates to 3 more miles plus 1 finishing mile in case you didn't know. As the miles count down, so does the countdown calculator: two plus one, one plus one. I ran from mile 22 on with everything left in the tank. Running down 4th street was epic and this year I remember it (a significant improvement over last year). People were everywhere, energy was high, and I could see the finish line. I had no idea how it was going to end but I ran through the chute eying the closest people to collapse on which happened to be my husband who had a great race and finished a few minutes ahead of me and Chris. The first words I remember hearing from Chris, "You did it, you won by 27 seconds."
Put Big Sexy Racing on the top of the podium at Ironman Louisville and get your finishers medal from the man who has dominated that race - Check
The list of people to thank is too long to mention everyone but I want to say a special thank you to Andy, Robert, and my family for being there every step of the way. Brady, thank you for putting together the plan and providing guidance on the good days and the bad days. Chris and Erika McDonald, thank you for giving me and all of Big Sexy Racing a platform to chase dreams. Trav and Nickey Hill, thanks for all of the training, food, and fun this year. To all of the Big Sexy teammates and supporters, thank you for being loud and crazy all year long!
Its time to rest up and set the sights on 2016!