Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Run

Thursday, August 29, 2013  at 9:21 PM
If you missed the other parts to this race report you can read the swim HERE and the bike HERE.  I got a lot of comments asking about how my foot was feeling during the day.  I smacked it on the railing getting out of the water, but it really didn't bother me during the bike at all.  I noticed my foot was swollen during T2, but it wasn't a game changer for sure.

Getting off the bike, I realized that the marathon was going to be nothing that I ever expected.  I knew that I would be slow.  I knew that it would be a run/walk.  I had planned to go out much slower than race pace, in fact, the plan was to run 10:30's for the first 6 miles, and then hang on or adjust depending on how I felt.  My goal time had been around a 5 hour marathon.  But I knew that my legs were already shot!  I walked out of the tent with another awesome card from Jennifer in my hand.  The transition chute was long, and I walked with a few others trying to decide what to do.  At the top of some short stairs, I saw the marathon timing mat, so I started jogging as I went across.  That didn't last long as I saw my dad and walked next to him up to the first aid station.  I had one of the awesome volunteers pour ice water on my neck and back, which made me feel so good...everywhere but my legs.  I kept walking down around the KFC YUM! center in the shade and up a hill.  At the top of the hill, I decided to see what I could do with a slow jog and did ok for a block.  I saw Jennifer, Caffrey, Trevor, Wyntre, Tom, Colleen, Abigail, and Brittany standing on the side of the road cheering for me, so I ran to them and stopped to strategize.

Our hotel was in a perfect spot and RIGHT ON THE RUN COURSE!  Here's what the course looked like.  Our hotel was right where the top left corner of the orange #14 box is on the map.
I would pass them 4 times which really helped!  I stopped, and we talked for a minute.  I asked them if they would still love me if I ended up walking the ENTIRE marathon, and they all smiled and said, "Yes."  That was reassuring.  Tom was in running shorts, so I asked if he wanted to go with me.  He did, and it was the best decision ever to have someone with me, encouraging me, motivating me, coaching me.  We started off with a pretty steady run/walk.  It wasn't fast, and I didn't run very far for those short spurts, but the run/walk was working.

We were actually RUNNING!!!
After a few miles, my calves started to give me trouble.  BIG TROUBLE!  They were cramping so badly!  Both sides would lock up and wouldn't release.  We stretched and then kept going.  At mile 5 or 6, the running wasn't happening, because my legs would only cramp up worse.  Tom and I were walking, but we decided that if we were walking, it would be with DETERMINATION!  It was a fast walk.

Tom is a Type I Diabetic, so after awhile, he told me that he needed some sugar.  He ate some nutrition that he was carrying, but he obviously wasn't as energetic as he was when we first started.  It sounds funny, but it was actually perfect, because I suddenly was the encourager, which only boosted my positivity.  We continued the long walk talking everything from triathlon to religion.  I can't tell you how awesome it is to have such an incredible friend that not only is willing to drive 7 hours to come support me, but is willing to walk with me to make sure I'd finish.  Tom, I love you, bro!  You are the man!  Thank you!!!

As we got back to where the cheerleading squad was, my awesome brother-in-law, Trevor, who also had driven up and had to work the next morning (a 5+ hour drive), took me around the loop, by the finish line.  We stopped at Special Needs and I decided to switch socks and shoes.  I had been feeling a hotspot on the bottom of my left foot.  It turned into a beautiful blister.  Wanna see?

It wasn't the most comfortable, but neither was moving...PERIOD!  The volunteer at Special Needs was so awesome.  Both of my legs completely locked up as I sat in the chairs there.  I couldn't even bend to get my socks and shoes off, so this complete stranger bent, untied both my shoes, took those stinky things off, took my sweaty socks off, put fresh socks and shoes on, and handed me my Snickers that I had packed for this time.  She was incredible!

Trevor and I walked back to the cheering squad where a photographer took this picture.  Still smiling, but hurting!!!
Low Res from Finisherpix
It was time for another switch, and Colleen was up.  I was excited about doing the last 13 miles with her.  This wasn't the first time we'd done a half marathon together.  In 2012, we ran one together in Atlanta (Read about it HERE), and she's really fun to run, or in this case, walk with.  Keep in mind, this girl just had a baby 10 weeks ago!  We started out walking, and Colleen laid out the plan.  She said that we were going to walk 9 minutes and run 1 minute.  That sounded ok, and I told her I'd do my best.  Nine minutes later we started to "run."  It was more of a bounce down the street.  It went ok, but pretty quickly, my calves and the fronts of my shins cramped.  I walked it out.  We did it again.  And again.  The third time, everything locked up so badly that I stopped to try and get the cramps out.  The problem was that when I stretched the calf muscle, the front got worse.  When I stretched the front, the calf got worse.  There was no way to win.  I decided that the "bouncing" wasn't helping anything, so we continued to walk.  She was monitoring my time and knew that I would make it if I kept it under 20 minute miles.

Now I know for many of you, you can walk a 20 minute mile in your sleep!  Me too!  But it was all I could do to keep moving forward.  I was putting down some really fast miles (haha) at 16 or 17 minutes, and that was enough.  Remember that the cutoff for an Ironman is 12:00 midnight.  I had started 34 minutes later because of the time trial start, so I had less time.  Never in my life had I thought that I would be anywhere close to a cutoff.  I was thinking 14 hours at the latest.

Colleen kept me moving forward.  We talked vacations, spouses, babies, you name it.  Although it sucked, she made it fun!  The sun went down, and we put on glow sticks that went around our necks.  There were hundreds of others walking.  Hardly anyone was mustering any kind of run.  We reached the turn around and had a little over 6 miles left.  Here's where it started to get really hard.  I have never been that physically exhausted in my life!  When I started the marathon, I thought, "I can walk all day!!!"  Now, I was really questioning whether or not I would be able to go 6 more miles.  It was all I could do to put my hands on my hips and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I found out later that I wasn't the only one that was hurting.  Colleen's feet were throbbing, and I don't blame her!  Did she ever say something?  Nope!  She was positive the whole way.  What an incredible friend to be there by my side the whole way back.

With .8 miles to go, we saw Tom and Abigail who walked a little ways with us.  Tom and Colleen walked me through the rest.  They told me that the last half mile was for me to think about the last 8 months of training, the early mornings, the long runs and rides, the sacrifice, the pain, and everything else that I had gone through for this moment.  Tom told me to turn on "the jets" as I left them, and I did...for 10 seconds before everything locked up again.  I had to kind of laugh to see the miserable shape I was in.  I wanted to run, seriously!  As I rounded the last corner, I could see the bright lights of the finish, and that was enough to get me running no matter what muscles were cramped.

The street was lined on both sides with 6-8 people deep as they were straining over the barriers to get a high-five from any Ironman Finisher.  It was the coolest thing in the world!  I felt like a king!  They were there to see me!!!!  I saw Josh Woods, who had finished the race a couple hours earlier, and Brittany, his Wife along with my dad there.  Pretty much right in front of them, in the center of the chute was a manhole cover that was slightly raised.  I saw it, but I didn't realize that my steps were so close to the ground.  I tripped over it and about sprawled all over the ground.  Luckily, I saved it and laughed as every muscle cramped worse.  I had purposefully held back so that I had the chute to myself, because I wanted to hear those words "Matthew Smith, You are an Ironman!"

My dad took this picture of me running up the finisher chute.  You can see me way up there in the light.

I've heard that Louisville is one of the coolest finish lines ever because it is under the Fourth Street Live roof.  The noise is deafening!  I started to weave back and forth between the sides slapping hands on both sides.  Jennifer says I slapped hers, but I don't remember it.

FINALLY, I crossed the finish line!!!

You can watch it here.  Just jump to 8:37:20.  He even said my name!!!

The catcher gave me my medal, water and chocolate milk, and I was ready to find Jenn.  She was on the other side of the fence, but I found her quickly.  I had been waiting for that moment and just hugged her and let all the emotion out.  It was AWESOME!!!

After seeing my dad, Josh and Brittany, I started to feel light-headed and queasy, so I sat down.  I had heard that getting an IV is one of the best ways to recover, and the way I was feeling, anything was worth a shot.  A volunteer wheeled me to the medical area where I got an IV.

After hobbling the couple blocks back to the hotel I was completely overwhelmed by the incredible support that I had as my phone was blowing up with texts, phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets.  You guys are awesome!  I couldn't have done it without you.  Just to know that so many of you were tracking me through the day, some even using up all their data on their phone (MINDY), made my day worth continuing.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

But there are several people that I would like to specifically thank for their dedication to me becoming an Ironman.

Jennifer and Caffrey:  You guys got the worst of it.  Early mornings when I would be gone.  All day Sunday by yourself as I rode century after century.  Listening to me complain about being sore or tired.  Encouraging me when all I wanted to do was quit.  You two are the best!  I could never have done it without you.  Even on race day, you had just as long a day as I did, but you stood out in the heat and never complained.  You are my pride and joy!  I am the luckiest guy in the world to have you, Jenn, as a wife and you, Caffrey, as a son.  I love you both SO much!!!

Josh and Brittany:  You guys are awesome too.  Josh, you have trained the most with me, supported me through the slow rides and runs, encouraged me, pushed me, motivated me and kept me going.  Thanks for being such a great friend.  You are the man, and I love you!  Brittany, you're a great friend too, and I'm so glad that you married J-Woo!!!

Dad and Grandpa: Thanks for making the long drive up to Louisville to sweat it out in the heat just to support me on race day.

Trevor and Wyntre: Thanks for driving all the way up to see my race, to walk that long block with me, to carry my shoes.  Thanks for being tired the next day at work because you stayed to support me.  Love you!

Tom and Colleen:  You guys are incredible!  From the endless wisdom and experience of doing an Ironman to encouraging me and advising me.  Thanks.  And obviously, thanks for doing the whole marathon with me!  I can't even explain how much that means to me!  I'm so glad God put us in the same area so that we can be friends.  You guys are the best!  Maybe one day we will be related...through our kids.  :)

The Buford Family:  All week long, I have thought about how so many of you stayed up late to see this pastor cross the finish line.  What a fantastic church I get the honor and privilege to serve.  You really are family, and it means the world to know that you guys love me too!  Thank you!

Brooks Running:  Thank you Brooks for all the free gear this year!  You made it possible to train in the best equipment out there.  My body thanks you!!!  Let's do it again in 2014!

And to all the others of you that I didn't mention, your wisdom and advice and support and motivation helped so much, and I will always be grateful.  Thank you!!!

Will there ever be another Ironman in my journey?  Well, I guess you'll have to keep reading!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Bike

Wednesday, August 28, 2013  at 9:32 PM
In case you missed the report on the swim, you can read it HERE.  Just to recap, I did it 10 minutes faster than I thought I would and actually did the transition a couple minutes faster too.  That was the last time that I focused on my goal time for the rest of the day.

The bike course at Louisville is known for its hills.  I would describe it as relentless hills.  None of them are too terrible, and they really aren't any worse than the hills of Atlanta.  I had driven up to ride the course back in May (read my report HERE) and had formed a strategy to ride it for race day.  On the preview ride in May, I had only ridden the loop once and had dragged back to the car a beaten cyclist, although I did average 17.8mph. Here's what the course looks like.

After riding the last couple months up to race day, I had decided to take it super easy for the first 80 miles, at like 15-16mph, and then pick up the pace and hope to get close to 17mph for the whole ride.

I saw Jenn and my dad as I ran through the Bike Out arch.  Can you see the white thing in the pocket on my jersey?  That is a sweet card from my awesome wife!  She gave me one for T1 and T2.  I was hustling and didn't want to stop, so I threw it in there and decided to read it at my darkest mile.  It totally came in to play later on in the ride.  Don't I have a crazy awesome wife?  She's amazing, and I couldn't have done this without her.  After leaving transition, I saw my brother-in-law, Trevor, and his wife, Wyntre.
Low Res from Finisherpix
The first 10 miles or so are super flat, and it is hard not to kill it there.  I just listened to my legs and just spun easy through there.  I was averaging about 20mph.  There were several nasty holes in the road, but I had ridden it already, so I knew where they were.  I did see one guy crash pretty hard right behind me.  I think he was alright.
Low Res from Finisherpix
The course gets hilly and has a nasty out-and-back section where there were several accidents.  I stayed in the saddle for this entire time and for the first 80 miles, for that matter.  My goal was to drink one 24oz bottle of water, the 16oz water chamber in my aero bottle and part of my Powerade before the first aid station...and I did that!  I was spot on for my nutrition throughout the ride.  I drank and drank and drank and drank!  There was no way that my day was going to end because I was dehydrated.

At mile 40, the course goes through a viewing area in the town of LaGrange.  Jennifer, Caffrey, Trevor and Wyntre had driven out there and met up with Tom and Colleen and Abigail Kingery who had driven up especially to cheer me on.  It was so awesome to see them all there!  I stopped just for a few seconds to snag a kiss from the wife and to say "hi" to everyone else.  They were the best crew EVER!!!
Low Res pic from Finisherpix
Around this time, I passed a girl who yelled, "Smitty?"  I turned around to see Coy Martinez.  She had just recently signed up to do Ironman Louisville as her first Ironman.  We chatted it up and tried to spin to save the legs.  For some reason, I ended up dropping her, but I would see her later.  I started the second loop and stopped at the Special Needs bags to get my second Powerade.  Erika, had told me a special trick to freeze it and wrap it in tin foil to keep it cold.  It was PERFECT and tasted SO good!!  Thanks for the tip!!!  I saw my dad and grandpa, and the rest of the cheering team in LaGrange on the second loop and that's about the time everything started to be questionable.  My legs were TIRED!  What happened?  I had ridden the course exactly how I had planned.  I hadn't pushed it.  I had done my nutrition exactly how I needed it.  I was worried.

Coy caught back up to me, and I could barely hang with her.  As we came up to an aid station, she encouraged me to get some ice.  I stopped and took several minutes to stuff ice in my shorts to sit on my quads to help them relax.  Just that ice water on my face and neck felt really good.  It was 90+ degrees outside, although I didn't really notice it being that hot.  Soon after the ice stop, I couldn't hang with Coy, and she dropped me pretty easily.  Guess what?  It was mile 80, and that was when I was supposed to throw down the hammer, right?  Nope!  Not for me.  My legs were toasted, and it was really frustrating!!!  I had done what I was supposed to, but it wouldn't be my day to throw down a really good bike split.  I was sitting up more and just trying to get home.  One thing that didn't leave my face was my smile.  There was no way I was going to drop into a bad attitude!
Low Res from Finisherpix
The last 32 miles were really tough.  I was getting passed by everyone, and it was all I could do to just keep pedaling and try to save the ride.  My computer reset itself, so I had no idea exactly how much further I had to go.  It was about this time that I decided to open up that card from Jennifer.  She had written a super sweet message and it had a picture of the whole family in there.  It was AWESOME and got me the rest of the way back.  Finally, I rolled into transition and new that the run was going to be super tough!  My bike average ended up being a super slow 15.59mph.  In hindsight, I think I would have just gone out hard on the bike to try and have a decent bike time that I know I could have done instead of trying to save my legs for the run.

The bike catchers were cool and grabbed my back and racked it for me.  I made my way to the changing tent to see guys throwing up, some just collapsed in chairs, some trying to get fluids in them.  It was pretty sad.  I took my time to change (15 minutes), and made sure I had everything.  Then it was on to the "run."

Thanks for reading!!  I'll give the run report tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Swim

Tuesday, August 27, 2013  at 10:13 PM
"Matthew Smith.  You Are An IRONMAN!!!!"
Those words are still ringing in my ears.  I could hear that every day!  What an incredible experience.  What a day to be alive.  What a bucket-list check mark, an accomplished goal, a completed dream.  And I can't stop being overwhelmed by the support that I have felt from friends, family, my church, bloggers and even strangers!  It seriously chokes me up every time I think about how many people were tracking and cheering and watching that finish line as I completed the 2013 Ironman Louisville.  Incredible!!!  

But to not make this post so incredibly long, I'll split the weekend up into three separate posts - Swim, Bike and Run.  And to start off this swim post, I'll give you a little bit of pre-race activities too.

Josh and Brittany Woods, came up to Atlanta to stay at our house Thursday night.  I had borrowed a church member's van (Thanks, Scott!) so that the trip would be more enjoyable.  Bright and early on Friday morning, we woke up and loaded the van with all the triathlon gear that we had and hit the road for the long, 7-hour journey.  We had to get there and be registered by 5pm, or we wouldn't be racing on Sunday.  

We got to registration at the Galt House at about 4pm and even made it in time to buy those super cool Ironman shirts that have your name on the back.  That's cool!  I ended up with a very easy-to-say number that I yelled a dozen times on race day.  I love that my name is on it, plus, I enjoyed cheering for other athletes by name.

After registering, we drove a couple blocks to the Brown Hotel which turned out to be the perfect spot to stay.  It not only was a really nice hotel, but it was ON the run course which was perfect for spectators.  We all were hungry, so we strolled a couple blocks down and ended up at Fourth Street Live, which is the finish line area too!
2 future Ironmen!
After a decent night's rest, we got up and checked out the swim start.  I had missed the memo that I needed to bring my swim cap in order to swim, so I just put my hand in the water to see how warm it was, and it was perfect!  Normally, the Ohio river is blazing hot during this week, but because of our unusually cold summer, the temperature of the river was 82*, which was wetsuit legal.  I had pretty much made my decision before we even got there, but after putting my hand in the water, there was no question.  I would NOT be wearing a wetsuit.  This decision might have saved my day!

As we left the swim start, there was a group of people that were having a worship service right there near the transition area, and Jennifer and I decided to stay and praise the Lord with them.  It was really cool...especially since we normally worship on Saturday.  Pretty cool!  

The rest of the day was fairly relaxing and included a picnic by the river with the family.  My dad and grandpa had come up to cheer for me too.

We dropped our bikes off at transition, and that was the last I'd see of Clifford for the night.  I let some air out of the tires as it was easily over 90*, and I didn't want those babies to pop!

We ate a really good carb-loaded meal at The Old Spaghetti Factory and then went to bed pretty early.  Race day was coming!  I slept with earplugs and didn't hear Caffrey the whole night!  Jenn was such a trooper trying to help me get as much sleep as possible, which meant her not getting as much.  Man, I love that girl!!!

At 4:00am, the alarm was supposed to go off.  I had woken up at 3am and had just laid there in excitement and anticipation.  It was Race Day!!!  I made some scrambled eggs on our electric skillet and had a bagel with peanut butter.  It was delicious!  We headed for transition and got everything ready.  The valve on my rear wheel's tube was really short, and I freaked out as I tried to pump it up and it wouldn't.  Thankfully, the guy next to me and a longer valve extender that I borrowed and worked like a charm.  Josh and I got separated on the long walk to the swim start.  It was roughly a mile up the road at a place called Tumbleweeds.  Once I got marked, I got in line...the porta potty line!  It lasted forever!  And this was frustrating since every second in that line meant I wasn't spending that time in the swim start line.  Ironman Louisville is a unique start in that there is a massive line that forms and athletes jump in as they get to the water.  There is no mass swim start.  After taking care of business, I started the walk which was at least another mile to where it finally ended and I started to wait.  I heard the canon go off for the pros at 6:50am, and then I heard the second canon go off at 7:00am.  We still had a long wait before our day would start.  

We got a last family picture and then began the long walk to the start.

Finally, we got there and everything started!!  Here's the video of the swim start that my dad shot.  Can you tell that he's nervous for me? 

The swim was AWESOME!  It took me a minute to chill out and start really swimming.  There weren't too many beatings from other swimmers.  I did have to find a little open water, but once I found it, I was cruising.  The swim course goes up and around Toehead Island before turning back with the current and flowing back to Louisville.
It took FOREVER to get past the island!!!  Once we rounded the turn bouy, I really got in a groove and started going faster.  As I got to the exit, one of the volunteers who was chest-deep in the water offered me her hand.  I grabbed it, but wasn't quite close enough, so I gave one last kick, but my foot smashed into the railing that went deep into the water.  Although I'm not in this picture, here's what the swim exit looked like.
OUCH!  It instantly swelled up and turned black and blue.  No worries.  I wasn't going to let that stop me.  I got out of the water, grabbed some water to drink, hustled into transition and got out to see that my swim had been 1:20!  I was shooting for 1:30, so that was an instant 10 minute bonus.  My transition had been fast too, so I was stoked about my time!  And that's about when I stopped worrying about my time for the day.

With the swim done, I was off on the bike for a 112 mile victory ride.  I'll do my best to post it tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ironman Predictions

Wednesday, August 21, 2013  at 7:03 PM
As you can tell, life has been full of everything else other than blogging, but I thought I would at least give out some predictions of what I think will happen on Sunday when I finally get to the day I've been waiting for...Ironman Race Day!!!  What a day it is going to be!

I Predict... that Sunday will be the hardest and most rewarding day of my entire life.

I Predict... that although it is going to be tough, I will keep a smile on my face throughout the race (mostly) :)

I Predict... that I will have the greatest cheering crew out there including Jennifer, Caffrey, Dad and Grandpa Smith, Trevor and Wyntre Stout (Jenn's bro and wife), Tom and Colleen Kingery, Brittany Woods, Neil Arnold, and countless others tracking online and cheering from different states.

I Predict... that I'll be able to see them all very clearly, because they'll be wearing THESE babies!!!

I Predict... that there will be something that happens that I didn't expect, didn't plan for, or didn't want to happen, and I will adjust, be flexible, and go with it!

I Predict... that there will be a whole lot of people that finish in front of me, but there'll be a bunch behind me too.

I Predict... that I'll make a ton of new friends, especially out on the run course.

I Predict... that I will see Josh Woods, Karen Whitlock, David Brannon, or Keith Shoemaker out on the course somewhere, although I'm pretty sure that they all will be waiting at the finish line by the time I get there.

I Predict... that it is going to be hot.  REALLY HOT, but I'm ready for that and will continually be drinking!!

And here are my PREDICTIONS for my race splits.

          SWIM: 1 hour 30 minutes
               I'm a slow swimmer, and I'm just going to take my time.  This is the smallest part of the day, and there is no need to blow up because of a cooked swim.
One of the most unique Ironman swim starts...
          TI: 10 minutes
               Again, why hurry?  I want to make sure I don't forget anything.

         Bike: 6 hours 34 minutes
               So here is the big question.  To get this time, I'll average 17mph.  I know I can go a whole lot faster, but I don't want to pop on the run, so I think it's in my best interest to back it down and take it easy.  That being said, if I'm feeling good, I wouldn't mind averaging faster.  We'll see what happens!

It's a beautiful course full or horse farms.
          T2: 8 minutes
               I'm changing at both transitions, so it might take me quite a bit of time.  Plus, there could be some stretching at this one.  It's only 26.2 miles left, right?

          Run: 5 hours
               I don't enjoy running usually, and I doubt I'll enjoy it any more after doing 2/3 of an Ironman.  So, let the death shuffle begin!  The plan is to run between the aid stations as far as I can go.  I've got a bunch of Ironfans that may or may not hop out on the course to run (walk, let's be real!) a little bit with me.

Finish line on 4th Street Live!!!
And Lastly, I Predict... that at the end of the day, I WILL be an IRONMAN!!!!!

Thank you to all that have supported me through this whole journey.  We've got one very very long day until it's done.  If you would like to track me, my bib number is #1456, or you can search for Matthew Smith in the 30-34 age group.  This is my first race in that group!  Yikes!  I'm getting old!!!