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!



Thanks for sharing the nitty gritty Matt! I hadn't heard about the foot! You are SUCH a beast! So how did you feel after the swim? Pretty energetic still? Wasted?


Oh, I, Rachel Keele, left that comment :)

kessia reyne

Oh, the anticipation! Can't wait for the next two reports!

I would also like to know all the things Rachel asked about :)

Coy Martinez

I'm happy you had a great swim! It was such a battle for me out there. You're right though, it took forever to get out to that first big red buoy didn't it!!?

The picnic picture is awesome! It's so pretty down there!


1:20!!! That is awesome - great job! Even though the foot was black and blue, I am glad you were able to continue on.

Loved the pics! I cannot wait to read about the rest of your day!

it's all about pace

first of all congratulations Ironman...

so... was the swim "downstream"? I need to know :-)


I'm super excited to able to read about your entire day! I am so incredibly proud of you and Josh. What a huge accomplishment!!!!! Seriously, you are my hero.

I can't believe you hurt your foot during the swim and still managed to finish. What a rock star.


Woohoo, 10 minutes in the bank is awesome!! Well done on the swim. Super happy for you and the Ironman title, btw (as if I didn't mention it a time or 5 on FB :)).

Jeff Harper

Matt! I haven't said much on FB or here, but I too have been following everything and I just want to say you are the man! I am looking forward to reading the next blog posts; you and Josh both inspired me to start exercising regularly again:)

Ironman By Thirty

"I made some scrambled eggs on our electric skillet" - Awesome! This is what I did at IMWI! haha

Wow. I knew the start was a TT, but I had not idea what it would look like. Glad your dad got that video.

Did you cannon ball into the water?

Great work on the swim!!!

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