Of all the training I've done, of all the miles I've logged, of all the sweat I've poured, pounds I've shed, last Saturday's ride on the Ironman Louisville course had to have been the most productive, the most painful, the most amazing.
Let me start by saying that preparing for 112 mile ride knowing that the heat and humidity was going to be brutal was the most difficult of all preparations. Convincing your mind to accept the fact that for some seven hours the body was going to be submitted to some extreme conditions was a task above comprehension.
The training ride was a non-sanctioned ride organized by Bob of the Ironman Louisville group on iamtri. A total of 127 riders showed up and rode the 112 mile course (some opted for the one loop around La Grange which gave them an 88 mile ride). It was extremely well supported with sag vehicles and plenty of rest stops with hydration and nutrition available. Thanks to Bob and the other volunteers that stepped up to help us have a terrific day.
The ride started non eventful and on time; 9:30am. Waves of 25-30 riders were sent at a time due to the fact that this would be an open course and for safety purposes, smaller number of riders together would be ideal.
I'm going to spare you turn by turn details of the ride. This would serve no purpose. What I will tell you is that once on Hwy 1694 the fun began. This is the one and only out-and-back part of the course. A tremendously fast downhill was upon us in no time. Quickly I realized (as did most everyone not familiar with the course) that this same hill would be waiting for us on the way back. And it did.
If you have not been on this course all I can tell you is that you need to be prepared, well prepared to climb. According to my Garmin, the total elevation gain for the day was 4004 feet! That's a bunch of climbing. Hill after hill after hill. They never end, they go on forever. The loops around La Grange were the toughest, in my opinion. The first loop tougher than the second because you didn't know what was in front of you. The second loop was still tough but more manageable because in your mind, you were ready for what was in front of you. Someone on the iamtri group estimated that some 70% of the course is hills. I don't know I would argue with that.
Here's what the elevation looks like:
My total mileage for the day was only 109 miles. That's because we did not start or finish at the official IM transition spot.
As you can see by the elevation graph, the beginning and the end are the only areas where you will get a reprieve from the hills. A welcome sight as you're coming home.
The heat and humidity did not disappoint. Just as predicted it was hot and it was humid. Air temperature for the day was 95, heat index was 107! Yeah, it was miserable. But like it or not, it was probably the best conditions we could have asked for for a training ride. Louisville in August tends to be extreme. Better to train in similar conditions. Train for the worst, expect the best. Right?
Dehydration for several was a problem. I felt it towards the end. Nutrition was also an issue. There came a point when nothing would go down. The heat seems to have that affect on me. I just didn't feel like eating much after mile 70ish. I forced myself to, but did not eat what I should have.
There are a lot of things I took with me from this training ride. First, this course is not to be underestimated. It is hard. Period.
Second, I am blessed to be able to train in hilly terrain. Not sure I could have done what I did Saturday if I hadn't. For the remainder of my training, I will search for and climb as many hills as possible.
Third, I will practice nutrition and hydration... more and better.
Fourth, I will pace my ride. It's very easy to get caught up in the moment and kill it during those first 12-15 miles, but I will pace myself.
"A world of hurt" is how my friend Skip described his ride. "The toughest thing I've ever done" was my reply.
34 days left. IM Louisville is just around the corner!