July 14, 2012
Cardinal Half Ironman
With less than a week to go before the race the rumor mill started the race director could not get the race permits to hold the race in the City of Louisville as planned. We were supposed to have the swim in the Ohio River and the covered the bike course in Louisville proper. Entrants were not sure the Cardinal Half Ironman distance race would occur though in a pre-race e-mail and in traffic on a triathlon bulletin board stated the race would happen. Just uncertain as to where. Then, days before the race, the site moved 30 miles outside of town to Taylorsville Lake State Park.
The county’s Sheriff Staff, state park personnel and USAT employees worked together with the race director to make the race happen. Which was great. As the extra effort was lost on most of the participants in what it takes to get these races to happen. Of course, you need the competitors for the money and word of mouth advertising for future races.
Chris and the girls joined me and we stayed on the east side of Louisville near the original planned race site. At check-in I met Larry Brown, a fellow triathlete, who I asked for a ride out to Taylorsville the next morning. He was accommodating and appreciated the company. This allowed my family support crew to get an additional hour of sleep and a sit down breakfast before the race started.
Both girls and Chris were involved early on in my triathlons either through training, traveling, volunteering, or competing. This still continues with the young women now competing in their 20’s and me in my 50’s. Their busier and in more competition than me. Collectively they compete in swimming, gymnastics, dance, basketball, volleyball, softball, skiing, and soccer. Chris and I went as spectators, sometimes traveling to overnight locations. While these locations were nice, and the girls talked glowing of the events, rarely do memories not resurface to return on vacation to these spots compared to what we experienced during triathlon racing.
We enjoyed a pre-race dinner at the Captain's Quarters restaurant east of Louisville on the banks of the Ohio River. A year ago to the day, the table we sat at inside was underwater from the Ohio River that rose above its banks and flooded the place. The river’s shoreline today was a good 20 feet vertically below and 75 feet away from where we sat. Pictures of the previous year’s flood hung in the lobby of the restaurant. The tenacity of the owners to resurrect the business, combined with its loyal customers spending, continued to provide living proof of the resiliency of Americans and the entire human race.
The swim was a non-wetsuit legal race with the water temperature 80°F with good visibility and smooth swim conditions. The swim was uneventful at this low key race. No one complained but more people wanted to swim in a wetsuit than just a swimsuit.
This was about the most remote race I did when biking on paved roads. Half-way through the bike course on a relative short turn off of the main road we rode by a property that was three to four acres of land and a house. Across the driveway near its entrance was a “No Trespassing” sign with a gun symbol attached to a chain hanging two feet above the pavement. I didn’t want to get a flat tire there or want to stop to relieve myself in a nearby wooded area. Just seeing the unwelcomed sign unnerved me as I almost peed in my bike shorts from fear.
On a more upbeat note at one point I rode by four live turtles sunning on a log sticking out of a roadside pond. A racer passed about me a couple of minutes later asked if I saw the turtles. I responded yes then asked him if he saw the two dead birds a mile back along the road. He did. At least the racers were observant. That made me feel more comfortable from a safe riding point of view. However for the drivers and residents of the area, no one in the countryside paid attention to us whether in a car or working in their yard. No waves, honks, or stares. To them, this Saturday morning was business as usual. I wanted to be sure my bike didn’t get in their way of usual or I figured I would be like one of the birds, dead and ignored as some unsurprising road kill of the day.
Rolling hills dominated the landscape on the forever undulating 56 mile bike loop. Big hills. Not mountains but hills the glacier from the previous ice age never made it down to flatten. These hills were too far west to be part of the Appalachian Mountain range. But what they lacked in height put competitors in pain. Leg straining hills. Rollers. The hills dished out pain to the legs like body blows do to a boxer. The accumulation of strain and exertion added up to some tired bodies by the time the bike leg finished and the run leg began.
While the race director did not set up many aid stations, nor get many volunteers, he made up for it in the quality. In the town of Mason, an older couple served as great volunteers. If I stop racing these guys will be my motivation and role models in how to participate and contribute as a volunteer.
I received non-stop encouragement from Chris, Hayes, and Caroline as I rolled down the steep hill into the transition area. And more shouts of encouragement from them when starting the run leg up the steep incline out of transition. At the start of the run I experienced dehydration, exhaustion, a pounding headache, and lost my peripheral vision. I was in a world of hurt. After that, my vision and memory got fussy.
The run course was a couple of laps in the open area of Taylorsville State Park well above the reservoir. Few spectators walked up from the transition area to watch the run. Many went to their air conditioned vehicles to stay cool and waited for the return of their favorite racer.
The race was originally supposed to start in the Ohio River at 8am. The race director changed the start time to 7am because of the expected sunny skies early, high temperatures and humidity by midday. Then as the race swim location moved out to Taylorsville Lake State Park the race start moved back to 8am. The change required us to race an hour longer under harsh weather conditions. Temps reached 89°F and 71% humidity. Also, many racers competed in a rain shower that started after 1pm.
The cumulus clouds starting rolling in and played peek-a-boo with the sun behind the clouds. Because of limited vision I would put my sunglasses on top of my head when the sun went behind the clouds, then when the sun reappeared, I put them on normally to cut down on the glare that penetrated my eyes. I lost my sunglasses when I stopped and bent over to rest and try to recover. I could not find them. I stopped several times in hopes to cool off and find some type of lost fuel reserve to keep going. Unfortunately for the second half-iron man distance race in a row, I failed to get enough calories and fluids in me to be competitive.
At one point on an ad hoc rest break on the run, I saw on the ground the black shadows of wide wing spans thrown by a flock of vultures circling about a hundred feet above me. They seemed to be waiting for any runner who might pass out and become their calories for the day. I found enough motivation to keep going. I started running again making the final ascent to the parking lot at the edge of the dock in the reservoir.
With some final cheers from Chris and the girls I finished. This was the first time I finished in more than 5 hours in a half IM distance race. I dropped to the pavement out of range of the finish line and laid on my back. The hot pavement melted some of the muscle soreness in my back and calves. Then rain started falling on my face, stomach, and front side of my legs. The contrast of a wet and cool front to hot and dry on my back, with my weary body in between, provided a physical sensation I never experienced before or since. Kind of hot and cool, wet and creepy.
Chris provided some top notch coaching after the race. Chris, is also a registered nurse. She practices tough love with me. She ignores my complaints of pains. She knows everything I do is preventable if I trained and raced with reasonableness. She provided no sympathy to me when hurting from racing or training at non-sustainable levels. She does dispense some top notch coaching after races. After the race she said: “Would you go five hours without eating during the day at work or on a weekend? “No!’ Then why would you race for five hours without eating anything?” You dummy!
On the drive up to Indianapolis we listened to a radio program honoring the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birthday. One of the kids’ favorite songs since moving from Seattle was “This Land is Your Land”. They enjoyed any version they heard from Kidsongs’ to Bruce Springsteen’s. And always my favorite patriotic song to sing from our song book in elementary school. For the past 26 years I raced tris from the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters, on her sparkling sands and in her diamond deserts, I raced under her endless skyway and above her golden valley. The whole family fully enjoyed this great land of ours!
Results: 10th overall. 2nd in age group.