I’m An Ironman! My Ironman Louisville 2009 Race Report

spence-smith-ironman-louisville-finishWell… it’s almost been a week since the Ironman Louisville 2009 and I’m just now posting about it. I never realized how out of it I would be after the race. I mean… yes right after covering 140.6 miles by water bike and foot I knew I would be operating on no brain, but a few days after? My body was toast I tell you!

So coming into the weekend after taking a much needed physical, mental and digital vacation, I’m way more coherent and able to talk in complete sentences. (My writing grammar might still need some work though…)

I knew I needed this break but I had no idea how much I really needed it until now, nor did I realize how energized I would be as I am now.

Pre Race Weekend

On Friday, my training buddies and I made our way up to Louisville to get weighed in and get our race packets. That night I went to the athlete’s dinner and met up with my dear friend Dan Perkins. This was Dan’s 10th Ironman. You can read about his day here. Getting to know Dan over the past year has been awesome and to experience this weekend with him cheering me on made the race even better. Every time we sat down for a meal or hung out, he was giving me all kinds of tips, things to remember and loads of encouragement. Some people are built to inspire and Dan inspires me. Just hanging out with him gives me something to work for in so many areas of my life… I’m particularly excited about this next year because of some things I learned during my time with Dan… and during the race.

Throughout the whole weekend in Louisville, I kept running into tri friends, getting messages from family and friends and feeling the excitement build for Sunday morning with every hour. It was awesome having such a support group there to cheer for me… they carried me through every last mile.

When Saturday came it was time for a little practice swim in the not so clean Ohio River. Dan and I swam for about 20 minutes. We got a good feel and drink for what was to come the next morning. That water was just vlear enough for me to see the end of my arm. Literally.

After the swim, it was time for a little breakfast and then off to get my bike ready to turn it in to the Ironman people later that day. About 11am Dan and I drove the bike course. We got to see all of it and I have to say… Even though I trained a lot on the hilly Natchez Trace, I was nervous looking at these hills. Yikes!!! Up and down… up and down!!!

After a good drive up and down and more tips from Dan, I went for one more massage. Boy did that feel great!

Late Saturday afternoon I turned in my bike/race clothes and went off to dinner. What did I eat you ask? Spaghetti and Meatballs! It was perfect!

Time for some fun!
Time for some fun!

Sunday morning came with an alarm… set for 4am. I got up and started eating right away so I could get most of my food digested before I jumped in the water.

I got the transition area EARLY that morning. Around 5am. Checked my bike one more time, found Dan and we walked to the swim start… it was about a mile walk. By the time we got there it was close to 6am and dark out still. We lined up and waited for the 7am start. I was in the water by 7:30am.

The Swim

Just before I got in the water, Dan gave me a couple of good words of encouragement and he looked at me with eyes that said… “it’s here… the time has come… have a good race and a great day…I’m proud of you…”I was in tears when I jumped in the water. I couldn’t believe it was here…

Once I jumped in, I took note of other swimmers around me and tried to figure out how I was going to navigate thru passing some of them. You have to know, that with so many people swimming there are going to be people swimming up on you and you will swim up on them, bump into them, grab their ankles by mistake and get grabbed yourself…sometimes you get a hand in a very unsuspecting place or your hand lands in someone else’s unsuspecting place by mistake… oops! There were a couple of moments in the swim when I had to slow down because of the congestion of swimmers around me, but once I found a good path and caught a good rhythm I was off and swimming. When I got to the end I couldn’t believe it. I just swam 2.4 miles… I mean… I did that in practice but this time it was for real.

The Bike

Still having fun... mile 68.
Still having fun... mile 68.

When I got out of the water I saw my friends cheering me on as I ran into the transition area to get my bike clothes on. Once I got on my bike I saw my family and friends again… I wouldn’t see them for another 40 miles. As I was getting into the bike portion, I took my time catching my breath and trying to calm down the adrenaline a bit so I wouldn’t waste my legs. I couldn’t believe how fresh I felt or how fresh my legs felt. I never felt this good coming out of an Olympic distance tri!!(1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run)

I found a good pace on the bike and I kept at it. Saw family and friends at mile 40 then again at mile 68. By the time I got to mile 50 or so I was starting to really feel the day on me. I ate and drank when I needed to, listened to my body and calculated my time as I went.

As I finished the bike ride, I couldn’t believe it… I finished the bike. 112 miles done and 26.2 miles of running to go. In my mind the finish was just ahead but my body said something completely different.

The Run

As I came into the run I was famished! Someone had discarded an uneaten… UNOPENED PB and jelly sandwich in the transition area so I grabbed it and ate it on my way out of the transition tent onto the run course.

At mile 13 of the run. Still smiling, still having fun... but in a world of hurt!
At mile 13 of the run. Still smiling, still having fun... but in a world of hurt!

I felt like I had shot my legs a bit on the last few miles coming in and now my stomach, so I walked the first mile to calm down and figured out what was going on with my legs. Running and never been so hard.

All I could think was… “the ride was hard but this run is going to hurt.”

I finally mustered up enough energy to start running after the food settled some and took on a slow trot… really slow. I started calculating my finish time and if I would make the cut off time for the run. It was the toughest part of the day. My body said… “I know you have the finish in your site but you need to know this is going to take me a while so don’t get in a hurry….” Fair enough. Your call.

SO… I took my sweet time…I felt every step… but I finished!!

By the end of the day I burned over 15,000 calories. During the race I ate gels, a pack of pringles, a couple of bananas, a PB/J sandwich, water, sports drinks and some chicken broth. (the next two days of eating solid food again was a little rough… Too much info for sure.)

My Brain…

Remember those ads… this is your brain on crack? Yep… that’s what my brain seemed like… well, I’ve never done crack but you get the picture… I was fried.

It’s like this…

You train your body to carry you through what your mind wants to accomplish. 140.6 miles. My body hurt in places I never knew existed, I cried at times and I laughed…talk to people and hoped to encouraged a few along the way. But the whole race was a test of determination. Determined to not let my mind say stop to my body… but to set the goal of finishing so clear in my brain that quitting just wouldn’t even be an option. I’m truly amazed at what our bodies can handle, but even more amazed at the power of the mind.

When I finally made it to the finish line, I soaked up every step of the finish line shoot, (I had already crossed the finish line in my mind a thousand times) As I ran through I heard and saw my support group… and then I heard what I had been wanting to hear for soooo long.

“From Franklin Tennessee… SPENCE SMITH!!!! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!!”

With my arms raised like Rocky and tears in my eyes I crossed the finish line like I was the first finisher of the day.

I still can’t believe I did it. I really can’t… But I did… and you know what I learned? A LOT!!! But the big thing I learned was this…

You can do this too.

No… for some of you it might not be the actual Ironman race, but it might be something completely impossible to you like the Ironman was for me. I never thought in a million years I would do this impossible task. But I did….and what was once impossible…is now possible.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends, family, co workers, and my very dearest of close friends. I had the help of a few great coaches and friends to train with….but maybe in your case, you have friends to walk thru life with and the helpful guidance of someone who has gone before you in your impossible task at hand… that will one day be possible.

So… to my friends and family-thank you…. Thank you twitter friends, blog friends, and facebook friends… thank you to my Compassion family, my Franklin and Frisco Campus family for your prayers and encouragement.

Thanks to all of you who followed my progress all day… from Vancouver, WA to Napa Valley, Colorado Springs, Nashville, Franklin, Frisco, Dallas, London, Cairo, Israel and wherever else you were following along from.

Thanks to my very best of friends… I’ve never felt so much support and love.

This experience will bring many blog posts and topics of discussion along the way…

What’s next you ask?

Oh… there’s more to come… I have a few more goals in place now:)

But what’s next for you? – that’s the real question…

Do you want to make the impossible possible? Do you have something you want to conquer in life? What is going to be your Ironman?

There’s never a better time than now….


The views expressed here are those of a personal nature and do not reflect the corporate view of my employer or anyone else who employee my services.
  • http://www.ChrisGoegan.com Chris Goegan

    Awesome!!! There's nothing like that feeling before you get to the shoot on your first Ironman eh?!!! Such an emotional moment. Such an emotional time. Congrats!!!. You have accomplished what few will ever attempt. Welcome to the Ironman family


    • Mary Graham

      WOW! This was a fantastic summary — you made it seem like we were there. We're all so proud of you, Spence. You're amazing — and a model for us all. The impossible has never felt so manageable. Thanks for the inspiration. You're the first IRONMAN I've ever known. I think you're wonderful!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander


    Great post. Glad to have you back in the digital world. An awesome goal that you achieved. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • http://www.kacibolls.com Kaci Bolls

    I am a little teary-eyed reading this! You're the little drummer boy that COULD! ;)
    Seriously….you are a true inspiration. A true friend. And the captain of the cheering squad for so many of us. (but without the skirt…) Thankyou for letting us all cheer from cypberspace while you had your Rocky moment. Love you!

  • http://melindalgroth.blogspot.com/ Melinda

    Congratulations! You've shown focus and tenacity, discipline and will-power, commitment and enthusiasm.

    Since you asked: My 'Ironman' isn't an athletic challenge. It is the goal of getting my adult (disabled) daughter able to be as independent as possible. It takes those same 6 traits, though…infused with lots of prayer.

  • Amy Fry

    What an incredible mountain you climbed! Was so cheered when the tweets came in you'd done it!!! And you're right, if you can do what YOU thought was impossible, then I can do something I've been thinking is impossible. I thank you, sincerely, for your honest, heartfelt inspiration. (I'll let you know when I get MY mountain climbed)

  • http://Randyelrod.TypePad.com Randy

    Wow!!! I am SO very proud of you!!!

  • http://www.sweet-joni.blogspot.com Sweet Joni

    From MN to TN ~ I was so thankful for Randy to keep us posted on Twitter of your Ironman progress! And then the final Tweet came. "Spence Smith is an Ironman!!!" Wow! Amazing Congrats to YOU Spence!!! =) Been looking forward to your blogging of this GREAT Accomplishment & again I'm Amazed with YOU ~ wow! another congrats to YOU for the wonderful detailed writing of the race!!! I've enjoyed following you & as your close friends give you encouragement, you've given me much encouragement [& laughs] on Twitter! An awesome person you are Spence… keep on going forward & know that God is with you every step of the way!!! Again, CONGRATULATIONS IRONMAN SPENCE! =) Hallelujah!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MaureenTA MaureenTA

    What an inspiration u r!!!! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jd.inman J. D.

    You Da' Man! Way to go Spence! What an awesome experience. I am inspired!

  • http://tritwin.blogsport.com Simon

    Nice job Spence, I once said It was rediculous and inconceivable but after 14 Ironmans and 3 more planed for next year then I’m with you, anyone can do this or indeed any other challege they perceive. Great job buddy, you are an IRONMAN. Catch you. On twitter. TriTwins

  • http://danperkins.blogs.com danp

    Spence… I will always remember the look on your face coming into the finish. I was so happy for you and proud of you! Thank you for sharing this memory with me and let me say it again… it can never be taken away. From now on… you will always be an IRONMAN!

  • http://www.theadvocategroup.net Kevin Thompson

    Great job! I signed up for the Louisville Ironman, 2010. I'm excited! I'm from Franklin, as well. Small world.

  • http://www.ziptheusa.com Cindy

    Congratulations on your Ironman accomplishment. Way to face the challenge head on. Thank you for sharing this inspirational story.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JoelSmith JoelSmith

    Spence – Wow! What an incredible feat, (I'm just trying to get back to the GYM). If you're an ironman, I guess that would make me a balsa wood boy. Congrats!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/missyandmusic missyandmusic

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It was fun to follow along. So many of us "out here" are inspired by your example.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/torybee torybee

    Yes, it was quite fun to follow along with the tweets and excitement of your friends. I have enjoyed reading your account. Congratulations on becoming an Ironman!

  • http://thelmabowlen.blogspot.com Thelma Bowlen

    Congratulations, Ironman! Love the new tattoo! :-)

  • Donna Smith

    Spence, there was no one more proud of you than your dad! Awesome experience! We enjoyed the whole week end! Way to go!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonWert JasonWert

    I love that you give so much credit to your friends and supporters through this. Just goes to show how having supportive people around you can help you accomplish things.

    It was exciting to follow your progress all day. Congrats again!

  • http://www.myworshiprevolution.com bobby

    Inspired dude. Have decided recently I wanna do an Ironman someday anyway, but this makes me look forward to it all the more. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/theonlyeL theonlyeL

    Congrats Spence! So proud of you!

  • http://www.discoverlagrange.org Barbara Manley Edds

    How inspirational you are! My name is Barbara Manley Edds, and I am the director for Discover Downtown La Grange. We do the La Grange Loop Ironman Festival here in La Grange, Ky. I cannot tell you how much we love the Ironman and what you represent. I will split this into several messages, since it is way too long.

  • http://www.discoverlagrange.org Barbara Manley Edds

    I uploaded the pictures I took this year on our Facebook page – Discover Downtown La Grange. I have several hundred from the two previous years that I have not added, but I plan to. So, become a Fan of Discover Downtown La Grange and check them out. We also have information about La Grange at http://www.discoverlagrange.org.

  • http://www.discoverlagrange.org Barbara Manley Edds

    I was asked by Oldham County Fiscal Court to give a presentation about how the Ironman benefits our county. Believe it or not, there are a few who feel inconvenienced by the event. If you would like to watch the presentation we gave, you can check it out on http://www.oldhamcounty.net. Click on Fiscal Court, then Fiscal Court Videos, and then September 15 at the 2:00 time slot.

    You are indeed an Ironman, and I loved the question you posed: "what is your Ironman?" Very thought provoking and inspirational. Just reading your words give me hope and courage to believe that anything is possible if one works hard and believes.

  • http://www.discoverlagrange.org Barbara Manley Edds

    I hope your family and friends enjoyed themselves while they were in our little town of La Grange, and we sincerely hope you all will return here next year and all the years to come. Since we have a working railroad running right down our Main Street, we are the place "Where the Ironman meets the Iron Horse".


  • Richard Dyrkacz

    Hello Spence,

    I just signed up to do the Louisville Ironman in 2010. I was looking for reviews of the course and saw your posting. After reading about your race day, I feel so motivated and inspired to do it! Congratulations once again!!!!

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