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 Process Of IronMan Training

ironman1I haven’t written much about my Ironman training lately. Quite honestly, it’s been a bit tough. Between the cold weather for the past few months, travel and work, I’ve had a harder time sticking to the scheduled task at hand. But now that the weather is getting really nice, that will all change.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of what I am going through. Each week I get a work out plan from my coach, but it’s up to me to make it happen. I’m very thankful for the friends I train with and the encouragement we all bring to each other. Especially when most people think this is something I’m doing alone. I’m not sure i could handle this alone, which is why I love training with friends. There’s a core group of us, I would say at least 20 that are connected together. Whether it is swim practice, bike class, weekend rides and runs… we all are trying to do this together is some form or fashion of a schedule.

There are two things I’m learning in this process. The first is learning to prioritize life to make life simple. I have a lot going on and it’s all by choice. So you might wonder what is simple about that? There’s a lot I want to do and in order to get it done, the process has to be efficient. Compassion, blogging, ironman training, etc… it all has it’s place in my life and some of these things are starting to run themselves with a little attention. But in the end… the desired result is to simplify.

The second thing I’m learning is to be mentally prepared. The ironman event is physically taxing, but the real challenge is going to be… can I mentally get through it? There is every opportunity to quit and say this is enough. But… if you learn to think the process through, then the finish line is always in sight.

With these two truths I have learned about myself I have come into a process of planning and preparation. These play a huge role in my training. But it begs the question though .. doesn’t planning and preparation speak true of most things in life? You have to plan and prepare if you want to do well. Especially if you want to hit your goals and realize your dreams.

The more I focus… the more I get done. With everything in my life…

So… as you go into your weekend. What is it that you could plan and prepare for more in your life that would make what you do more focused and more productive?

Ironman Louisville August 30, 2009

Ironman_louisville_kentucky_augus_2
This past weekend I did two major things. I signed up for my first marathon and my first Ironman. For those of you just joining the conversation, an Ironman is a brand of triathlon events where the distances are extremely long. 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.

My ultimate triathlon goal is to do Ironman Louisville a year from now. I signed up for Ironman Louisville today and I’m already starting to plan out the next year! Marathon in November, Half Ironman in May, a few tri’s during the summer and end with Ironman Louisville for next season. Makes sense right? No you say? Sounds crazy? Believe me…it is.

This past Sunday was one of the greatest experiences of a day I have had in a long time. I went with a few ofTri_louisville_3
my tri friends in this picture to Louisville to cheer on a couple of other friends as they swam, biked and ran in their first Ironman. We met up with a few other tri friends which was way more fun than I expected, seeing as we planted ourselves at two tables outside a restaurant that overlooked the finish line. We sat their from 4pm till about 10:30pm. And yes…we tipped our server very well for putting up with us.

I know what it is to train for triathlons and the amount of work that goes into it and if you are some one who can appreciate this amount of effort then you know watching this event is way more than waving a few people on as they race by on a bike or run by with a look of pain on their faces.

Ironman_louisville_bike_transition
As we started out the day checking out the the transition area and watching cyclists arrive back from their 112 mile ride I was immediately in awe and overwhelmed emotionally. First because the concentration on their faces were saying a lot to me and two…this is going to be me one year from now.

When we finished watching the transition from bike to run, we walked over to the finish line which is no where near the transition area for this race. It was nestled right in the middle a block of restaurants off 4th avenue called Fourth Live. It was a perfect place for a finish because it was like running into an outdoor food court with all these people cheering all day and night. As a spectator, you can sit outside while you eat, drink and be merry all while athletes are finishing 140.6  miles of day long endurance.

What I took away from it was this.

First, I’m really excited knowing I’m going to train for this and do it. Second, I’m so glad to be doing thisIronman_louisville_2008_finish
with friends. Third, I’m glad it’s close enough for friends a family to come watch…and last…this year of training is going to be tough and exciting. After watching this event I was overwhelmed with the how big this really is. I’m thankful to be at a place in my life to even try it.

It’s going to be tough. It’s going to hurt. But it’s going to be fun. For those of you wanting to watch something like this, the start time is around 7am and lasts until midnight. Thus the finish line picture at night. Just to give you an idea of what one would experience in a day as a triathlete…in order to get a good starting place in the swim, you should be in the swim line by 5:15am and for someone like me, no matter when I start, it’s going to be night time by the time i finish. So plan to be there for a while!

I’m excited to know I’m doing this before I turn 40.