Amy Gluck, MS, RD, CPT

Registered Dietitian
Certified Personal Trainer
5 time USA Triathlon All-American
5 time Kona Qualifier
Boston Marathon Qualifier

Louisville 2009

“I Came Here to Run a Marathon”

We decided to leave for Louisville early and arrive on Wed night. I expected to feel the surge of nerves and adrenaline as soon as we pulled into town. This was not the case, but registration should be a different story. Our hotel was great. I could see the finish line from my window. We stayed at the Hyatt on Jefferson, less than one block from the finish line. I would definitely stay there again if I came back to race LV.

Mark, James and I were at registration as soon as it opened on Thurs morning. We weighed in, picked up our packets, and went for a practice swim in the Ohio River. I registered for IMLV despite the swim. I was not too excited about the polluted water, it being non-wetsuit legal, swimming against the current, or the time trial start. After our practice swim, I was starting to feel much differently about the swim. I loved the warm water temp and the water didn’t seem much worse than any other open water. Plus, no sharks! Thursday afternoon, I did a fast 2 mile run just before the rest of our posse arrived.

Friday was a rest day, no training, feet up…..except for a quick trip down to the expo….I HAD to, it’s Ironman! We went to the Welcome Dinner and got to bed early. Saturday morning, we all met up early and biked a few miles up River Rd. to check out the rough railroad track crossing that we were warned about at the Athlete’s Meeting. I planned my line across the tracks and went though the gears – check. Everything was in working order. Next, we headed down to the practice swim. A few strokes out and back and I was done with my swim prep. We ate a good breakfast and then I headed out for a quick run. Everything was going well…..except for the fact that I still wasn’t nervous and I didn’t FEEL like I was going to do an Ironman the following day. That was nerve wracking in itself! We all met up and again later and headed down to transition to drop off our gear and bikes. A few of us split off from the group for the pre-race dinner. For me, it’s standard and tradition: Subway….practiced many times pre-race.

RACE DAY MORNING

We got up at 4:00am and I started eating my breakfast which is usually a bowl of cereal and Clif bar. My stomach just wasn’t feeling right, it wasn’t nerves, it was “female issues.” I couldn’t get the Clif Bar down. We got our stuff together and met our posse at 4:30 to head down to transition. My sister was the best race support ever. She headed down to the swim start and secured us a spot in line at 5:00am while we headed into transition. I got body marked, had my tires pumped up by race support, and put my nutrition on my bike. Then, we started the long trek down to the swim start.

We had a great spot in line, right near the front – Kendi ROCKS! She collected bike pumps ect. and headed out to find a good spectator spot on the deck of Tumbleweed’s. I managed to get down the Clif Bar 1 hr. before the start, but this was probably a mistake. My stomach still wasn’t doing well and this just aggravated it further. Finally, they started herding us down the ramp to the docks. It was in the 50’s and we were stripped of our morning clothes bags as we headed down the ramp. Burrr, I was wasting a lot of energy shivering. We watched the pro start as I contemplated the day ahead. All I could think was, “I don’t feel like doing an Ironman today” and “I’m still not nervous, I wonder what that means.”

SWIM

As the gun went off, we ran down the dock and jumped into the water. We started in the first minute or two. (Again – thanks Kendi!!) I really liked this swim start. I was starting with all of my friends and it wasn’t too crowded at all. I found a line in some open water quickly and headed straight for the buoys. I was really nervous about swimming against the current, but this was not a problem at all. They had closed the dam and the current was basically non-existent.

I swam up to the turn around buoy which wasn’t even congested. Heading back, I was alone for the most part. My goggles were starting to fog up and I was having a hard time spotting the buoys. I was following splashes and hoped I would always be close enough to somebody to stay on course. That NEVER happens in an Ironman! During the swim, the sun started to rise and my arms could feel it warming the air. I had to decide what to wear on the bike as I had packed enough in my T1 bag to bike in a snowstorm. (OK, just arm warmers, a windbreaker, and a jersey.) Decisions, decisions…..

Finally, I saw tons of buoys in the near distance. That had to be the swim finish. I swam up to the stairs and looked for the clock. I wanted to finish the swim in under 1:20, ideally 1:15. The clock said 1:24. I remember saying “Crap!” out loud and I quickly decided to shake it off and focus on the bike.

T1

Heading into T1, I still wasn’t sure what to put on for the bike. My helpful volunteer informed me that most people were opting out of the arm warmers. Great info! I put on my socks, shoes, race belt, sunglasses, and aero helmet and headed into the port-a-potty. It was then that I realized that I haven’t used the facilities too many times with my sunglasses and helmet on. It’s a little challenging. I debated before the race as to whether I would use the aero helmet on this course, or not. It was a toss up and I decided to go with it simply because the lack of ventilation. I figured it would keep me a little warmer coming out of the swim and onto the bike.

BIKE

Heading out onto the bike course, the temp was perfect. I didn’t need anything to keep me warm. I hammered down the flat stretch. There was a nice climb up Penn Wolf Dr. and the out onto the main road. It was on this climb that I spotted “Becca” who was in my age group. I knew I had to stay with her and she was clearly a strong cyclist. As we headed out onto 42, the road was quite congested and I knew I had to pass this pack before the big downhill on the out and back. I didn’t want anybody getting in my way on the decent. I was pushing a little harder than I should have at this point, but I had good reason.

Then, all of a sudden, as I was passing the Fire Station, a fire truck came screaming out of the garage. I crunched down on my brakes and missed getting hit by about 5 feet. Didn’t anybody tell them there was a race going on???? I made my turn onto the out and back and scanned the cyclists for females – I saw DP, looking strong. Mostly just pros other than that. The road wasn’t too crowded for the decent, I made it out and back without too many close calls. After the turn around, I could see that Becca was right behind me. I headed back out onto 42 to get out to the start of the first loop.

At this point, my back was absolutely killing me and my stomach still wasn’t feeling right. Mile 25 on the bike was my real low point. I was getting my nutrition down very slowly and my back already felt like I had already completed 100 miles. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make 112. Becca got ahead of me on a climb and I had to let her go. It was a long day. Hopefully I could catch her on the run. We soon hit the town of La Grange around mile 35 and I was starting to feel a little better. I don’t know if it was the crowds that were bussed out to La Grange to cheer us on, or hearing my family yell for me as I flew by, but I seemed to get a second wind. This is also when I spotted Alan Ho’s TIA jersey. Yes, a familiar face. Things were starting to look up for me. As I reached mile 40, I noticed something that gave me another mental edge. I was under 2 hours. I was averaging over 20mph and I was starting to feel BETTER. Could I keep this up until mile 60?

On the backside of the loop, I spotted DP. We chatted for a minute. She informed me that there were 3 female age groupers ahead of us. YES, another mental edge! (And I knew Becca was one of them.) As I was riding, I started thinking about the swim clock. Was that the pro time that I saw as I exited the water (which would add an extra 10 min to my time)? I asked DP about it, but she wasn’t sure. Of course she wouldn’t know, she exits the water WITH the pros and way ahead of me. Who knows what happened in the 15 min between us exiting the swim.

As I flew down 42 towards the turn to start the second loop, I was feeling stronger than ever, but I was still behind on my nutrition. I finally forced down my Mile 40 Clif Bar by Mile 50. As I made the turn to start the second loop, there was Becca, right in front of me and I hit mile 60 sub 3 hours. YES, another huge mental edge. The course was extremely congested at the start of the second loop. At the next aid station, I got caught behind a car, which, for some reason, decided to come to a complete stop in the middle of the road. On the right side of the car was a rider who came to a complete stop at the aid station. I had to slam on my brakes, come to a complete stop, unclip, turn around, go around the car, and pass the car on the other side of the lane. This really got me riled. Now I was on fire!

The second loop seemed to fly by much more quickly than the first. It was now my goal to beat Becca to LaGrange. I did. She passed me again on the stretch back down 42, but I was sub 4 hrs for 80 miles. YES! I was supposed to get another Clif Bar down at mile 80. My stomach was still a mess and that wasn’t going to happen. I was down 2 liters of Gatorade on my nutrition plan as well. I decided to punt and go with a gel at mile 90. It didn’t feel too good in my stomach either and I tried to get down as much Gatorade as I could before the run. I hit the 100 mile mark sub 5 hrs. This was the first time I had ever ridden 100 miles in under 5 hours. I was elated. Only 12 more flat/down hill miles to go. At this point, I decided I didn’t care what happened on the run. I had a better bike split than I had ever dreamed possible and today was a success no matter what happened next.

Becca was still ahead of me and I knew I could take her on the down hills. We still had the ¾ mile downhill stretch of Penn Wolf Dr. around mile 102. I was determined to get ahead of her there and then hold her off on the 10 mile flat stretch back into transition. I pedaled as hard as I could down that hill and passed her about half way down. Luckily, I spoke with the bike course director at the Athlete’s Meeting prior to the race and I knew what to expect at the bottom of that downhill. It was a sharp left turn, but I was able to make it without slowing. I was ahead of Becca and I just hoped she didn’t have a run. Wait, I just hope I DO have a run.

I named this race report “I Came Here to Run a Marathon” because I was really excited to see what I could do on the run. I had PRed my ½ IM run by 13 minutes (1:28) 6 weeks earlier and I was really excited to see how that would translate at Ironman. In the days prior to the race, I couldn’t mentally prepare for the swim and the bike. My mind would automatically fast-forward to the run. However, I hopped off the bike somewhere around 5:30, as far as I knew, much faster than I had anticipated and I was way behind on my nutrition. At this point, I told myself, “You just biked a 5:30, you don’t get to run a 3:30 marathon today.” I wasn’t disappointed; I was still elated about my bike time!

T2
I looked back a few times on that flat stretch back, but I couldn’t even see Becca. Heading into transition, I was with a female pro that I had managed to catch. She and I were the only ones in the changing tent in T2. I changed my shoes, grabbed my visor, and made a quick stop at the port-a-potty.

RUN

Heading out onto the run course, I was trying to see how many females were ahead of me. I spotted mostly pros. However, it was a time trial swim start and we started at the very front. I knew there could be plenty of people behind me that were really ahead. At the first turn around, I spotted Becca, about a minute behind me. I was looking for the first mile marker to gauge my pace. The first mile seemed to last forever. Finally, I came upon Mile Marker 3. Strange. Ok, I can start gauging my pace from here on out. (I wouldn’t find out until after the race that my pace for the first 3 miles was 7:11.) I felt great and I was passing guys. I’d see how long this would last.

At the first few aid stations, my stomach was terribly upset. I took water to try to settle things a bit. I knew I was behind on my nutrition already and I had to start getting some carbs and electrolytes in soon. The fist loop went by fairly quickly. I finally started taking Gatorade around Mile 5. I loved the out and back run course. I spent most of my time scanning the runners coming in the opposite direction for people I knew. I cheered for all of my friends and traded high-fives. The mile markers were about every 2 miles, so I was gauging my pace by averaging the time of the past 2 miles. I was running somewhere in the low 8:00’s. I was happy with that.

I keep forcing down the nutrition. I would take Gatorade at most aid stations. I tried to take a gel with water every 5 miles, and if my stomach couldn’t take anything, I would just drink water. Coming towards the finish to start the second loop, the crowds were cheering. What were they yelling? GO BECCA!?!?! Dang it! I had put some time into her and she was right behind me again. It was time to pick up the pace at Mile 13 even though I hadn’t planned to do so until Mile 18. What does it take to drop this chick???

I was starting to feel the marathon wearing on my legs around Mile 18. I let up to talk to Becca for a minute. I asked if she knew if there was anybody ahead of us. I told her I saw one amateur. She had no idea who was ahead of us. Then she made a comment about not knowing where they started in the swim anyway. She knew something that I wouldn’t find out until much later. Only 8 more miles to go. That’s a lot. I had no idea what my time was, I just knew I was running somewhere between an 8:00 and 8:30 pace. My legs were aching. At Mile 20, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to put myself through this kind of pain again in 6 weeks if I do qualify, NO WAY!” At the turn around, I could see that Becca really backed off after our conversation.

The last 6 miles of the marathon were very painful. I left every aid station feeling like my stomach was going to explode. I just kept plodding along, hoping for the best. As much pain as my stomach was in, it wasn’t holding me back. My legs were in just as much pain. I was counting down the miles, trying to think of something else. Anything else. Just….keep….going.

As I neared the finish line, I could hear the crowds, the music, Mike Riley. I looked at the clock: 10:32! No way! I had no idea where I was time wise. I had screwed up my watch and was lucky I was able to get my mile splits. My goal was to break 11 hours. I thought best case scenario would be just under 10:40. 10:32 was beyond my wildest expectations. I hugged my family and started to make my way out of the finishing chute. BD came by to congratulate me and put the icing on my cake. He said the words I will NEVER forget, he said, “Amy, that’s the pro clock. You finished in 10:22.” WHAT??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I was ecstatic with 10:32 and now I find out that it’s really 10:22! It simply doesn’t get any better than that. I had a great time and a great race in Louisville. The course was great and don’t believe the rumors about the swim, that was great as well.

It turns out the clock I saw coming out of the water was the pro clock. My swim split was 1:14. My bike was a 5:29 (PR by 36 min). My marathon was 3:31(PR of my open marathon by 5 min). Official time: 10:22:02, 2nd in my age group, 3rd female amateur, 11th female overall. It turns out Becca beat me. She came out of the water in 57 min. She was 17 minutes up on me after the swim. I was able to make up 7 minutes between the bike and the run, but she still beat me by 10 minutes. (That’s better than getting beat by 10 sec. though.)

After the race, I got a massage and rehashed the day with my friends while chowing down some of the post-race food. Then, we headed out for a beer, went back for a shower, picked our stuff up from transition and went back down to the finish line for some dinner and to watch the final finishers for a few hours. Monday, we got up early to check out the finishers gear, I claimed my spot to Kona, and we headed to the Awards Banquet. Then, it was time to pack up and head home. On the long ride home, BD called Mark. IM Canada was open online. Did we want to register for next year? We were all on an Ironman high, so of course we were in. Look out Canada!!
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