Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Performance Level Percentages

I have a subscription to a magazine called Running Times. I'm not sure why or how I get it, but once a month it shows up in my mailbox. It has some good articles, but like most magazines I get, I can blaze through it in about 20 minutes. 

I typically save my magazines if I know that I have a trip coming up that involves flying. Having a stack to read through while waiting at the gate or on the plane makes the time go by faster. 

On a recent flight to Cleveland I started reading the October issue of Running Times. I came across an article titled "Advanced Math" by Rachel Toor. The article talked about Performance Level Percentages (PLP). 

Using these percentages is a great way to see how compare with runners your same age. Sure, races have age group categories and you can see how you stack up to people in a 5 year range, but your results will vary greatly depending on what race it is and how many people enter. The author of this article compared using PLP to grading on a curve. I like the comparison.

The PLP formula uses 100% as world-record class. 90-100% is world class; 80-90% is national class; 70-80% is regional class; and 60-70% is local class. Below 60% doesn't mean that you should toss the running shoes in the trash, it simply means that your time for the given distance is not in the top 40%.

I know that some people just run for fun and could care less about how their times compare to their peers. I'm not one of those people. I love to run and while I have no false hopes of becoming a world class or even national class runner, I do like to see my times improve through training. I also like to see if what I'm doing is respectable for my age. 

I looked at some of my road races from back in the spring. Here are my percentages:

Time - 20:03
PLP - 65.1%
70% PLP time is 18:39

Time - 44:07
PLP - 61.6%
70% PLP time is 38:48

Time - 1:14:00
PLP - 60.2%
70% PLP time is 1:03:41

Time - 1:37:27
PLP - 60.9%
70% PLP time is 1:24:44

So, I'm a "local" class runner in all categories (by the skin of my teeth!). I don't really care about the label, but now that I've found this tool, it will be fun to see if I can hold or improve the percentages as I get older. Other than setting PR's, I would like to get closer to 70% in all of my races. I like setting big goals!

There are several PLP calculators available online. Here's a link to the one that I used:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Books I'd Recommend

Most people read books while lying in bed at night, using it as a way to unwind. Training for any triathlon, much less an Ironman, takes time. During this past year, sleep has been very important to me. If I could get an extra half-hour, heck, even fifteen minutes...I would take it. So I didn't do any reading before bed. There were still lots of books that I wanted to read, so I got creative. 

I listened to books instead of reading them. I would download the book as an MP3 from iTunes and listen to it while on the bike trainer, or I would buy/borrow the audio book on CD and listen to it in the car. I also have a transmitter that allows me to listen to those MP3 files through the car stereo. 

So despite having almost zero "free time" this year, I've been able to get through several books. I feel like I've made really good use of my time while driving and riding...and it's not like there's any good music coming out these days anyway!

So here's a quick look at some of the books that I would recommend:

By Laura Hillenbrand

This is the only book that I listened to that caused me to sit in my car for another 5-10 minutes several times after I reached my destination. I just couldn't wait to hear what was going to happen next. This book combined two of my favorite things, running and American history. If I didn't know that it was a true story, I would have been irritated that someone made up such an unrealistic story. The book follows Louis Zamperini from childhood mischief, to his high school track team, then on to college, where he set NCAA records for the mile. He made it to the 1936 Olympics and competed in the 5K. Soon after that race he joined the army and was off to World War II. He was assigned to a B-24 bomber and flew numerous missions in the Pacific. I won't ruin the story, but as if what I've told you already isn't enough to make a good story, it all pales in comparison to what happens after his plane is shot down. I highly recommend this book! All I can say is that Louis Zamperini is some kind of super-human. By the way, he's still alive - he's 94 years old and still does motivational speaking! If you can only read one book on this list - read this one.

By Scott Rigsby and Jenna Glatzer

Scott Rigsby was the first double-leg amputee to complete the Ironman triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. This book follows his journey from age 18, when he was involved in the accident, all the way through this Ironman race in Kona. Scott was age 39 when he completed the Ironman, so needless to say, the road that lead him to compete in a triathlon was a long one. Great book for anyone that feels sorry for themselves. You think that you have been dealt a bad deck in life? After seeing all that Scott goes through, your perspective will change!

By Malcolm Gladwell

This book is one that I borrowed from my Dad. It's not a book that I would probably pick up in a book store, but I'm glad he recommended it. This book has nothing to do with sports or history, but I found it to be really interesting. It's about snap judgments. What your mind does in the first two seconds when you encounter a person or a situation. How does you mind make these subconscious decisions and should you rely on them. The first half of the book had me convinced that we should always trust these snap decisions that we make. Then by the time I finished it, I was convinced that these instant decisions are usually incorrect. If nothing else, I learned a lot about reading someone face. With enough studying, you can tell what someone is thinking without them saying a word. I would love to be able to do this...especially with my wife!

What the Dog Saw
By Malcolm Gladwell

Since I liked Blink so much, I decided to read another book by the same author. This book also covers lots of things that effect your daily life that you have probably never thought about. He spends a lot of time talking about a legendary pitchman. He describes how this pitchman was able to understand how humans think and feel on such a high level, that he was able to know exactly how to sell them whatever product he was pushing at the time. The book also describes how a dog trainer was able to develop the same understanding of how canines think and feel. Later in the book he goes through the events that led to the Challenger disaster and the Enron failure. Could both of these been avoided? He thinks so, and tells you why. Cool stuff!

I'm Here To Win
By Chris McCormack and Tim Vandehey

Chris McCormack is the two-time winner of the Ironman World Championship. I bought this audio book on iTunes a few weeks before I did Ironman Louisville...for obvious reasons. Although I had no illusions of winning IMLOU, I wanted to hear what McCormack had to say about the mental aspects of the race. This was a really cool book and while I knew a little bit about the author before I started this book, I learned just how talented and smart he is. He's a true competitor in every sense of the word. He loves the mental game as much as the physical, which was key to winning his second Championship in 2010 at age 37.  He takes the reader through his entire triathlon career and even gives some interesting stats from several of his pro seasons, including miles traveled and training volume. This book could also be used as a training guide. McCormack outlines his typical Ironman training plan and gives lots of details on how to complete the workouts. Warning - his workouts are no joke. I trained hard for my Ironman, but his workouts are designed for a pro...seriously.

By Dean Karnazes

This book describes Dean's journey as he completed 50 marathons in all 50 states, in 50 consecutive days. Read that sentence again. Yes, you read it right. He ran a full 26.2 mile marathon in 50 consecutive days, while traveling between states on a bus. Lots of crazy adventures in this one! Dean fights through sleep deprivation, injuries, fatigue, rain, snow, heat, mountains, desert and crazy fans. Lots of good tips in this book for anyone that runs. You don't have to be an endurance freak to know the importance of knowing how to recover quickly, keep from cramping in the heat, eating on the go and what do you when you hit the wall during a run. Fun book to read and good motivation to get out there and run!

Born To Run
By Christopher McDougall

Some people (including me) credit this book for being the start of the "barefoot" running craze. The book is full of cool stories of endurance races, both organized and ones run by crazy athlete's that could care less about getting recognition for their talents. I liked the adventures of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, Caballo Blanco and Barefoot Ted. Because I have already researched this topic myself, I was a little annoyed by the break the author took right before the best part of the book to talk about all the "science" behind running without shoes and how it's the only way to run without injury. I rolled my eyes a few times as he talked about Harvard scientists and what they "discovered" about the human runner. It was kind of like getting mad when your favorite TV show goes to commercial right before they reveal whodunit. Either way, it was still a good book and it even had me looking up some of the characters on the internet to see what they looked like and what they were up to know.

So those are a few on the books that I got through this year. If you have read or do read any of them, let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Final 2011 USAT Ranking

According to USA Triathlon's rankings for 2011, I'm ranked 1567th out of 5897 in my Division (Males, ages 30-34). That's in the top 26%, so it's not too bad. I was ranked 1539th last year out of 3133 (top 49%). So while my ranking was lower, there were over 2700 more athlete's this year and my score was also higher (78.53 versus 74.47). If you want to understand what this score means, read this post.

Because the race director didn't turn in the results, two of my races were not included in the rankings. Neither of my Half-Ironman races were included. I'm not sure if these races would have helped or hurt my overall rank, but I finished 5th out of 10 in my AG at Taylorsville and 8th out of 28 at it's probably a wash.

The three races that were included in my rankings were the Sprint race I did in the Spring, the Olympic distance I did in June and the Ironman race last month. 

Shelbyville Sprint - Score = 80.97
TriFest Olympic - Score = 77.07
Ironman Louisville - Score = 77.66

On another note, I recently passed 20,000 views on this blog. I know what your thinking, but no, I don't get on my own blog several times a day to increase my stats! It was cool to meet several people at races and events this year that follow my blog.

I know that I haven't posted much in the month that's passed since Ironman Louisville, but I honestly haven't had much to report on. I've only had a hand full of workouts since then and my IT band is still hurting when I run, so I'm not even training for any road races this fall. I'm going to get back on a strict more strict workout routine next week. It will consist mostly of weight training, lots of stretching and some light biking and swimming. The cooler temperatures have me itching to get out and run, but I have to get this IT band healed now so that it doesn't effect my 2012 season!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ironman Louisville Video

Pictures and video courtesy of:

Jessica Powell
Lorna & Alan Powell
John & Kira Powell
Becca Hill
Chris Haragan
The Key family

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 4

After crossing the line and becoming an Ironman, I was immediately given my finishers medal and a hat and shirt. I was then greeted by a volunteer that asked me how I was feeling (that's him in the white visor). I don't remember what I told him, but he decided it would be a good idea to hang out with me for a few minutes. I put my hand on his shoulder and we walked over to have my official finisher's photo taken. In the video (I'll post this later), you can see me looking in several directions and giving waves to people as I heard them yelling my name. I don't remember who I saw...not a clue. I do remember looking for Jessica and then seeing my parents standing to the left just past the finish line. I walked over and gave my Mom and hug. As I stood there talking with them, my legs began to get weak and I was getting a little dizzy. I turned around and my "escort" was standing right next to me. He then suggested that we take a walk down to the Convention Center and get some water and maybe a massage, or maybe stop in and get checked out by the medical team. At that point, I would have walked anywhere that this guy wanted to lead me.

As we were walking down the finish shoot I realized that I had just turned and walked away from my parents, without telling them where I was going. None of my family or friends that had come to the finish line were going to have any idea where I was. I thought about telling my escort that I needed to go back and tell them, but I didn't have the energy. We walked up to the Convention Center and through the front doors. As we walked past the room where the Medics were, he asked me if I wanted to have them check me out or if I wanted an IV. I took a look at the people sitting there waiting for medical attention and decided that they were worse off than I was. So I declined medical attention and opted for a walk down the hall to the massage room.

Once I signed in for my massage, my escort left. He was a really nice guy and I wish I could remember what we talked about. As I sat in my chair waiting for my name to be called I started to look around. It looked like Night of the Living Dead in there. People were just sitting there, staring straight zombies. I started to chat with the dude sitting next to me. He was from California and flew in to Louisville just for this race. Notice that I'm starting to remember stuff? It was right around this point that I started getting cold chills. Despite being in the mid 80's and humid outside, I was freezing. This is a sure sign of heat exhaustion. My core body temperature had gotten high enough that sweating was not doing the trick. I sat there for a few minutes shivering, then asked a volunteer for a Mylar blanket. Other than making me look like a superhero, this metallic blanket did a good job of regulating my body temperature. After about 5 minutes, the chills were gone. I took off my shoes and socks to assess the damage. Big blister on the ball of my right foot and my big toe and the guy next to it on both feet were about to lose their toenails. Needless to say that I was walking very gingerly.

Jessica had seen me walking stumbling towards the Convention Center and eventually found me. She took my fuel belt and finishers shirt and hat...which I was sure to leave sitting there. I was really glad to see her and knew that she would tell everyone what was going on.

Finally laying on the table getting my massage. It was nice, but by this time, my muscles were tight and this short massage didn't do much. My back and legs were aching, I would have needed another 30 minutes on the table to do any good. I really regret sitting there for over half an hour waiting for this massage! I would have much rather been outside with my support crew.

I stumbled out the Convention Center door to be greeted by a round of applause. By my count, I had between 18 and 20 people there to great me. Very humbling. I was really excited to see both of my children there. It was past their bedtimes and we rarely make exceptions in this department. I guess this was a good excuse to keep them up late! I was holding them both when I guy from a local TV station (Wave 3) asked me if I would do an interview...lots of media attention for me these days! Here's the link to the article that ran in the local paper the day before the race.

As I'm standing there holding my son in one arm and my daughter in the other I was told that there had been a death during the swim portion of the race. The interviewer then asked me what my thoughts on this were. See the picture below for my reaction to this question. I did about a 5 minute interview with the guy, but after contacting the station this week, I was told that the footage didn't make the air and the video has been trashed. I guess I was too much of a smart-ass for them to air my response.

Now it was picture time! Lots of pictures with everyone...I felt like a celebrity. I was feeling much better at this point (an hour after I had finished), and was excited to start sharing my race story with anyone that would listen. As my support crew started to dispurse, I walked Jessica and the kids to her car and gave them a kiss goodnight. I had planned all along to stay at the finish line until midnight, to see the final participants cross the line.

I made my way to a restaurant called Sully's. It's located just feet from the finish line and my local triathlon club, the Louisville Landsharks had rented out a sweet spot outside on the patio. By this point I was starting to get hungry, so I ordered up a grilled chicken wrap and fries (yes, I ate fries). I sat around and chatted with one of my training partners, Bill Marks. We had started the day together at the swim start and now almost 14 hours later, we were sharing our race stories.

After I ate, I stood around watching people cross the finish line. It's a pretty awesome experience. You can see the struggle/relief on people's faces as accomplish their goal of becoming an Ironman. Every person has a unique story and I would love to hear them all!

I walked over to another restaurant, an Irish pub called Ri Ra. This is where Brendan, Jaime and Tim (remember them from the swim start?) were hanging out. I stumbled in and ordered up an endless glass of water. We did what everyone else was doing and told the successes/failures of the day. They had already looked up my splits online and I spent a few minutes catching some ridicule for my times in T1 & T2. Granted, they were about twice as long as they should have been, but once I explained that I wasn't taking a nap...actually they still thought it was funny.

We made our way out to the finish shoot to watch the final hour of Ironman Louisville. If you don't cross the finish line by midnight (17 hours after the race starts), it doesn't things get pretty exciting at the end of the night. We watched person after person come in. Most of which looked like they had been walking for a while based on the amount of energy they had left. Lots of jumping, skipping, spinning, giving high fives, etc.. As it drew closer to midnight, Mike Reilly came down on to the finish shoot and started to encourage people to finish.

Check out this video that I shot. These are the last people to finish the race, literally seconds before the midnight cut off. Watch Mike Reilly (in the red shirt) run down and convince a guy to continue. He had stopped about 100 feet short of finishing. Listen to the crowd roar once he starts moving again. One word...awesome!

Gear used:
Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles
Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Top and Shorts
Tifosi Dolomite sunglasses
Argon 18 E-112 Triathlon bike
Asics Gel Foundation running shoes

Nutrition used:
  • NUUN tablets (1 each in two 18oz water bottles) - sipped for the hour leading up to race start
  • Clif Shot Blocks - ate about 30 minutes before race start

  • Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (6 scoops in one 24oz. bottle of water for 3 hours, same for second 3 hours) - took two sips every 15 minutes
  • Two 24oz. bottles of clear water to start and then replaced as needed at aid stations
  • Hammer Nutrition Gel (3 gels in one 4oz. flask - replaced at half way point) - one big gulp every hour on the 50's
  • Millennium Sports Athlytes capsules (4 per hour - 24 total) - two every 20 minutes

  • Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (2.5 scoops in each of the two 8oz. bottles on my fuel belt - mixed with water at first aid station) - two sips every 20-25 minutes - only got through 1/4 of this before stomach started cramping
  • Powerbar gel - 2 gels (had to spot taking these around hour 3 due to more stomach cramps)
  • Cola - took a full drink of cola at every aid station during the last hour and a half - it's all that I could handle
  • Two cups of clear water at every aid station
  • Millennium Sports Athlytes capsules (4 per hour - 16 total) - taken two at a time at aid stations  every 30 minutes so that I could take them with water
  • Filled my hat up with ice twice to help keep cool
  • Took ice-cold sponges at every aid station and stuffed them down my shirt around my stomach

Nutrition plan worked well. Complex carbs early in the race, simple carbs as the race went on. I was well hydrated all day. My stomach started to cramp during the last few miles on the run, but I think this was due to the heat, not inadequate nutrition.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 3

If you follow my blog or have been around me much the last month, you no doubt know that I've been suffering from ITBS. The IT Band in my left knee has been very tight and in the six weeks leading up to Ironman, I hadn't run more than a few miles. To say that I was nervous about running a full marathon is an understatement! I figured that since I hadn't run in several weeks, I would at least be able to get a few miles in before I had to walk because of the pain. Controlling the physical aspect of this injury was something that I had been doing for over a month now, there was nothing else I could do on that front. The mental aspect however, was a different story. I refused to let my brain get in the way of my completing an Ironman. As I started the run, I decided to only focus on the first 5 miles. I would run for the first five and then reevaluate the situation. I felt great coming out of T2, but I knew that I had to resist the urge to run fast. I had to keep my HR in the 140's.

The five mile mark came somewhere around the University of Louisville. My first five mile splits were 9:03, 9:16, 9:57, 10:16 and 10:41...see a trend? By the time I got to mile five I was starting to feel some pain in my left knee. I played around with it and realized that the slower I ran, the less it hurt. I also noticed that my HR was staying in the low 130's and I felt like I had plenty of energy I was just going to have to increase my pace and deal with the pain. I started the run with my fuel belt full of Perpetuem. I like to drink this mix as long as possible because it's the most complete fuel available. However, I knew that there would come a point where my stomach could no longer break down this more complex carbohydrate and I would have to switch to something else. I was only about an hour into the run when my stomach gave me a warning cramp...telling me that I better quit drinking the Perpetuem. At the next aid station, I dumped both bottles out and filled them with clear water.

I picked up the pace for miles 6, 7 & 8. My splits were 10:14, 10:06  and 9:55 for these three miles. I knew that my parents were going to be at Woodlawn and Southern Parkway, which is around mile 7.5. I was excited to see them and I was very surprised to find not only my parents waiting there, but a full cheering section! My wife Jessica, good friends Bridgette and her daughter Aleah, along with Kelly, Jen and Brooklyn. It's an awesome feeling to see that many people there to support you. For a moment, I forgot all about the knee pain. I had decided before the race that I would walk every aid station and drink water. Even though I didn't feel too hot at this point in the run, I was also taking two ice-cold sponges at every station and stuffing them down my tri shirt to keep my core cool. At the next aid station, I would swap them with some fresh ones. Since the Perpetuem was no longer an option, I decided to try some gels. I grabbed my first one at the aid station at mile 6. Once I cleared the aid station and started running again, I ripped it open and shoved a mouthful in. Yuck! I looked at the package..."Double Latte". What the %&$*! I hate coffee and anything coffee flavored. This was the only point during the entire day that I almost vomited. Lesson learned...look at the flavor before eating a gel!

The turnaround at the end of Southern Parkway is at mile 8.5. After making to to the 5 mile mark, then to see my support crew at Woodlawn, I decided to make my next goal the turnaround. I would keep running until then and once again reevaluate. My knee was still hurting and as I continued to try different things to ease the pain, I found that running in the middle of the street helped. The road slopes down on each side and even this very small slope caused my left foot to hit the ground slightly below my right food. This small difference caused some pain. So from this point forward, I ran the entire race smack dab in the middle of the street.

After the turnaround, it was just another mile back to Woodlawn. I decided to keep running at least until I saw everyone again. I was also starting to pass a lot of people walking by this point. My confidence was soaring because I was feeling good from a fitness standpoint. My heart rate was low and I knew that I had a lot left, the only thing that would lead to me walking was pain in my knee. By this time, I was running with a gel (Raspberry Creme flavor) in each hand as a reminder to not clench my fists. Focusing on keeping loose is key during an endurance event. I made sure that I wasn't holding any tension in my face, arms or hands...all of my energy needed to be going to my legs! I sucked down a gel about every half hour or so. I didn't particulalry like the flavor, but it was better than the other option (Double Latte)!

Miles 10 through 13 were tough. My socks were complete soaked by the water from the sponges running down my legs. Not only was I still dealing with knee pain, but I could feel a blister forming on the ball of my right foot. I was still chugging along, but my miles were slowing down...I just wanted to get to the Special Needs Bag at the 14 mile mark and get some dry socks and some BioFreeze! My splits for miles 9 through 13 were 10:18, 10:15, 10:39, 10:50, 10:54. 

Finally made it to Special Needs. They grabbed my bag and I sat in a chair. As I opened my bag a volunteer came over to see what I needed help with. I told her that I was ok and I started to take my shoes off. She said "you putting on fresh socks?" I told her I was and she immediately squatted down in front of me and said "let me do it". Huh? This total stranger was going to take off my sweaty socks and put new ones on for me? "It's ok, I'll do it", I told her. "This is what I'm here for", she responded. I didn't have the energy to argue, so I let her do it. She was then kind enough to open my sample pack of BioFreeze for me. She helped me clean it off of my hands after I rubbed it on too! I was, and still am, amazed by the generosity of this person. I've volunteered at Ironman the last two years, so I know what they ask you to do...but what she did for me was above and beyond what is expected. I wish I would have caught her name. Either way, I'm sending an email to the Volunteer Director to let him know about my experience!

Much like my three stops on the bike, this time at Special Needs added several minutes to my run time, minutes where the clock was running, but I wasn't. Changing socks and numbing the knee pain were necessary for me at this point in the race though. Mile 14 is probably the hardest on the course. You are back downtown at this point and you literally come within 200 feet of the finish line before having to turn around and do the whole course again. I remember seeing Nancy, one of my swim coaches, on the sidewalk cheering people on. I also remember telling her that "this is torture!". I was referring to the fact that I could see the finish line, but still had over 12 miles to go...she probably thought that I meant the race in general was torture. Well...that too!

By the time I made it to the University of Louisville again, I was on mile 17. By this point, I was beginning to think that I was going to be able to run through the pain and complete the whole marathon without walking. It wasn't a given yet, but the positive thoughts were there. I was getting hot now and my stomach had started to reject the gels, so I had to switch to an even more simple carbohydrate...Coke (it was actually Sam's Choice Cola brand from Walmart - I saw the 2 liter bottles). For those of you that know me, it seems ridiculous for me to drink Coke. It's literally been years since any form of soda passed my lips. I know that you are not supposed to try anything in a race that you haven't practiced during training, but I was out of options. I needed the calories and my stomach wasn't doing well with anything else. So I started taking a drink or two of Coke at every aid station. It's really weird. I would feel a little boost about 30 seconds after drinking it...then it would fade after only a minute or two. So every mile or so, I would get a brief jolt of energy. I felt like a junkie, I needed my Coke fix!

Mile 20 was my third pass by the intersection of Woodlawn and Southern Parkway. Mentally, I was gone at this point. I had been eagerly awaiting seeing my family and friends again for miles. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to get to where they were. When I got close to the spot where they had been on my first loop, I didn't see them. I have to admit, I was upset. At this point in an Ironman, it's almost all mental. Seeing that they were not there, I had a brief mental lapse and considered walking until I got to the next aid station. This was the first time in 19 miles that this thought crossed my mind. Just as I began to have an argument with myself about walking, I saw my parents. They had moved! They were just a few blocks further south. They were joined this time by my brother John and his wife Kira. I stopped when I made it to them and slapped on my final coat of BioFreeze. I decided at this point that I was going to throw caution to the wind and see if I could up the pace for the remaining 6 miles. My splits for miles 14 through 20 were 12:10 (2 minute stop at Special Needs), 10:31, 10:52, 10:39, 10:45, 10:34, 11:17 (stop to put on BioFreeze).

At the 23 mile mark I decide that I would stop walking though the aid stations. The increased pace over the three previous miles had led to some more intense knee pain, and while the walking was a temporary relief, I wanted to leave it all on the course. I had switched my watch off of heart rate mode, so I was no longer trying to keep my HR below 150. My average HR for the run ended up being 131 bpm. My splits for miles 21-22 were 10:04 & 10:05.

I scrolled though my watch to find my total time for the entire day. At this point, mile 23 of the marathon, I was sitting at 11 hours and 40 minutes. This was the first time that I realized I was going to be close to finishing at 12 hours, which was my original goal when I started training back in December. I did some quick math and realized that getting to the finish line under the 12 hour mark was going to be tough. I would need to run 8 minute miles for the rest of the race. I didn't know what I had left, but I decided to find out. I ran mile 23 in 9:06, mile 24 in 8:57...yes, my fastest mile of the day came at mile 24! When I reached mile 25 I hit the wall. I was pushing as hard as I could, my breathing was so far out of control that I couldn't even take in a drink of water. I could tell that my form was a mess. I was using my entire body to try and propel my legs forward. I knew that 12 hours was out of the question, so I set a new goal of finishing under 12:10:00. I ran mile 25 in 9:31. I saw a friend, Chip, and his family somewhere around mile 25, but all I had enough energy to do was give a slight wave, really just and extension of my fingers.

That last 1.2 miles seemed like 5 miles. I felt like I was running at a 6 minute pace, turns out it was closer to a 10 minute pace. I was mentally and physically spent. I ran the mile 26 in 10:03. 

As I made that final right hand turn onto 4th Street, I could see the finish line. I dug deep and pushed it down the finish shoot and heard Mike Reilly say "Luke Powell, you are an Ironman!". Running down the finish shoot is kind of a blurr. If it weren't for the photo's and video, I doubt I would be able to tell you what I did after hearing Mike say my name. Apparently I extended both arms into the sky and pointed (see picture to the left), then I decided to do a double flex before putting my arms down as I crossed the finish line. It was all emotion at that point! It was official, I WAS AN IRONMAN!! be continued...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 2

The 112 mile bike course starts out fairly flat. It took a few minutes for my watch to pick-up my heart rate monitor strap, but once it did, I saw that my HR was in the low 120's...perfect. The goal was to keep my HR low during this first flat stretch and not let my speed get out of control. I kept looking down at my bike computer and noticed that I was in the 18-19 mph range. I've spent lots of time on my bike over the last year and I pretty much know how fast I'm going at any given point. I was a little surprised by the speed because I felt like I was going a little faster. I didn't let it bother me and I just held a pace that kept my HR below 140. 

I had a very precise nutrition plan for the 6 hours I planned on being on the bike. A drink or two of Hammer Perpetuem every 15 minutes, two electrolyte tablets at 20 and 40 past each hour, a gel at 50 past each hour and sips of clear water from my aero bottle every few minutes. So once I had been on the bike around 15 minutes, I reached back and grabbed my bottle of Perpetuem for my first fuel since eating my Shot Blocks over an hour and half earlier. As soon as the liquid hit my stomach I knew I had a problem. If you read Part 1 of this race report, you might remember me mentioning my pre-race routine. Part of this routine was missing the morning of Ironman...and I found it at mile 5 of the bike! I had the sudden urge to find a port-o-pot!

Unfortunately for me, the first port-o-pot didn't make an appearance until KY-1694, which is around mile 24. From the time that I had the urge to "go" until I made it to a place where it's acceptable to do so, it had been almost an hour! Despite the stomach/intestinal cramps, I stuck to my nutrition plan. I knew that missing fuel at the beginning of the bike would lead to big problems later in the day. I had a volunteer hold my bike while I took care of business. I'd like to think that I was able to do this very quickly, but it still took me around 3-4 minutes...time where the clock was running, but I was sitting still. Once I got this out of the way, my stomach settled back down and didn't bother me the rest of the ride.

I knew that my wife Jessica and daughter were going to be at the intersection of KY-393 and KY-146 in Buckner. I would pass this location twice, once at mile 35 and then again around mile 65. As I came down KY-393, I was looking for the red shirts that we had made for everyone. I saw my brother John first. He didn't see me until I was about 20 feet away and by the time he told his wife and Jessica that I was there, they barely had time to get their camera's up and snap a quick picture. They were unaware of the fact that I had started at the front of the line and swam about 10 minutes faster than I had expected. They had planned (because I told them) on my being at this intersection between 10:30 and 10:40am. Good thing they got there early! They stayed around and were able to get some good video and pictures of me on the second loop.

After seeing Jessica, John and Kira (my daughter decided to stay with her Mimi), I just settled in and rode. By this point it was obvious to me that my bike computer was not working right. They had mile markers at random places on the course and my bike computer was showing I had gone a few miles less than the signs indicated. Normally I would trust my computer more than the signs, but since I had to reset it that morning, and I didn't feel like my speed was accurate, I knew it was off. So without my bike computer as a constant check, I had to rely on feel. I have a feeling that I would have pushed it a little more if I had known my average speed was under 19 mph. I was keeping an eye on my HR, but I know that I can keep it below my aerobic threshold of 140 bpm and still average 19 mph on this course. My average HR for the bike ended up being only 122 bpm.

Around mile 66 they had the Special Needs bags. I stopped, grabbed my bag and got to work. I had a volunteer hold my bike while I refilled my bottle with another 3 hours worth of Perpetuem mix, swapped out gel flasks, rubbed some BioFreeze on my knee and stretched my hip flexors. I was still feeling good at this point, but a little preventative maintenance can go a long way. So while this stop added another 5 minutes or so to my time, I still think it was a good idea. 

I know this bike course very well. I know the parts that I like, and I know the parts that I hate. The 2-3 miles on Ballard School Road is a stretch that I hate. During the second loop, around mile 75, I found myself at the base of a steep the wrong gear. I don't know why I forgot to shift, I knew it was coming. Either way, I knew that climbing this hill in the wrong gear would trash my legs, so I attempted to shift from my big ring to my small ring, while already on the hill. Any experienced rider can probably predict what happened. A nasty noise and then a loss of all tension on the chain had come off! I quickly unclipped my feet to keep from falling over. I looked down and saw the carnage. At first glance, it looked like I had broken my chain. I instantly got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I moved my bike over to the left side of the road to asses the damage. Fortunately, the chain was just twisted, not broken. So I very carefully untwisted the chain and fed it back through the ring. I ran through a couple of gears and was very relieved when things seemed to be working correctly. With a mailbox as support, I climbed back on Flash and started my ascent up the hill.

I made the final turn onto US-42 and was headed back towards Louisville. While attacking the last big hill on L'Esprit Road, by quads started to cramp. I knew that my nutrition and hydration was on target (I peed 4 times on the bike), so this was a muscle fatigue issue. My IT Band had also started to hurt a little (which it never had before on the bike). Because of this, I decided to try and stay seated as much as possible during the final 30 miles of the ride. Fortunately, there are not many steep uphill climbs in that stretch. After focusing so much on my knee during T1, I failed to slap some chamois cream on, so by mile 90, by underside was a little sore.  

I kept my cadence high during the final 10 miles or so in order to give my legs a rest. As I pulled into T2, I saw that I was a few minutes over the 6 hours that I had hoped for on the bike. The three stops that I made no doubt cost me a good 10 minutes, so I wasn't too upset at my official bike split of 6:08:01. Ironman breaks the bike into four segments for their athlete tracking. Here's how I fared on each:

Bike split 1: 23 miles - 1:12:48 - 18.96 mph
Bike split 2: 17 miles (40 total) - 0:55:44 - 18.30 mph - includes port-o-pot stop
Bike split 3: 30.5 miles (70.5 total) - 1:41:26 - 18.04 mph - includes stop for special needs bag
Bike split 4: 41.5 miles (112 total) - 2:18:03 - 18.04 mph - includes stop to fix chain

I handed my bike off to the bike catcher and ran down to grab my Run Gear bag. Once in the changing tent, I pulled off my helmet and bike shorts. I put on another pair of tri shorts, my fuel belt, fresh socks and my running shoes. I also took a few minutes to stretch some more, put on another layer of BioFreeze and pop a few Ibuprofen. I also took a dab of the community Vaseline and rubbed it on the bottoms of my feet (blister prevention). My 11+ minute T2 is embarrassingly slow, but once again I felt that any preventative maintenance I could do on my knee before starting the marathon was worth the time.

I headed out of T2 and began the third and final segment of Ironman - a 26.2 mile run! be continued...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 1

Alarm goes off. To my surprise, I was able to sleep well the night before the race. This night is usually filled with tossing and turning as my brain goes over the plans for the race and what I need to do in transition. With this being my first full Ironman race, I expected a sleepless night. I think having packed my transition bags and dropping my bike off the day before the race allowed me to relax.

Two medium sweet potatoes and a large glass of water down the hatch.

Water bottles for the day (at least the start of the bike) filled with lots of ice and water. I filled my aero bottle and a 24oz regular bottle full of clear water. I filled a second 24oz bottle full of 3 hours worth of Hammer Perpetuem mix. I took another two bottles of water with NUUN tablets with me to drink while waiting for the swim start. I also filled my gel flask with 3 gels to cover me for the first half of the ride.

Water bottles and Morning Clothes Bag in hand, I head out the door.

Arrived at the Hyatt parking garage. I debated about the best place to park considering that the race start and finish were a good 5-6 blocks apart. I chose a location closer to the finish, figuring I wouldn't feel like walking far at the END of the day.

I run into my friends (and training partners) Brendan and Tim right outside the transition area. We walked over together and waited in line for them to open transition.

Transition is open. We set a plan to meet back up in 10 minutes or so to head down to the swim start. I made my way over to my bike. I placed the water bottles on my bike and then began to fidget with my bike computer. While dropping my bike off the day before I noticed that my bike computer was not picking up the signal from my wheel. More than likely this meant that the battery in the transmitter (mounted on the fork) needed to be replaced. I had picked up a new battery at Walgreens and made the change...still wasn't working. I began to feel my pulse rise as I knew that I relied on my bike computer during my rides and I would need to today more than ever. I took a break from messing with it an borrowed a pump to top off my tires. The recommended pressure is 115 psi, but everyone tells you to inflate to slightly less than that to avoid a blowout as the tubes expand in the heat. I remembered hearing tires pop while I was a volunteer in T1 last year, so I decided to inflate them to around 105 psi.

Back to the bike computer. I needed a pen or pencil to push the reset button on the computer...which I didn't have. I ended up using the clasp on my watch to get it to reset. After resetting the computer, it appeared as if it was working again. I breathed a sigh of relief and then headed down to find my transition bags and drop off my Garmin watch and GPS receiver from

Met back up with Brendan and Tim and hitched a ride with Tim's wife (Lauren) down to the swim start. It's only about 3/4 of a mile, but getting a ride saves time and legs. Luckily for me, our friend Jaime had been down at the swim start since around 4:15am and was holding a spot for us. I was about 10th in line! I was fully expecting to be somewhere in the middle of the line...around 1000th...not 10th! I stopped on the way down to the line and had by body marking done. "1255" on both arms and "33" on my left calf. I have to mention that the woman that did my body marking did an excellent job - very neat, well-sized numbers. For whatever reason, I like having good looking race numbers!

 From left to right: Brendan, Jaime, Tim and Me

The wait begins. Not only had Jaime saved a spot, she had set up shop...complete with a blanket and chairs. We took turns walking down to the port-o-pots and just sat around chatting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. I ran into by buddy and swim training partner Bill on the way back from the bathroom and told him to follow me and sneak into the prime spot at the front of the line.

I was on my second water bottle with NUUN and since it was about a half hour from race start, I went ahead and ate my Cliff Shot Blocks. These blocks just give me a little boost of energy at the start of the race. I don't normally eat of drink caffeine, so when I do, it has quite an effect!

One last trip to the bathroom. Brendan and I sweet talked our way onto one of the houseboats that was docked at the swim start. I knew I needed to "go #2", but I couldn't make it happen. I have a pre-race routine in every sense of the word and part of my normal routine hadn't happened yet...

The pros start.

The playing of "The Call To The Post" from the bugler from Churchill Downs. Then the signing of "My Old Kentucky Home" and "The National Anthem". I'm still not sure why the waited until the pro's had started before doing all this. We all wished each other luck and pretended that we weren't nervous.

My Ironman began! This is the time that I crossed the timing mat according to my watch. I jumped into the river feet first and started swimming that familiar stretch between Towhead Island and the shore. I swam this 3/4 of a mile stretch the last three Tuesday mornings with Brendan and Tim, so I knew it well. Things were a little crowded at the beginning (they are in every open water swim). I caught an elbow to the face pretty early that moved my goggles down a little on my face. It made them slightly uncomfortable, but no water was getting in, so I didn't stop to adjust them. 

Once I reached the spot where we normally stop and head back (around 0.8 miles) on our Tuesday morning swims, I looked at my watch. It was somewhere between 19 and 20 minutes, so I knew that I was swimming at the pace I wanted. This was the only time during the swim that I looked at my watch. I made an effort to stay in line with the buoys. There are lots of "experts" when it comes to doing the IMLOU swim. It's a very unique swim in the fact that it's a time trial (one at a time) start and it's in a river. People will tell you to head out into the middle of the river because the current is stronger there. People will tell you that the buoys are not the quickest route because they follow the turn of the river and do not make a straight line between the turn around point and the finish. I listened to all this advice and then decided to follow the buoys anyway. Just about everyone else kept the buoy's to their left, I swam on the other side, with the buoy's on my right. It was much less congested and I believe that it was a slightly shorter route.

Somewhere around this time, about an hour into the swim, I passed under the first of two bridges (The Big Four bridge). At this point, I decided to start drafting. Starting at the front of the line means that I was being passed by faster swimmers constantly by this point. As a faster swimmer would come past me, I would tuck in right behind them and swim on their feet as long as I could. Most of the time I could only keep up for a minute or two, then I would look to both sides, find another person passing, and do the same. I did this for the last 15 or so minutes of the swim. I'm not sure how much this helped my time, but I felt like I was able to maintain my pace without using as much energy.

I had run into my Manny, my swim coach, while waiting in line at the swim start. He told me that he would be at the swim exit, helping people get out of the water. As I approached the swim exit (a set a stairs), I was looking for Manny. I spotted him and put my head down for the last few meters. As he helped me out of the water, I glanced at my watch. I was expecting to do the swim somewhere between an hour and 20 minutes and an hour and 30 minutes. Much to my surprise my watch read 1:12:23 as I crossed the timing mat at the top of the stairs. My first thought? I must have accidentally hit the lap button on my watch about 10 minutes into the swim and this 1:12:23 was the time since then. 

I ran from the swim exit, up the shoot to transition. I was handed my Bike Gear bag and headed into the changing tent. I pulled my tri shorts off and put on my bike shorts (carefully, so I didn't pull the tape off of my knee or hips). I put on my socks, bike shoes, heart rate monitor strap and pulled my tri shirt on. I took a minute to stretch my IT Band and hip flexors before grabbing my helmet and sunglasses and heading out to the bike racks. I knew that my transition time was going to be slow, but I felt that changing shorts and doing some stretches would make for a much more enjoyable 112 mile ride.

As I was exiting transition, I noticed that the large "official race clock" showed a time of an hour and twenty minutes. I immediately knew that my swim time of 1:12:23 was legitimate and I immediately became excited about the rest of the day! be continued...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ironman Louisville - Check In Video

Here's a video I shot last Friday at the Ironman was actually pretty seamless...they have this perfected!

Full race report coming this weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ironman Louisville - Enhanced Results

I promise that I'm going to get around to typing my race report, just haven't had time yet.

In the mean time, here's some cool stats from

Luke Powell
Bib # 1255
Overall Place: 661
Gender Place: 559 
(yes, I was "chicked" by 102 females...including pros)
Division Place: 112
Total time: 12:08:39

Time: 1:12:23
Pace: 1:54 / 100 meters
Overall place: 828
Gender place: 662
Division place: 137

Time: 6:43
Overall place: 979
Gender place: 750
Division place: 140

Total Time After T1: 1:19:06
Overall place: 808
Gender place: 653
Division place: 135 (+2)

Time: 6:08:01
Pace: 18.3 mph
Overall place: 851
Gender place: 746
Division place: 142

Total Time after Bike: 7:27:07
Overall place: 812
Gender place: 707
Division place: 138 (-3)

Time: 11:25
Overall place: 1695
Gender place: 1275
Division place: 24

Total Time After T2: 7:38:32
Overall place: 849
Gender place: 731
Division place: 142 (-4)

Time: 4:30:09
Pace: 10:18 / mile
Overall place: 624
Gender place: 508
Division place: 101 (+41)

The things that stick out the most are my transition times. There's an easy explanation for these...I was stretching and putting on BioFreeze in the changing tents during both T1 and T2. Without the IT band injury, I would have been 4-5 minutes faster in both transitions. I also stopped three times on the run to put on more BioFreeze to numb the pain. So I have no doubt that I could have done a sub 12 hour race if I was completely healthy. I don't want this to come off the wrong way - I'm completely happy with my race and it went better than I expected. I just felt the need to explain why my transition times were so slow.

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