It’s not very often a professional triathlete can sleep in their own bed just 10 miles from the race venue… but Ironman Louisville allowed me to experience this luxury one last time.
The days leading up to the race were full of fun meeting sponsors, being on 3 pro panels and reuniting with Maverick Multisport teammates Clay and Molly who also drove on to race Louisville on Sunday.
Molly, me, and Clay (left to right) swimming at the most awesome pool in the country… The Lakeside Quarry. Home of the top 10 swim club, the Lakeside Seahawks.
Race day finally arrived and I was prepared to give it my all. I had my usual breakfast before an Ironman race – oatmeal, 2 hard boiled eggs, slice of bread with peanut butter and half banana, and 2 servings of ENERGY BITS (MIKE502BITS saves you 20%).
My training leading up to the race had been great and I felt I had a shot to win the race and claim the final professional victory from Ironman Louisville. I set my goals lofty this year and wasn’t going to let the competition intimidate me. I lined up in the water with about 15 other professional men. The gun went off and I took off… and found myself in a very unusual situation… ahead of the chase pack that included Chris McDonald and about 5 other guys. I was probably just on the edge of getting any help from Guy Crawford’s draft in the swim, I did my best to stay on his feet. However, when I lifted my head up a bit to sight, I saw him look over his shoulder while taking a breath. He put in a surge and dropped me. I focused on the things I’ve learned while swimming with the Lakeside Seahawks to keep my form as efficient as possible. I knew this was crucial since I was now swimming on my own upstream with a pretty good current due to all the rain leading up to the race. I managed to hold off the chase pack and only about a minute behind Guy Crawford when exiting the swim. I had my best swim to date (thanks to TYR SPORT and LAKESIDE SEAHAWKS for a fantastic swim)!
I ran carefully through T1 since I knew I had just gotten over some IT band pain located in my right knee. I felt it twinge a couple times, but nothing that slowed me down any. I left T1 still in second place and was feeling good.
Primal Sport Mud banners in the background. Primal is a great sponsor of mine and was happy to see them getting some major attention for their great product! MAVERICKPRIMAL14 saves you 40% on your first order!
Before the race started, I had a goal wattage to average for the bike of 280 watts. Last year, I did 258 (if I remember correctly)… so about 20 watts more. I big jump, obviously. But thanks to Brain Grasky for the coaching guidance and the advantage of the Q-rings from Rotor, I felt confident about the goal. For the first 1.5 hours I averaged 300 watts, knowing that I had to stay within touch of the lead guys. After sustaining those watts for that amount of time I decided it was time to back it down a little to leave something for the run. I completed the first lap of the bike and stopped briefly at bike special needs to get a refill on Infinit and NAPALM. However, I was in such a rush, I forgot my flask of NAPALM in the special needs bag. I grabbed a gel along the way at one of the aid stations to make up for some of the calories I left behind and figured it would be enough since I had more NAPALM in the last flask than what I needed (use MAVERICK to save 10% on Infinit’s products).
great shot of all my sponsors for the bike leg – Rotor bike components, Enve Composites, Vitorria Tires, Argon 18, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Champion System (Bottle Rocket, can’t see it between my arms, but it’s holding my bottle from the front and back)
I rolled into T2 in 6th place… and was ready to run my heart out to get as far up in placement as I could.
My wife, Leslie, made a sign for me at Ironman Louisville. A little inside joke from the previous year when I came in 6th.
I managed to hold 286 watts for the 112 miles!
I started the run with a lot of space between me and 5th place, about 5 minutes from what I was told by my dad as I passed him (see picture below). I felt pretty smooth while finding my legs during the first mile of the run. I waited to look at my pace until I felt like I had found a rhythm. 6:20 pace after the first 3 miles. Right on target. I passed the first 4 aid stations looking for things to cool me off. No ice or cold sponges. Seriously!?! Is the race director trying to make a point here that the race moving to October is because a sponge manufacturing shortage? I felt myself starting to overheat and my pace slowed dramatically. It wasn’t until almost the 6th mile before any aid station had cold sponges… but by that time the damage had been done. Cooling myself down would be very difficult at this point.
I passed the 5th place guy before the first turn around. However, the runners behind us looked to be in hot pursuit. I was convinced they were going to catch me and take me out of the money. By mile 10 the dark thoughts started creeping into my head. “Quit now. It’s too hot out here. Those guys are going to catch you anyways.” I almost listened to them. I saw my family at the corner of Chestnut and 3rd street. It gave me the boost I needed. My dad told me that 4th place was just 5 minutes ahead of me and looked to be in pretty bad shape. With that information, the motivation to keep going was renewed. I caught 4th place just a couple miles later.
Thanks to the companies that helped me run the marathon leg of the Ironman – Swiftwick Socks, Champion System, Infinit Nutrition, and Smith Optics.
I made it to the final turn around and could tell that unless something crazy happened in front of me, I would be placing 4th at best. With that final turn, I knew that I only had 10K to go. 10K to go and 5th and 6th place were not far behind… and they appeared to be feeling better than me. I began running scared. I constantly was looking over my shoulder to see if he was gaining on me. I couldn’t tell. Sometimes I thought he closed the gap, other times I thought he was fading. I made the final turn and saw the finish line. As I entered the finisher shoot, I looked over my shoulder one last time to see where 5th place was… I didn’t see him. With that bit of information, I scanned the crowd for my wife. I found her on the left and stopped ever so briefly to kiss her and then made the final 100 feet to the finish line.
A PR on the toughest race conditions I’ve experienced.
Shortly after crossing the finish line my legs gave out and I was wheeled to the medical tent. 4 of the top 5 men went to the medical tent. Thanks so much for the nurses and doctors that helped get fluids back in me and lifted all 160 lbs of dead body weight from the wheel chair to the stretcher.
My family supported me during the entire day… thanks so much!
My dad helped me walk since my right leg had completely stopped working.
A day after the race, I couldn’t walk. My wife pushed my onto the stage in a wheel chair to accept my award!
All 4 of the top men are sponsored by Cobb Cycling. Use code MAVMIKE to save 5% on your order and support Mike at the same time!
A huge shout out to all my sponsors… none of this would be possible without you. (Thanks to Maverick Multisport for putting all these wonderful sponsors together for the team). Thanks to Vibra Health Care for supporting me financially to chase my dreams.
An even bigger shout out to my wife who believes in me even more than I do sometimes. Her support has been unwavering the entire time. To my parents that supported me when I first started racing triathlons at 17 years old after an eating disorder. To know where I was 12 to 13 years ago at 115 lbs and just under 6 foot with a 1.3% body fat is a testament to God’s goodness and how he puts us through trials and tough times to bring glory to his name. I am truly blessed.