Though I was a bit of a basket case overdosing on zicam and vitamin C paranoid I might catch the office bug before the trip, by the time we arrived in Louisville, I was calm, confident and ready to race.  The drive out through West Virginia was gorgeous and upon arrival I felt fitter than ever, supported, happy and full of energy to channel towards the race day.  Ironman is a multi day event of registration, course recon missions, gear bag packing, race prep, pre-race meetings, tri club meet ups and even bike drop before you get to actually RACE.  You have to be organized, efficient and as level headed as possible to accomplish all the pre race tasks all while chomping at the bit or brimming with nerves and feeling ready to just swim bike and run.  I was able to spend a ton of time with my family as they helped me navigate through all of the to do lists and enjoy exploring a new city.  

I tend to meet some really great triathlon buddies at out races or through social media.  At races of this caliber it’s like a big family bonding over passion for the sport and respect for oneanother’s journeys.    Big events like this brings us together & helps keep these friendship bonds of the sport alive and well.  I met some of my “virtual training partners” in real life at LOU which is always fun.  I also got to catch up with some gals I’ve bonded with on the tri race circuit by making sure we do bike drop off or packet pick up at the same time.  

Melissa from Coeur joined my family for lunch at the Troll Bridge and we had a giant pre race breakfast at Toast with Sarah, Kurt and a few other athletes fueling up for the big day.  The people I get to connect with locally as well as from all over the world through my involvement in the sport are a significant part of why I just love triathlon…other than my obsession with pursuing new challenges of course.  I met a ton of new tri buddies at this race too! The few days leading into the race was the ideal mix of rest, work and fun right in the heart of Louisville.   I did much better with relaxing going into the race than ever before.  Though Louisville had tons of great dining options, my mom made me a perfect pre race dinner in their hotel.  Things unfolded really well.
Race morning I was up at 3:45 and eating my carefully planned breakfast, stat.  It was chilly so Nick and I bundled up and walked to wait in line for transition to open.  

 We wound up coincidently behind Kara a brand new tri buddy from Buffalo I’d met over the weekend on a bike course recon mission.  Once I was through transition, Nick and I walked to the race start about 15-20 minutes away and prepared for a long chilly wait. Everyone lines up for their turn to leap into the water off a dock.   My parents walked down later to see me off.  I met this extremely friendly and savvy woman named Shawna and immediately liked her.  Turns out she started one of my favorite FB triathlon groups!  

A few RVA athletes walked by and I got a little teary hugging them and thinking how far we have all come.  There was some chaos as the line moved before I was ready but my wetsuit was on fast with the compassion and help of others and before I knew it, I had waved bye to my folks and given Nick a kiss.  Shawna and I were dancing to “Raise your Glass” with a spectator on a boat who had a mimosa in her hand just before we jumped off the docks and into the river.  

In Louisville, you get to jump off a dock swim past an island, turn around and make your way under a few big bridges to the finish.  The unique swim start jumping off the dock, meant I had a lot of space but no one to draft off.  I swam solo and close to the island.  There was a fog over the river so it was hard to see and a little bit creepy swimming and without a mass start I had space and was mostly alone, looking for the outline of the buoys when lifting my head up from the dark river.  I expected to be fighting a current but it wasn’t noticeable.   On the way back, after turning around the island, I also didn’t feel much of a drift but may not have been out enough in the middle of the river to feel it.  I sighted really well off the giant bridges and once the fog cleared and the sun was shining, I enjoyed being in the water working steadily.  I had a 2 minute iron distance swim PR and felt great coming out of the water.   
T1: I was out of my wetsuit quickly, wasted no time in transition and I believe I had the fastest T1 time in my age group. 
It was in the 50s and I was chilly early on.   The course is really fun with very do-able rollers through a beautiful green colorful countryside.   We headed  out on a slight incline but it feels flat for ten miles with some sketchy pavement to keep us all alert.  I did get stuck behind some car traffic here too but cars were just cautious and slow moving and nothing nerve wrecking to navigate at all.   A little climbing after ten miles in and I saw one of my RVA buddies which was awesome!  Soon, we reached a right turn into a really fun stretch of hilly road for an out and back.  The road is narrow with bikes going both ways so I felt really cautious on the descents around other cyclists but they had just laid down new pavement so roads were smooth.  At one point I did have a clear stretch and hit 45 mph….awesome.   After the out and back, we did a long loop of rollers twice. 

 The first loop was great for me.  It’s full of short ups and downs to keep things interesting but there was nothing too intimidating along the way. I got passed by my tri friend, Heath on the bike as he charged his way to a KQ with a “Hey, miss Kelly!”  This guy is actually one of my favorite people in the sport who has given me some of the most helpful advice in my tri journey so when I realized who it was, what a pick me up!  I thought of how far I had come in the past year and I rode very strong in this section.  By the time I hit La Grange roughly 40 miles in, I was ready for the crowds.  Spectators were set up with energy and many hilarious signs to encourage us.  I saw all kinds of familiar faces including my parents and Nick and I prepped for lap two.  In the second lap congestion on the bike was pretty bad with a lot of newer riders who seemed unfamiliar with the rules of riding on the right or not as aware of other riders.  I was braking a lot on descents because there was no way to pass the groups of cyclists taking hills very slowly without a lot of risk and therefore, I lost a lot of momentum here.  I noticed my NP was high so I dropped my watts back to try to save my legs more for the run. I had to stop to pee in this section too.  However, before I knew it, I was back through the cheering fans of La Grange and headed for the quiet return to town.  The way back seems like the easiest terrain and it was just a matter of pedaling home.  I did take it too easy here well below my target.  I’m sure I have pacing and focus work to do for my next season if I want to bike to my potential…which of course I do.  The course though was very fun and the miles fly by with the scenery and the trips the crowds set up at La Grange.  
T2:  I was quick but my T2 bag ripped and I got stressed trying to fit items into my hands, pockets etc.  ultimately, I shoved everything into my tri top, including a banana!  If I learned anything at IMTX, it was: WEAR SOCKS.   I still have scars from my silly sock free stubbornness in May.  I tore out of t2 looking like a total mess, but at least I had socks on my feet.  

Run:  The run course here is wonderful!  It’s a two loop course and I loved it.  It’s mostly flat and goes through neighborhoods.  The best part is running along the Churchill Downs building… The home of the Kentucky Derby!  Running by the finish line with another lap to go is exciting as well because you get to see what lies ahead the energy of the crowds carries you through long after the miles become quiet and more painful.  I ran a few miles with Elisha, a friend I met on the podium in the VTS/MTS series last year.  I saw a TON of my friends from home and my family a bunch of times on the run.   I loved the feeling of all athletes working hard together.  When my legs started to hurt, I thought of the “mountain apostle” from a marathon I’d run many years ago and immediately looked over and I saw Jill… One of the few people who might recall the story.  I called out to her about it and she laughed!   It was so cool seeing so many of the other athletes I’m friends with out of the course with the two loops and out and back sections.   Oh, I was digging deep in the last few miles and though I slowed in the last ten k, I turned around and brought it home nice and fast for an epic finish full of emotion, grit and celebration (see my last blog post). 
The 4th St Live finish was the most exciting one I’ve experienced on the circuit to date.  
After the race, I got to see some of my favorite tri women at the finish, met up with my parents, ate ice cream and then Nick and I went out to cerebrate at Hard Rock Cafe with my coach, some new friends, and Sarah and her husband.  There was beer.  And fries.  And exciting race day battle stories.  It was all so much fun. 

(I know, we could have found a more scenic back drop)! 

In summary…..Do this race!  It’s a blast.  Triathlon is awesome.