My wife set a PR in the Ironman Louisville race. It wasn’t a perfect or “complete” race given cancellation of the swim due to toxic algae. But she’s a strong swimmer that has raced well in that component of triathlons all summer. So it’s possible to add on the logical time for a 2.4 mile swim and know that she still busted her PR by more than half an hour.
That means quite a bit, because her running is what improved the most over the last two years since she last competed at Louisville. She’s worked diligently to improve her form, strength and overall stability in terms of consistency and pace. I’ve watched that transformation first hand.
Yet she had a setback six weeks out from her Louisville effort. Her running shoes got a little too worn and when she traded them in for new ones a stress fracture popped up in her right foot. The orthopedist confirmed the problem and she was forced to abandon all the run buildup that she and her coach had planned.
Rested and ready
That may actually have helped her in the long run. She did a few Half Ironman races this summer with a PR at that distance as well. There’s always a risk of overtraining for the longer distance. The stress fracture actually forced her to back off and rely on the biking and swimming to keep fitness up.
To her credit she got out there on the bike on the worst of days and did multiple century rides in the wind and rain, heat and vagaries of late summer. Nothing fazed my strong woman. “I feel good,” she kept telling me. “I feel strong.”
To that I can also testify. I’d ride 40-60 miles with her and be happy to tail off after having averaged 19-20 mph on our rides. She’d go on another 30-40 miles with regular stops at the Casey’s in Maple Park. Our trusty food station.
Slightly off tracked
She even dealt with a double flat up in the hills west of Madison pretty well. She was 75 miles into a planned 100-miler when some railroad tracks waylaid her on the Ironman Madison course. A kind couple that was up scouting the course for his Ironman drove her back to Rocket Bicycle Studio and got a download from Sue on the course topography. That’s about a fair trade, I’d say.
It’s so seldom that anyone’s Ironman training goes perfectly smooth. Yet in recalling her prep for the first Ironman in Madison several years ago, there was an incident with an Escalade SUV that the driver literally parked in the middle of the lane on a country road as Sue and others were coming off a long descent on Campton Hills Road. She had to ditch the bike and it cracked the frame. We had to buy a new bike, get that fitted and off she went, but it was stressful to say the least.
So we’re grateful for the great day in Louisville with temps that were cool but manageable. The wind was not something about which Sue was worried. “I’m good in the wind,” she told me. To that I can testify as well. I’ve spent many miles trying to keep up in headwinds, crosswinds, cross-crosswinds and tricky tailwinds that feel like headwinds. We live in Illinois. It’s often windy here.
“You’re an Ironman!”
Watching her head into the chute after her steady marathon effort was rewarding for me too. As a partner to an Ironman racer there’s always a bit of anxiety going on. At one point her tracking icon disappeared off the Ironman app. I panicked for a few minutes and then realized she may have just been riding through some forested areas.
At the long day’s end I’d had two tall drinks of Buffalo Trace and Coke at Whisky Dry on Fourth Street in Louisville. I sat there watching her icon slipping along the course map on my phone and looked up at her daughter Sara and grinned. “She’s doing great,” I smiled. A little tipsy I’ll admit.
There will be other races, God willing. But it always pays to be thankful for the one just completed. Our puppy Lucy was a pretty good girl all day with everyone taking turns holding the leash. It was a great day to be in Louisville, for sure.
What I keep taking away from these races is the pageantry combined with the transcendent humility of doing something that requires perseverance to complete. But I particularly notice the strong women in these events, who defy the formerly stifling limitations of male expectations and sweat with the best of them. You gotta love it when Ironman meets strong women. And my wife is one of those.