Ironman Louisville August 30th 2009
The morning of this race started at 3am, as I rose and ate the last hot meal I would eat for the day. Oatmeal and bananas washed down will Gatorade fuelled my stomach which was flip flopping like crazy both with nerves and excitement at what was going to be an amazing day.
Stanley and I left the hotel at 4.30am and walked to meet Paula and Lyn at the intersection between our hotels, the roads were full of people also heading the race, the air was filled with unspoken words of apprehension and a readiness that only months of physical and mental preparation can bring. Stanley and Lyn were there as support crew and head cheer squad and both seemed as anxious as Paula about the day ahead.
We entered transition at 5am, bikes had been racked the day before so we knew where to go, bags had also been handed in so all there was to do was check the bikes, add air to tires and add the fuel. I found my bike on the rack and noticed that my front hydration system was loose, yikes the band had broken I knew I had a spare but it was in my bike special needs bag that I would not see until mile 65 of the bike, so I took the string from my morning clothes bag and tied it to my aero bars, I had to laugh as here I am at my first Ironman and already my bike is tied up with string! Then on to inflate my tires, yikes! A flat! Oh well better now than later, flat changed tires inflated, food on board, fluids set, time to go.
The walk to the swim start was just over a mile and by the time we reached the line was another 500m after that, it was to be a time trial swim start with 4 athletes entering the water every 3 seconds and also we would be chip timed the cut offs were the same for everyone and were not based on chip times. The cut offs were as follows:
Swim 2 hours and 20 minutes after the last person enters the water
Bike 60 miles by 2.15pm
Bike 112 Miles by 6pm
Run 14.5 miles by 9pm
Finish line by midnight.
I entered the water at 7.21am and from the minute I entered the Ohio river my goggles filled with water, that was it I was relieved they say bad things come in threes and that was my three, the hydration system, the flat and now leaky goggles with all my bad luck out of the way this was going to be a great day! The swim was uneventful, the usual brutality that is a triathlon swim of course was present but a little less than usual because of the time trail start but even so the general pushes and shoves, kicks and scrapes were as always present. The water was warm but very dark it was my first experience of a river and again it reminded me of just how blessed I am to have the Caribbean sea as a training ground, unable to see the hand in front of you it was so dark I took the swim real easy knowing that I had a long day ahead, I was warned to make sure I came out of the swim fresh and my plan worked perfectly.
Out of the swim and into the change tent only to remove my skin suit add gloves, socks, shoes, shirt and helmet then off to find my bike.
The bike was my biggest concern the course is described as rolling and relentless with some big climbers thrown in. This may not have been as much of a concern as usual but 3 weeks prior to the race I had damaged my knee and could not ride so I had not really tested what it could withstand. Weeks of therapy and the constant help from Todd Hewitt meant that I had done all I could as far as repair I just had to hope it was enough. I decided because of this that I was going to spin all the hills taking as much pressure off of my knee as possible I had come too far and work too hard to blow it now. Rolling and relentless was the best possible way to describe this bike course, although very beautiful the hills just never stopped going up, I swore the finish line would be at the top of a mountain!
Houses and horses worth millions of dollars, pro’s on their second loop passing by at unheard of speeds, cheering crowds at La Grange it really was an amazing ride. At 65 miles I picked up my special foods bag ate a powerbar stretched my legs and headed off again this was awesome I am doing an Ironman can you believe it!! My knee was doing well, I felt great and to make things even better the sun was shining who could ask for more. The last 10 miles gave me delight as they were all downhill, just what was needed to get those legs ready for the marathon!
T2 was as uneventful as T1 just a change of shoes and head gear, smiles for the camera as Stanley and Lyn cheered me on feeling fresh I knew I needed calories so my first plan was to get food in.
Out on the run we ran to the state line which is in the middle of a bridge over the Ohio river the first water station was there and I quickly took in pretzels, Gatorade, water and a powerbar it was then out on to the 2 loop run course. The first 10k was just getting food on board my body was hungry, it was already 15 hours since my breakfast back at the hotel and with gels and Gatorade as my main nutrition I needed to get in more fuel or it was going to be a long night. I worked hard at replenishing and soon felt much better, lap one of the run was tough but seeing Stanley’s message at the Ford motivational mile really boosted me, however, nothing could prepare me for miles 17 to 20 these miles seems to go on forever and this was a real mental game the bottoms of my feet were now covered in blisters and I struggled to keep my head in the game. At Mile 20 I really had to dig deep and recall all the reasons I was here, the end was 10k away and I was going for it. Speed picked up whatever I had brought out here was staying out here this is what I worked for and this is what I wanted to achieve. Many had told me I would be a different person after this journey but I had never understood the magnitude until that moment. As I turned the corner at mile 26 I could see Stanley, Paula and Lyn. Paula had experienced a bike accident at mile 70 which left her bike unable to finish the race but even so she was still there right at the end for me which shows not only what an amazing sportswoman she is but also the most incredible friend. Seeing the lights on Fourth street live I felt like I was coming home, to hear Mike Reilly, THE voice of Ironman calling out my name and St Kitts Nevis to let people know of my arrival reduced me to tears and to run through the shoot hearing those famous words, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN with my name proceeding them was a feeling I cannot begin to explain. The catchers were needed as I crossed that line I was spent, delighted and filled with pride. I had travelled 140.6 miles to get to that point on race day but many more through training but every second was worth it. It’s a journey I will never forget and one I will always be proud to recount after all I am an Ironman. (Editors Note:- Sarah is the first person, male or female from St Kitts & Nevis to complete an Ironman, huge congratulaions Sarah you made history!!!)