Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ironman Louisville 2012: A Family Affair

It is quite hard at times to find the ability and words to put overwhelming feelings down on paper.  But this time that is not the case.  I will give you, my readers, a race report along with some personal feelings from my past experience with Ironman Louisville 2012.  This year's race was met with a completely different philosophy from the get go and I think it proved to be the right one.  To first understand my race report I want to give you some song lyrics to keep in mind that pulled me through my darkest hours. The song is by Egypt Central, titled "Kick Ass".  My theme song for 2012.

Now is the moment
I waited for
I can't be broken
I settled the score
I will not quit
So stand up, up, up
Conquer the weakness
Work through the pain
I can't be defeated
I will remain
I will not quit
So stand up, up, up

Stand up
Get your hands up
Are you ready to
Are you ready to...
Are you ready to kick ass

This year as you may or may not know I raced with my wife for the first time in a long time.  Many of my friends constantly asked and wondered how it would play out.  Was I going to wait, was I going to just race, what exactly were my plans?  Well for the most part I kept those cards close to me.  I knew I would finish with my wife, but I did not want to put any pressure on her as this was her first IM.

The swim for IM Louisville is in a river where you swim upstream for about 3/4 mile and then make the turn and swim back for the remaining 1 and 3/4 mile for a total of 2.4 miles. The water temperature was 84-85 so no wetsuit.  Kerrie and I hit the dock running and entered the water together off seperate docks in time trial fashion.  I was hoping to swim with her but it was a bit chaotic with negotiating around several hundred others that were already in the water. I saw her once before the turn but that was it.  My swim this year was phenomenal and uneventful.  I was relaxed and I did not puke! I pulled for about the first mile and a half then kicked into a stronger stroke for the remainder of the time.  I exited the water in 1 hour 14 min a 16 min PR from my first IM.

I came out of the water into transition just amped.  I asked my family if Kerrie had come out and they said not yet.  Kerrie and I had agreed that we would race our own races, but I still worried and wanted to ride with her.  I hit the changing tent.  Put on my bibs and tri jersey, filled up my pockets and headed out to get my steed. My plan was to go easy on the pedals for the first 50 miles or so. The course is very rolling but it is easy to get caught up in going too hard since the first 12 miles is dead flat and very fast.  I managed to hold back and kept my cadence high (90) which is my normal spin. There is an out and back section with a steep decline into a long climb and then back again.  On my return on this leg I saw Kerrie for the first time, she had the largest smile I could imagine and this set my mind at ease.  I was about 6 miles ahead of her at this time and I knew this was the last time I'd see her until the run. The ride went without any event.  The heat had kicked in and there was no relief from the sun.  The roads are smooth but the wind was noticeable.

I had gone through the bottles on my bike and all along I knew I was going to use my special needs bag.  This was the only planned stop I was going to make.  I had swtiched off my speed in order to focus on time for feeding etc.  It is a good thing I did this in hindsight because I would have pushed a bit harder to hit my goal of 20 mph average.  This would have caused some serious problems to occur earlier in the race.  As it was I finished the bike course of 112 miles in 5 hours and 41 mins. Averaging 19.8mph and a 45 min PR from my first IM.  Entering back into transition it was now time to start on my gameplan to finish with Kerrie, the looming question of how was going to be answered very quickly.

I had the same run plan as I did in my ultra.  My pace would be steady but slow.  I would try to maintain a low HR as best as possible at least and fuel constantly.  The IM Louisville run course is a two loop course that is very flat.  The only hills consist of running on a bridge to Indiana and back then running under two road bridges in the U of L area.  Other than that the run course offers no shade and is concrete/asphalt the entire way.  The temp again had risen to 94 degrees and visions of my first time here quickly returned. I had run the first three miles at an easy pace, walked the bridge and was feeling tired but ok.  I went through mile 6 when I started to feel the ominous "this is going to get ugly" feeling.

I began to walk but a quick enough pace to average 4.5 mph.  I knew I was on pace to shatter my first IM time, but I quickly reminded myself that was not why I was here this time.  At mile 10 I saw Kerrie again.  She was smiling still, running, and having a great race and at mile 4.  She asked me how I was, and I did not have enough filter to lie.  I said I am not well but we will finish. We shared a kiss and I told her not too worry and enjoy the moment, but not sure if she heard this.  As I continued to walk the world was growing dark, not because of clouds or shade or a tunnel, but because dehydration had set in with a fury.

There is a moment when you are severly dehydrated that you feel euphoric in a sense.  I must have appeared as a drunk man as I staggered from one side of the lane to the other.  My progress had slowed to a near crawl.  Doubts of a finish quickly began to fill my head and quitting became a real possibility.  I passed my family at mile 13 or so, and they knew I was not well.  I told them not too worry that I could fix was wrong somehow.  I walked past them a bit ashamed of my appearance and sad in the fact that I told my boys not to run along side of me because of how I felt. I told them mom was coming and they needed to be there for her.

About a mile down the road, for the first time ever in a race I stopped.  I sat on the curb and tried to contemplate what was wrong and how would I fix it.  Some fellow racers grabbed my hand helped me up and said that it was not time to rest yet.  I would thank them by name but I do not remember them.  One of them gave me some salt tablets which started my road to recovery.  I walked to the next aid station where again I sat, this time with a medic nearby.  I decided to take all the time I needed, and fortunately took a 10 or 15 minute nap in the grass.  When I woke I had some chicken broth which brought light back into my eyes.

I got up and thanks to Egypt Central and the will of me wanting my finish with Kerrie, I began to walk again.  I even began to run!  I ran to a cone then walked to a cone.  This really got my spirits up.  Thank goodness for Swanson Chicken Broth!!  My strength was returning and I had made the final turnaround to head back to the finish line.  At about 3/4 mile after the turnaround I saw my friend Amy, and shortly after Kerrie.  She looked amazing.  She was still smiling.  I hollared that I can't wait to finish with her and I'd see her soon.  I was soon joined by my friend Rusty, Amy's husband and he shared some pedal time as I walked.  It was great having him there for a bit.  I had fought through so much and really needed to chat at someone.  So a big thanks to him.

I approached the second to last turn before the finish and stopped.  It was here at mile 25.75 that I waited for Kerrie.  I knew she wasn't far behind and I couldn't wait for her so we could finish together.  It had taken 10 years to come to this point.  Kerrie got me started in triathlon many years ago, she had never beaten me.  This time she had beaten me.  No matter the time on the clocks, she deserved for this to be her day.  She nudged me at the line and we embraced following those words,"Jason & Kerrie Bernstein YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Kerrie's time - 14hrs 59 min 00 sec   My time - 14 hrs 59 min 03 secs
The day was long. The anticipation drove me crazy and every step I took was one with emotion and feeling.  We took this journey together.  From every run, ride, swim, babysitter, and everything in between we did this together.  I could not have been more proud of the final moment on 4th St.  Watching Kerrie hug our boys, seeing them look up at her and being so proud.  They sacrificed a lot this summer.  More than most boys should.  But in the end they were the ones that wore the medals. The lessons of Ironman don't just apply to training, nutrition, and race day execution.  They carry over to every facet of life.  Balance, communication, patience, love, and sacrifice.  There are so many feelings to describe the day, but it I can try to sum it up with "Be in the moment".  These were the words we worked and sacrificed by.

A heartfelt thanks goes to:
Connor & Cooper- the two best sons a dad could ask for, Mom & Dad Bernstein & Jessi & Brandon Cain (Sydney too) - you are our Iron Sherpas!
Kristy & Dustin- Always had a bottle of wine ready, and a phone close by.
Craig, Ellen, Tammy, Tammy, Joe, Brad, Amy, Tami, Brooke - Thanks for sharing some of the miles

And all of our friends that followed the journey and whispered or shouted support throughout the day.

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