It’s for an Ironman.
That was my answer in reply to someone that asked why I was taking several days off prior and after this weekend (October 10-11). They responded predictably, “you must be crazy! You’re doing an Ironman?”
I smiled and said, “NO! That would be crazy! I’m the Sherpa…for my wife, the athlete.”
After work and a quick run workout we packed the van with gear and dogs and headed for Bloomington, IN. It’s about a 2 hour drive so we arrived just in time for an appetizer and beer at Upland and Function Breweries. During our time in Bloomington we took our normal stroll around the square with the dogs and decided to check out Indiana Running Company (@inrunco). It is a very friendly store that allows dogs so we go in anytime we are in town. This time they were having a great sale so we each got a new pair of Altra road shoes (more on those later).
As darkness approached we headed to Yellowwood State Forest to grab a camp site and then kept going into Nashville to Big Woods Brew/Pizza Co. for dinner and…beer. After finishing up at Big Woods we headed back to Yellowwood to get situated. It has been several months since we have tried a campsite. Most of our outings have been in the city so this was a nice change. It was really dark with only the sounds of nature penetrating the open van windows. We decided to finally try to get the dogs off the bed this time. Floyd grabbed a front seat and Iris the floor. They “asked” to come up on the bed a few times through the night but we held firm. This paid off as the rest of our trip they gradually understood where their “bed” was at night.
Thursday morning we headed out and decided on the scenic route around Brown County State Park to/through Story Indiana. We stopped at the Story Inn for breakfast and it was worth it. I rarely have pancakes these days but these were worth it. Big, fluffy and a big scoop of sweet cream butter on top…yum!
As you can see the life of a Sherpa is pretty good so far!
It didn’t take long after leaving Story that we were a bit tired of the winding road. The leaves are starting to change to some of the drive was quite pretty. However, we are anxious to get to Louisville. As soon as we found a good crossroad we took it to grab interstate 65 to take us to Louisville quicker.
Like any good Sherpa I did a little research on places to visit while in Louisville. Our first stop before lunch was for coffee. We found Red Hot Roasters and were surprised to find it as a drive through on the side/back of a gas station. It was not very appealing to look at. They have some creative coffee/espresso choices. Due to location and being drive-thru only we did not return…
Since we weren’t that hungry we headed downtown to the Great Lawn to find Ironman Village. Like any good Sherpa I found a great parking place and escorted my athlete safely to athlete check-in. While she checked in I managed the two dogs. Keeping the dogs under control can be a challenge. They are constantly trying to eat grass, lick people or roll on the ground…it’s daunting.
After the athlete achieved a successful check-in we headed to Against the Grain Brewery for a late lunch and beer sampler. The food was good and the beer a mix of fair to great.
Next on the task list was to find a suitable place to sleep. What this means is a safe parking place somewhat close to a coffee shop. We headed for the Highlands area of Louisville. We found this area to be very cool. Over a mile of cool shops, restaurants, bike shop, coffee, and more. I had scoped out Quills coffee shop (and like their Indy location) so we parked a couple blocks away and walked the dogs. Accidentally, we found a dog park. Iris has never been in a dog park with other dogs present so we thought it would be fun to take her in. Floyd is unpredictable around bigger dogs so he had to stay out and “look but don’t touch” as the athlete took Iris into the crowded dog park. It was getting dark but the place was busy. The people were very nice and the dogs were having fun. Several dogs tried to make friends and play but Iris was just too skittish and afraid. She didn’t appear to have a good time but the experience was needed.
Our parking place on a side street worked great and I (as any good Sherpa would) woke early to walk the dogs. I decided to check out the dog park since it was so early. Luckily, it was empty. I went in with both dogs and let them run. They didn’t run: instead, they sniffed every inch possible. Floyd thought it necessary to attempt to mark every square inch of the place.
Shortly thereafter the athlete and I went to Quills. It was all we had hoped for. Several coffees to choose from brewed in several choice ways. Awesome! We enjoyed this for an hour or so as we caught up with social media stuff.
Breakfast and lunch were both in the van. The super-expensive Yeti cooler is working pretty well. I’m not sure it keeps things colder any longer than any other similar coolers but it is very well made and durable. The durable part is where it really benefits us as we are particularly hard on gear. It appears to take a beating and shows no signs of it.
Friday afternoon we found Cherokee Park – what a cool place.
There is a dedicated lane of traffic for walkers/runners/bikers/dog walkers/strollers/sightseers. The auto traffic is one way. It is beautiful, varied and safe. I sent the athlete out on her steed (the trusty Felt tri bike) while I ran with the dogs. Running always triggers a primal instinct in the dogs…to poop! And poop they did! We had a good run and the weather was perfect. As I finished the loop the clouds were rolling in and the thunder was starting. As we debated on whether or not to run a second loop the athlete decided that a little rain during a run of the loop would be like a natural shower. Why didn’t I think of that? So we ran. We got wet. We finished, toweled off and felt clean-ish.
We drove over to the NuLu area and found the Garage Bar. Very cool place with astroturf covered benches, lighted ping-pong tables and a couple cars positioned like a car crash. They appear to specialize in Ham, Pizza and Bourbon. They also had a respectable tap and beer list. The athlete was smartly watching her alcohol intake so she had ½ a beer. As a Sherpa I had no such restriction so I had a beer and had the bartender select a bourbon for me – Old Grand Dad. I was skeptical but am now a devout follower – Old Grand Dad is legit!
While we were meandering around the Highlands we noticed some window signs for Porktoberfest. What a fantastic concept. Oh, it’s held at a distillery – perfect.
We decided to check it out and eat dinner there if the food looked reasonable.
As they opened the doors we rolled in with hungry bellies. The first booth was excellent – some Korean spicy pork and kimchi/potatoes. After that first booth it went downhill. Other vendors didn’t have much pork. We sampled them all but were underwhelmed. Copper and Kings Distillery does make some very interesting liquors that are worth checking out.
Due to the superb coffee at Quills we returned to the Highlands neighborhood to find a stealth parking location. I found a great spot under a tree (helps block street lights). As we settled in we could hear a raspy voice loudly complaining about a boyfriend or something. This continued for too long but we stayed put. Luckily, the complainer either fell asleep or passed out as we were able to get a good night sleep.
Saturday morning was similar to Friday. The one exception was that the dogs had a blast in the empty dog park. They did laps chasing each other. It was fun to watch them have what appeared like a great time. The athlete and I then headed back to Quills for the morning fix. The Chemex Kenyan coffee did not disappoint!
Now we are 24 hours pre-race so the tension is starting to become palpable. The athlete is ready but nervous.
Swim practice was 8am – 10am at the Swim Exit. We arrived around 9am. Once again, I was able to secure a prime parking place in an adjacent parking lot that allowed for easy access and solar charging!
As has become routine I ably carried gear to the swim location while managing the dogs. The athlete changed and carefully entered the algae/debris/barge infested Ohio for a practice swim. I deftly guarded her belongings while holding the dog leashes as countless other tri-athletes requested a petting of Floyd. I often wonder if Iris lacks self-confidence because people tend to ignore her and swarm to Floyd to coddle his big, muscly head and soft brown eyes.
The athlete exited the water with a big smile on her face. The water felt great and the swim went well.
Sherpa duty required me to hold the dogs while also helping her remove herself from the wetsuit attached to her body like a bodyglove. Of course, I was successful. I’m in the running for Sherpa of the year.
We had lots of time before transition opened for bike/gear dropoff so we went back to the van and carefully assembled everything.
Stickers placed on bags.
Bike cleaned off.
Test ride to confirm the bike works.
Gear loaded into bags.
Gear double checked in bags.
Mentally run through the race.
Is anything missing?
Triple check the gear bag.
Double check the bike.
Check bike tires.
Ok, we are ready. We head over to transition. Is that a line? Oh my, that is a huge line. We follow the line. We keep following the line. Are we hallucinating. We keep following. We find the end and plant ourselves. We ask those around us if we are in the right place. We are.
I admit that an award winning Sherpa would have known this in advance. I did not.
Once transition opened the line went fast. The athlete handed off her gear bags and placed her bike.
She quickly returned with wide eyes and says, “that transition is huge, I don’t know where my bike is.”
It was time for a run but we weren’t sure where to go. Yes, yes, I know. A good Sherpa would have had this planned expertly.
The athlete suggested we head back over to Cherokee Park. Great idea!
A great run was had, some napping took place, and we soaked in the beautiful day.
With all that sorted we needed to figure out what to do for dinner and parking. Since it was the night before the race I left it up to Athlete’s-choice for dinner. Our coach (Josh) was going to meet up with us to discuss race strategy either before-during-or after dinner depending on timing.
Due to time of day, location and food choice the athlete selected Garage Bar. I was thrilled.
We arrived fairly early to get a good start on dinner. As you can probably guess by now if you are still reading this I ordered an Old Grand Dad. Delicious. Once we finished eating (food was great – ham platter and a pizza) Josh and Mike showed up. We had another round and talked triathlon, race strategy, pooping, and other good dinner conversation topics. Since a few minutes had passed since we last ate we decided to order more food (pork meatballs and roasted squash – also very good).
The athlete and coach had race strategy sorted so it was time to walk the dogs and find our parking for the night.
I pulled into the wharf lot and asked the gate attendant if overnight parking was allowed. Yes, it is. Excellent answer.
We parked in the darkest spot we could find. This was no easy task as this under overpass parking lot is completely lit by lights everywhere. It didn’t matter. We had a good night sleep.
We woke to the alarm at 4 am. I walked the dogs while the athlete had her breakfast of granola and milk. I had the same upon returning to the van. We quadruple checked the gear for the morning and headed for transition. The idea was to get to transition early, get the bottles on the bike, scope it out and then go back to the van before going to the swim start. A good Sherpa would have known better.
We arrived to transition around 5 am. It opens at 5:15am.
There was a line. We saw it but wanted to his the porta potties first. Porta potty time was successful (if you know what I mean – very important for the athlete).
We exited the porta potties (as a Sherpa I should have checked my surroundings but didn’t).
We walked back the way we came from and, once arriving at transition entrance followed the line. And we followed the line. And followed the line. And followed the line. We turned a corner and kept following the line. WTF is going on here? We followed the line past the Ironman Village and finally found the end which was just across the grass from the porta potties we exited a minute ago. Oops.
Ok, got in line and lamented the craziness of these lines.
Good news – once they opened transition the line moved fast!
Since that line was so long we decided to start the walk to the race start which was about a mile away. There was a steady stream of people walking that direction so we just followed along…oh, I forgot to mention we had the dogs with us. They were doing great so far and people loved seeing them.
After a 15 minute + walk we arrived to the swim start. We see several people at the front of the line with blankets, chairs, lots of clothes, a camp stove (ok, I’m kidding about the stove). The line was huge and we just kept right in line following it further and further. I’m pretty sure we were pretty close to the next zip code by the time we reached the end of the line. Everyone was talking about the ridiculousness of this line. It was our first time to Louisville and must have been the same for those around us. We all wondered, “why!?!?”
It was a chilly morning. Luckily, we planned pretty well for this.
Josh brought us some coffee – in a bike water bottle – barely lukewarm – but it was coffee. The athlete and I shared a bit of the coffee. She had a hammer bar and bit of water. We all chatted about the race, life, dogs and poop. Oh, and peeing. Peeing in wetsuits is all the rage nowadays. Put your wetsuit on, stand in the grass and act like it is the dogs that need to pee, not you…seriously, it works. Someone told me that. ;-)
Race organizers started condensing the line by having athletes on one side of the sidewalk and “others” move to the other side of the sidewalk. This helped to move us up significantly in line.
Soon enough 7:30am arrived and we heard the gun to signal the first swimmers to GO!
The line moved quickly and the athlete entered the water somewhere around 7:50 +/- 5 minutes.
Real Sherpa duties now started. I gathered her gear and the dogs and headed for the van. Along the way I stopped at transition since the time from when the athlete started to when I arrived back at transition was really close to when the first swimmer was closing in on the swim finish.
I planted myself at the bike mount/dismount line thinking it would be a great place to get pic of the athlete. Josh texted me when she exited the water (sub 1:10 – better than expected). I got up on a bench and watched. A good Sherpa would have managed this better by delivering the dogs to the van sooner. Instead, I dealt with constant people and dogs around Floyd and Iris which resulted in me missing the athlete mounting her steed.
So, once I realized she was already out on the bike I dropped the gear at the van (happy the parking was within .5 mile of the transition). I changed clothes and met up with Josh for an hour run with Floyd and Iris.
The dogs were nice and tired so I walked over to Against the Grain for lunch (and a couple beers). The Smoque Madame was indulgent. Very tasty. I followed that with a bacon doughnut. I’m sure that took 3 or 4 years off my life.
Sherpa duties mandated that I find adequate post-race nutrition for the athlete. I was lucky enough to acquire chocolate chip cookies (“best in Louisville”) from Please and Thank You as well as a handful of beers from a local craft brew store.
Ironman Online has really good live tracking of athletes. I knew that the athlete was doing well and the bike was going according to plan. I updated social media and texted family as Sherpa Duty dictated.
Sooner than expected it was time for T2. I grabbed the dogs from the fan and found a sweet spot in between bike in and run out. As I was there by the barrier for Bike In Floyd decided it would be a good idea to maul a lab-mix that was walking by. We are still not sure why he has such an issue with dogs his size and bigger…but he does. Luckily, I had his leashed firmly and nothing bad happened other than some noise and show of teeth. Even though I was embarrassed I remained in my location waiting for the athlete. Josh and Mike arrived and were excited that things were all going according to plan.
Once I saw her coming down the Bike In shoot I flipped on the phone and snapped some photos while yelling. Some kids next to me were also yelling their lungs out for every athlete that walked/ran by. The energy of the area was goose-pimpling.
After she went by I took Floyd and Josh took Iris and we crossed the little bridge/crosswalk to catch the athlete on run out.
A few minutes later she come through looking good.
More pics and cheering and it was time to hustle back to the van and then on to 3rd/Chesnut to see her again around mile 2.
Even though I jogged the dogs back to the van and then up to the location I missed her. Shea (the head honcho and athlete at I Am Multisport as well as The Cycle Studio) told me that the athlete looked great running passed. Damn. Another Sherpa error. That Sherpa award is not looking good at this point.
I lingered around the Cycle Studio tent for a bit, handed off some cookies to Josh, cheered on a few athletes (T.O. is Crazy!) and then walked over to the run special needs area to wait…
As I was sitting on the curb I noticed Mike (of CrushingIron.com fame). I chatted with him for 45 minutes while we waited for the athlete come thru mile 13-ish.
Once gain the Ironman Online tracking was helpful as we could see her time through 6 miles was faster than expected. I was pretty excited that she seemed to be having a good run.
When I finally saw her come through she was running well but indicated she was having some stomach issues. I jogged with her around a corner and gave some profound words of encouragement.
Shortly thereafter Josh texted me that he also jogged with her and told her to lay off any food until her stomach settled.
Sherpa duties now engaged!
I walked back to the van. The dogs had to be fed and walked – success!
I prepared a bag with clothes for the athlete for after she finished. I also had food and water just in case she wanted them. A towel was expertly placed on the camelback along with the necessities.
I changed clothes and headed back towards the finish.
I trekked back to the finish area. Wow. The 4th Ave. Live area of Louisville is an amazing place for an Ironman finish!
Mike (CrushingIron) texted that he was near the finish so I met up with him for a quick beer before I went down and positioned myself at the finish shoot.
Josh texted when the athlete at 5k to go…tensions were growing. The time was looking good. Her goal time of sub 11:10 was well within reason. Her dream time of 11:00 was questionable but doable depending on how this last section would go.
With a block to go I received another text from Josh that she was close…the crowd was going crazy. Finishers were coming thru on a regular basis. Some finishers have big smiles, some are like zombies and some are high-fiving.
Through the crowd I finally saw her and could see her smiling. People were screaming and as she passed me I could see she was hurting but still ecstatic to be so close to the end of a very long day. I ran through the crowd dodging people as I went.
The volunteers at these events are incredible. From check-in on day one to the finish they are attentive and excited. After the athlete finished there was a volunteer there to make sure she was doing ok and walked with her the 100 yards to the exit of the finish.
She exited the finish and I gave her a hug and a kiss. Yes, she smelled horrible. That didn’t matter at this point. Josh was there too and we walked her a block away to ultimately sit. Her stomach wasn’t good and she wasn’t sure how she felt. After a few minutes Josh suggested we visit the medical tent to get evaluated just in case.
The medical tent was well positioned in the convention center a block from the finish. We brought the athlete in and the medical attendant escorted her into the medical area for eval. I waited outside. After about 30 minutes the volunteer that was attending to her came out and said she was doing well but wanted her clothes. I handed off the bag of clothes and waited 10 more minutes. When the athlete came out of medical she was in great shape and feeling good.
We enjoyed some food, and then headed back to the van on the wharf, down by the river (insert SNL joke here).
The day after and we are looking back at it all. 5th place in AG for the athlete and an 11:05 finish time. A PR. The weather was great. The course was good. Everything went according to plan other than the stomach issues during the run. That can be figured out later. What are the chances for Kona. Every Sherpa dreams of going to Kona! Three Kona slots were allocated to the athletes age group. What are the chances she will get one during roll-down.
We arrived to Ironman Village in time for awards. A podium photo.
And we waited.
Floyd and Iris got a lot of love from a variety of people passing by.
And then roll-down started.
Kona is where every triathlete wants to be and it was showing. Only a couple age groups had slots allocated beyond the awarded slots. We are not going to Kona in 2016.
We left Louisville tired, satisfied and excited for more.
A stop in Evansville at Tin Man for lunch and beer was a nice break. Now it is time to start planning 2016…