Ironman Louisville Race Report

I raced the Ford Ironman Louisville triathlon a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a report about my race! I’d driven from Oklahoma to Kentucky for the race a few days prior, and we’d done all of the usual check in and packet pickup items, etc. It was finally race day!

I had my Navigator on my arm and my pod freshly placed on my back, so I was ready to go. I woke up with a BG of 84—fantastic! I get really nervous on race day so even if I don’t eat anything sometimes my glucose will creep up past 200 on me. So, I kept a watchful eye on it leading up to the race start, eating some granola bars, knowing that I needed something to sustain me throughout the day for such a long race. I also had my race-day ritual diet coke. Careful nutrition and hydration planning aside, I just cannot race without one ;-)

We left our hotel by about 4:00 am and drove down near the transition area, which opened at 5. The TA finally opened and we were allowed in to make final adjustments to our bikes, fill our bottles, etc. With everything set, including my CGM and pump left in my first transition bag, my friends and I made the ¾-mile jaunt down to the swim start docks.
I had an extra meter with me so I kept testing in a paranoid fashion leading up to the swim start. It is not a mass start like most IM races. Everyone lines up single file and then jumps off of a set of docks a few at a time in one big continuous stream…it’s very much like lemmings running and jumping off the cliff in mass :-) I was 147 about 30 minutes prior to jumping in the water, and I had just consumed a bottle of Gatorade. I took 1 u of apidra w/ a syringe because I did not want my nerves to skyrocket me, but in hindsight, I would have been alright without that shot.

The gun went off, and my Ironman race had started! The swim was pretty crowded in the narrow canal as we made our way upstream. I never really found a great rhythm until after I had rounded the last buoy and turned downstream around the tip of the island. There is supposedly a current “that helps a lot,” but I never really felt it. I made my way down and finally exited the swim with a 1:14 time. Not horrible, but not my best either.

I made my way over to the transition tent and grabbed my tester…59. I thought something felt a little off as I had neared the end of the swim. Not a great place to be with 112 miles left to ride. I gulped down a gel (29 g carbs), had ¾ of a bottle of Perform (roughly 35 g) (the racecourse version of Gatorade, made by Powerbar), and in the first 3 miles of the bike I swallowed another full bottle of Perform (another 42 g). I hoped that would be enough to get me up since I still had many miles in front of me. I set my pump to deliver -75% basal over the next 6 hours. I had also synced my CGM while I was getting my bike gear on in transition, and it read 72. Close enough to my finger stick to give me a pretty accurate count of where I was. It hovered in the 70s for the first 30 minutes of the bike and finally came up to 97. Not ideal for another 100 miles of biking, but it was a good start.

I was cruising confidently on the bike and after 1.5 hours I noticed I had gone 30 miles—a fantastic pace in my book! I tried not to look too much at the clock or the miles, but it was a great confidence builder to look down every 30 minutes and see that I had covered slightly more than another 10 miles! The racecourse has a LOT of rolling hills in it and in my hilly training rides, I had never made such good time.

I went through a bottle of Perform (42 g) and a bottle of water every hour, replacing them as I rode by aid stations. My CGM showed me going up to 156 on the ride, and it stayed consistently between there and 119 throughout the remainder of the ride. I took a few gels and ate some jelly bellys to help combat the lower number, and I felt great the entire ride.

Coming off the bike, I had some cramping issues in my right foot and in both calves while trying to change into my running shoes. I gathered up my gear and headed out for the run, hobbling for a bit (which I am sure was pretty funny to watch!). The run was pretty slow, and the heat out on the racecourse (with virtually no shade) really had an impact on me. I had set my pump to -55% for the duration of the run. Throughout most of the run my BG hovered in the 170s. During some of the sections where I had more walking/shuffling I noticed my BG start to climb. It reached 209, and I bolused a small amount to bring it down. I also adjusted my pump to -25% for another 2 hours (this was the middle of the run), and with about 2 miles to go, I could see my BG was trending down (121 with an arrow straight down). I felt fine (BG-wise…my legs were not happy though!) so I just took coke and Perform at the aid stations, and decided to push it home to the finish line.

I must say that final mile of fans cheering with cowbells a blazing was a great motivator to cross that line. This finish line experience was by far the most emotional and exciting finish line I have ever crossed! Having Mike Reilly, the “voice of Ironman,” yell my name and claim me an Ironman was AWESOME. I cannot even really describe that feeling of crossing the finish line and having the medal placed around my neck with the constant noise of people cheering and the whole atmosphere of the 4th Street Live experience where the finish line is located in downtown Louisville.
I ate some food immediately after crossing the finish line and about 20 minutes after that I managed to test my glucose again – 147. I took a small bolus to prevent a post-exercise BG whip, and headed towards the recovery area for a massage and more food. After all that effort without any “real” food, I suddenly realized how hungry I was. I ate 4 pieces of pizza, 2 subway sandwiches, a peanut butter cookie, and of course my drink of choice, a diet coke! It was a GREAT meal.

Overall, I was really happy with my race day. It was not a PR (personal record) for me, but I really killed the bike course and had an absolutely amazing time on this trip. I plan to look at some shorter races again next year—140.6 miles is a noble distance, but I don’t know if it’s “my distance…” Here are my final stats:

Way to go Bradford!

That’s pretty incredible! I can’t imagine doing anything like that!!

Congratulations!!! Glad you had a great race day!

Thanks guys! It was a great race. It was undoubtedly a tough race though! This Louisville race had one of the highest DNF rates of any that Ironman has seen (I think it was the heat…it was pretty brutal in the mid afternoon!).

Superb combined management of the race and your D. Congratulations.

Way to go Bradford! It will take me two weeks (and 2 months) to finish that race… LOL

Bradford - that is completely amazing! Amazing I tell you!

I’m in awe at the number of carbs you ate!!!

Congratulations. It sounds like it was awesome. Thanks for taking us through it step by step. One of these days I want to actually be there!

20+mph on the bike, and 32nd place! Nice time.

Bradford, Great job. I so enjoy reading your stories. I am fascinated by your technical approach to balancing your BG levels, carb intake, energy levels, just to name a few. Once again you continue to inspire me. In 1987 I did the Music City Triathlon, Olympic Distance, and never had a clue what my BG level was. I have a race picture on the run with about a mile to go that would make you think that I didn’t have my chemistry just right, I was hurting, but I finished. Next time I hope to employ your technical approach. Way to go. John

Congrats ! Manage diabetes while running, swimming and biking adds a difficulty level for sure ! This fact adds more weight to your performance if we put it in context with the performance of others.

Thanks again everyone!
Lo - I ate sooo many carbs after the race and they were soooo good :smiley:

miketosh - heck yeah I was waaaaay excited about the solid bike performance. That made my race!

Super sally - I don’t think I’ll be racing in the Phillipines/Malaysia next year, but I’m always open to new potential races in the future :wink:

John I appreciate the compliments on the stories. I have known a few people with diabetes that don’t ever check or even seem to care to check what their BG is during a race. I know that I race better when my glucose is under control and so for me, knowing that information is nearly invaluable. If I am out of whack, I just can’t race nearly as well. I might as well tie my shoelaces together before I even start :wink: Good luck as you begin looking for your next race. They definitely test me to my limits, but that’s part of the joy of competing for me–seeing how far I can push myself while still remaining healthy and being successful.

Thanks for sharing this, Bradford. I really enjoyed reading how you managed your BG during the race and all that happens race wise. Great job!

Great bike pace on a rolling course,and even more impressive BG management throughout the day. Congratulations!

Wow! You are an atlet ha ha…no Iron man it was ;). Keep rockin!