Steve’s IM Louisville Report

8 09 2009

My First Ironman, Steve van Schouwen

Louisville, KY

August 30th, 2009

Travel Day Thursday:

Cindy, Story, Maggie (my wife and daughters) and I flew into Indianapolis on Thursday, rented a car and stopped in Bloomington for dinner and to visit Cindy’s alma mater, Indiana University. After a nice dinner and stroll around campus we headed down to Louisville and arrived at our hotel, The Galt House, at around 11 pm. We checked in, dragged our luggage to the room and hit the sack. So far, so good.

Lesson Learned: I should have sent my tri-bag with TriBike transport. That way I could have sent CO2 cartridges which you can’t bring on the plane and it would have been one less bag to drag around the airport. The cost, $30, was the same as checking a bag.


The Fast Forward team took an easy swim in the Ohio River. The river current was barely perceptible, but the split times going upstream and downstream were significant. My first split was 10:00 up /7:30 down. After the swim several of us picked up our bikes from TriBike Transport and headed back to the hotel. I registered for the race, picked up my race packet, checked out the expo for a bit then headed back to my room.

At 1:04 the FF crew split into groups to drive the bike course, it was raining heavily which made viewing the course and navigating difficult, but I had a general feel for the bike course, it was hillier than I expected.

That evening we met for the Welcome Dinner which was inspiring. The youngest (Steve from our group) and oldest (77) participants were pulled on stage as were those who has lost the most weight (the biggest loser lost over 100 lbs). We were also notified that the water was too warm and wet suits were not allowed. I expected that and had trained for it so I wasn’t concerned.


We started the day with another quick dip in the Ohio as a team; the water was warm and visibility was better than I expected. After the swim I packed my transition bags and brought my gear down to the transition area where a helpful volunteer walked me through the swim-in, bike-out, bike-in and run-out. Cindy, the girls and I then drove down to the swim start and had lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the swim course. That evening we had our team dinner, which included friends and family, very nice, though I would have been a bit more social if I weren’t so nervous.

After dinner it was back to the hotel to go to sleep–or so I thought. That night I did not sleep more than 15 minutes at a stretch, I watched the clock all night and calculated how many hours of sleep I would get if I could fall asleep immediately, 7,6,5,4,3,2 and 1. (Cindy told me not to get iced tea at lunch, but didn’t listen.) I’m not sure if it was the caffeine or nerves, but I was wide awake at 4:00 and turned off both of my alarms before they went off. The good news is I wasn’t tired and I was ready to go.

Lessons Learned: No caffeine after 10AM the day before the race, plus get to bed early to allow some time to unwind/relax/read to fall asleep.

Race Day:

I ate my traditional race breakfast of coffee (sweetened with a couple oz of chocolate hammer gel), coffee-maker-oatmeal, and hammer perpetuem, plus 6 fig newtons. Then I headed down to transition with Cindy for final bike set up and to drop off my special needs bags. I found Scott in transition; he came right over to see how I was doing and to top my tires off with air. I told him I had 15 minutes of sleep that night, his response was “that’s optimal” which cracked me up.

Cindy and I then walked down to the race start where Sherpani Jen spotted me and directed me to the rest of the  F4 crew. The line eventually started moving, I packed up my morning clothes bag, said goodbye to Cindy and started down the line to the start. Louisville has a time trial start, we formed 2 lines then walked to the end of a dock, crossed a time mat and jumped in the water one after another.


Ah the swim.

The swim course went upstream for about a third then downstream for two-thirds. The upstream portion was protected by an island in a relatively narrow channel. I was able to stay out of the pack long enough to warm up and felt pretty good at the beginning of the swim (aside from the 2 logs I ran into).

Things started going south for me when I made the U turn to start heading downstream. Somehow I got stuck in massive traffic; I had swimmers in close proximity on all four sides. The swimmer behind me kept trying to make his way over me, with hands hitting behind my knees pushing my feet down. It was very frustrating. I was occasionally able to get out of the pack and was able to swim with decent form, but I could never fully break away, (specifically from one very choppy swimmer who seemed to find me throughout the swim).

I was fighting foot and calf cramps but was able to swim through them. At about the halfway point I had a swimmer up on the backs of my legs, he stayed there for about 10 strokes and I had enough, I decided to do a few strong kicks to pull away and give that swimmer the message to back off. I kicked hard with my left leg and immediately my leg cramped-solid from my hamstrings down to my toes. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that might be the end of my race.

I hobbled my way over to the side as much as I could and tried to pull with my arms and relax my leg, which was contorted in a twisted, bent, curled fashion.

I swam with one leg and my arms for a bit, then I got a foot cramp in my other foot. Unbelievable! At that point I’m dragging my spazzed leg and stiff kicking my other leg through the water. Thankfully the traffic had let up (probably because the pack had passed me). I concentrated on moving forward as fast as I could and tried to gently kick-out the cramps. Eventually, the leg cramps subsided and I was able to finish the swim. Scott greeted me as I came out of the water and I made my way to transition with some tense calves.

Lessons Learned: 1. Stay in your bubble, even if you are surrounded by bad swimmers. Don’t do anything rash which could result in a cramp or worse. 2. If you can’t get out of a pack and it is affecting your swim, take the time to break away from the pack so you can get back to your race, even if you have to go to the edge of the course. 3. focus on swim kicking to strengthen legs and hopefully prevent future cramps.

T1: (My transitions took forever; I think both were about 12 minutes.)

I changed from my swim suit to my bike shorts and jersey, put on my HRM. Then put my helmet and shoes on grabbed my sunglasses and headed over to a table in the transition tent for some sun screen. I managed to cover my HRM screen with sunscreen and glob some on my arms. I put my sunglasses on only to discover that one of the slider lenses had fallen out. I panicked a bit and began to look for my lens on the dimly lit grass floor of the transition tent. I was relieved to find it quickly, I proceeded to grab the lens and slide it into the frame while covering it with sunscreen. I sat down, cleaned my lens and my HRM, then headed over to the porta-let line. FINALLY, I headed out on the bike.

Lessons Learned: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast. I might leave sunglasses and helmet on bike next time.


At the start of the bike course I was feeling pretty fresh (after my leisurely transition). My legs were still a bit tight from the swim but I knew they would loosen up after a few miles. I took about 10 miles to warm up then set into my pace, using heart rate as my indicator. I noticed my heart rate was about 2 beats slower than I would expect, I assume that was from the low altitude. My right leg quickly loosened up, but I noticed a dull pain building in my left knee when I would push forward and down during the pedal stroke. It wasn’t a sharp pain and I knew I would be able to finish the bike portion, but it slowed me down a bit and by mile 60 I knew I would not hit my goal time. I set a new goal time and kept cranking. The bike course was beautiful and I got to see most of my fellow Fast Forward teammates which was great. I hit the porta-let about 5 times during the bike since I wasn’t sweating much and I was depending on Gatorade for most of my calories. The last 10 miles of the bike were mentally taxing; I couldn’t wait to get off the bike and to start running.

Lessons Learned: I need to factor weather into my nutrition plan. I need to be able to get non-liquid calories when the temp is below 80. I need to practice with solid foods and Carbo-pro. I need to measure my sweat-rate at different temperatures so I can optimize my liquid intake during races.

T2: (Pretty smooth and easy, but too long.)

I quickly changed from bike clothes to running clothes, put on some body glide, then got sun-screened by a helpful volunteer. I hit the porta-let then headed out, I saw all my family and supporters as I left transition which really pumped me up for the run.


I have never been so happy to start a marathon. My knee was really bothering me by the end of the bike and I was hopeful that running would be easier it – it was.

I felt great at the start of the run, I did my first 3 miles at about a 10 minute pace. I ran into Scott at mile 3 who reminded me to take the race a mile at a time. I didn’t feel I could realistically keep my current pace so, to be cautious, I slowed a bit and maintained that pace for the rest of the race. I walked through the transitions and drank Gatorade. The miles went by and I got to see my family and teammates again which kept me going. The support provided at the aid stations was phenomenal and the citizens of Louisville cheered the racers on throughout the course.

Lessons Learned: Spend some time improving running efficiency.


It was night when I finished. The final stretch to the finish line was an unlit street. At the end of the dark street I could hear the cheering crowds and see the bright white light at the finish line. When I crossed the finish line the crowd went wild and I felt like a rock star. Scott was there to present me with my finisher medal, to listen to my babble and hand me off to my family. Priceless.

I crossed the finish line at 14:09. That was an hour and ten minutes past my goal time of sub-13, but I am very happy with that time because I gave it everything I had.

Many thanks to race Louisville sherpas Lida and Jen whose worried about the details so the racers could concentrate on their race.

It’s been a true pleasure training with all the members of the F4 2009 IMAN team. You all have my email, give me a shout anytime you want to ride, run or swim, (or drink a beer)!

I couldn’t have completed this race without the Fast Forward Ironman training program and the coaching of Scott, Michael, Phillip, Lance and Cameron. The program literally transformed me into an Ironman athlete. It has been an amazing experience.




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