Thursday, September 1, 2011


Ironman Louisville. It's labeled as the 4th hardest Ironman and I would have to say it is a tough one. This was my second year racing IMKY. We arrived on Friday after a long drive and headed straight to athlete check in. I had no nervous feelings at all leading up to the race and I knew that I was ready. After checking in and strolling through downtown Louisville, it was time to shower and head for dinner. We made our way to Bluegrass Brewing Company for dinner.  My stomach was a bit off, but I didn't give it much thought. One Wednesday prior to traveling to KY after picking up a sick Caleb from still didn't enter in my mind that I could possibly have caught a bug from him. I felt ok, just a little tired, but assumed it was from traveling. After a good nights sleep on Friday, we had a nice laid back day on Saturday and I basically spent the day prepping for the race. With all of the transition bags and special needs bags laid out, I took my time to make sure each had everything that I would need. Rich and I walked down to transition to drop gear bags and the bike and I was still feeling really tired, but again attributed it to the long travel day on Friday. On Friday evening we headed out for dinner and although not feeling hungry, I made myself eat dinner as I knew it was the 'last supper' before the big day and it was important. When we got back to the hotel I finished up preparing my gels for the race. Before bed I told Rich that I thought I might have a fever but wasn't sure and was having chills. Again, I thought maybe it's just my mind playing tricks on me as these things happen to everyone before a big race and off to bed I went. I woke in the night sweating and chilled but went back to sleep. Wake up time for race day was 4 AM. When we got up, I felt ok, nothing that really would convince me that I was ill. I ate some oatmeal and drank my Gatorade religiously before heading to the swim start. We got to transition and I checked my bike. All was ok, so we walked down to the swim start. Louisville is a time trial swim start and on a first come first serve basis. The swimmers who are usually worried about swim cut off time make their way to the front and the stronger swimmers really don't mind being in the middle or back of the pack. I have to say, I would rater mass start any day over this kind of start. The gun went off and we waited and waited. At about 7:20 or so, I entered the water and right away I was battling trying to get around slower swimmers. There were times that I was blocked in and literally had to stop to plot a route around people. There were several people doing backstroke and breaststroke.. One backstroker rammed right into me and he had no idea where he was even going. The blocking in happened all to many times and eventually I just gave up trying and just finished out the swim easily. All the while, not feeling 100%. My swim time was supposed to be so much quicker. Having done open water 3800 TT's, I knew that my swim should be around the 1:06-1:10 mark but figured with having to fight my way around people for so long, this took it right out of me. Not pleased at all with the swim but happy to be out of the dirty Ohio River, I headed into T1. I felt dizzy which is normal after a long swim, but in T1 it felt like the ground was moving beneath my feet. I felt queasy but like everything else in the day...assumed it was just from the swim and swallowing some of the delicious brown river water.

Onto the bike....the temps were awesome when I got on the bike but there was quite a strong wind. I felt good for the first 40 miles or so on the bike and then started to cramp in my stomach. My salt tabs had popped out of my pocket twice and I stopped both times to retrieve them. Losing them last year was a costly mistake and I learned my lesson, so def went back to pick them up. When we rolled around to the first passing of special needs...I had to drop the bike and head straight for the porta loo. I only use those by the way out of sheer desperation. I can only say...thank goodness it had TP in it. Ugh...the stomach seemed to be not working. Last year in IMKY, my stomach shut down and I had to near walk the run because I couldn't take in any nutrition after the bike. It felt as if the same thing was happening, but I couldn't figure out why. I had trained all year with my nutrition and never had a problem in training. What was going on???

I kept feeling weaker and weaker. At mile 70, my salt tabs popped out once again and I didn't go back for them. At mile 90 I cramped in my hamstring and could barely pedal for a good 6 minutes as a result of dropping those salt tabs. Temps were getting up there and the wind gusts were quite strong. Again, be a much stronger cyclist this year than last, I was starting to wonder what my problem was on this race day when I rolled into T2. I had just cycled the IMKY course 6 weeks prior in a speedy time and it was 110 degree heat index on the day I did it. I knew something just wasn't right.

Into T2...running shoes on, fuel belt on, glasses on....I had to head straight for the porta loo once more. After loosing what seemed to be most of everything in my stomach (sorry if too much info) I headed out for the run thinking GREAT, same thing as last year. Only this was worse. I kept pushing my feet forward and the stomach cramps kept coming. At mile 4,6,7, 13, 16, 19 the cramps bent me over and I could barely make it to the potty. It was over at mile 4 and stopping to use the potty 7 times on the run was just too much.  The 'D' had taken over and that was that. Loosing all contents in the tummy made for what felt like a death jog. I could no longer take on board anything. A swig of Perform and I thought I would vomit. I was able to sip on chicken broth from time to time and this is what got me through. I am a tough gal and I will never ever give up, and if I'd had to crawl to the finish I certainly would have. Try running an Ironman marathon on empty. It's damn hard.

I have worked so hard on my run this year in training and my run for the day was supposed to be around the 4 hour mark. With a prior marathon time of 3:56 and a 1:37 half marathon time before I really began my run training, I knew I could run strong on race day, but it just wasn't my day. When I reached mile 26 I forgot about all the troubles of the day and went numb as I ran down that finish chute. The crowds were amazing and Fourth Street Live is probably one of the best Ironman Finishes out there. All I could see was the light and it was light running to heaven...all I could hear was the roar of the crowd, and all I could feel were the chills creeping up my arms as I heard my name called out once again....TONYA ALLEN--YOU ARE AN IRONMAN. After crossing the finish, support had to literally hold me up. Rich was there supporting me throughout the day and he is the best!

After finishing, I felt just awful and wanted to head straight for the shower. After all that...I still couldn't put anything into my stomach but knew that I needed to try. I finally got in a little food and headed straight to bed. I woke in the night with a fever and chills and the 'D' came back 3x in the night as well. UGH!
Turns out I had a stomach bug and of all times it decided to visit me on race weekend. The day after my race Rich went ill with the same bug and has been down all week. So much so that he has had to call off racing the World Championships in Vegas. We were all booked for the trip and everything :(  He hasn't been able to train any this week as his stomach has just been to weak. Just like what I went through over the weekend. Rich told me that he was certain that the stomach bug is what did me in. I knew that I had trained with good nutrition and felt that I had gotten it right, so at least now I feel better knowing that it wasn't my nutrition that caused me to be ill.

How unlucky is it to not be sick any for months and then all of the are ill and on such during such an important time?? Caleb had just started back to school, picked up a little bug ( gotta love public schools) and the little bug took it's toll on all of us. This week has been rough. We traveled home on Monday and I was still not feeling well. Then Rich got sick. Tuesday I dragged myself to the pool to try and kick out the sore feet but felt awful. Yesterday was a little better and I'm happy to report today I feel back to normal, well almost. Sore feet, blisters and sore legs remind me that I just did an Ironman. I have felt bad for Rich being sick this week and now not being able to pull it together in time for Worlds. What do you do?? It happens..or in our case--S%%$ happened ;)

I am feeling better now thankfully. Glad to have another Ironman under my belt and actually looking forward to racing again. There is a good chance that I will now be racing Ironman Cozumel in a couple of months which was totally unplanned but very much welcomed. It's time for me to do what I have trained so hard to do and maybe Cozumel is just where that will happen. I hope to be an Ironman x3 by the end of 2011 and can't wait to see what's in store for 2012. I really would like to race Roth and IM Germany. Maybe even Abu Dhabi since we'll be there anyway in March.

Lastly, I am very grateful to be able to do what I do. Training and racing is my life and as my friend Angela said in a sweet message on race day..."Ironman defines You". This made me tear up and touched me so much. In some ways it is true. It has become a huge part of my life and it will always be a huge part of my life. There is nothing like the feeling of pushing your body 140.6 miles...the pain, the excitement, sometimes the suffering, the thrill, the sense of achievement. It doesn't matter if it takes you 8 hours or 17 can see it on every single finishers face. I really can't put it into words, but if you've been there, then you know. If not....set out for it. You will never be sorry.

Thanks so very much for everyone's kind words of support and encouragement before and after race day. It means the world to me and I appreciate it more than you will ever know. Thank YOU Friends :)

My name is Tonya Allen and I AM an Ironman *again* :)

Thanks for reading~T


Laura said...

That's a great race report Tonya! I'm sorry the day didn't go as planned, but I think you have some great perspective there. Good luck at your next IM! And let me know if you ever do Roth, I have my eye on that one.

Tonya said...

Thanks Laura! One of these days hopefully I will have better luck ;) Definitely thinking about Roth...will keep you posted. I hear it's a good one! Hope all is well your way :)