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Louisville, KY – The Ironman Triathlon

This Labor Day weekend I was in Louisville, KY to support four friends in their first attempt at an Ironman Triathlon. 

These people are all endurance runners that I got to know as part of my own participation in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training program. Together we’ve trained during multiple seasons, and run many miles, and raised a lot of money for LLS in its mission to cure blood cancers. We were previously all members of the LLS South Bay Run Team, here in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. 

Chris, Renee, Jerald and Jesus are accomplished runners, all with multiple marathons under their sneakers. They trained for this event as part of the LLS IronTeam. In addition to the 10 months of intensive training, each raised a minimum of $10,000 in support of the LLS mission. On Saturday, August 30th they were skilled endurance runners. See where they ended up on Sunday by following this blog.

THE PHOTOS BELOW WERE ALL TAKEN ON SATURDAY, THE DAY PRIOR TO THE TRIATHLON.

IRONMAN TRIATHLON – WHAT IT MEANS

Swim 2.4 miles
Bike 112 miles (full Century ride)
Run 26.2 miles (full Marathon distance

You do all of these without a break. The goal: to finish before the 17-hour cutoff time.

Accompanied by another member of our former Run Team, Anissa, we flew to KY on Friday. Months ago when our friends committed to this undertaking, we volunteered to support them, provide “sherpa” duties, and whatever it took to help them succeed. Now the day has come! We stayed across the Ohio River in Indiana, approximately 2 miles from the start point of the Event. (It saved us $100/day in room fees!) This meant that we walked across a bridge, spanning the river several times. But hey, we’re high mileage runners…no big deal!

The City of Louisville, as seen from Indiana!

This cute little Smart Car was on our walking route to the bridge. How I wish they’d left the keys in it!

The City of Louisville has some great architecture. The LLS Ironman Team stayed in the hotel on the right of the screen, overlooking the Ohio River.

Louisville also has a lot of wonderful public art!
This cool dragon doubles as a bike rack.

Here our friends prepare to take their bikes to the holding area, where they will sit waiting for them to jump on for the 112 mile ride tomorrow.

The route to the holding area is about a mile away and we have to walk under a freeway overpass and out onto a walk that parallels the river front.

Ever the accomplished shopper, Renee has wasted no time getting her official Ironman Tri backpack.

As you see, Nissa (blond) managed to snag an Ironman pack for herself too. OK, yes, I had mine on too as I took these pics while we made our way to the bike area.

The Ohio is one Monster River. Here a decorative waterfall is incorporated along the river wall. In the distance you see the bridge to Indiana that we walked across each day.

Arrival at the bike holding area shows the race setup in full swing. The various arches under which the athletes must pass as they transition from the Swim to the Bike and from the Bike to the Run are in place.

There are about 2,000 athletes in this race. Each has a bike. They are all arranged in numerical order in this field the night before the event.

There are numerous schutes like this to guide the athletes. This is where they’ll come riding in when they’ve completed the 112 mile ride. The white tents are changing tents where they will swap clothes as needed to go from Swim to Bike and Bike to Run. 

Meet the athletes: from left, Brian, Jerald, Trista, Chris (in back), Renee, and Nick (Bike Captain for the Team and experienced triathlete.)

Now it is later in the afternoon. Most of the bikes are in the holding area…2,000 is a LOT of bikes! Some of these high end tri bikes can cost more than my special edition VW Beetle! This isn’t a sport for the poverty stricken. Reportedly the average annual salary of a triathlete is $160,000!

Here Jerald appears to be making a face that exhibits how he expects to feel as he runs under this arch to start the marathon, after having logged his 2.4 miles in the water and 112 miles on the bike tomorrow.

The day before the Big Event the athletes are understandably anxious. Here Jerald attempts to ask a “local” for directions, in case he gets lost on the way to the Start tomorrow.

Switching gears (sorry about the pun!) from the Starting Line, here is the scene of the Finish. It is an area called Fourth Street Live, in downtown Louisville. A collection of shops and restaurants on multiple stories, it is architecturally quite interesting.

Here they’re constructing the Finish Line schute. Finishers will run down the schute and through the official Finish Line arch in the distance. (And we’ll be there to watch!)

This is the 2nd year that Louisville is hosting the Ironman Triathlon. They have a 5-year contract. Needless to say, this event is a Big Deal here. Over 2,500 local volunteers staff it, many reporting for duty at 4:30AM!

Here in Kentucky, the Surrey is readily available as a means of transportation. Unfortunately, they don’t exactly turn on a dime and Dan, the head coach for our Iron Teamers, lends a helping push when these folks got stuck!

Walking the bridge had its perqs. Here we get a great shot from mid-span of the area where the athletes will exit the water of the Ohio River upon completing their swim. They’ll run up the schute you see here, next to Joe’s Crab Shack, left over the bridge and into the grassy field on the left. This is the bike holding field that you saw earlier. This photo was taken early Saturday morning before any of the bikes arrived.

Here the Swim course is marked with the yellow buoys. Swimmers will start approximately a mile downstream from this location. They will swim away from us in this photo, circle a small island and finish back upstream beyond the original starting point.

Meanwhile, Finish Line set up continues at Fourth Street Live.
These white gazebos will house the race officials. Some of the coaches will be allowed to witness the finish from this vantage point as well. This was a real treat for the LLS Ironteam Coaches.

The Final Destination Arch! The Finish Line!

As part of the marathon route, the athletes are treated to a run on the same bridge that Nissa and I walked across. They run out toward Indiana, turn around on the state line, marked here, and head back into Kentucky. We took this photo as we were heading back to the hotel for the night.  We’ll get up at 4:30AM walk three miles to the Swim start. It will already be in the mid-70’s and humid. Tomorrow promises to be a LONG day – and a memorable one!
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