11 Keys to a Successful Ford Ironman Louisville
While no one has all of the answers, here is a quick review of the top questions from Endurance Nation about racing the Ford Ironman Louisville, as answered by our coaches and the 30-plus team members who have already raced it.
In addition to these race specific tips, don't forget to download our free race execution guide, downloaded by over 3,000 Ironman athletes, to help you manage the overall picture of racing. Travel safely and best of luck on race day!
What Is the Swim Like?
Louisville has the most unique swim leg on the IM calendar. Louisville is a time trial start while every other North American Ironman is a wave start. The start order is "first come, first served," and the countdown for the swim cutoff begins when the last person gets in the water.
This is how it works out on race day:
- Set up your transition and then walk about a half-mile upriver to a small park/dock to get in line. Your position in line is your starting position. The earlier you get in line, the closer you are to the front, the closer to 7 a.m. you get in the water and the more time (see swim cutoff note above) you have to complete the swim.
- At 7 a.m. the first age-grouper gets in the water and the organizers do their best to start the next and the next and the next in one- to two-second intervals. You can do the math, but in 2007 it took them about 37 minutes to get everyone in the water. In 2008 it took 45 minutes. If you are in danger of not making the swim cutoff, it behooves you to get in line very, very early.
- You will swim upriver, but between an island and the mainland, so there is very little current (if any) here. You'll swim past the end of the island a few hundred meters, make a left and a left again into the current, and then swim downriver to the swim exit and transition area.
It's funky, but if you look at the historical swim times from the event you'll see that they look to be on par with every other Ironman swim. More importantly, everyone has to do it so it's not a big deal.
What Is the Transition Like?
Very simple. You'll run up a boat ramp, through the changing tents and out to your bike on the grass. You'll enter the bike course on a wide sidewalk or directly onto the road. In other words, the transition is simple and straight forward.
What Is the Bike Course Like?
The Ironman Louisville bike course is "fair," in that you're not struggling to survive against a wicked hilly course stacked with long climbs, longer descents, mind-numbing flats or other variables.
It's just...a bike ride with some flats, some hills (but nothing crazy) and some downhills (but nothing scary). It has a little bit of everything: flat along the river, rolling hills in the horse country, tons of spectators through Lagrange, flat to generally downhill and fast back to transition.
You start flat along the river to either a short climb into Prospect or mostly flat through Prospect. We say "either" because the exact routing of the course through this section depends on the status of a bridge repair (refer to the official Athletes Guide for complete details).
Once through Prospect the course is rolling to the start of the out-and-back. In the center of the out-and-back is a creek surrounded by low ground, so it's generally downhill, across the creek, uphill, flat, flip it and return.
The bridge across the creek is at the very bottom of the hill, so you'll have a good bit of speed as you approach it. And, of course, the bridge has a rough seam on the right side that is known to launch bottles and other gear. Hit the bridge towards the center and you'll be fine.
Once you've completed the out and back, you turn right and carry on to the start of a counterclockwise loop that you do twice. The loop has a little bit of everything, but nothing too crazy or anything to be overly concerned about. At the end of the second loop you continue straight, generally downhill and flat back to Louisville without doing the out-and-back. Yep, you only do it once, on your way out to the loop.
That's it, pretty straight forward. If you are looking for some extra credit information, please read our Climbing Smart on Race Day article.
What Is the Run Like?
The run course is more or less a dead flat out-and-back, with just enough slight turns that you don't see miles and miles into the distance. The only "hills" are a climb just past the top of a bridge over the Ohio River and almost into Indiana, before flipping it and coming back (you only do this Ohio bridge thing once, at the start of the first lap). There is also a short rise after a dive under an overhead train bridge.
As you head back towards the end of the first lap, you'll make a quick jog left, then right, running maddeningly close to the finishing chute before flipping a u-turn and heading back out for lap two—so tough!
What Can My Family Do on Race Day?
If they want to see you on the bike, the town of Lagrange puts on a neat family festival they can attend while they wait for you to come through town twice on the loop. If they want to stay in Louisville while you ride, downtown Louisville—and especially Fourth Street Live—offers a range of activities.
In fact, if you look at the course maps, you'll see that a good portion of the area along the river between the finish and transition area is grass, featuring a large park, a playground and other options for staying busy. Just make sure the family is prepared for a long day in the heat (see below).
I've Heard the Finish Line Is Very Unique...
Yep! Picture your typical urban downtown with high rises on either side of the street. Now put a class ceiling, about three stories up, over about two to three blocks of the main street. Fill this covered area with bars and restaurants and include an overhead crosswalk to a food court, and now put the finish of an Ironman right there in the middle of it all! Very cool, very unique.
What's the Biggest Mistake I Can Make?
Without a doubt, don't overcook on the bike, especially on the hills. We highly recommend you commit yourself to "Just Riding Along" for the first 90 to 120 minutes, ignoring the others around you. Specifically, you need to stay on top of your hydration, making sure you take in enough fluid through the heat and all of the terrain changes. Pay attention and drink!
Also, the last 20 miles of the bike course are pretty fast, and you want to be able to take advantage of that by not being That Guy. You know, the one who is too shelled from having drilled himself for 90 miles and is now relegated to the hoods for 20 miles thinking about how in the world can he possibly run a marathon in this heat with these legs.
In other words, it pays to be smart so you can finish fast and confidently instead of slowly and terrified of the run.
What Is the Temperature Like on Race Day?
Bad news? It's gonna be hot. Hot and humid. Good news? You know it's going to be hot and humid—it's Kentucky in August! Trust us, that piece of mind versus the unknown of other races (such as IMCDA, IMUSA, or IMWI) is actually very valuable. Pretty much everyone in the U.S. should have plenty of time to train in the heat before the event, so the temperature is usually not the problem that it sometimes is at other, less weather-consistent races.
What's Your Top Swim Tip?
Only go as fast as your ability to maintain good form. If your form begins to go because you are tired or working too hard, just slow down. It's a long day, so don't sweat two to three minutes on the swim. Don't try to get all Ricky Racer with drafting and current strategy—swim your swim and you'll be fine!
What's Your Top Bike Tip?
You're basically warming up until about mile 40 of the bike (don't worry, the hammerheads will come back to you or you'll see them on the run). After that, ride steady and stay on top of your nutrition.
What's Your Top Run Tip?
Run very easy for the first 6 miles, then settle into your pace, preparing for the real race that starts at mile 18. At mile 18, put your head down and get it done. Count the number of people you're passing and keep your head in the game. You can do anything for 8 miles!
Endurance Nation is the world's only 400 person long-course triathlon team, with 25 to 35 athletes in every U.S. Ironman this season. Download the Endurance Nation Ironman Race Kit, FREE! The Kit includes: The Four Keys to Ironman Execution eBook, 6 x 30-minute preview videos of our Ironman Course Talks, and the Ironman Transition Training Plan eBook, a comprehensive guide for the "what now" questions rattling around in your head post race! The kit is our gift to you, as a demonstration of our commitment to changing the Ironman training, racing, and coaching game!