I, along with three athletes that I work with completed the 2019 Ironman Louisville race. If you are considering this race in the future here is my perspective!
The weather this year was nice with the low at 40 degrees and the high around 70 degrees and a wind of 15-18 miles per hour
Unfortunately, the swim leg was cancelled due to toxic algae issues. The algae was very thick and IRONMAN made the correct decision to cancel the swim.
The race was converted to a time trial start on the bike, having one man and one woman rolled out every 5 seconds beginning at 8:30 am. It took about 90 minutes to get the entire field out onto the course with athletes seeded by race number.
The temperature at the start of the bike was about 45 degrees with a slight wind from the south east. The bike is a “lollypop” course with 2 loops. The course starts with a very fast flat section along the Ohio River for about 10 miles. This section had some rough areas but was overall fairly nice.
The next 10 miles was the start of rolling hills with an overall uphill trend. None of the climbs are big but rather a lot of rollers with no flat sections. At approximately Mile 20 begins the start the first loop of the “lollypop”. It starts with some of the bigger climbs on the course, but nothing excessive, with the biggest one being Grandma’s Hill which is not a steep climb but long steady. There was a group of people at Grandma’s Hill cheering to help you get to the top which was very motivating!
The rolling hills continued with an overall upward trend until just before you get to the town of La Grange at approximately mile 30. La Grande is a small town with large amounts of cheering spectators. IRONMAN provides shuttle buses for family and friends to get to La Grange to cheer on course and then return to finish area. It's a great boost to ride through a large number of cheering crowds! Also, the section through La Grange is relatively flat with a downhill after you pass through the town. After La Grange, you return to steady rolling hills. In this section we were also pushing against an increasing south wind, but this is the prettiest section of the ride with many horse farms and beautiful pasture land. These are all narrow country roads and in a couple of sections the vehicle traffic caused some issues.
At mile 56 we made a left turn to begin the second loop and another ride up Grandma’s Hill and were rewarded with another pass through La Grange and all of the cheering fans. This is a great pick me up to get you through the rest of the bike! At mile 90 the second loop is complete and the course heads back toward Louisville. The course elevation chart shows from here it is net downhill, however, it didn’t feel like that! This was where my mental fortitude was tested with the constant rolling hills and wind. The last 10 miles was flat but directly into the wind with a rougher road and increasing temps (~70 deg). I just focused on finishing the bike bike strong!
Overall, I liked the bike leg, it was a little harder than I expected, but was a good solid ride with overall good roads.
After dismounting the bike, the distance to the pick up my T2 bag seemed long. The volunteers were great and had my bag ready and waiting when I got to it. There were plenty of great volunteers in the changing tent and plenty of porta-potties just outside the tent. The distance from the changing tent to the start of the run also seemed like a long distance.
The run is a 3 loop flat course. This is a new course for IM Louisville. This year they started a new practice of giving out colored bands for you to wear on your wrists to signify what loop you are on. After about 0.5 miles I made a turn to start my first loop and picked up my first blue wrist band. The early part of the loop runs down a large 2 lane road. At mile 3 you turn off the main road into a park area where you stay on paved park trails. The rest of course is overall very flat, but during this section there are a few very short steep hills along with several short out and back sections. The final section of the loops takes you around the transition, then you start the next loop.
During the second loop it was starting to get dark so I stopped at my special needs bag to grab my head lamp. I am glad I did because a couple of sections in the park got very dark after the sun went down. After you collect your third band you finish the loop and then head toward the finish. The one hill you encounter is on 3rd street on the way to the finish at about mile 25. It is an unfortunate place for a hill, but by this time I knew I was almost finished so I was able to push through. Overall, I liked the run course. The 3 loops allow spectators to see their athletes many times and allow the athletes to get energy from the cheering spectators. The use of color coded wrist bands were good because it allowed the volunteers and spectators to know what loop each runner was on and how much farther we had to go.
The finish of all IRONMANs is magical. It is part of what makes all of the hard work worth it! The IRONMAN Louisville finish is no exception. As you turn down 4th street you enter a section of downtown Louisville called “4th Street Live”. As you go down the red carpet you are met with music and large amounts of cheering spectators.
(photo from IRONMAN Louisville Facebook page)
This was my 3rd Ironman race and, overall, I loved it. The fact that the swim was cancelled, while sad, did not take away from the IRONMAN experience and I enjoyed every minute of the race (well maybe not miles 20 to 22 of the run)!