Ironman Louisville Race Plan + Goals

Two summers ago, literally the day before I started training before my first half Ironman, I took a class with yoga teacher and endurance athlete Sage Rountree. I found out afterward that Sage is also an Ironman and triathlon coach, and she has a book called Racing Wisely, which covers everything from choosing a race to recovering from it. As someone who tends to overthink and worry about pretty much everything (in racing and life in general), Sage's guidance to mindfulness throughout training and racing has been hugely beneficial to me in the past. One of my favorite parts is guidance for creating a race plan (worksheets available in PDF format here), and I've been writing them for big races ever since that first one nearly two years ago. I've been waiting ever since then for the day that I could write a race plan for a full Ironman, and even though I'll be holding my breath at least until I actually get in the water because of what happened last year, I think I'm ready to finally put this one together.

(All direct quotes from Racing Wisely are in italics.)

Intention is internal and private. Intentions are philosophical. Your intention is the attitude you are bringing to the race. 
When I first read this and thought about my intention, my mind went completely blank. It's been almost two years since I signed up for my first Ironman and, although I'm really proud of all I've done in those two years, they have been hard and oh so draining. I will be honest, I think I lost my "why" and my intention a long time ago. Or at least I thought I had. Sage encourages your intention to be something you can boil down and repeat to yourself mantra-style on race day and, although I used to be the queen of motivational quotes,  I was seriously struggling to come up with anything that would resonate this time.

But then I stopped thinking for a second, and my intention found me.

It was never random.

The company that puts on our local races (including two of my absolute favorite races, the Shamrock Half/Full Marathon and Wicked 10k) also leads training groups throughout the year, so they are frequently out running at the beach and I often see their mantras in chalk on the streets and boardwalk. I saw this one during my 20-miler a few weeks ago and it literally stopped me in my tracks. After everything that has happened over the last two years of Ironman training, after this disappointment of last year's race, after all the hard work I've put in to get here, ever since starting Couch 2 5k in 2011, this was all I needed to know. It was never random. 

Once I stopped looking for an intention for this race, I realized it had been there all along. When I stripped away the spreadsheets and colored boxes in Training Peaks (where I seem to only be able to see the red ones even if the green ones far outnumber them) and the schedules, when I realized I had answered, "I don't know," when asked why I do any of this so many times that I really didn't know anymore, when I took the power away from last year's race and the enormity out of Ironman, it finally started to make sense. I could see every swim, every ride, every run, like pieces of a puzzle that didn't make any sense up close and fragmented but turned into something complete once I stepped back and looked again. And suddenly I knew. It was never random.

Goals are quantifiable, measurable, external, and public. Goals are useful in helping us control all the things we can control as we prepare to race: out training, our nutrition, our equipment, our pacing. Goals are practical.

(The goal for the first time at any distance is the same: to finish. That is my number one goal, but given that I didn't think I needed to spell that one out, I didn't count it toward any of my timed goals below.)
Conservative Goal
Swim - 1:30 / Bike 7:30 / Run 5:00 / Transition 0:20 = 14:XX
I've had to adjust my time goals by at least an hour from what I expected to do last year to account for the hillier course at Louisville and, honestly, that's been a tough pill to swallow. I think this swim time is fairly conservative, but I'm really not sure what to expect from the hilly bike course, or from the run after biking a hilly course. I will say that I really, really hope to not be on my bike any longer than that, and I really, really hope to not be running any longer than that! A five-hour marathon would be my slowest, which wouldn't be totally unreasonable for an Ironman, but I'm hoping it doesn't come to that. Part of me feels like this goal really isn't all that conservative, but the reason I drew the line here is because it's the high end of what I'm realistically expecting, if that makes sense. Anything over 14 hours will be well over any time I've ever envisioned, so I don't know how much it will matter how much over I am at that point.

Public/Realistic Goal 
Swim - 1:25 / Bike 7:15 / Run 4:35 / Transition 0:15 = 13:30
I still think this swim time is reasonable, as is the bike, but the run is getting a little ambitious. My run last year was 4:28, but that was after a much different swim and bike than I'm up against this year. Most of my long runs have been slow this summer because (well besides summer) I have run a lot of them with my dad, so I'm not sure what my normal pace even is right now. Still, I think if I can land under 14 hours, preferably closer to mid-13, I'll be happy with that.

Private Goal 
Swim - 1:20 / Bike 7:00 / Run 4:30 / Transition < 0:10 = 12:59
This is my what-I'd like-to-do goal. My goal for last year was to finish in the low 12:XX range on a flat, fast  course. I just raced a 6:02 half on a flat, fast course at an easy-moderate effort level. Is that, doubled, plus nearly an hour enough to account for the distance and terrain? I don't know. I'll also have to not get too cozy in transition if I'm going to make this one. We'll see on Sunday!

Super-Secret Radical Goal
I think my private goal is already pretty radical, so I'm not sure how low I can keep going! I have some thoughts on this one, but I'm not attaching any strict time goals to them.

Non-time goals: Remember to pack all of my gear. Put my timing chip on right away so I don't lose it. Bring toilet paper for the porta-potties. Remember to follow my nutrition plan and stay hydrated. Clip in and out of my bike without falling. Don't fall apart on the run. Smile at race photographers. Thank volunteers. Finish with a smile on my face. Remember my intention, that this was never random. 

Mental Strategies
Three workouts from this training cycle in which I learned something about my mental and physical abilities:

1. Shamrock Marathon - Technically this was before this training cycle started, but I signed up last November so I've been training ever since, even if my official training plan didn't start until June. Actually I recently realized I've been training for this for 6.5 years, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, I included this because it was a true breakthrough race for me. It was definitely my breakthrough moment in the marathon, and maybe even in racing, period. This was the first time I truly trusted my training and my body. It was the first time I felt completely in control of my race from start to finish and, regardless of what the time clock said at the finish line, I think that was so important for me to experience. Although the Ironman is a completely different ballgame and I don't expect to be able to execute that kind of control for 13 or 14 straight hours, I'm so grateful to have this one in my back packet. If you had asked me 4 days before Shamrock if I thought it was going to go the way it did, I would have said absolutely not, no way. The fact that it did gives me hope that maybe the Ironman can go better than I think it will. And if not, I'll always have Shamrock!

2. Mountains of Misery - This was also technically before this training cycle started, but I thought back to this ride all the time in training, and I imagine that the race will be no different. Before this ride, or before I started training for this ride, really, I rarely left my comfort zone on the bike. I stuck to trails I knew, I avoided hills when I could and cursed them when I couldn't, and my perspective on cycling was very narrow. When I signed up for MoM, I started to seek out all the things and places that usually scared me, and what I found was how beautiful of an experience cycling can be. This ride, and many of the rides I did in preparation for it, were breathtaking. And they were fun! Before this year, my bike rides were strictly about getting in miles and time on the saddle. I had no idea what an amazing journey they could be.

3. This whole training cycle - Is it weird that, even though I completed close to 150 workouts over the last 4 months alone, I can't even think of one specific workout to include? Not one workout from this whole training cycle? Is that even weirder considering I think this was one of my better training cycles, and light years better than my last Ironman training cycle? For whatever reason, I just can't boil this training cycle down to any one definitive workout. I'm going to talk about this more on Friday, but I've been realizing recently how cumulative training really is, how it doesn't start and end with each training cycle. I don't have any definitive moments from this training cycle, and that was kind of by design. This wasn't my first go around at Ironman training, and I think I was acutely aware of that the whole time I was training. For better or for worse, I never felt the need to push myself or to prove myself - I did all of that last year. While last year was full of ups and downs and it was easy to pick out the defining workouts, this time was a lot more level. That may end up hurting my overall performance, but I needed it to be that way to get through it a second time. The irony is that, rather than just getting through it like last time, I mostly enjoyed the process this time. The lessons I learned about myself and my abilities this time are so different than what I ever expected to learn on this journey. So, rather than one or two big lessons from key workouts, I have all of these little ones, all of these little moments that I don't think I could articulate even if I tried. Last year when I thought back on my training, all I could see were the bloopers, the failed moments, the low moments. This year when I look back, I just see the highlight reel of all the best moments and people and places. That's probably the best lesson I could have ever hoped to get out of this.


  1. i just got teary eyed reading this one! ironman races do weird things for me. i am going to buy that book for Drew as he starts his quest! you seem so strong these days - both mentally and physically. can't wait to hear about the race!!

  2. So very proud of you and glad you found your intention! Cant wait to hear about the race.

  3. I am so excited for you for this weekend & proud of you regardless of anything, any goal, any time hit or missed. Hope you love Louisville...
    I'm hoping to make it to the finish line - I'm supposed to be a catcher - but I'm shooting a wedding Saturday & leading a bible study sunday after church so if they let me come in late, I'll be there - if they have problems with a later volunteer, then I'll be on the sidelines. So if I see you or not, I'll be cheering you on 10000%... heck, you may just see me on the side of the road with a sign for you!!! <3 I cant wait to read the after post & see how all your hard work has paid off!!!

  4. It is never random, that is for sure!!!!

    Good luck with all of your goals, especially packing everything you need :)! YOU GOT THIS FRIEND!

  5. I'm really excited for you and hope that everything on Sunday goes, at the very, very least, according to official Ironman plan so you're able to complete 140.6 miles this time around. But even more than that, I hope you're able to walk away from the race proud of the work you put in and the result you came out of it with. I'll be cheering for you from Chicago!

  6. Jennifer @ Run Jenny RunOctober 15, 2017 at 8:16 PM

    Go Tracy!!