A guest post from our prestigious alumnus, Steven Gomez:
I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing when I signed up for Ironman Louisville a few weeks into the summer. I figured Riders Week hadn’t destroyed all my bike base I had built from Little 500 training, and I am a fair enough runner to get me through the marathon. I didn’t know how to swim despite lifeguarding one summer in high school. Whatever, figure it out along the way. #NoFear
Next thing I know, it was 4:00 AM on race day and I was chowing down on bread and peanut butter like it was a fresh munchy box from Mother Bears. I was pretty nervous about the open water swim in the unsanitary Ohio River as I had only practiced one open water swim beforehand at the prestigious Kendalville Tri. I couldn’t swim a quarter mile in June, so if I didn’t drown in the 2.4 mile swim, I was going to chalk it up as a win. The water was extremely opaque: you couldn’t see your own elbow gliding through the water or the rusty pipes floating around. I was caught off guard by the physicality of open water swimming. I took a lot of elbows and hands to the face and jaw. I had to adjust my goggles a few times after a few aggressive women felt the need to assert their dominance on me :(. Compared to the other disciplines, the swim was over before too long, and I made sure to drink plenty of the Ohio River water for good measure. I made it out in 70 minutes, which compared to my training swims was a terrific time.
It’s a long day, so I changed into my BKB kit because I wanted to maximize comfort and facetime for the ride. If I learned anything from Little 5, it’s all about the facetime. After consulting with Jordan Bailey (sub 10 ironman) and Eric Anderson (Louisville finisher and fashion guru), I decided to cycle conservatively in hopes of preserving my legs for the long hot run. I maintained a 140 HR average throughout the ride, and tried my best to take in as much liquid and nutrition as my stomach could handle. I had a reputation on BKB as being the hungriest and thirstiest member of the team on long rides. On the bike alone I consumed a gentlemen’s, 6 cliff bars, 8 GU gels, a bunch of bananas, and around 15 bottles of various liquid. I didn’t really know what was going on just, kinda figured I needed calories 🙂
Long rides were always my favorite training rides with the team, so I just found my pace, relaxed, and enjoyed Louisville’s bucolic landscape. The course was challenging with over 5,000 ft. of elevation of mostly rolling hills with a few steep climbs. Unfortunately, I had to stop four times with two chain drops, and two bathroom trips, but finished the 112-mile bike with a time of 5:51. Definitely not in the shape I was in for Little 5, but at this point, I was just glad I didn’t drown in the Ohio River. #blessed
Starting the run, my legs surprisingly felt loose and responsive. I knew it if I could keep it together on the run, I’d have a chance at a fairly respectable first Ironman time. At some point in my 26.2 journey of suffering and humility, the heat index hard reached approximately 104 degrees. Cryn 😦 Despite the treacherous heat, I managed to keep a steady run pace as I picked off runners mile by mile. Around mile 12 I saw my BKB teammates, Charlie Hammon and Spencer Bracuhla who both provided great encouragement. I noticed Spencer’s quads had shockingly grown even larger which threw my mental game off considerably.
Shortly after, my performance went downhill quickly. I started experience intense pain in my stomach and diaphragm. As I’m sure many Little 5ers can relate to, too many drinks, in my case Ohio River cocktails, can have a severely negative effect on performance. After much vomiting and other intestinal issues later, I was no longer sure if could finish the race. I was physically and emotionally depleted, but reasoned that if I dropped out now, BKB’s twitter feed would mock me relentlessly for weeks. The potential cyber bullying was too great. I discarded my remaining pride and decided to walk in order to finish the race. Race volunteers mark your age on your calf for competitors to see during your race. I analyzed the demographics of individuals flying past me on the last portion of the race. As a 23-year-old male, it was pretty humbling to be passed by many athletes well over twice my age. I have a newfound respect for athletes of both genders who continue to compete at any level of sport at a relatively older age. Eventually, I proudly crossed the line with a smile and respect for a formidable event that humbled me greatly. Despite my high hopes for the last leg of the Ironman, I finally completed the marathon in just under 6 hours, for a total race time of 13:14.