Way Back Wednesday Race Report with Athlete Emily Johnson

Ironman Louisville 2017



I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles…THAT’S 140.6 MILES… IN ONE DAY!!!

But this was so much more than one day.  Last year I had signed up for Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga 2017 which is at the end of May and I started training at the beginning of 2017.  As Chattanooga got closer I started thinking about what my next challenge would be.  I looked at how long it would take me to train for a 140.6, looked at the Ironman race calendar and Ironman Louisville fell dead on.  I remember texting my sister Genny back in April “if I asked you if you think I should do a full Ironman in October, would you say ‘no’?  If so, I won’t ask.” Basically, I was going to do it, no matter what anyone said.  People would ask “why?” and I never really had a good reason except if I ever wanted to do one, there wasn’t going to be a better time.  I signed up with Coach Teresa with the Evolve team and had 6 months to train…game on!

The training quickly consumed my life, but in a good way.  I trained 10-18 hours a week.  Every Saturday I went out for a long bike ride followed by a short run and every Sunday included a long run.  I always tried to get out the door early, but even still I was gone until after noon several days.  If we were traveling somewhere, my bike went with us…to the Lake of the Ozarks, to Chicago, and to Florida.  My peak training week I logged 18+ hours, which included a 112-mile bike ride in 95° weather through Wildwood, MO and was my first century ride.  Besides Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga I also raced the Route 66 70.3 in Springfield, IL where I PR’d by over 30 minutes.  I made some amazing friends on this journey and had incredible support from Jared and my family.  Jared had more faith in me than I did in myself, from the very beginning.

As for my race report, the day is kind of a blur, but here it is.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Most triathletes are worried most about the swim, I’m typically worried about everything after the swim (thank you Mom and Fulton Fins)!  It was a self-seeded start, so I lined up with the 1 hour and 10-minute group.  Thankfully, I found Jared and my family as I was walking down the chute.  Lots of pictures, hugs, and laughs.  I was finally more excited than nervous.  Before I knew it, I was at the edge of the dock and jumped in without giving it a second thought.  Here we go!

2.4 Mile Swim – 1:02:20

0.8 miles upstream in the Ohio River in an area protected by an island.  Nice because I didn’t have to sight very much since I could see land on both sides.  Got to the turnaround buoy and immediately felt the choppiness. Really nothing too bad, but not smooth.  I passed A LOT of people.  Kept repeating “strong and steady” in my mind.  Stopped once to un-fog my goggles. Loved seeing 1:02 on my watch when I got out of the water.  Got my wetsuit stripped off, saw my family on the way to T1.  I was super happy and having a blast!

Transition 1 – 7:37

My T1 volunteer was awesome!  So helpful, got everything out of my bag, handed me what I asked for and sent me on my way.

112 Mile Bike – 7:05:30

On to the bike.  Out River Road, onto 42.  We had a nice tailwind.  Then started the loop.  The main thing I thought about on the first loop was “dang, I’m a fast swimmer” since I was getting passed by tons of cyclists!  Ha!  But I knew that would happen so I just stuck to my race plan.  Felt pretty good and had a good pace going.  Saw tons of Evolve teammates on the route and saw my family in La Grange.  Bathroom break at mile 50.  Again, the volunteers were amazing!  They took my bike and asked if I wanted my bottles refilled and when I came out of the bathroom my bike was restocked and ready to go.  On the second loop and was looking forward to special needs so I could have a break.  Saw my family there and took an opportunity to squirt Anne with a water bottle…sister love!  I really stuck to my nutrition plan (gel/blocks every 45 minutes and 1 bottle/hr) as I’d heard so many times how important that was.  Fatigue definitely set in around mile 70.  Then at mile 80 we took a left turn onto 42 directly into the headwind. Miles 80 to 112 were BRUTAL…headwind, crosswind, rain, cold.  Sometimes the crosswind gusts were so strong it pushed me across my lane.  (Post-race I heard the wind was up to 30 mph and gusts up to 40mph!)  I pushed on except for a brief stop to remove a large feed bag that blew across the road and stuck to my back tire.  There were several times I remember just laughing out loud and thinking “you’ve got to be kidding me”!   River Road was very rough and the last 12 miles seemed to take forever.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get off my bike!

Transition 2 – 10:35

Into T2, took my time, grabbed what I needed, quick bathroom break and went on my way.  How in the world am I going to run a marathon?!

26.2 Mile Run – 4:47:45

My legs definitely felt weird for the first couple miles, but I finally started to feel like I was in a groove at mile 3.  I was just so happy to be off my bike!  I saw tons of the Evolve crew and held a strong, steady pace.  I was worried about stomach issues as I’d been dealing with it during all my training, but started on my run nutrition (1 block every 2 miles then gel at mile 6).  For the first half of the run, I only stopped at a water station if I needed to refill my water bottle or for bathroom.  Bathroom break at mile 7.  Saw my family at the turn around (mile 8ish).  Bathroom break at mile 10.  By that time, I was NOT feeling good.  Saw my coach who told me to switch to salt and water only for the next hour.  I tried that for a couple miles and I couldn’t wait to get to special needs.  I wanted my gloves since it was starting to get cold and my cards from Logan and Avery for a little motivation!  What was the worst part of the course?  Mile 13!  You see the finish line and are within a couple hundred feet then take a right turn to head out for another 13 miles.  It was heartbreaking!  But special needs was around the corner.  Got my gloves and my cards.  Read my cards as I ran.  Logan had drawn a picture of me swimming, biking, and running, then put stickers all over it!  Loved it!  I needed the motivation.  I’m so glad Coach Teresa warned me before the race about the urge to walk during the marathon.  She had told me “You will really want to walk.  You’ll be extremely tired, see other people walking and want to just walk for a bit, but there is no reason you need to walk.  Walk through the water stations then get going again”.  It was really getting dark and I wanted to walk.  My pace dropped off, but I kept running and thinking “Coach Teresa told me there was no reason to walk”.  I had so many thoughts during the race that started with “Coach Teresa told me…”:)  So, I ran from water station to water station.  I also started to get hungry!  I definitely didn’t want any gels or blocks so I started to try the chicken broth as Teresa suggested.  Also tried pretzels and chips.  The salt tasted so good.  I continued to see my family and teammates over the next several miles.  I remember saying to my family at mile 18ish “I’m just ready to be done.”  But I still had so long to go.  Once I turned the corner at mile 20 to head back, I knew I was going to make it.  Just run to the next water station…run to the next water station.  I could hear the finish line about a mile away.  When I turned the corner, I could see the finish line and I saw Coach Sam who reminded me to “soak it all in”.  The finishers chute was packed!  Music, lights, banging on the fences, cheering.  I saw my family again right before I crossed the finish line.  It was surreal!  

EMILY JOHNSON, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN – 13 hours, 13 minutes 47 seconds!!!

Ironman was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally, but it’s amazing what our minds and bodies can do.  Thank you to Meg, Sarah, and Stephanie for making training so much more fun!  Thank you so much to Coach Teresa for all the support, planning, listening, and advice.   She picked me up as an athlete only 6 months before race day.  That is brave!  And I’ve never worked with another tri coach, but I bet very few of them do 112-mile bike rides in 95° weather with their athletes or rub their athlete’s feet after the race.  Thank you to Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dave for the hospitality, delicious food, and wonderful company both during my training weekend in September and race weekend.  Thank you to my mom for joining me on my Louisville training weekend and for the whole Ironman weekend.  Thank you to my sisters for surprising me in Louisville the day before my race and for being there for me race day.  And HUGE thank you to Jared!  He knows just as much about triathlon now as I do.  He listened to me talk about it non-stop for over 6 months, came to all my races, joined me on training runs/rides, and so much more.  He supported me throughout this journey and believed in me.  

What an experience!  I am truly blessed!