Ironman Louisville: Gear, race strategy and nutrition


My last few weeks of peak training! As you can tell, I like to keep things high-tech.

IM Louisville is now officially less than a week away away, and predictably I am mired in yet another crappy taper. I’m trying to force myself to relax, which has been about as effective as telling someone not to think of an elephant, so in lieu of actually relaxing, I decided to do something novel: I’m updating my blog.

I’ve been thinking for a while about writing about the specifics of my race-day plan – everything from gear to nutrition/hydration to strategies.  I know you can find this information all over the interwebs, but I have to be honest with you – a lot of what I was reading was maddeningly vague. I like to think of myself as smart enough to think in abstractions, but I’m not. I need the comfort of unmistakable specifics.

Take bike nutrition. I was floundering when the extent of my instruction was “take in 250-300 calories per hour on the bike” but when others laid out exactly what that looks like for them, I finally got it.  So I decided – both for the benefit of any readers who might find this, as well as my own – to share the specific details of what I plan to do on race day.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: what works for me may not work for you (and hell, as I haven’t even raced yet, it may not work for me).  Also, not a sports nutritionist, coach, dietitian, expert, etc. etc. etc.  I’m just a lady with a dream trying to figure this shit out.

OK, let’s begin.


I’ve been testing out my gear all summer and fall long, including through one soul-crusher of a workout that lasted seven hot, steamy hours, and I feel pretty confident that my choices will hold up.

Swim: $17 sports bra from Target, which is literally the only sports bra I own that doesn’t chafe the shit out of me; Coeur Sports team tri shorts; Orca sleeveless wetsuit; Roka R1 goggles in amber mirror.

(If it ends up being hot – which I doubt it will, but then again, look at the twin infernos of last week’s IM Chattanooga and Augusta 70.3 – I will swap out the wetsuit for my Roka Viper Comp swimskin, which I am obsessed with and love dearly.)

Bike: Coeur Sports aero top; same tri shorts; bike gloves; non-aero helmet; Smith Optics sunglasses with polarized lenses. I will likely wear arm warmers because it’s probably going to be in the high 60s and low 70s that day. (WHAT.)

I’m still riding the Felt S2, still running my HED race wheels. I’ll probably upgrade my bike at some point, but for right now, me and my Felt are BFFs.  Besides I’m still enjoying the thrill of riding my entry-level bike I bought from a dude on Craigslist as I blow past guys on Cervelo P5s. 😀

Run: Same top and shorts; Hoka One One Conquests; Balega socks; Boston Marathon visor.


After a bunch of test runs I think I have this figured out.  Of course, I say that now, but I’m also fully aware that this could be a repeat of Keys 50, where about three-quarters of the way into the race, everything will start tasting like burned dirt and I will turn into a fussy baby who won’t let another spoonful of mashed peaches past her pursed lips.  But hey, dare to dream, right?

During my training rides, I made an effort to eat as much solid food as I could during the first half of the bike ride because by the time the sun was high in the air, I could usually no longer stomach anything that wasn’t liquid.

Of course, this leaves me with a giant question mark.  How much of my inability to eat late in the bike rides was due to physical exertion, and how much was due to the fact that it was fucking hot as the damn sun outside?  This is a question that shall remain unanswered until race day.

At any rate, my goal is to take in enough calories on the bike – about 250 an hour – so that when it’s time for me to start my run, I have a nice comfortable little energy buffer in my system.

Pre-race: Hard-boiled egg, bagel with peanut butter, coffee with creamer. While standing in line, I’ll eat an energy bar – probably a Clif bar – and drink a bottle of Infinit mixed with Base Amino Acids and Endurance Salts.  Forty-five minutes before the start, I’ll drink a Red Bull, and then right before going into the water I’ll eat a GU.

Swim: Five gallons of the Ohio River, probably.

T1: Water and another GU.

Bike: I have four forms of nutrition:my Infinit liquid mix, GUs, chocolate Boosts and snack baggies full of peanut butter pretzels and cut-up Clif bar.

  • Infinit: my XLAB Torpedo will be full of this, and I will also have two super-concentrated bottles that I will mix with water picked up from the aid stations. I’ll sip this regularly throughout the bike.
  • PB pretzels and Clif Bar: the baggies will go in my bento box, and every time my Garmin marks off a 5-mile split, I’ll either eat a block of Clif Bar or a couple of pretzels.
  • GUs: One every 45 minutes.
  • Boost: One every hour.

I’m only starting with half my nutrition tucked in my jersey pockets, because the other half will be at the midway point in my Special Needs bag, along with a bottle of flat full-sugar Coke and a PB&J Uncrustable. Yum.

T2: Water and I guess I’ll try to choke down yet another GU.

Run: Water at every aid station.  Coke at every other aid station. GUs every 45 minutes.

I’m also going to carry a tube of Base Endurance Salts with me just in case.  I’ve only ever needed them when it’s hot outside – because I am a crazy-heavy sweater – but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I still remember going slightly hyponatremic at Hutchinson Island Half-Ironman last year, when it was in the 90s with no shade and I’d had nothing but tons of water for the first six miles of the run. I was totally out of it and crying incoherently, but then I took a salt tablet from another racer and within minutes I felt fine. LESSON LEARNED.

Ever since then, when it gets hot outside, I either take Endurolytes, or, thanks to Coeur’s relationship with Base, the endurance salts.  That was just a flat-out miserable experience and I would like very much to never experience it again.


Swim: Taking it suuuuper easy. I don’t want to come out of the water already feeling exhausted. That would really suck.

I’d like to be out of the water in under 1:10, but I really have no idea what’s going to happen.  I will tell you that I swam 2.4 miles in May in the ocean without a wetsuit, and I did it in 1:14.  I figure that downriver + wetsuit + five months of training could easily = cutting several minutes off that time. But, like I said, we’ll see.

Bike:  For the first eighty miles, I’m going to chill out. Small chainring FTW. I’m sure there are going to be people – OK, let’s be real: bros, they are going to be aero-bros – gunning hard on the bike from the beginning and so it’s going to take some mental discipline for me to not get carried away with that nonsense.

The last thirty miles are basically all downhill so if I see an opportunity to pick it up a bit, I will, but I’m not going to go crazy.  I have no desire to follow the traditional IM path of Swim, Overbike, Walk.

I have no idea what my target pace will be because, again, I trained in temps that are about 30 degrees hotter than what’s forecast for race day. A pace that made me cry and dry-heave this summer could very well feel amazing during the race.

(I really wish I had power on my bike so I could have a more objective measure of my effort instead of just “ugh, this feels hard.”)

Predicted time? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I was hoping for six hours but now I’m thinking more like 6:15-6:30.  But again, who knows!

P.S. I am not going to pee on the bike.

Run: So I’m totally doing a run-walk for my IM marathon. For the first 30 minutes, I’m going to run five minutes and walk a minute, and then after that I’m going to switch to running five minutes and walking thirty seconds.  I did this for all of my long runs and I was able to maintain average paces in the 8:50-9:10 area (and again, this was while it was stupid hot outside).

My experiences with ultrarunning give me a bit of an edge because I know how to keep some tiny part of my mind focused on the goal ahead even as the rest of my brain whines and begs to be allowed to lay down in the middle of the road and go to sleep.

If I eat enough on the bike and don’t go too hard and basically manage my shit like someone who actually has a clue as to what she’s doing, I think it’s possible I could do the marathon in 4:08.  I don’t know why I think that but that’s the number that comes up with all of my visualizations, so 4:08 it is.

I’ve improved a lot with the swim and the bike over the past couple of years, but let’s be real – I’m merely a decent swimmer and I’m only average on the bike. My real strength is running long distances, and that’s what I built my race-day strategy around.

So that’s what I’ve figured out so far.  I haven’t quite sorted out what goes in what bag yet, but I’m working on that. There’s a lot to do to get ready for something like this! It’s a little overwhelming, and in a way it makes me miss the simplicity of the actual training, where I’d just get up in the morning and know that today I had to swim 3500 yards and run for an hour, or that I was scheduled for a five-hour bike ride with a 15-minute run.

But it’s also kind of fun too, especially after having spent the past couple of years watching Brian and other friends do all the preps for their various IM races. It’s cool to finally get to be part of it!


35 responses to “Ironman Louisville: Gear, race strategy and nutrition

  1. I love love love all the detail here — thank you for sharing your plan + training experiences.

  2. Thanks for sharing all of your details. It really does help show how it’s done! I just started tri this year and am planning my first 70.3 for January 2018. You are an inspiration. Hope you have an awesome race!!!

  3. Caitlin! I’m so excited for you just reading this post. I have a feeling this is going to be an amazing experience for you. I really can’t wait to read your recap. I will be wishing you the absolute best taper week and the race of your life (thus far) next weekend. I’m amazed by all of the work you’ve put in to get to this point. I’ve been reading the blog for so long and I feel like everything thus far has been leading up to this race and you believing that you have it in you to absolutely crush it.


    PS – can’t wait to see what crazy thing you decide to do next 😉

    • Ah, thank you so much Michelle! You are so, so kind, and I really appreciate the belief you’ve put in me and that you’ve shared it with me in this comment.

      And also, believe it or not, I’ve actually got something on deck for November. I haven’t written about it yet because I’m focused on the IM, but my husband and I signed up to do a 10K relay swim around a local island, and I’m pretty pumped about it. I’ll write more later, once I get through this. 🙂

  4. Best of luck! By the way – which Target bra doesn’t chafe you? I had luck with the seamless one for over a year, but now they are starting to chafe (even the newish ones). :/

    • It’s the Seamless one, but they are all very new – like less than a month old – so that hasn’t become an issue yet. I bought a couple of nice ones from Moving Comfort last year and they were great until very recently, and now I can’t wear them without getting chafed on everything.

      I think I just have to accept that I ruin sports bras at a staggering rate these days, which is why finding one that’s $17 was nice so I don’t go broke trying to keep my boobs strapped in place.

  5. I’ve found all your training updates so inspiring. I can’t wait to read your race report. Good luck!

  6. Great post! Just FYI, I stopped using Endurolytes and switched to Salt Stick due to Hammer’s occasional issues with cross-contamination (I do bike races and sometimes there’s drug testing).

    • Oh, I heard about that! I can’t remember which triathlete it was but she failed a drug test and they linked it back to her Endurolytes, right? Yeah, I don’t use them much since I started using Base products but I *have* used them in the past and they’ve been fine for me. If I was in a position where I might have to face drug testing, though, I would likely follow your lead.

      Also SO badass that you do bike races. I’m in awe!

  7. Oh, you have got this! I’ve been following your training (not creepy at all…). I’m assuming you’ve practiced the transitions, visualised every step, have everything you need – and then after all the thinking and worrying, come race day it’s don’t think – just GO. 🙂

    • Thanks Grace! I’m actually going down to transition in a little bit and that will be the last piece of my visualization process, so I can actually see what everything looks like in my brain. Thanks for all your support, and no, I don’t think it’s creepy you followed my training! I mean, I did post it all online…. 😉

  8. As someone who likes to plan like this for trips/events, I really appreciated the level of detail you put into this post–it all makes sense when it’s laid out, but I didn’t have any appreciation for how much stuff you have to have ready in order to DO all of this. You’re definitely ready, so try to take it easy over the next couple of days. Can’t wait to hear about the whole experience!

    • Thank you! I’m trying to take it easy, although I had some stressful work stuff and then a stressful guardian ad litem thing and then the trip up here was a bit stressful too – hopefully that will be it until race morning though!

      And it sounds like you’re like me – a serious list/checklist maker and a writer of plans. It’s really the only way I can feel really prepared for something like this. Otherwise I am bound to forget something super important, like, say, my wallet (which has happened before).

  9. I love all of the details. If I ever reach this level of crazy, I’ll be sure to refer to this post. 😉 It sounds like you’re really prepared, and I’m guessing that the cooler weather will really help. I’m so excited for you!

    • Thank you! I’m hoping the cooler weather will help too. It’s like 60 outside right now. I haven’t felt temps like this since May in Chattanooga.

      And also lol at “this level of crazy.” Yes, a tiny part of me is literally questioning the sanity of me and everyone else getting ready to do this thing.

  10. Hi! I follow your website on fbook. I have my first 70.3 coming up in three months and I really have appreciated your posts! I just found one from a few years ago when you talked about how clipping in gave you nightmares and i really appreciated knowing im not the only one!!!! thank you!!!

    • Yes! Good luck! Which 70.3 are you doing?

      And no way, you’re not the only one who has had issues with clipping in. I’m much better about it now but sometimes I still have those flashes of “holy shit I’m stuck to my bike I’m gonna fall!” and I have to remind myself that I know how to unclip and that it’s going to be OK. How do you feel about clipping in and out? Is it coming along for you?

      (BTW sorry for the delay in responding/approving – the last few days have been nuts and I finally have some downtime in Louisville this morning!)

      • No worries on the delay, I imagine busy is an understatement!

        I am doing Bahrain in December, which means it is actually 2 months not three, gulp! I was learning on my friends bike, he claimed the older clips had looser springs so would be easier. After taking it back he pronounced the left pedal ‘wonky’, which was the culprit. I have since moved into true baby clips, set on the loosest setting, where I will happily stay for some time. 3 rides no falls, hoping to maintain the streak!

        I am told I might only have to clip out at rest stops in the race so I should stop stressing, to which I reply that the race is such a small fraction of the biking up till and including then…

        I definitely also understand the alternating between terrifically excited and terrifically terrified. Good luck!!

  11. It really is quite helpful (and inspiring) when you detail your “breakdowns.” Fussy baby is an accurate description of me when I’m engaging in my sport, and something is off.

    • For reals. I’m glad I had my husband crewing for me because if I was going it alone I would have stopped eating and drinking, and things would have gone way south. I really wish I could handle things better when I have these breakdowns, but at least now it’s happened so often that I am aware that’s what’s happening and not that suddenly everything in my life has literally gone to shit. 🙂

  12. Hi Caitlin, I’m a first-time commenter, but I stumbled onto your blog awhile ago and you have, without me really noticing when, become one of my favorite bloggers to read. I look forward to your posts and am pulling for you to kick this race’s ass.

    I’ve been having some health issues for the past two years, but am almost to a place where I can get back into running, and your blog is helping me get excited about that again.

    • Aw, thank you so much! This made me feel so happy to read. 😀

      Also I’m so sorry you’ve been dealing with health issues for that long, but it sounds like you’ve turned a corner, which is great! I really hope things continue to go well for you and that you’re back to running soon. ❤

  13. Have a terrific race! Love the details, very helpful – I went looking at your swim gear even though I only occasionally dabble in a pool (was looking for gear to keep me warmer, I freeze in an indoor pool….not kidding). Also the nutrition info is very helpful, as is your run/walk strategy (I’m looking at doing my 2nd ultra next year). Will be sending good, COOL vibes!

    • Thank you! I hope you were able to find something in the swim gear that’s helpful for you. Some of those pools can be quite chilly! Do you think a longer suit might help with that?

      And also good luck with your next ultra! Which one are you thinking about doing? ❤ ultras ❤ I gotta do another one one of these days.

  14. love this post! i saw an iron man at school, in madison WI, and was always curious about them!

  15. you did it! Congrats! I stalked you yesterday, and when I saw a 1.09.49 swim, I knew you were going to nail it. Hope you had a good race, and are happy with the result. I’m impressed for sure.

  16. I also looked up your results and you KILLED it!!! Way to go! Also – are you and your hubs just so in tune in training that you finished with almost the exact same time, or did you go through the race together?

  17. Anxiously awaiting your race report! I too looked up your results and was seriously impressed. Looking forward to hearing your story.

  18. Very informative detail on your tri day plan and approach to nutrition. I’ll look for an update as to how it played out during the race. Bookmarking your post to refer clients, thanks

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