Ironman Louisville – Sheila Leard

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Ironman Louisville Race Report – October 11, 2015

First off I can’t say enough about the support on every level that teammate Jen gave me. It fits with my dictum of ‘the best part of triathlon is meeting superb people’.

Coach Jon! This race came together because of Jon. We have worked together for 5 years. He has the ability to pull out of me a level of fitness that I could never do on my own. He got me to believe in the process, do the work, race with a solid plan and be mentally indestructible. His insight and data driven approach helped create training plans that were specific to my level of fitness.

Last year I told my friend Lynn I need to stop doing Ironman races. It’s hard on my body and very demanding. We talked about if I was ready to walk away and be content. My last Ironman was the snowy IM Lake Tahoe in 2013, which left me realizing that would be my last memory of the distance.  So combined with the fact I was aging up (getting harder to sharpen top end speed) and wanting to leave the distance with good feelings I signed up for Louisville. Yes, the thought of a potential Kona qualifier was there, but honestly, it was more important to me to have the “perfect race” and finish in the top five.  Ha! Does the perfect race exist?  Don’t we all chase it? How do you define the perfect race?


This race was moved from August to October because of the heat.  Lou is unique in that the swim start is a TT off two docks into the Ohio River.  We had to get in a long line – think 2700 athletes – sitting for 1.5 hours waiting to jump. Jen and I waited together along with super Sherpa, Tom (my hubby). Once we started moving it was fast! The music was blaring spectators screaming. Walking toward the docks Jen said ‘should we hold hands?’ I needed that because the adrenal was in my mouth. I turned to see Tom screaming and waving and then jumped. Not a bad experience. Water was 69 and murky. Contact was minimal. Sighting often was critical because I couldn’t see the feet in front to me. The first 1500 yards was against the current. Then we turned and was told the rest of the swim was with the current. Hard to say just how much it helped my usual slow swim pace. The swim exits up some stairs and then to the timing mat. I had a PR. Coach Jon was right – get in the pool and swim hard, don’t worry about long open water swims.

1:23:07 – 6th AG


It was a cool 50 degrees getting on the bike. So that I wouldn’t get too chilled I put a strip of bubble wrap under my jersey. I decided to suck it up and be chilled – forget the arm warmers and throw away gloves. The first 10 miles was very crowded!  Goal; don’t crash into swerving triathletes on bikes trying to eat. I took my first risk and let my watts drift up so I could get away from the mayhem and warm up.

Got on my nutrition. Passed a women in my age group. I wasn’t surprised to see an ambulance on the scene at mile 25.  I finally got into a rhythm with the rolling hills. Lots of shifting and keeping momentum up and over. Definitely a course for a rear disk. Felt good about staying on my targeted watts, fueling, hydrating, enjoying the gorgeous green hills and horses of Kentucky. Jen’s Husband, Dave, secured himself at a remote spot on the course which was immensely comforting. As I passed he shouted out “Tom said you are in third’. Nice that they were communicating!  But I always question how up to date the athlete tracker is.

When the 80 mile marker came I knew I was headed back to town into the wind. I could see my watts dropping off as I picked up my cadence to not fry my legs. Trying to stay aero was so important now. It’s a challenge in the wind because I get bumped around. At mile 95 a women in my AG passed me and I thought no way am I letting you in front of me after all these miles. I took a risk, shifted and took off. Oh no – I’m going to trash my running legs. Well – she did it again at mile 105. Dang it – this time I said I will not let you come into T2 in front of me. It worked. Saw Tom and Marissa – quick stop for a smooch.

6:34:25 – 3rd AG

Take-aways from the bike:

I was pleased that my watts gave me more speed than I saw in training.

Never felt like my legs were loaded if I stayed within my watts.

Average calorie intake – 200 cal/hour. OSMO with added cyclic dextrin, 2 PowerBars, Stinger Chews, EFS Pre-race tabs and Salt Stick caps with caffeine.


As I took off Tom said I was in third. So now I was chasing and being chased. I didn’t know the gap but if I could just hold my pace anyone behind me would have to pick up the pace. I used the first mile to shake off the bike and get right on pace. I really wanted to break five hours. That sounds so slow but it was important for me to accomplish this for my perfect race. Nine months ago I broke my hip and had been working on pacing and frequency of running.  I just did what Coach Jon said to do. Splitting long runs into an AM and PM sessions worked to get my miles up without injury. Coach Jon was right again. My training runs gave me confidence I could run the marathon without doing hellish long runs.

The first loop was great. I saw Coach Jon finishing his last loop. He came up and did a few strides with me. His last words ‘stay on your plan’ then he took off. I also saw Jen! I was on pace for a 4:50. Stayed on hydration with coke, water, salt sticks, pre-race tabs and glucose tabs. I headed back out and got to mile 16 when my ankle became very, very tender.  It was my bad ankle that I have sprained 100 times. I could feel the pace slowing. I was wearing Hoka Cliftons which I love but I had wished I had put in my insoles for extra support.  My mental focus was being challenged. I had been racing almost 11 hours and was concerned I was damaging my ankle. I jogged/walked/ran … just creating a variety of leg mechanics. By the time I got to the last 3.5 miles which was Churchill Downs Horse tract I said to myself ‘end this … run to the finish and don’t stop.’  I figured I was in 3rd.  I looked up to the sky and smiled and said this was the last marathon I will ever run in my life. Enjoy the almost perfect race. I started singing the Journey song Don’t Stop Believing.   It was a magical moment in my 6th Ironman. As I approached the finish line I looked for Tom and Marissa.  They were smiling and cheering beyond belief.

5:08:06 – 2nd AG

Total – 13:21:13 – 2nd AG




I always look at the top five in AG to see where it shakes out.

#1 was in her own league. Found out she was a former duathlon champ from 15 years ago. She is FAST.

#3 when starting the run was 24 minutes behind me. That’s a lot to make up, i.e. 1min/mile. Her slow transitions and slower bike put her behind despite an eventual fast run.

#4 was 11 minutes behind me. She is the one that could have caught me.

Out of the top 5, I had the slowest swim, 2nd fastest bike, 3rd fastest run … fastest transitions. See how it all comes together? Biggest lesson …. RACE EVERY MINUTE!!  Thanks Jon for always reminding me of that.

The finale – The Roll Down:

When the first place woman didn’t show up I went into disbelief. Jen kept saying you never know. The announcer called her name, second call, third call. Tom had already gotten the credit card out. Then he called my name, for real …. a KONA slot….. and another marathon 😉


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