Ironman Louisville Race Tips- by Sue Aquila

If you are headed to Ironman Louisville here are some great tips and some helpful info to get you through your event more successfully.


Louisville is easily accessible by air. You have airports available in Louisville and short drives from Cincinnati (1.5 hours) and Indianapolis (2 hours).  

Accommodations are plentiful in the area. The Galt host hotel has huge availability however the elevators will be incredibly crowded with bikes and athletes, so be prepared to wait. If you want to give your partner/spouse a great hotel experience consider the 21C Museum Hotel. They will be pampered and have access to a great contemporary art collection and a top rated restaurant.

Pre-Race Workouts:

Swimming -The swim course is not open for public swimming until the pre-swim on the Saturday before the race. Do not miss this swim as it is a great way to assess the current of the Ohio River. Lots of other swim options to be found with local Ys and other aquatic centers.

Cycling -Just follow the course route along River Rd. It’s very scenic.

Running - It’s easy to do in the park adjacent to the Great Lawn transition area.


You can expect cool morning temps in the 40’s or 50’s with highs in the 60’s or 70’s.  

Race Morning:

Get to transition early! You have at least a mile walk from the transition area to the swim start so give yourself plenty of time. The race is a rolling TT start. There’s no need to line up early as it moves quickly.

The time trial start makes this a unique swim experience. You jump off a pier and start to swim.  Unless you are a former Olympic gymnast, I would skip the front flip into the water. Expect little to no contact during your swim.

The first third of the swim is in the protected channel of Towhead Island. The hardest part of the swim is clearing the island into the current and making the 180 degree turn. Once you have made the turn, you have two choices; swim close to the island or the middle of the river (not recommended by the race officials). Some athletes claim faster swims farther out into the river. Sighting is easy with the land and bridges serving as visual references.

I like to think of this swim in thirds. The first third is out, the second third is back towards the bridge, and the last third is after the first bridge (you swim under two bridges total).


There is usually a nice tailwind on the first section of the bike to the out and back. There are some rollers and lots of triathletes blasting themselves. Hold back a bit on this first section and focus on your hydration and nutrition!

This race has the highest number of first time Ironman triathletes.  Remember that you are not passing experienced cyclists, so be aware!

You will soon arrive on the looped section of this course. Expect lots of climbing! Focus on building momentum over and down the hills. You will find two small rollers that are deceptively hard. Look for them on the Ballard School Rd. to Old Sligo section. Embrace your little ring!

The final time you reach Route 42, you will have 30 miles to the finish. At this point expect a headwind.  The course will include lots of blown athletes on beautiful super bikes refusing to be aero any longer. There will be traffic and some of it not friendly.  Make sure you take on plenty of fluids at aid station number five.

If you paced yourself properly, you should be able to stay aero and lift your effort here. Don’t forget to focus on your nutrition.


This is a two loop course which is flat (except for two slight underpass dips). It is a false flat to the Iroquois Park turn around.  You will notice your speed pick up slightly on your way back to the downtown. Focus on staying hydrated and on top of your nutrition. Pace yourself wisely and resist the urge to stop when you hear the finish line hoopla as you turn for your second loop. You can make a huge difference in your finishing place by lifting your effort at mile 15. Just stay focused on reaching the finish line.


The best part of Louisville is the party at the finish line. It is located on 4th Street Live and is surrounded by bars and lots of spectators. No matter how you felt on the run, you will cross the line with joy.

Your Team:

If your friends and family are joining you, have them walk with you to the swim start. After you get in line, have them head back to the Great Lawn to watch the swim finish. This is one of the easier bike courses for your family to drive out and see you on the course.  The run course is great viewing if your family can bring bikes. Otherwise, I would suggest they stay in the finish line area near the second lap loop.


If you are bringing kids consider the Louisville Slugger tour (unless you would consider arming your kids with mini bats as an example of poor parenting), the Muhammad Ali museum and the Waterfront Spray Park. Louisville also has an incredibly vibrant dining scene from high end experiences to charming local cafes. Enjoy!

RacingMarilyn Chychota