In the year leading up toIMWI I had a lot of people telling to keep the internal pressure to a minimum and just get yourself to the finish line and that is a great accomplishment in itself…especially with Wisconsin being one of the more difficult courses on the Ironman Circuit.
While that is great and sound advice…I wanted to do well, at least for me and for an Ironman virgin, so I settled on going sub 11:00 a couple months before the race as something to target. It’s not close to Kona times or anything like that but 11:00 most likely would place me in the top 10% overall so that seemed like a good time to hang my hat on.
Sunday morning the alarm went off at 4:30am. Slept alright the night before but was not really worried about that as race day is fueled by adrenaline and I had a couple of good nights rest the previous days to bank on (I am eternally grateful to Lindsey as her sacrifice with the baby was amazing during my final build up to IMWI.) Thank you!
I went through my normal pre race morning: oatmeal, peanut butter, banana, coffee, and some bathroom time with a little Marshall time thrown in. Before I knew it, it was 5:15 and the train was ready to leave. We had planned to drive the Trailblazer down to the Alliant Energy Center and take the shuttle over to the Capitol. From a logistical standpoint it made the most sense with the bike and everything once the day was over.
The car trip and shuttle were pretty uneventful and worked out great with the baby. I remember Lindsey asking me how I felt and I actually felt surprisingly pretty calm. I was really curious to see how everything that lied ahead of me would unfold. I had some anxiety in the days leading up to leaving for Madison and on the Friday/Saturday before…I even tried telling Lindsey (she talked me out of it) that I thought I was getting sick on Friday. But, come race morning I was relatively calm and ready to rock & roll.
On the way to Monona Terrace, we dropped off my bike special needs bag (it contained two bottles of Skratch Lab Lemon Lime and Clif Bar) I was not using a run special needs bag as I had just planned on using what was on course.
Once to the Terrace it was a final stop by my bike to drop off my first two bottles of Skratch Lab, get body marked, and use the bathroom one more time. Before I knew I was putting on my wetsuit and heading down to the water with Lindsey. On the way to the water, we ran into Kevin and Ann said our goodbyes and on my way to the great unknown I stumbled upon my dad and sister Erica as well. Great send off.
I had planned on getting in the water fairly early to allow myself to warm up a little and get used to the water as the Swim Start can be hectic with how many people are getting into the water through a small start/finish chute. I probably got in around 6:45 or so. I settled on a spot in the front 1/3 of the pack towards the start buoy and just floated around until it was show time.
Before I knew it the cannon promptly went off at 7AM and I was off on my day. Going into the race, my thought had been that the first 1000M would be the most chaotic and to be honest it really was not that bad. I occasionally got grabbed or kicked but for the most part people really had a mutual interest to keep their own lines and stay out of trouble. Perhaps, it was more hectic at the front but I will never know.
At the first turn, I was feeling good and settled into my pace. I didn’t know what that pace was exactly as I don’t wear a watch in the water but focused on form and told myself just keep moving forward. The back of the swim course felt like it took forever! It was 1700M in a straight line to the third turn buoy. The water got a little choppy and I ate some of Lake Monona during that stretch. With the occasional spotting of the Terrace on my left and the turning of buoys from yellow to orange I knew I was making progress…even though sometimes it did not feel like it.
I finally made it to the third turn buoy. I was getting close. 200-300M to the next one and then 600M-800M in to the swim out and I am done. I was happy to get out of that back strectch for sure. As I made the last turn into shore I could start sensing seaweed and vegetation. I knew it was close. Just keep your head down and swim. As I got about 100M out I could see the swim clock. It said 1:13 something. I was ecstatic. I had estimated that my swim would be around 1:20 or so…so to be hitting the exit at 1:13/1:14 was awesome! Climb out the water. Lay down on the ground. Wetsuit stripped and I am off to the helix. Swim over. Time: 1:14:02
T1 The Helix was awesome. I ran slowly enough to keep my heart rate down to really take in the faces of all the spectators that were lining one of the signature features of IMWI. I could not believe how many people lined the Helix up to transition. It was awesome!!!
1 Granola Bar
1 EFS Liquid Shot Kona Mocha
1 Vanilla Honey Stinger Waffle
4 Bottle of Skratch Lab Lemon Lime Exercise Blend
3 Bottles Ironman Perform
3 Bottles of Water
1.5 Flasks of Hammer Gel Espresso (each flask has 5 servings)
Down the helix and out to John Nolen I went. My plan was to ride ‘The Stick’ out and the first loop conservatively and then pick it up on the second loop and ‘The Stick’ into town. I knew going into the race that was easier said than done as it is easy to let the short term gains, race day excitement, etc. get the best of you and I was mentally prepared to not let that happen. The overall goal is 11:00 hrs not an awesome bike spilt, with a jog/walk marathon. I told myself I could have one, but not both as I started out on the bike.
The ride out to Verona was pretty uneventful. Lots of twists and turns, fellow bikers, and people all over the road. Thanks to my 1:14 swim that meant that I came out onto the road with a lot of people…all of varying degree of effective bike riding. I am by no means an expert bike handler but it really seemed like a lot of these people could do nothing except ride on a flat road with no wind….so given the days conditions that was going to be a problem. I did my best to stay alert and out of trouble and before I knew it I was making the right hand turn out of Verona, beginning the first loop. (Mile 16)
Shortly after that I dropped my chain. I thought, “well this is annoying…but no big deal.” Quickly put it back on and I was on my way. Probably lost two minutes between pulling over, fixing the chain, waiting for a spot to get back in line, and lost momentum on the climb.
After that, I just stuck to my plan of trying to take it “easy” on the first loop and focus on keeping my nutrition in line. Since I have no power meter or heart rate monitor all my judgment is based on perceived effort. Definitely not fool proof but it works for me.
The crowd support was awesome at some of the most random points on the course. Cross Plains was packed, the climb on Stagecoach was packed, Midtown Road was packed. All of this made it tough to keep myself in control…but staying focused on getting to mile 80 in good shape was the goal. At some point on one of the climbs I dropped my chain for a second time…another annoying occurrence but nothing major. Probably another 2 minutes.
Once back in Verona, with my first half of the bike course complete, I got to see my support crew and pick up my other two bottles of Skratch Lab. After leaving Special Needs, I told myself I could pick up the pace a little as I was feeling good at mile 53 but really keep it under control until mile 80 and focus on keeping my nutrition in check.
Even with this conservative approach entering the second loop I was flying by people like crazy…especially on the ride into Mt. Horeb. Before I knew it I was entering the town of Cross Plains again and riding past the mile 80 road sign…time to open it up a little more for the ride back to town.
By the time I hit mile 80, the race had thinned out but I was still able to pick people off one by one… which provided nice motivation as I hit Stagecoach and Midtown a second time. Oh and I dropped my chain a third time. Apparently I do not know how to shift gears on a bike. Before I knew it, I was back in Verona one last time to pick up some fluid and see my support crew.
The Stick back was uneventful. Another nice section of headwind and riding past tired riders. As I neared the 100 mile mark I began to take inventory of how I felt. Luckily I was feeling pretty good. The legs felt like they had some pop in them…and I was going to need it to get to 11:00.
I thought the way the bike course ended sucked. 2-ish miles slowly weaving through narrow bike paths, deserted parking lots and numerous tight 90 degree turns and a final ride into a headwind. But all in all I was glad to be riding up the Helix to T2 with a negative split.
T2 Just like with T1, the T2 volunteers were awesome! As you make the final turn up the helix they are there to catch you and your bike and get you on your way to the Changing Room. I had decided to walk from ‘The Dismount Line’ to the Changing Room because 1) I didn’t feel like running and 2) Those 30 seconds were not going to make or break my race. If I couldn’t make it up on the run…it was not meant to be anyway.
Grabbed my clothes and some water and sat down to change my shoes and put on my racing singlet. Lindsey affectionately calls it my “Skanky Tank”. The jersey has been with me for many years, training miles, and marathons. I have never been comfortable running in a Tri top so I had decided long ago that I was going to run in a racing singlet and my old faithful seemed like a great choice.
Grabbed some more water on my way out the door and made a quick stop to get some sunscreen and hit the Porta-Potty. I noticed while using the Porta-Potty that my pee looked a little dehydrated…so I made a mental note and made my way to the ‘Run Out’.
As I hit the run course start line I took notice of the race clock and it’s time saying 7:31:19. A quick mental math problem told me that I had 3:28:41 to run my marathon to break my 11:00:00 goal. As I turned away from the clock and faced the Capitol streets before I thought to myself “Time to do work.”
1-2 Cups of water at every aid station
½ Flask of Hammer Gel Espresso
8-10 Orange Slices (ate these on the 2nd Half)
As I made my way onto the streets of Madison my legs and energy level felt strong but I wondered how long it would last as I had never ran a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and then biking 112 miles.
The first couple of miles were spent settling into my pace and taking in more water than usual as I was a little dehydrated from the swim/bike. I didn’t feel in bad shape because of it but knew if I did not stay on top of it, it could become an issue later on in the race.
Based on how I felt, my heart rate and breathing pattern I decided that somewhere between 7:30-7:40 felt pretty good and that put me on track to go under the 3:28 that was needed to break 11:00. I started ticking off the miles, taking in water and sipping my Hammer gel. Nothing about Flat Coke, cookies, Perform, etc. sounded good during the run so I was keeping my nutrition simple to what I know.
Despite running 45 seconds to a minute slower than my open marathon pace I was amazed at how I just seemed to be running through the field. It was crazy and definitely provided extra motivation as I churned through the early part of the run and let the miles fall away. During Mile 5 I hit the famed Observatory Rd. hill and while it was most certainly a hill it was nothing crazy compared to the hills I had been running weekly at Crown Hill in Indy or down in Bloomington (Griffy, N. Jordan extension, 17th St, Hinkle Rd, 16th from College up to Dunn, etc.). It was interesting because it had a false top and a second steeper climb…but was definitely doable. Shorten the stride and grind to the top. I was the only person running up the hill when I hit it the first time…maybe these people were trying to keep their heart rate down or something…but I could not believe that no one was running it that early on in the marathon. Before I knew it, I was up over the other side heading to State St. for the second time. (State St. is the main strip in downtown Madison- was lined with people the entire time & being that it was a two loop course and how the street is designed, we hit it 8 times)
I got to the first turnaround at the 10K mark and my support crew was there; it was a nice boost to see them…. Then it was back to clicking off miles.
By the time I neared the half way point back by the capitol my pace had slowed to a little to over 7:40 per mile. I hit the half marathon around 1:41:04. As I turned to head back out for my second lap I was busy doing some math in my head. If I had done my math correctly, I had about 1:47 or so to run the 2nd half. Could I do it? My energy felt good but I could feel my legs starting to tire. It was going to take some pushing to keep the pace up. I knew if I did not actively stay on top of it mentally I very easily could let myself slip into a more comfortable 8:10 pace and then before you knew you are cruising at 8:20 because it feels good. I wasn’t going to let that happen. As I turned onto State St. for the fourth time just before mile 14, I told myself “never go above 8:00 per mile”
The second lap was a lot more crowded then the first, as a majority of the field was on to the run by this point. It was hard telling who was on what lap but either way I knew I was moving up in the ranking as I continued to run through the field and that felt good. Whether it was someone on lap 1 or 2 it is always a nice boost to motor past someone and before I knew the miles began falling away again.
Mile 14, 15, Camp Randall, UW soccer field, gravel trail by the University, and back to Observatory Rd one last time. 2nd time around the hill climb hurt a little more but I was able to push through and run up and over top, down to State St. That put me somewhere around mile 19…only 7 to go I was looking good on time. As I prepared to run up State St. for the turnaround Lindsey and my sisters appeared out of no where…screaming their heads off for me to push and that I was almost done. I didn’t think I would see them again until the end based on where they were stationed so that was a great mental refresher.
Hit the turn around and get to see Lindsey again. This time she jumps in with me (Yes…I am aware according to the WTC this is a no,no…but whatever). She probably runs with me for 200-300M, asking me how I feel and what not and gives me an encouraging “I love you” and “You’re going to do this.” Feeling refreshed, I hit the Lake Path again and head toward the mile 22 timing mat and turnaround. I keep checking my watch (OCD style) to make sure I am not going over 8:00 per mile. The 30K spilt and the mile 22 spilt were close but never over. Just keep pushing. It hurt. Not like an open marathon hurt. It was a weird hurt.
As I approached mile 23 to run down University Ave. back to Camp Randall and then into downtown something weird happened. I had someone run up beside me and start talking. I had not been passed all day so I was a little taken back. It was a 20 year old Air Force Academy student paranoid that I was in his age group. Once he realized I was not he asked me to run it in with him. At this point, I was hurting but comfortable in the fact that I had 11:00 in the bag after a couple “what if” time projection scenarios the last couple of miles. So I thought “why not” I’ll give it a go.
He had a really good clip going at this point…so we traded off taking the lead and started putting in about 7:30 miles. Mile 24 gone, Mile 25 getting close, my watch died…I didn’t care. I was getting close. I backed off the pace with about a half mile to go. I wanted to enjoy it. I made the final zig-zag turn on to State St. enjoying the crowd and taking it all in. One last run around the Capitol Square and it is all over. I ran past the special needs bags and make the final turn for the famed Ironman carpet and see my support crew one last time. They are all there!! I make my way over to them, say hi, and high five on my way to the line. One final push and I hit the line. It’s over. I am an Ironman.
Overall, what a great day! I am extremely satisfied with my finishing time. I had set out to break 11:00 and I was able to accomplish that with a little time to spare. I could second guess myself all day long about shaving time here and there…but there is no point in all that. It was a great day! It took a lot of sacrificing and dedication to get here and not by just me but most importantly Lindsey. I can only imagine the feelings she felt. She was incredible throughout this entire journey despite being pregnant and then having a newborn for the final 10 weeks. The activity of racing an Ironman is an extremely selfish endeavor and I will be forever grateful for the sacrifice that she made for me to pursue this crazy goal!!
THANK YOU TO MY SUPPORT CREW! Ann, Kevin, Lori, Lindsey, Marshall, Dad, Mom, Erica and Megan
Hopefully next week or so, I can post some thoughts on post Ironman activities and longer term goals. (Will I race an Ironman again?….only time will tell.)