Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

Well, the day finally came. I swam. I biked. I ran. And at the end of the day I could call myself an Ironman. It was the culmination of a multi-year journey and hours and hours of hard work. It was a day that I am still glowing about, and I will continue to do so for the days, weeks, and months to come until I get the chance to repeat the experience next year.

I rolled into town Friday afternoon, totally anxious and excited. Soon after I got set up in the hotel and went to Monona Terrace and got myself registered. I winced a little on the scale. I knew I packed on a few pounds during my post crash inactivity, but was pretty surprised to see a number closer to my winter weight.

I committed an ironman faux pas by doing some shopping at the IM store before I even finished a race, but I had some time to kill before the athlete dinner. Then as I'm hauling stuff to my car I get a call saying I left my race packet at the bike store. Oops! I'm trying to make the race interesting already.

The athlete dinner was fun. I got eat with a bunch of BTers and the whole energy of the weekend was palpable. Pre race video, listening to Mike Reilly talk, yeah I was definitely ready to race after that.

Saturday morning came around soon enough. It was raining out so I bailed on taking a final ride. I was a little nervous about having two whole days off before the race for fear of being a little flat come race day, but it turned out to be a pretty non issue. I made a last minute decision to head to the Terrace early so I could register for next year. It felt a little weird to be registering for my second ironman before completing my first, but considering how the last 6 weeks of my training went I knew I wanted a second shot at this.

Soon after I met my parents and they helped me drop of my transition bags and the bike. We made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to catch the Iowa game. After 3 quarters of a complete beat down of the cyclones (Woohoo!) it was time for dinner at the Olive Garden.

I tried to crawl into bed by 9:00, but I waited up for my sister and her boyfriend to get into town. They made a last minute decision to come up and support me so it was the least I could do. I said hi and then kicked them out of my room so I could get some restless sleep.

The morning came quickly and I was absolutely jazzed to get going. We left early enough to get to the Terrace by 5. I am anal about getting to transition as soon as it opens to allow myself plenty of time to make sure everything is set up. I put the bottles on the bike, dropped of special needs and then put the remaining odds and ends into my transition bags.

Ok, 5:45. Now what? I decided it was worth the time to wait in line for an indoor crapper. Great decision on my part. Chatted away the rest of the morning and then wrestled into my wetsuit and headed down the helix.

It was hard to believe I was finally at the start line of my first Ironman. I chatted nervously with my fellow athletes as they herded us into the water. The line was long and I was a little nervous that we wouldn't get in the water by 7, but I made it in with a few minutes to spare. I had enough time to drift out to a spot just north of the boat ramp behind about 3 rows of people. No sooner than I made it to my spot did the cannon go off.

The Swim

Oh boy, here we go! The start was physical for sure, but nothing overwhelming. I gave and took my fair share of fists, elbows, and feet, but managed to get moving at a pretty good pace. I took one hard kick to the shoulder, but that was it. Thanks for missing my face, buddy!

Things spaced out (relatively speaking) after the first few hundred yards or so and I cruised to thus first turn buoy. It was crowded there! I brought my head out of the water briefly to join everyone else giving out a loud "Moo" at the turn.

Time to get back to business. Stuck my head back in the water and forged ahead to the next turn. Down the "backstretch" I felt great. I was going at my "cruise all day pace" and even found a nice pair of feet to draft off of for quite some time. It was probably my best bit of drafting I've ever accomplished in a race. I lost the feet at the next turn, but that was okay. I was pretty much done with the first loop and things were feeling good.

I decided not to check my watch at the halfway point and just kept on swimming so I have no idea if my swim splits were even or not. At the start of the second loop my sighting got a little off as I drifted to the north side of the lake, away from the fray. I had trouble staying on course until the next turn. After I was golden, holding a nice tight line against the buoys on the way back.

I was starting to feel a little bloated (I've determined that I swallow air during the swim) towards the end and I knew that wasn't a good sign going into the bike. At the same time I was getting increasingly excited to be done with the swim. As with any race, I love getting this sucker out of the way and on the bike.

Rounding the last buoy and seeing the swim exit was awesome. I was almost done with the first leg of my first ironman. I started kicking a little more to get some blood flowing into the legs and soon enough I was getting out of the water! I was ecstatic coming in at 1:12. I did absolutely no swim training for 4 weeks due to the crash and even after I came back I stuck with pull bouy sets to not aggravate the injury. Only the last week of taper did I finally start feeling "good" in the water again.

Time: 1:12:02
Pace: 1:43 / 100yds
OA place: 608/2550
AG place: 53/186

T1: 7:36

Transition is looooong at this race. I felt like I moved pretty quick though. This was my first experience with wetsuit strippers and it didn't disappoint. She had that sucker off in a heartbeat. Then it was a long run up the helix, but I didn't mind it because it was just packed with spectators and it felt like everyone was cheering for me.

I made it too the transition room and grabbed my own bag off the floor. In the change room I had a great volunteer. He dumped out the bag and made sure I got what I needed. He even sprayed sunscreen on for me. After that it was a long run to my bike, in which I learned not to try and run with a full bike bottle in my back jersey pocket. It was bouncing all over the place and I eventually carried it in my hand. My bike was very close to the bike exit, which was fine by me. Volunteers were busy so I had to pull it off the rack myself, but that was fine. I was just excited to go!

The Bike

It was a great day for a bike ride. I'm so glad I left the arm warmers in the transition bag because I was very comfortable. I told myself to not get caught up in the excitement and hammer too hard too early. The ride out on the stick was nice. I was getting passed by a few people so I knew I wasn't going too hard. I was real glad I had ridden the course a few weeks back because being on familiar roads helped a bunch.

Early on it was cool and I wasn't even getting through half a water bottle between said stations. Other than that I was just sipping on my concentrated infinit and cruising along. All of the signs and spectators and volunteers were awesome. Every once in awhile I'd get that "I can't believe I'm racing an Ironman" feeling. The whole thing was at times surreal.

I knew things were going to get crazy at the start of the 3 big climbs, but I had no idea how crazy. The crowds were absolutely phenomenal. It brought such a surge of energy to have so many people cheering you on up a hill and I probably went up that first one much faster than I should have. I knocked the other two out and then got on the way to Verona, where I was excited at the possibility of seeing my support crew in the crowd. They had kept themselves busy that morning by making chalk drawings and signs and such.

I knew they were shuttling spectators out, but I was blown away by the number of fans lining the streets we went through. Craziness. I didn't see my family but hoped they caught a glimpse of me to make all their waiting worth it.

Soon enough the first loop was done and I was halfway through my Ironman ride. I was still feeling alright, but the residual bloating gassyness from the swim was starting to be a little uncomfortable. I blew by special needs but considered stopping at the kybo to, uh, ease the pressure. Thought I'd try taking some spare gas-x in my bento box first and see how things played out.

By the second loop it seemed to be getting a little hotter. I was going through water much more quickly (almost an entire bottle between each aid station) and at one point I could feel the sweat starting to roll off my arms. Between that and the hills and bowel trouble I really slowed down near the end. The 3 big hills on the second loop had their way with me and by the time I got past them I was ready to get off the damn bike.

Unfortunately I had a ways to go to make it back to Madison, but I toughed it out. In Verona I missed my support crew again, but swore I heard my mom yell out my name. That was enough though. The rest of the miles back on the stick passed by slowly, and I could tell I was pretty fatigued. I was getting passed a lot, but really didn't care. I just told myself to keep pedaling and I'd get there soon enough.

I had never seen a sight as beautiful as Monona Terrace when it finally came into view. I'm sure my pace picked up in that final mile and even the ride up the helix seemed easy. It was so good to be done!

According to my splits I definitely had a rough last 30 miles. It was either heat, hills, gassyness, lack of bike fitness or some combination of all of the above that caused my demise. Biking is usually my strong suit and it was the only of the three that I had any confidence in coming into this race. The crash had only forced me to take a 2 week hiatus in August so I don't think it suffered as much as the rest. Whatever the cause it was irrelevant. I was finished with my first Ironman ride!

BIKE SPLIT 1 40 mi. (2:03:57) 19.36 mph
BIKE SPLIT 2 43 mi. (2:15:07) 19.09 mph
BIKE SPLIT 3 29 mi. (1:40:26) 17.32 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:59:30) 18.69 mph

OA Place: 556/2550
AG Place: 54/186

T2: 6:17

I toyed with the idea of getting out of my shoes before the dismount line, but figured I would probably screw something up even though I practice it every ride. I handed my bike off to a volunteer and then ran inside to transition. I had another awesome guy helping me out in there. Shoes on, visor on, and everything I needed in the pockets. I was set. Upon exiting the building I made a bee line for the kybos, where I took a few moments to drop the kids off at the pool. I felt sooo much better after that and was able to comfortably run to the exit

The Run:

Okay, so I've briefly mentioned the bike crash I had not too long ago. 6 weeks before race day I did a flying superman over my handlebars while going very fast and landed on my head and shoulder. Coming too in the back of an ambulance having no idea how you got there is never a fun thing to experience and during my overnight stay at the hospital I was questioning whether this IM would be happening. Luckily I didn't break anything and pseudo-recovered quickly. My subsequent attempts at running led to an inordinate amount of groin pain that hadn't been present before the crash. I had to table running for awhile. 3 weeks before race day I started doing some long walks. Eventually I started working in some running intervals and the last week of taper I was able to run 3 and 5 miles pain free. That said, I hadn't completed a straight run over 5 miles since July 22 and I was pretty intimidated by the whole marathon and really didn't know how my body was going to respond.

It responded pretty well right out of the gate. I was able to run out of transition and the legs didn't feel too dead from the ride. Right away I spotted my support crew off to the side. Finally! I hadn't seen them since before the swim start and seeing them right then was just the boost I needed to start this marathon. I rushed over, gave big sweaty hugs to my mom and sister, high fived my dad and sister's fiance, wiped a tear or two of joy from my eye, and continued along the course.

The legs felt pretty good initially and when I made it to the first aid station I didn't want to stop running, but I forced myself to walk it. I knew I would be asking for trouble if I didn't take regular walking breaks. Ice down the jersey and nice cold sponges were an absolute life saver early. I had trained in far warmer temps than this but I was still burning alive. I told myself that I would be walking every aid station until at least mile 15 and if I felt good then I could cut loose.

Soon I came to the donkey aid station and they were doing a great job. Kimk told me to look for my ghoulie sign up the road. It kept my eyes peeled but missed it :( Apparently I have the worst eyes known to man. I couldn't spot my family, I couldn't spot signs for me, I only saw a couple of the BTers and other friends on the course out of the dozen or so I knew were racing. Weird.

I made it to Camp Randall stadium and enjoyed the nice soft surface, posed for the camera, and thought about how fun it would be to come here and watch the Hawks whoop up on the Badgers. At this point I realized that the little GPS unit I had rented so my family could track me in near real time had fallen out of its case. I was worried that they would be worrying about me since it would probably appear that I had stopped somewhere. I was hoping they'd keep checking for my splits as I crossed the timing mats along the course and realize I hadn't died or something.

Another mile or so down the road things started rumbling downstairs again. I needed a porto-john stat! Luckily there was one along the running path up ahead and I stopped yet again to take care of business. It was a quicker stop than the last one and I was on my way again.

As I neared the turn around by state st the crowds were going absolutely nuts. I couldn't help but pick up the pace. I saw my old college buddy, Mitch there. He was being his normal loud and boisterous self and pretty much ran out into the street to give me a high five. The guy next to me told me that I had some pretty rockstar friends and I couldn't agree more.

That energy boost got me out to the inspiration station. On my way by I danced to a little YMCA that was blasting on the speakers. This may have also been the point where I got passed by the women's leaders. I tried to keep up a bit to get some camera time, but they were cruising! They left me in the dust for sure.

I got back to really the only significant hill on the course and decided to walk it because my legs were extremely unhappy with me. Everything was starting to tighten up and each footfall was getting more and more difficult. At that point it was hard to fathom that I wasn't even halfway done with the run. I knew this was going to be a tough marathon coming in, and it didn't disappoint.

My legs weren't the only things unhappy with me. At the underpass I had to duck into the port-o-potty once again. I was really hoping that was the last time I needed to stop.

I came back to State St and there was my dad off to the side! I waved and looked around for everyone else. I caught the rest of them on the other side of special needs and waved. I hit the turn around and told myself that I had ONLY 13.1 miles to go. I did the first half in about 2:05 which wasn't bad at all.

As I passed my family again I pointed at my race belt and yelled that I lost the GPS. They're pretty smart. I'm sure they had figured that out by then. I stopped at special needs. My wet socks were starting to give me blisters and I was so happy to have a fresh pair in there. I slathered on the vasoline beforehand to help with the blisters. My helper had opened up the packet of tums so I grabbed a few. I probably should have taken a couple of tylenol too but I forget they were in there.

I took off again in fresh socks and for a moment felt great. I saw Mitch again and he came and ran beside me for a bit. I know it's against the rules but I didn't stop him. He even admitted later that he was having problems keeping up so it's not like he was pacing me. I told him I couldn't give him another high five because my hand was covered in vasoline, but I could stick my finger up his butt if he wanted me too. He laughed, clapped me on the back, and offered some other awesome words of encouragement before letting me go on my way.

Shortly after that I heard donkeyKim shout out my name and she yelled out, "The Village is with you!" I thought of all my friends on BT, and specifically in the challenge forum and all of the support they've given me day in and day out during the past year. I knew many of them would be tracking me today and I wanted to make them proud and drew on their collective spirit to keep forging ahead.

The second loop was hard, no lies. I was a hurting unit and couldn't wait to get to the aid stations so I could do a little bit of walking. Many times that walk extended well past the aid station and it was a monumental argument with myself to get started again. I walked any semblance of a hill along the way too. Somehow, someway I managed to make my way around the course again. I don't remember as much about the second loop. I kept drawing off the energy of the crowd to keep moving and making sure one foot fell in front of the other. I hit up chicken broth and coke. For some reason solid food did not interest me at, even though I hadn't had anything solid since the morning clif bar.

I hit the state st turn around again and knew there wasn't much left. I also knew I had a good shot at breaking 12 hours. Unfortunately I also had that little guy dressed in red with the pitchfork on my shoulder. He kept telling me it was okay to walk. He reminded me that I was in a crash 6 weeks ago and just completing this thing would be good enough. Then the little guy in white popped up on the other should and told me I can do better than that. I didn't want an excuse. I didn't want to finish the race and say yeah I did it in XX:XX:XX, but I crashed beforehand and could have gone faster. I wanted to leave to leave it all on the course and finish DESPITE that crash, with the best possible time I could. My groin felt fine. That wasn't a limiting factor. My bowels had settled down. All it was was just muscle soreness and stiff joints. I've ran through that crud before and I had less than a 10k to go so get moving!

I still walked the aid stations and hills, but I the breaks were shorter than I had been doing. Soon it was less than a 5k. The thought of getting to the finishing chute spurned me on. The capitol was up ahead and I could just feel the crowds and excitement. I ran through that last station, just grabbing a sponge to wipe my face clean (I had to look purty for my finisher photo). The sunglasses went on my head and I was just in awe of all that was around me.

I wish I would have slowed down a little but I couldn't help but run hard at the end. I entered the finisher's chute, something I had only done in my dreams before, and couldn't believe the spectacle. Hundreds of fans cheering for me, yes me, as I ran down. I high fived some random people, in the process missing my mom's own outstretched hand on the other side of the chute. There it was, the finish line with Mike Reilly up ahead. I heard my name. I raised my arms. I crossed the line. I gave a fist pump. I was an Ironman!!

Time: 4:21:28
Pace: 9:59 / mile
OA Place: 488/2550
AG Place: 53/186

DonkeyKim caught me at the finish line and it was great to have a friend there at the end. She got me my hat and shirt and medal and got me to the photo spot. I felt good. I was walking just fine and felt "with it" still. No medical tent for me. Wooohoo!

Met the family and a few friends just outside and took some pictures and was able to hold some coherent conversations so that was a good. After some time I found the food tent and scored myself the first solid food I'd had since breakfast. Mmmm! Pizza!

My first IM experience was nothing short of phenomenal. The fans were great, the course was fun, my family rocks, my friends rock, and every single one of the 3000 volunteers were most appreciated. All of that combined to make one fantastic experience that I will never forget and cannot wait to repeat next year!

Final Time: 11:46:53
OA Place: 487/2550
AG Place: 53/186

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ready to Go!

Well, I leave for Madison tomorrow morning. It's hard to believe this weekend is finally here. I've been looking forward to this since I toed the line at my first triathlon, and knew that I wanted to become an Ironman.

The hard part is over. The training is done. As the popular expression goes, the hay is in the barn. It's time to reap the rewards on a long, hard year of training. Here's exactly what that year looked like in terms of training volume:

Bike:209h 46m 38s - 4033.55 Mi
Run:95h 36m 09s - 702.58 Mi
Swim:95h 40m 08s - 304699.6 Yd

As you can see, the remaining 140.6 miles will be a mere drop in the bucket. They always say the hardest part of Ironman is getting to the starting line. I had a few doubtful moments following the crash six weeks ago, but here I am.

Let's get this party started.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

T-minus 1 Week!

Holy smokes! A week from this very moment, if all goes as well as I can possibly hope, I will be an Ironman. It's crazy to think about as I sit here now. All of those hours of hard work are about to be be rewarded, and I couldn't be more excited.

The taper is in full swing and the workouts are short and sweet, but that's not to say that they haven't been quality. In fact I've had a few breakthroughs that have allowed my confidence for next weekend to soar. In the water I had been relegated to doing swim sets with the pull buoy to prevent myself from kicking and aggravating the groin. Slowly, but surely I've been working in regular sets and last Friday I was able to do a straight 3000 swim without it. I've even been able to work in drill sets that were troublesome before, and although I can tell I've lost a little speed since before the wreck.

Out of the water, my running has been improving equally. I was able to lower my walk breaks while increasing my run intervals, and the last run I did yesterday morning was a 3.25 miles of pure running without any ill consequences. I can tell that my muscles aren't used to running continuously, but at least my groin has decided to quiet down. I will still be employing some sort of run/walk interval at the race, but it is going to much more aggressive than I originally thought.

All of this seems to be coming together at just the right time, and I couldn't be happier. A few weeks ago I was in a dark place, really questioning whether the race was even going to happen and whether I would be content walking a marathon, but my body has seemed to respond positively. I can't wait to race come Sunday!

That said, I realize that I have been training pretty solidly since February and I think I'm ready for a little break. With the extra free time I've been able to get all sorts of important things done like clean the apartment, catch up on some reading, watch a ton of college football, and get the last few months worth of comics cataloged and put away. Then there's been the whole checking of my pack lists for next weekend that pretty much occurs on the hour, every hour. They seem short. There's no doubt I'm forgetting something. Better check again, right? ;)

Gear is being laid out in the middle of the freshly cleaned living room and in just a couple of days it will be packed away on on its way to Madison. A quick tune up of the bike, a few more light workouts, and bam! it's going to be IM weekend before I know it.

I'm ready.