Oh, what a summer. The weeks and months leading into Ironman Wisconsin this year were a bit crazy to say the least. Between going to school, working several jobs, graduating, passing my boards and becoming a licensed massage therapist, starting a new job…oh, and training…there were many times that I found myself stressed, frazzled, and wondering who’s bright idea it was to sign up for an Ironman given my current life situation. Oh, that’s right.
I cannot say that I always enjoyed the training this summer, but in a way it kept me balanced, a word I don’t usually associate with Ironman. I had a schedule. A routine. It was go, go, go, and I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and think. To make choices as to whether I was going to get my workout in that day. It was a summer of don’t think, just do. By late August I was so done. My biggest training week happened to fall during my family’s annual week-long camping trip in Door County. The change of scenery is what got me through that week, and even though I did not get all of my workouts in on vacation, I got the ones that mattered. Two long bike rides up and down and around the peninsula, 106 and 115 miles respectively. Then came the taper. I have never in my life been so happy to taper. I wanted the race to be over and done so I could move on with my life. I found myself not even excited for the race, which worried me. How was I going to get through 140.6 miles when I didn’t even want to be out there?
During my second week of taper, there was a shift. It was not subtle. I was out for an early morning run and thinking about the race. I pictured my friends and family out on the course cheering for me. I pictured myself on my bike, being carried up the hills by the massive crowds, and something inside of me burst open. I was overcome by a feeling of uncontrolled excitement for the race. I could not wait to be in Madison, soaking in the weekend, having the best race of my life. I started to tear up behind my sunglasses as much from relief as from picturing the emotion of the day. I finally felt ready. I was finally looking forward to everything that race day would bring.
I have never slept so well the night before a race. I went to bed early, slept through the night without waking up once, and was genuinely confused as to who was calling me when my phone alarm went off at 3:45am. I got up and did my usual routine. Coffee, bagel, peanut butter, banana, fill bottles, get dressed, etc. Before long it was time to make the walk through the sleeping streets of Madison towards transition at Menona Terrace. As usual, transition was buzzing with the energy of 2400 nervous, twitchy athletes getting ready to embark on their 140.6 mile journey. I placed my nutrition on my bike and borrowed a bike pump from another athlete. It was dark, and I couldn’t really see what I was doing. I filled my tires and then promptly freaked out because I knew I had overinflated them. I found Steve and told him through tears what had happened, so he grabbed my bike and we took it to the bike mechanics for a do-over. We deflated then re-inflated the tires to the proper pressure, and things were good to go. After a stop at the porta potty, we made our way down to the swim start. I was calm as I put on my calf sleeves, sunscreen, and wetsuit. It was windy and the lake was choppy, which was the only think making me a little bit nervous. We headed into the water around 6:50 and floated around while the national anthem was sung. Looking around me, I was worried. We were smack dab in the middle of a huge pack of almost all men. I kept trying to move away from the pack, but it was no use. I knew we were in for a rough swim.
The Swim – 1:21:59
At 7am, the canon fired, and we were off into the washing machine. I was blocked in amidst flailing arms, legs, feet, bodies. I felt like I couldn’t get anywhere. I kept thinking just relax, it will thin out soon. It never thinned out. The whole way to the first turn buoy was a mess. I was repeatedly hit and kicked in the head, but luckily my goggles stayed put. Once we reached the long back stretch of the loop, we were against the wind and therefore the chop. There were moments that I had clear water to swim in, but they were few and far between. The waves were not as much of a problem for me as I was anticipating, and I was feeling strong. After what seemed like a short eternity, I was on the final stretch on the way home. Things seemed to bottleneck here, and we were back to aggressive full body contact for the remainder of the swim. Exiting the water, I saw that my swim time was nearly identical to 2011. I had hoped to be a little faster, but given the conditions, I knew I did just fine.
T1 – 7:34
I love running up the helix into transition. The spectators lining the sides are amazing, coupled with the excitement that the swim is finally over. I smiled all the way up into the building, where I grabbed my bag and a volunteer helped me get ready for the bike. Socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet, and I was out of there. I stopped to get sunscreened by some friends that were volunteering, and it was great to see their friendly faces. I made the long jog in bike shoes past the rows and rows of bikes, and I saw my mom and Joe just outside of the fence holding up a sign for me. I flashed them a huge smile and waved, knowing that the next time I would see them would be on the hill at Timber Lane, 45ish miles into the bike course.
The Bike – 6:18:11
My plan for the bike was to take the first 60-90 minutes very easy, ride steady after that, be smart on the hills, and nail my nutrition. Everything was on point until about 60 minutes into the ride, when I dropped my chain on a small hill. I stopped to fix it, and I could not get it back on. I kept trying and trying, and was getting utterly frustrated when I finally realized that I was trying to put the chain back onto the big ring when I was shifted into the small ring. Duh! A bike mechanic I am not. I wasted a few minutes there, but I was grateful that it was a minor problem and that I wasn’t the woman sitting 20 feet away from me waiting for the SAG vehicle with a broken derailleur. I was back on my way and things were going well. A few minutes later Steve passed me. I told him I dropped my chain, and he told me he dropped a bottle in the middle of the road and had to stop and get it. Then he was off and I knew I wouldn’t see him again until the run.
Before I knew it I was approaching the three big hills, and the crowds carried me up them with what felt like very little effort and a big smile on my face. On the second hill I saw my mom and Joe which gave me a boost, and a few miles later I saw (and heard!) professional cheer captain Cindy with her big blue clapping hand. I was riding in high spirits through Verona and onto the second loop. I was taking my nutrition on schedule and feeling great. The second loop went by almost as fast as the first. I was complemented twice by other riders on my hill climbing, and I honestly couldn’t believe how good I felt. I saw all of my people again on the second loop, and it was time to head back to Madison. Unfortunately there was quite a headwind on the way back, and parts of the last 16 miles seemed to drag on, but I was still feeling strong. I dropped my chain again on a hill, but this time it took me mere seconds to get it back on. In the last mile, a girl passed me and said “Come on, let’s get the hell off these bikes!!” My thoughts exactly. I couldn’t wait to run.
T2 – 4:33
Change socks, shoes, grab running hat and nutrition, stop to pee, and I’m off.
The Run – 3:53:48
Heading out onto the run course I felt amazing. I had grabbed my Garmin in T2 so I could keep tabs on my pace, but my plan was to only glance at it each mile to make sure I was on track. Within the first mile, I saw my sister-in-law Jamie with Brandon and little Aiva in her custom made onesie cheering me on. They took the above photo and told me that Steve was only a couple minutes ahead, which surprised me. I thought he would be further ahead of me off of the bike, but when I saw him a few minutes later he looked good and was feeling good. I told him to have a great run and went ahead. I hit the first mile in 7:17. Whoa nelly! I felt like I was jogging, but seriously?? I dialed it back for mile 2. The miles were ticking by, and I was easily holding sub-8 min pace. I walked the steepest section of Observatory Hill my first time through, and I knew I was making great time.
I saw some friends and my mom and Joe on State St, and I was feeling great. Then around mile 7, I started feeling some stomach pain. It was an odd pain, not cramping, not nauseous, just pain. I slowed down, but it kept on getting worse. By mile 10, I couldn’t choke down much in the way of nutrition. I tried a gel before the halfway point, but I could barely swallow any of it. After the halfway turnaround, I knew I was going to have to make a potty stop. I stopped just after the halfway point, but it didn’t make me feel much better. I was trying to string together a slow jog between each aid station, where I would walk. I tried sipping coke and water, whenever I could, and I kept up with my salt tabs. Things kept going from bad to worse, and I wondered if I might have to walk the rest of the race. I knew if I could at least keep jogging, I would still get a PR, but I saw my goal of a 3:40 run quickly slip out of reach. I contemplated several times if I could even finish. Of course I knew I would finish by way of walking if I had to, but I wouldn’t even let myself imagine walking the last 10 miles.
I made myself smile whenever I saw my friends on the course because I so appreciated them being there, but inside I truly felt like death. Another potty stop around mile 18-19, and after that my stomach felt a little better. I started running again, but with very little nutrition in the tank, I was barely able to pick up the pace to sub-9 min miles. I knew with 4 miles to go that I could keep running and I would still get my PR, and I just couldn’t wait for it to be over. I kept saying over and over to myself that I am never doing this again. The last few miles went by painfully slow and amazingly fast at the same time. Before I knew it, I was coming around the capitol to the finish.
I managed one victorious arm in the air and half a smile. I was just so glad it was over. I talked to my catcher for a few minutes while I waited to get my picture taken. Turns out he was a 5 time Ironman finisher and was planning to race Wisconsin again next year.
I do not know how I managed to look happy in the above photo. I felt horribly sick and all I wanted to do was lay down and die. Thankfully my mom and Cindy were there to help me after the race. Cindy is a nurse, and was amazingly helpful in escorting me to the bathroom (I think she might have pushed a child out of my way at one point :)), feeding me bites of pretzels by hand, and giving me her jacket so I could stay warm. Thanks Cindy, you’re the best! My mom and Joe stayed with me for a while too and made sure I was ok as we waited for Steve. I repeated several times to all of them – I am never doing this again. I felt sick after my previous two Ironmans (Ironmen?), but never as bad as this. Steve finished in 12:10:47, over a ONE HOUR PR!!! He did so awesome, and I am trying to get him to write a guest blog of his race report.
My overall stats:
Finish time – 11:45:55
435/2334 Overall finishers
10/105 F30-34 Age Group
I ended up with a 13 minute PR over 2011, and was 10th in my age group again. Though I am happy that I PR’d, I can’t help but be disappointed in the way things turned out. I know I had a much faster run in me, but things just didn’t go my way. In trying to figure out what went wrong, it’s hard to say. I nailed my nutrition on the bike and did not feel I was over-pacing. It could have been the stress of the rough swim or the race itself, who knows. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you work so hard and so long for something like this and then it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, but such is racing, and such is life. I am proud of myself for gutting it out to the end when I felt so so horrible, and I can look back and know that I made incredible progress this year. I had an amazing race in Door County and I feel I went into this Ironman in the best shape of my life. By the very next day, I found myself itching with the Ironman bug and the now-unfinished business I have with this race. And…right about now my mom wishes she had gotten me on video after the race, sick and saying I will never.do.this.again. As we all learned after 2011, never say never. Don’t worry mom, I did not sign up for next year 🙂