Ironman Wisconsin - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Madison, Wisconsin
United States
Ironman North America
80F / 27C
Total Time = 12h 06m 3s
Overall Rank = 567/2397
Age Group = M40-44
Age Group Rank = 94/368
Pre-race routine:

In compiling this race report, I've thought back to many I have read before. Many are "Joe Friday's", just the facts, ma'am. Others are story-based, case in point Scoobysdad's version of this same race. Some use humor, some focus on emotions. First time IM'ers usually write extensively and this will be no exception. Some finishers post just their times, no other details, feelings, etc. Being a left-brained kinda guy, this report is going to lean to the facts and details. I'm sure I'll make passing attempts at what I consider humor, but I'm hoping to capture some of the emotion and human content of the race and my experiences. For a good story or a bit of levity, I point you to the reports of two fellow Donkeys with whom I shared a goodly amount of time training and conversing this past year, including bobbing in the water at the swim start - Jszat and Scoobysdad. So, with that out of the way, here we go...

Up at 4:15a, water and diet coke, plus two pop tarts to begin the hydration and nutrition for the day. Say what you will about DC and pop tarts, but I wasn't going to clean up my eating/drinking habits the morning of the race. What I do from this point forward is another story and the pictures from the day's festivities suggest I have some work left to do around the midsection.

Cruising down East Wash, I came across a car piled into a light post. Saw the driver surveying the damage to his front end so I kept on going. Wasn't sure if this was to be a good or bad omen (or none at all).

Secured a close-in parking spot in a nearby public lot. Grabbed all the bags, pump, nutrition bottles etc. (dang this stuff got heavy quickly). Transition wasn't yet open, so milled around for about 10 minutes, then once it opened, unloaded three bottles onto the bike (2, 3 hour GE mixes, one H2O and filled the aerobottle with H2O). Pumped up the tires and the bike was ready to rock.

Headed back to the car to offload the pump and then to the S/N drop off point. At this point, all I had left to do was to get body marked, spray on some sunscreen and hook up with the fam to drop off my post-race clothes. Saw Wavedog doing the marking honors. Easy peasy, no undo pressure or nervousness at this point. Saw rstocks and hit him up for a BT tat.

While waiting, hooked up with Scoobysdad. Saw 1TT, DJDavey and Schwimmycoach who showed me their donkey sign (which had no "FORCE" on it, WTF, but no worries as you will soon see), and Jszat at some point and then the fam arrived. A few quick pics a few hugs with the wifey and son and it was time to walk down the helix. Scoob and I found an open spot along the wetsuit stripping area and just waited. Saw Schmize and his lovely bride Holly. Smiled for the camera and it was back to more waiting.

So it's getting close to game time for the pros and who walks by (outside the railing) but Hillary Biscay (defending champ). She needs to get into the water and quickly, but the sidewalk is jammed. We offer to help her get inside the railing, so she takes us up on the offer and climbs up the fence as we provide support. She pops over and scoots down to the swim start. I was convinced THIS was a GOOD omen.

With Mike Reilly barking in our ears, we move towards the water. We hit the timing mat - no DNS'ing for these boys.

Event warmup:

No significant warm-up, just bobbing in the water. Scoob and I picked a spot about 30 yards back of the start line and about 10 yards to the shore side of the ski jump.

As I was bobbing in the water, I notice a sign being held up at the swim start. "GALE FORCE IRONMAN #1388". I recognize the holder as a good friend of the family who was looking for my wife and son, hoping they'd notice the sign. I was thrilled to see this sign and tried to get Karen's attention (no luck, but no matter). Mike Reilly caught it too and said something like, "...Gale Force...I like that". I took this too as a GOOD omen. The seconds ticked down to our start and then the cannon blast. We are off!
  • 1h 14m 21s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 46s / 100 yards

The "spectacle" of an IM mass swim start (as M.R. called it) was not lost on me. The human washing machine lived up to all advanced billing. I quickly covered the open water between me and the folks closer to the start line and began the battle for position. Yes the jostling, hitting, touching, banging, etc. was significant, but I found my share of open water on the first leg. Had an easier time breathing to the left and eventually breathed this direction for a vast majority of the time, even though I train on a three stroke pattern. Sighting was good on the first leg.

As expected, things bunched up pretty badly at the first turn buoy and didn't clear much at all along the second leg and through the second turn buoy. Along the back stretch I never could gain a consistent stroke - seemed as though I was bobbing around alot, getting turned this way and that. Had the same bunch-up challenges at the third turn.

Reached the end of the first lap and strained to see the clock. Couldn't make it out, but heard M.R. say "....45 minutes...". My first calculations said, "dang, that's slow - I'm in for a long swim" and all the jostling must be slowing me down. As I pondered that a bit, I convinced myself that his call was for the pros elapsed time which meant I was more like 35 minutes. Ahh, much better (much better indeed, way ahead of 'best case').

Second lap was much of same as first lap. Hit the final turn and plowed ahead for the arch. Didn't look up at the clock until the volunteer helped me go from horizontal to vertical - 1:14 and change. Yippee! Better than my best case scenario and almost to the point where my wife missed me coming out of the water (I had created a "watching guide" for her and my son that showed the approximate times for various race milestones, based on three scenarios - best case, expected, worst case. Side Note: My wife used this watching guide extensively during the day and she later revealed to me a comment from someone looking at her while she was consulting it. The person said something to the effect, "..that's so cool...". She responded, " husband's an engineer, can't you tell?!" Yes, a dorky engineer geek I am at heart.

Wife and son did see me just before the run up the helix. A good start. Took the helix at a slow jog and into transition.

884th out of the water, 149th in the AG.
What would you do differently?:

Beating expectations would suggest I do nothing differently...yeah I'll stick with that. More training couldn't hurt, I guess.
Transition 1
  • 10m 2s

Yeah, kinda slow, but took the run up the helix easy. Jersey on, but needed someone to pull it down my back for me. Socks on quickly. Glasses on, grabbed my packet of pop tarts and shoes and out the door. Saw Clint and Terri at the beginning of bike hand-out. Gave Clint a hug and Terri a high five. Stop, reverse that - Clint high five, Terri hug. Great to see my fellow donks right off.
What would you do differently?:

Should there be another MOO, perhaps push the run-up a bit faster and depending on weather conditions, wear the tri-top under the wetsuit.
  • 5h 45m 10s
  • 112 miles
  • 19.47 mile/hr

Ran through transition in socks. Got to the mount line and a volunteer held my bike while I put on the shoes. Clipped in and down the helix I went. A friend of PeterAK's, a fellow RAAC competitor, was just behind me and said "hi donk". Don't remember his name, though. Cliff maybe? Chatted him up a bit then it was time to get into bike mode (eventually saw him again down the road a piece and he's on the Tri-WI board with Peter).

Started the eating right away, again pop tarts. Goal was 1 1/2 per hour (about 60 grams CHO). It felt good to be on the bike (my strength) and after a faster-than-expected swim.

Averted a potential disaster in the "no pass" zone as one of my tubes wiggled free of the strap holding them to the seat tube, almost to the point of getting caught in the rear wheel spokes. The guy riding behind me called my attention to it. Thanks for behaving in the true spirit of sportsmanship. I am grateful!

Took the stick nice and easy. Chatted a bit, but truth was, nobody nearby was too talkative.

Hit the first set of hills on the loop out of Verona. The 12/27 was the right choice. Easy spin, no mashing. Had fun on the descents. Passed many people - one of the benefits of being a Clyde - he with the most mass wins, all other things being equal.

Climb into Mt. Horeb was uneventful. Temps were still in the low 70's and comfortable. Hit the rollers just outside of town and had more fun on the descents. Hit Cross Plains and saw a gal dressed up in evening wear and some goofy tiara or something. Gave her a "thumbs up" and channeled an old commercial I recall from my youth...something along the lines of "...hey good looking, we'll be back to pick you up later..." Mr. Microphone methinks.

Nothing else of note until Old Sauk Pass. Again into the 27 cog and easy spin. I channeled the crowd noise and encouragement and spun up easily. Saw the donkey contingent near the top, gave out a big EEEAAAAWWWW, hopefully the pic turned out, Craig, and then it was onward to Timber Lane.

The climb up Timber Lane was as advertised - crowds crushing in from both sides, some goof balls in unflattering attire jumping around, cowbells clanging, drums beating, pots and pans banging, the smell of burgers grilling, quite the spectacle.

My wife and son took up a post just down the road from the top of the climb and I gave them a "thumbs up". I was feeling good, on pace for nutrition and hydration, legs felt fresh. Sped past Karen with my sign posted beside the road...frickin' great, quite a mental boost!

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Lara give me encouragement coming up the last big climb on Midtown? I was inspired by all the donkeys out on the course, and in far away corners too. The boost Lara's encouragement gave me was measureable - up to the top I spun and a good deal it was, cuz a sign just down the road from the top pointed to a nude beach nearby. Ding ding, I'll catch that on the second loop!

Cruised into downtown Verona. This is what I'd expect a TdF town to look like...barricades down both sides of the street, crowds packing the road, cheers, etc. It gives me chills even now to remember riding down the middle of that, feeling like a biking star. Gave out a big EEEEAAAAWWWW almost intuitively, just in time to pass Deanna and other Donks waving the donkey banner. Way cool. Got up in the saddle and urged on the crowd to cheer louder, like an orchestra maestro would urge on the musicians. They responded.

It was onward to the second loop. Breezed by the S/N's bags. All was good. Hit the first set of hills and this time the chain did not want to stay in the largest cog. I could hold the gear select and this worked for a few seconds, but eventually the chain would try to jump down. Shift again, ride for a few crank turns, chain jump, shift again. No biggie.

Finally saw another donkey on the bike course - saw PeterAK climbing up the hill to Mt. Horeb. We compared notes on the swim. He was looking good and indicated as such. We hung together for a couple of miles to just outside of town when we began to separate.

My "girlfriend" was still cheering in Cross Plains, but she said while she was cheering for everyone, and yet was a wee bit interested in me, she had eyes for another...oh well, I had a bike ride to finish anywho.

The rides up Old Sauk and Timber Lane were about the same as the first lap, probably a bit slower with the shifting challenge, but the crowd enthusiasm was still very high. Saw the wife and son again, joined by Karen with the sign from the swim start. I was still feeling good.

Did a repeat performance through downtown Verona. I think Lara had made it over to the Verona aid station by this time - she was all over the place! Saw the turn back to the stick and was thrilled. The ride to this point had passed very quickly. One large hill left to navigate. Hit the top of it and felt very fresh. The pace quickened and I was humping along until the no-pass zone, and wouldn't you know it, the tubes on my seat post came loose again. Had to spin around and pick up one that had fallen. Lost a few seconds, but in so doing, I caught a view of a rider with a prosthetic lower leg. When we got to transition, I heard M.R. mention the athlete by name and make reference to his physical challenge, but his name didn't register with me at the time. Very impressive riding performance regardless of my brain freeze.
What would you do differently?:

I hit my expected pace within 0.03 mph (again with the dorky technical detail). Could I have gone faster? Probably. Would it have made the subsequent run that much more difficult? Yup. Should I have gone a bit slower? I'll venture that most experienced IM'ers would have counseled "yes" as indicated by the run performance and the actual race conditions.

Rose to overall 482nd place by the conclusion of the bike leg with the 380th fastest split (63 fastest split in the AG), if I'm reading the multiple results data correctly.
Transition 2
  • 04m 17s

Much easier transition than swim-to-bike. Off with helmet and shoes, on with running shoes, hat and fuel belt. No sock change, no shorts change. Spent too much time dickin' with the race belt, trying to spin it to the front while wearing the fuel belt. The volunteers kept naggin' me to "..put the number to the front"
What would you do differently?:

A bit more urgency? Nah. When I was predicting my finish time, I had baked in 10 total minutes for transitions, not fully appreciating the helix run-up. The fact I lost 5 minutes to the plan during transitions was made up for by a 5 minute improvement in the swim. At this point, I was even/even on the plan.
  • 4h 52m 13s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 11m 09s  min/mile

Coming out of transition I felt meh. My right knee usually needs to be jiggled/worked into a different range of motion coming off the bike and the race was no different. I had to pull over several times to yank the knee into the proper position. Eventually it worked itself out. Saw Rosshole as we turned onto State Street. I knew he was going to be fast out of the water and could put down a solid bike too. It was good to see someone I knew and we traded spots back and forth for the first loop.

I had put on my GPS receiver in transition, but it took awhile to find the satellites so my average mile pacing data did not correspond to the course markers. I think I had one mile pace in the upper 8's, but that was unsustainable. I hit the second aid station and began a routine that would carry me through the next four plus hours...water, water with ice, coke, orange slices, grapes, wet sponges (all but the wet sponges went down the gullet easily and I think I hydrated pretty well). The first three miles, including the run through Camp Randall, were tough. It was kinda cool to be on the field and I can only imagine what it's like with the stands full of people in a full-throated cheer. Out the stadium and up Breese Terrace where I encountered Clint and Terri and some MOST EXCELLENT road chalk artwork. At least these guys got my name on the "sign", along with all the other donkeys and some other BT'ers.

For some reason, the stretch between the second aid station and Camp Randall was mentally tough for me, every time I went through. The first and third times you come up an incline from an underpass and have to do a stupid little out-and-back along a paved trail instead of heading toward the stadium. The scenery back along here was industrial and unappealing to the eye. We ran past an old apartment building I lived in for one year while going to school in Madison. It brought back less than favorable memories. Whatever.

Finally made it around to the Observatory hills and chatted up some other folks that joined me in my decision to walk these particular sections. We glowed in our collective wisdom for a short while before trotting down the hill to Park Street and the State Street mall. I saw the family for the first time here and in contrast with the bike leg, I was not feeling as spry. Gave them both a kiss and hug and trudged my way up State Street.

After seeing the fam again soon thereafter, hit the lakeshore trail, which for me was a welcome respite from the chaos on State Street. I have found that when I'm deep in the pain cave, I respond better when the volume is turned down - I can latch onto something to distract me from the pain - my breathing pattern, a combination of my breathing and other sounds of my running - foot falls, etc. Unfortunately even the sound of another runner overtaking me can knock me out of this recovery zone. Thankfully I was able to ignore the pain for awhile down this stretch and run most of the way from State Street, past the inspiration zone and the obnoxious Ford pitch woman who's only words of encouragement were "Go Go Go", screamed loudly and over amplified, and to the turn-around. On my way back from the turn-around point, I saw the Donkus Maximus. I had successfully avoided getting overtaken all day and here he was probably three-quarters of a mile behind and I presumed gaining fast. $hit, this dude's gonna run me down soon, must...not...let...that...happen....

Kept up the run/walk and soon I was back at Camp Randall and the Weninger cheering section. As I ran by, I heard someone say "nice a$$", I think it was Clint. I waved back with acknowledgement, he was right, of course ;)

I don't remember much else all the way back to the capital square except for a donkey call on the far side of the square. I tried really hard not to pay attention to the finish chute as I came around, just concentrate on the timing mat, don't even look at the clock. Stopped at S/N's to dump my fuel belt.

On the way to the stadium on the second loop, the runners have to pass the "Stadium Bar". So as I pass, I hear a donkey cheer coming from the outside seating areas. It's Clint and he's got beers. Rat ba$tard was cheering me from inside a stinkin' bar and I had a good 11+ miles left to go. Saw 1TT for the first time all day, but he was suffering some GI issues at the time, but otherwise appeared in good spirits. Somewhere along here I remember seeing Coredump and Whizzz, but nothing else of note until spotting the family and Karen at the same place outside the Memorial Union. Then I saw him again, Jszat. You all were probably wondering whatever happened with the Maximus. Well, he never did overtake me and now he's walking with BirkieRunner up State as I'm heading back down, about 7 miles to the finish. Chance to put some time into him. So hugs and kisses again to the boy and his mother and back along the lakeshore trail. Saw PeterAK along here and he again looked well.

Breezed past the inspiration section, the obnoxious Ford girl again and over the final timing mat before the finish line. Passed the previous spot on the first loop where I saw the Maximus and was feelin' good. Saw him again soon thereafter however, but he wasn't walking, he was running - $hit. He game me some encouraging words, which was nice, but I suspect he was just making my eventual capture and passing more mentally acceptable.

Onward I plodded down University, hoping to keep him at bay, but when it was time to walk, I walked. If he caught me, so be it. I saw Josh and Tammy, and Whizzz once more along here. Mr. Distance himself, Scoob, right as he was hitting the Stadium and I was heading past. I saw another donkey sporting the "game changer" donkey-head jersey (the Maximus was correct in this assessment) just before the 25 mile point and then Chris and Jeanne, Travis and Sandi at about the same spot. Then it was over as I felt someone pinch my a$$. Lo and behold, the Donkus Maximus had run me down. He checked on me, I was feeling fine, and off he goes. At this point I harbored a bit of ill will at his catching me (up to this point I was not passed by a single donkey) so I focused on mentally giving him a hammy cramp or some other ailment that would allow me to catch and pass HIM. So what do you suppose happened? Up ahead about a block I saw him seize up and grab his left hammy! It frickin' worked! Witch Doctor Gale! Alas my focus was soon lost, his hammy seemed to right itself and he was still far ahead.

No matter, I was going to finish this thing strong by running the final 1.2 miles non-stop. Hit State and then the Capital square. Clint was off to the side and began whooping and hollering. I made a move to the side of the road to give him a high five, but he said, screw that, just finish the dang thing, or something to that affect. He followed me around nearly to the end, shouting encouragment the whole way. Recognized Bryan (MnDiver) on the side of the road and then saw DJDavey along the side too (came to find out later that both had struggles on the bike but gutted it out and cheered for the rest of the competitors. I tip my hat to both of you fellas).

Came "flying" around the turn before the S/N bags and the road ahead of me was clear. At this point things got pretty surreal, I had no real appreciation for time, the crowd noises seemed to blend together and drop away, my vision narrowed to the right side of the chute where the finish line was. I only really heard one thing - my wife screaming at me. I turned to look just in time to see her and my son waving at me. I hit the line, looked at the clock, 12:06, and stopped. The noises and lights seemed to switch back on and I was back in real-time. I did NOT hear M.R.'s "you are an Ironman" call, but my entourage did. The catchers grabbed both arms and we walked nice and slow while engaging in some small talk to the picture spot. The Maximus was several people in front of me - a quick nod between the two of us, a fist bump and the last year had come full circle - it was he and I that stood in line together twelve months ago to register for this event. It was cold and rainy that day and the excitement of the prior day's activities was still fresh in my mind, as were the doubts of being able to duplicate what I had witnessed hundreds of times earlier. The act of signing up set me on a path to greater health, awakened me to the blessings I have enjoyed personally and those that have befallen my family and introduced me to a greater circle of friends. My installement of "The Distance" was written.

By this time Peggy had taken over catching duties for me and it was great to see her. We chatted a bit about her Hawaiian wedding in May and the reality of others (her mother and SIL?) taking over planning arrangements. Hugs and it was off to see the family, take a few pics, and hit the massage room. I was all smiles and thrilled with the experience.

Gave back 84 slots to 566th overall after the 879th overall run split (145th in AG). My run and swim skills place me at nearly the identical relative spot in my AG (149th vs. 145th).

As I consider these comments on the run portion, I think they reflect the true nature of my experience in that they have focused back not so much on the physical challenges, the pain (trust me, there was plenty of that) or the typical questions of "why did I choose to do this?", "why am I out here?", "am I going to finish?", but instead they focused on the human side, the interactions - the EEEAAAW's, the "nice jersey" comments, the hand slaps, the encouraging word, the smile against the pain, the shared pains, the shared successes, the nod and the fist bump.

What would you do differently?:

From a purely technical point of view, perhaps a more moderate bike pace and a more aggressive run attitude would have served me better. I felt good about my run coming into the race and less so about my bike. In retrospect, the bike still was a comparative strength, but it may have contributed to the less than stellar run performance. As I ponder the next several months, I think they will focus a bit more on the run, with a swim focus over the winter months.
Post race
Event comments:

I got nothin' else. Wasn't that enough?

Profile Album

Last updated: 2009-05-04 12:00 AM
01:14:21 | 4224 yards | 01m 46s / 100yards
Age Group: 149/368
Overall: 884/2397
Performance: Good
Suit: Promotion - Full
Course: Two counter-clockwise loops. You all know the drill...
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Below average
Waves: Navigation: Below average
Rounding: Average
Time: 10:02
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
05:45:10 | 112 miles | 19.47 mile/hr
Age Group: 63/368
Overall: 380/2397
Performance: Good
Wind: Little
Course: Stick and two 42 mile've all read it before...
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Average Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Not enough
Time: 04:17
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:52:13 | 26.2 miles | 11m 09s  min/mile
Age Group: 145/368
Overall: 879/2397
Performance: Average
Course: Two loops - yada, yada, everyone reading this will know...
Keeping cool Bad Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5