I can't believe it's been two weeks since Ironman Wisconsin. It seems like ages ago. Why? Well, because in between finishing Ironman and today, I have interviewed for a job, been offered a job, accepted the job and resigned from my current job. I'm in the midst of a whirlwind of cleaning and sorting so I can get my house up for sale. The sign goes in the yard tomorrow morning. More about that in a later post.
So back to Ironman. Sunday morning my alarm went off at 4 a.m. Way too dark and early for any normal person to be awake. But I suppose I wasn't a normal person that morning. I was going to do an Ironman, and that's the time you get up when you're doing Ironman. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, took some Mucinex and hoped it would do it's job, and double checked that I had everything I needed for my special needs bags. Then, I met the gang from Kansas City downstairs for the walk to the start line. It was a beautiful morning and the weather forecast for the day was perfect. We dropped off our special needs bags and headed down to the convention center to check our bikes one last time, take care of any last minute business, and get a few photos before putting on our wetsuits and heading down to the water for the race start.
Ironman Wisconsin is centered around a convention center next to the lake where we swim. The transition areas are inside the convention center in the conference rooms, and the bike staging area is on the top level of the parking garage. To get down to the water we had to walk down the helix on the parking garage. It was packed with athletes. It takes a lot of coordination to get 2,500 athletes into the water for a 7 a.m. start. We were like cattle.
I managed to stick with most of the KC crew, so once we got in the water we found a fairly non-threatening spot close to the shore. We ended up treading water for about 10 minutes before the start. Thank goodness for wetsuits! It's an amazing view to look toward the shore and see the crowds that have come out to watch the race start. The convention center is a huge facility with a bike path that runs between it and the water. People were packed along the length of the center. You could see them on the bike path and on all levels of the parking structure. It was incredible. So much energy.
As the start of the race got closer, Mike Reiley, the voice of Ironman, started counting us down. At 7 a.m. the cannon went off and the played It's a Beautiful Day by U2, an Ironman tradition. I waited just a few seconds so I could hear a little bit of the song. I've always loved the song, but I like it even more since it is associated with Ironman. It give me chills.
Considering that I didn't swim nearly enough during my training, it was a pretty good swim. I felt long and comfortable in the water. I did get kicked in the face early on in the swim, which cause my eye to swell a bit, which made my goggles tight. It got pretty uncomfortable toward the end of the swim. But other than that it was great. However, I was not sad when it was over. I got out of the water in 1:31, about 12 minutes slower than 2004, but still respectable for me.
I got out of the water, was helped out of my wetsuit by the Peelers, and ran up the helix to the first transition. My legs had started to cramp a bit in the swim, so it was a little painful to run.
Once I got to T1, a wonderful volunteer helped me get into my cycling clothes. Another volunteer helped me with sunscreen and I headed out to pick up my bike. The entrance to the bike area is at the opposite end of the parking structure from where you bike out. My bike was right by the bike exit so I had a long run. On the way, my parents had found a great spot to watch the transition. I found my bike, hopped on and headed down the helix to start the 112 mile bike. The roads on the course are for the most part, very good. However, the first part, as you ride out of Madison, is extremely bumpy. I saw a lot of water bottles and various supplies laying on the side of the road. Part of my race strategy is to stay on a liquid diet for the ride. I have a special cocktail of sports nutrition drinks mixed up in large water bottles. Each bottle contains 800 calories, so I estimated that I would need 3 bottles for the bike. I carried two on the water bottle carrier on the back of my seat, and put one in my special needs bag. I set my watch to beep every 15 minutes to remind me to take a drink. Not the tastiest thing ever, but since it's orange flavored, I try to pretend that it's a dreamcicle. Not so much. Since this is a thick drink, it is pretty heavy. And two bottles are really heavy. So, about 5 miles into the ride, I felt something funny hitting the backs of my legs. I reached down and felt my water bottle carrier. The bolts that attach it to my bike seat had shaken loose, and couldn't support the weight of my bottles. This was a problem because my water bottles were now parallel to the ground pointing straight back like torpedoes. I was concerned that they'd become torpedoes and fly off my bike if I left it like that and went over too many more bumps. I didn't want to jeopardize any of the other athlete's safety with torpedo water bottles, plus I needed what was in the bottles to help me make it through the day. I stopped once and borrowed a tool to try to tighten the bolts, but after a few more miles it came loose again. Now, I faced a dilemma. What to do. I couldn't leave them in the holders, but I couldn't not carry them. Fortunately, the jersey I chose to wear for the bike had deep pockets, so I pulled them out of the holder and stuck them in the pockets. Not the most comfortable, or aerodynamic, but it worked. The rest of the bike was uneventful. At the halfway point the race leader passed me. But they gave the pros a 10 minute head start, so I'm sure if we had started at the same time he wouldn't have even been close to me. HA!
It was a gorgeous day except for a bit of a headwind that got stronger as the day went on. I saw friends from Tulsa and Kansas City, along with my parents at various points in the race. It was awesome! It's so nice to see a familiar face. Especially when you're climbing a nasty hill. Wisconsin is a beautiful bike course that takes you through some scenic Wisconsin farmland. For those of you who have never been to Wisconsin, don't let anyone EVER tell you Wisconsin is flat. This course is always changing with a lot of hills, which I guess keeps it interesting, but it wears you down. It would be nice to have a larger flat section.
Needless to say, I was happy to start the ride back toward Madison. It seemed to take much longer than it took to ride the same section the other direction. Ugh! I played leap frog with another girl in my age group. It seemed like when I had a burst of energy she was moving slow, and when I was slowing down, she would have a burst of energy. We joked that we were sharing the same pool of energy. It was great to see the convention center! I rode to the top of the helix, and found my parents at the top. They were proving to be great Ironfans! I happily handed my bike over to the volunteers to take back to the racks. I grabbed my transition bag and headed to the changing room. I did another full change into clean clothes, put on my running shoes, got another layer of sunscreen and started out on the run. My parents had found their way over to the run start. I also saw some of the KC crew. As I was running out to start my marathon, the race winner was crossing the finish line. Wow. I can't even imagine how it would feel to be that fast. They were playing Ozzy Osbourne's Ironman as he crossed. I pretended that they played the song to inspire me.
Up until this point, the breathing issues I had been having really didn't bother me, but as I was running, I started to feel more fatigued than I normally would have felt if I had been healthy leading up to the race. But I was determined to cross the finish line, and I really wanted to finish in less than 15 hours. I felt like I was running pretty well for the first half. It was starting to cool off toward the last part of the first half, so I started to take the chicken broth that is offered at the aid stations along the way. I have heard people wax poetically about the Ironman chicken broth and scoffed at them, thinking there is no way chicken broth could be that good. Now I understand. The chicken broth was magical. It was giving me the salt that my body needed, plus it was keeping warm and it is yummy! I looked forward to picking up my little styrofoam cup at every station. I'm drooling just thinking about it. On the run, I managed to see a lot of my friends from Tulsa and Kansas City who were also racing. Jen, from Tulsa, breezed by me on my first lap (her second) on her way to win the 30-34 age group. The girl is amazing! I wished I could catch up with some of them so I'd have someone to talk with, but unfortunately, they were moving faster than me.
The marathon is a 2 loop course, so after 13 you're running like you're about to cross the finish line. And because I'm slow, there are a lot of people finishing the race as I came to the halfway point of the run. To make it worse, you have to run down the road to the finish line, and halfway there, you are directed around a coneto turn around and take you back for the 2nd half of the course. Ugh. That takes a lot of mental energy. But the crowds do help keep spirits high.
The second half was similar to the first, just a bit slower. The bad thing about Ironman Wisconsin is that miles approx. 19-22 is on a trail. It's really pretty when it's light out, but as it gets darker, there are less people on the course, and it gets really lonely. That was one of the main differences I noticed between this year and 2004. I was about an hour slower, so the lack of light in certain places made it feel a lot different. It was also a lot colder this year.
As I got to the last few miles, my legs were pretty sore, but the excitement to get across the finish line kept me moving forward. I kept grabbing nutrition at each aid stations to keep me moving. I didn't want to take anything for granted! I was elated when I could see the Wisconsin Capitol building. That meant the end was near. I could start to hear Mike Reilly, still keeping the excitement going at the finish line and announcing everyone as they crossed the finish line. At the last aid station, I took a moment to primp so I would look good in the finishers photo, and headed toward the finish. There were crowds lined up all around the capitol. I saw my parents and started down the final stretch toward the finish line. I crossed the line at 9:24 p.m. for a finish time of 14 hours, 24 minutes and 30 seconds. The best part about it? I actually had fun. I was uncertain about how I'd feel, and even though I wasn't at my best and I didn't beat my 2004 time, I was happy to be there.
Next up? Not an Ironman. I'm looking forward to training for a half Ironman and possibly a marathon.