We arrived in Madison on September ninth and I registered and weighed in. Everything for Ironman Wisconsin is based out of Monona Terrace which is kind of cool. The terrace is right on Lake Monona and a few blocks from the capitol. Pictured below is the parking structure helix that we had to run up after the swim to get to the transition area and then to the bikes.
My official Ironman weight was 203.9. I had hoped to be 199 by the race but I had lost 40 lbs since February..so I was happy. At registration I also noticed a few guys my size or a little bit bigger. However the vast majority of the athletes were definitely built for endurance with little body fat and most of the guys did not need to have a scale that went over 170 pounds.
On Saturday we met up with my brother Ben and his wife Adrianne. Ben was under some notion that I could attend a Badger game the day before Ironman. After some deliberation I declined. Instead we met up for a little pre game fun and then my wife and I went back to Monona Terrace to rack my bike and drop off my gear bags which we had spent two hours packing and repacking. I don't know how many times I rechecked my bike shoes, helmet, salt pills etc.
As you can see by the pictures the bags are dropped off in different rooms and sorted by athlete numbers. The picture is of the room that we triathletes refer to as T1 or the first transition. (Ha.."we triathletes" )The gear bag contains everything I needed to go from the swim to the bike. In most triathlons the gear is left by your bike and there are no separate rooms or changing areas.. However due to the number of athletes and length of the race the bikes are racked separate from the gear bags. My T1 gear bag included my bike shoes, socks, sunglasses, helmet, etc. What is nice about Ironman is that once you grab your bag and move into the changing area there are rows of chairs to sit down on and numerous volunteers to help you go through your bag, put sunscreen on or whatever and put your stuff away as you scurry out the door..the bad thing is seeing other guys nude rubbing nut butter on their privates. Triathletes are not a bashful people.
After racking the bike Kristine and I headed back to our hotel room at the Union South and went to dinner with Ben and Adrianne. We went to the Great Dane..which if you go to the beginning of this blog you can see me eating all manner of deep fried food and drooling over what I couldn't stuff down. The day before Ironman I was drinking water and eating mashed potatoes. In fact the three days before the race I was petrified that I was going to make the wrong decisions on what to eat and stayed to the basics of lean protein and chicken breast with plenty of water. I actually declined cheese curds and bacon.
I got to bed about 10 p.m. and was up at 4:30. Kristine and I were down at Monona Terrace by 5:20 along with thousands of other people. I filled my water bottles and made sure my tires were at 120 psi. I was one of the few that did not have a true triathlon bike. Instead I had my road bike with aero bars on it. During the ride I was glad that I had my bike with its front triple chain ring. We then wandered around checking out the spectators and other athletes as well as getting my body markings done.
The area became very crowded as gun time approached. At 6:30 the bike transition area was closed and we had to put on our wetsuits and move down the helix and into the water. The helix was crowded but there was about 6 feet of space for all of the athletes to run up once they exited the water. I was warned about the swim for IMMOO..it was likened to being in a washing machine. The closer you were to the start line and the buoys the worse it was. I put on my wetsuit and entered the water with about 20 minutes before the start. I spoke with some of the athletes and decided..what the heck..I am going to the start line by the buoys and will start a little behind. I figured the front runners would get ahead and I would get into a groove. I was surprised to see that there were a large number of athletes that were starting near the shore almost 200 yards from the buoy. Apparently they thought it best to stay out of the melee and catch up with the buoys toward the first turn 800 meters away. Seemed like a lot of extra swimming to me. But so did the fact that I had to tread water for 20 minutes before the gun started the race. However, with the wetsuit on treading water did not take up much if any energy at all.
I was talking to a couple of other athletes in the water when the gun went off and everyone just started moving forward. I can honestly say I have never been so beat up in a swim. There are 3000 people headed for the same red buoy 800 meters away and no one wants to give up space. I was jostled, run over, kicked and all in all just mugged. Your vision in the water is pretty much limited to two feet in front of you and about three feet to each side..usually there was a pair of feet in front and a body to each side with someone either touching your feet or going over your back. I have always tried to go around swimmers but that was impossible. To move to the left or right meant I was going to run into someone else. Thus the best course of action was to try and go over the swimmer in front..hopefully just an arm and not their body. When we got to the first turn it was actually worse. Some of the faster swimmers who had started 200 meters to the side converged at the same time. Everyone pretty much had to stop swimming and kind of just push themselves through the mass of humanity to get around the buoy. What added to the surreal spectacle is that everyone was mooing. Apparently it is custom to moo when you get around the first turn at IM Wisconsin. So of course I joined in. Once around the first turn I realized that my theory about the swimmers spreading out was wrong. The muggings got a little less frequent but for the better part of both loops there was always someone if not two people within a foot or two of you. Apparently one woman had her wrist broken in the first 100 meters of the race by someone kicking her. I was very glad to get to the last turn and head back to shore. I figured with all of the people, not being able to extend my stroke and just the sheer madness my time would be about 1:45. I was incredibly surprised to see it was actually 1:22. That was about 1:58 per 100 yards. The best I had done in the pool for training was 1:59 per 100 yards and that was for a 500 yard time trial..not for 2.4 miles.
Once I was out of the water I had the wetsuit strippers take off my suit and I was running with the rest of the athletes up the ramp and the helix and to the transition area. I even heard my name being called as I exited the water..talk about cool! I thought running up the helix would be exhausting..but with the hundreds of people yelling at you and cheering, you do not realize you are actually jogging at a good clip. I got to T1..changed into my biking gear and ran out..grabbed my bike and was soon riding down the other helix to start my 112 mile ride. Unfortunately within the first 2 miles we all had to slow down for the med crew to put a biker in an ambulance. Apparently they had come down the bike path too fast and ended up hitting the side of an underpass.
Just as an aside - if you remember my swim video on this blog from the beginning of the year (If you don't remember then you need to look..it is horrific) I was averaging about 2:30 per 100 yards and looking very bad doing it. Suzanne and her coaching helped me cut 30 seconds off each 100 time. That is HUGE. I am also going to confess that I was not a convert to the total immersion swim style or doing the drills Suzanne had scheduled for each swim practice..but I started doing them and again the difference is striking.
The bike course at IMMOO is 112 miles and is an out and back with two loops. The "stick" is a fairly fast ride out to Verona where the loop starts.
As you can see the course is anything but flat. There are three "big"hills that everyone talks about starting at Mt. Horeb with an additional two on the back side of the course. Compared to Colorado the three hills really are not anything spectacular. You just need to gear down and go slow. The longest one is probably just a little over half a mile in length. I actually enjoyed this part of the course since there were some downhills where I could actually use my body mass to my advantage and get speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour. The front part of the course is what killed me. It is just constant rollers where your legs never get a chance to rest and you never get in a groove. A lot of people rate the IM Wisconsin bike course in the top 2 hardest courses out of all Ironmen races because of this. You are constantly shifting gears and trying to keep your cadence up.
The ride on the "stick" was pretty non-eventful. I kept a good cadence up, actually passed people and started hydrating by taking some salt pills immediately and chugging some powerbar performance for fluids and calories. However I noticed that there was not a cloud in the sky and that it was getting hot. I knew it would be a long day on the bike course.
At mile 30 on the course I started talking to myself..what the heck am I doing..I am less then a third of the way through the bike and was dying. I was hot and the legs were tired. At mile 45 I had gone through the first hill and done some downhills and was feeling great. I even saw my iron sherpas on the side of the road cheering for me. My wife and daughter, brother, a couple of sister in laws and their kids as well as my father and mother in law were on the side of the course in a few different places. This was a real pick me up. It is unreal how many conversations one has with them self on a 112 mile bike ride.
During the course of the bike I had to stop and fix my back water bottle holders which had slipped down to the tire. I also dropped a chain on one of the climbs and was yet again stung by some unknown bug..this time on the inside of my thigh. I thought I was going to crash the bike when it happened it hurt so bad. The one thing I did not do was stop at a porta potty..which did not bode well since I was picking up 2 to 3 bottles of fluid at each rest stop.
When I got to the special needs stop at about 56 miles I was famished. I opened my bag..it was peanut butter jelly time. I took two bites and couldn't even chew. I tried chips, licorice, a performance bar all with the same reaction. The guy next to me gave me some gummy bears and fig newtons with the same reaction. I was hungry but couldn't eat.
The second loop was much harder than the first. The riders had thinned out and it was HOT. The crowds were still as awesome as the first loop. On the hills people were running next to you with megaphones and yelling your name. There were girls in hula costumes..guys in hula costumes..girls in bikinis..guys in bikinis..the best sign I saw was strung overhead on one of the hills that said..."Worst Parade EVER!" I cracked up both times I went past it. It was wonderful having other athletes and people calling out your name. And I finally took pride in everyone calling me "big guy". Way to go Big Guy!! OK..I am not that big anymore..but for this race I was. Although there were a few much larger guys than me..that flew past me on the bike.. I was pretty impressed.
When I finally got to the stick going back to Madison I was very happy. My cadence went up and so did my speed quite a bit. It was mostly downhill and the end was in sight. I got to the terrace..rode up the helix (yes one final man made hill) gave my bike to a volunteer and ran into T2. I changed out of my bike top which I had planned on wearing for the run. It was caked in salt, sweat, grease..some blood from somewhere and GU. I felt great but did not know if my legs were going to work. I drank another 16 ounces of water before leaving on the run. I was done with the bike in 7:47. My goal time was 8:00. We also just found out the course was 113 instead of 112 miles.
I found out that I did not have to worry about my legs working..They were ready to go. The blister I thought I was getting was also gone. The crowds waiting outside T2 made it impossible not to run..and the crowds went on and on for about 8 blocks. The city streets were one big cheering section and I heard Scott. 2100 and big guy again and again. I checked my garmin to make sure I was running my 13:30 pace and found out I had run the first mile in a little over 10 minutes.. WTF. I slowed down immediately and even so my pace was at 12:20. (WARNING - NEXT few lines may be TMI) At about mile two..I finally had to urinate..my hydrating all day had paid off. Found a porta potty and .. umm. yeah..no urine at all and red fluid is not the color I wanted to see. Luckily I found my sister in law the doc. (She, my wife and brother were following me on bikes) She said I was probably very dehydrated and Suck it up and walk. The plan was to walk and hydrate as much as possible. It was then I notice my new shirt had already soaked through with sweat. I found a walking partner (which was not hard to do). I stopped at every aid station, drank 16 ounces of water and ate bananas. I also filled up my fuel belt with fluids(another 32 ounces) for the walk between stations. I made it through Camp Randall Stadium and was walking up Observatory Hill when the pain became a little too much. I was fine standing or sitting but moving forward had become increasingly painful. I also calculated I had eaten two full bananas and had about 80 ounces of water during the last hour and things had gotten worse instead of better. I had made it about 6.5 miles. At this point I decided to call it a day and thought I was going to cry. I have been second guessing myself ever since. At the time it was probably the right choice. Adrianne and Kristine told me I actually had been caked with salt and had a nice yellow complexion with sunken eyes when I called it. I'm still wondering if I could have saved the day. I know that physically I had the fitness to complete the Ironman and was on pace to do it under 16 hours..which for me would have been awesome.
So that is my long race report without the ending I had hoped for. With that being said the race was one of the coolest experiences of my life and I was glad to have my family and friends there to share it with me. All in all I have come a long way in a year. I was pretty depressed this week but have gotten over it. My wife convinced me to sign up next year again..so now I have a great base to work from and IM Wisconsin 2012 will be here in not time. Hopefully I will be about 20 pounds lighter.
I also want to thank everyone who has been with me through this journey, either as a training partner or just by putting positive comments on facebook. It has been fun and team Evil Monkey Multisport will be back next year to slay this dragon.