Ironman Wisconsin Race Report
September 7th, 2014
9th Ironman, 6th In Madison
Pre Race Weekend Info:
This year I was going into Ironman Wisconsin with some fairly high hopes. My PR for the course is a 12:45 and I was hoping to break that (fairly significantly) this year. I started riding early on in the season preparing for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds in June, followed by falling into the Endurance Nation 12 week Intermediate training plan leading into Ironman Wisconsin. The weeks leading into Madison I did everything in my power to stay healthy-Loading up on the Emergen-C packets, my vitamins, and was getting lots of rest. Besides a few chronic injuries (left hamstring, slight heel discomfort) I was feeling healthy and ready to toe the start line-or so I thought.
I worked a half day and drove up to Madison at lunchtime. Before I left school that day, my students were all wishing me luck when one sneezed DIRECTLY in my face. Like, I felt it spray all over me. Now I know this is not what probably led to my demise, but seems like it was really the starting point for everything I was about to go through race weekend.
I made it to Madison fairly quickly and checked into my hotel. I was planning on doing a quick spin on my bike but a nasty storm moved in so I decided to drive over to the Monona Terrace for athlete check in. Checking in on Thursday truly is an advantage. I was in and out of line in about 10 minutes! I scoped out the Ironman store, bought a kids size IMWI t-shirt-seriously I am going to do this from now on, because it was close to half of the price of the adult sizes! Then headed back to my hotel to shower and get ready for the Endurance Nation team dinner. I was the EN race captain this year, so I had been in contact with the event coordinators over at the Hilton Monona Terrace planning this dinner. I was excited to see our team members there, many vets, only a few first timers, ready to tackle the IMWI course.
After dinner, several team members headed over to the Great Dane for a drink and more triathlon talk-one of my favorite memories of the weekend, as I was able to run into Mary and Sue (Madison townies), Ebe (my favorite person to hit the town with in Madison), Dave (of course we ordered cheese curds), Katie (so glad you made it out) and Coach Rick-I’ll never let you hear that down ;).
7am wake up call for coffee and to walk over to Lake Monona for a practice swim. Unfortunately I woke up with a sore throat-I was hoping it was from the dry air of the air conditioner in the room, but would later find out that it was the beginning of a full blown cold-more on that later.
After the obligatory team EN picture at the lake, we put our wetsuits on and got a feel for the water for the first time this weekend. The water was WARM. I felt comfortable from the moment I entered the water, which made me nervous because I knew a 2.4 mile swim could get quite uncomfortable if I was overheating after only 20 minutes. But still, I felt good. I did not do much swimming this summer, once (maybe twice) a week, but my swim times never change so I don’t see the need to get to the pool 3x a week.
After the swim, I headed over to the Overture Center to help check in folks at the Endurance Nation 4 Keys talk. Close to 200 people showed up to listen to Coach Rich give his talk on how to properly race Ironman Wisconsin. For any newbie, this talk is a must! I overheard many people walking out of the 4 Keys talk changing their strategies for the race, which ended up being positives for them in the long run.
After the talk, Dotty, Jeff, Jon and I went for lunch and to the expo. After this I went back to the hotel to lay down-my throat was really bothering me and I figured a quick nap wouldn’t hurt. After my nap I did an easy 30-minute spin and showered to be ready for the Athlete Dinner at Monona Terrace. The talk was great-because of Dotty’s quick entry we sat right in front of Mike Reilly himself! It was early to bed after this because I was still feeling under the weather.
This was the morning I knew I had something to worry about-woke up with an extremely bad sinus headache/congestion and just overall not feeling great. Had to stay positive though-because it was Saturday morning-which meant PANCAKES and as many as I could eat of them J I was unable to sleep Friday night either, so after fighting through I got up for a 20 minute jog. Legs felt GREAT so I was staying optimistic. Finally Ed showed up at the hotel and we went to a breakfast buffet with Dave, Dotty, Jeff, and their families. After breakfast, Ed and I went to pack our transition bags. We were just ready to wheel out the bikes for check in when I noticed a huge gash on my front tire-NOT happy about this, because now I needed to go stand in the mechanic line to get a new one. Thankfully this process did not take long at all so I was in line to check my bike in before I knew it. The rest of the day feet were up and resting for what would be a LONG day Sunday.
Sunday 9.7.14 RACE DAY
Saturday night/Sunday morning I did not sleep-at all. Not your typical race nerves get a few hours of sleep type thing, either. Laid down at 8:30 and was laying with my eyes closed until 2:30-2:45 when I got up and starting crying, thinking my race was over before it even began. I even contemplated not starting-which I’ve never done before in my 9 years of participating in Ironman events. But with my cold and no sleep, I knew I’d be in for a VERY long day. After my little meltdown I was actually able to doze off for about 45 minutes tops. Not a good way to start my race day-that’s for sure.
At 4am we got up and Ed and I got breakfast. Left the hotel around 5 to drop off special needs bags and pump up tires. 6:30am was our team EN picture, and I was happy that after that I ran into Ashten for a quick pic and we were off to the water.
Ed and I lined up fairly close to the shore and several rows back from the front. Now, this would be my 9th Ironman-and EVERY year this was the part of the day I dreaded the most. I HATE mass starts. I get panic attacks every year from getting kicked, punched, swam on, etc. This year was no different-actually may have been a bit worse-because swimming congested in a panic-y environment is NOT fun. It took me quite a bit of focus to get my heart rate down and breathing in a normal pattern that did not involve exhaling through my nose. About 10 minutes in a guy gave me a good kick to the ribs-felt like they were bruised, let me tell ya, but needed to keep on moving forward. The back half of the swim seemed to take forever but I was pretty happy when I saw my time getting out of the water. On to transition-slow is smooth, smooth is fast-Mary was an AWESOME volunteer in the change tent and she got me on my way quickly.
BIKE-6:27:xx 17.33 MPH Avg
My goal for the bike was to stay at a low HR and save my legs for the run. I’ve ridden this course so many times so I was well prepared for what the 112 miles had in store. I got on my bike with my legs feeling good, but I was so congested that my heart rate was staying very high. Nothing I could do about that, so I focused on what I could control-my nutrition plan and watts. Spin the uphills, power the downhills, a bottle-bottle and a half of perform between each aid station, gus on the :30s, 1/3 a powerbar on the hour. I’ve practiced this nutrition plan many times before and have had success with it. One thing I realized as soon as the first hour was up that I left my bag of salt pills in transition-NOT good. But I thought that with the amount of perform I’d be drinking and the sodium in the gus I was taking I’d be ok, especially because it wasn’t set to be a hot day. Maybe this is why I had the stomach problems I did on the run?
Bathroom stops at miles 25, 50, 65, then nothing after that. At mile 50 I had my 2nd meltdown of the day. I was thinking to myself, my head is killing me, I can’t breathe, and I’m not even halfway through this bike ride…but then I reminded myself of all of the extreme highs and lows one experiences on an Ironman course so this feeling would pass. Sure enough, it did about 10 miles after the meltdown. I began really enjoying the course. Late in an Ironman bike ride is when the folks that took it out too hard start falling back, so I started flying by them-such a great feeling! I was feeling great coming off the bike and ready to run my marathon.
After a quick (4:58) transition, I began my marathon run. I was really feeling great running out of transition-I had legs underneath me and did not feel cashed from the ride at all. I started doing math in my head and realized that even if I maintained the pace I ran last year (which I’m in better shape this year) I’d crush a PR-so I was very optimistic and stayed very conservative early on in the marathon. My first 2 miles were sub 10 minute pace and I was actively trying to slow myself down. I walked 30 steps through each of the first aid stations, focusing on getting in my perform/water/coke.
Still running at this point J
Then mile 4 came. My plan was to do a Gu every 4 miles, and I grabbed my first Gu at the aid station and took it with water. That did NOT sit well-actually, I noticed, nothing was starting to sit well. Within minutes that Gu (and everything else I ate/drank that day) decided to come up. I barely made it to the side of the road before vomiting for several minutes. Oh was I feeling terrible. I started to walk for awhile to try to settle my stomach down before attempting to run again. Started jogging-started throwing up again. It was a terrible cycle that lasted several miles. I’d arrive at an aid station and try to sip water (or at least rinse my mouth out) and I’d get sick again. I was incredibly frustrated-going into a race with a PR goal and barely being able to jog a few steps is so disheartening. Quitting crossed my mind several times. But truly, my one thing was getting through this race to get closer to my goal of 12 and achieving Legacy status towards Kona. So I kept going-one foot in front of the other-feeling incredibly depleted. I hit mile 13 and ran into Coach Rich, who told me to do my best to get my HR down and try some cola/salty pretzels. Around mile 16 I was able to sip coke/chips without it coming up, which I felt must’ve been a good sign. I was able to start jogging a bit at this point but my body was only able to take so much due to the extreme dehydration that had set in from getting sick out there. Seeing friendly faces on the course made such a difference at this point-Seeing my friend Dave Rodda out there yelling to me “Finish this, it’s one more to Kona” really helped me persevere through those last miles. Regardless of how terrible I felt on the marathon, I just kept putting one foot forward until rounding onto state street at mile 25.5-Seeing the crowds, hearing Mike Reilly in the distance, knowing that I was about to become an Ironman again-made all my sick feelings go away. I gave it all I had left rounding the capital building and began tearing up when hitting the finish line. Seeing the time on the clock, I knew that this would be one of my slowest finishes ever but one of the most proud-I didn’t even want to start this race being sick this morning, and dealing with what I had to deal with on the run I certainly didn’t want to finish-but I still stuck with it. I was determined to finish, and I did-So I have to take pride in that.
Like I previously stated, one of my slowest times ever-but proud nonetheless. I am a 9x Ironman and that is nothing to be ashamed of. I still have no idea why my stomach shut down the way it did-could’ve been swallowing something in the lake, my lack of salt pills on the bike, or my cold going into the race-but whatever it was, it did not stop me from finishing. I have a busy year coming up for 2015. I signed up for 3 Ironman races-yep, 3-Ironman Lake Placid in July, Ironman Wisconsin in September, and Ironman Kentucky in October-to get to my legacy status-12. I’ll focus on one of these races to be an A-Race to shoot for a PR, the other 2 will be done with the goal of completion. I haven’t decided which one will be the focus race quite yet. I just know that I’m more determined than ever to bounce back from this “bad” race and find success at the next. This summer was an amazing summer-I’m blessed to have met (and been reacquainted) with some awesome people while training in Madison. I actually can’t picture my life without some of these people in it now and I just met several of them back in May and June. Special thanks to team Endurance Nation and Coach Rick ;), Ed Lesniak, Carl, Ebe, Dave R., Ashten, Jon H., Dotty, Jeff, Jon S., Mike, and Katie for getting me through this year of training and more importantly, for your friendship. I am so blessed to be able to do the Ironman each year and feel so lucky to have you all in my life. OK-done with the sappy stuff-I’m ready for some recovery time, food, beverages, and hitting the reset button-Here’s to a great 2015! J
Thanks for reading,