IM Wisconsin Race Report – Long, Long, Long Read
Both Todd and I felt well prepared for this race with Jeremy‘s training and help. John and Jeremy made the trip with us to sherpa and cheer us on during the race and made the whole experience that much more special. We drove most of the way up on Thursday and stayed about an hour out of Madison and then finished the drive on Friday to get checked in and buy some race swag. The hotel we stayed at was right by the race finish and the swim start which was incredibly convenient. We did this based on the suggestions of the Weldons and it was some of the best advice ever! We spent the rest of the day grabbing some food at different local restaurants and Jeremy and I bought a ton of different beers neither of us had seen before to bring home.
Saturday we checked our bikes and bike/run transition bags in and relaxed in the room for most of the day other than having some fabulous lunch at the Tipsy Cow. There was plenty of college football to enjoy in the room.
Sunday (Race Day)
4:50 am – Wake up/shower/pre race snack
5:20 am – Head down to drop off water bottles and get marked up
6:15 am – Head to swim start with wet suits on and join the masses.
6:50 am – Age group athletes begin
7:05 am – Todd and I enter the water!
This year it was a rolling start which means 5 athletes enter the water every 5 seconds. In years past, it was a mass start where all athletes would tread water and then all start together when the gun went off. Had it been that way this year, I would have never made it!
The water was 69 degrees which is pleasant in a wet-suit once you get used to it, but to start it takes your breath away a bit. Unfortunately, the wind coming across the lake created a bit of a washing machine effect and was the roughest water I have swam in to date. I got off to a decent start but found myself drinking a bit of water and my heart rate was higher than I would have liked. Around 500 to 700 yards in, I was dunked under the water by what I can only assume to be Bigfoot who came down from the mountains in Canada for some Wisconsin cheese and a relaxing dip in the lake. I went under and swallowed a gallon or so of lake water mixed in with IM piss. My heart rate spiked to around 800 or so and I came up gasping and looking for the nearest kayak. I slowly made my to a kayak and rested there for about 5 minutes to catch my breath and let my heart rate get down to an acceptable level. I was the closest I have ever been to quitting a race. If it had taken another 30 seconds for my heart rate to go down, I would have thrown in the towel. I finally decided to continue on when I realized my goggles were leaking a bit so I had to find the next buoy to grab onto in order to get rid of the water and reset my goggles. I swallowed another gallon of water and yakked a bit. I then began the slow long death swim around the course. I was not doing a good job of sighting and the waves in the water kept pushing me inside of the buoys. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I came across the final turn toward the swim exit only to realize it seemed a lot further than when I saw it on land! After exiting the water and thanking God for sparing my life, I went to where volunteers were helping stip the wet-suits off. As soon as I sat down and they pulled my wet-suit off, my calves cramped…ugh. I shrugged it off and made my way up the parking garage helix to transition. Jeremy and John were there and immediately knew that I must have had a rough time. I was positive that Todd had finished at least 15 minutes before me and even though we made plans to meet in the changing room during transition, I didn’t dream that he would have waited that long.
I entered T1 thankful to be alive but also bummed that I would be doing it alone as Todd would surely have moved on after waiting for me for what must have been forever…I was in the middle of changing into my bib shorts when I looked up and saw Todd come back into the room looking for me…other than the finish, this was the happiest moment of my race. It turns out that he had almost as bad a time as I did in the water and came out about 7 minutes before I did. He got changed and went to the bike racks thinking that I must have already gone and saw my bike and headed back to find me. Many folks were telling him he was going the wrong way, but he knew what he was doing. He waited patiently for me to finished getting ready and we made our way to the bikes.
The start of the bike was uneventful other than me losing my water bottle at a big bump. Todd had two with him and gave me one of his. We would both grab a water bottle and Gatorade at the next aid station. We were grateful for the cloud cover and the 60 degree temperatures, but we could have done without the wind which seemed to always be a headwind. There were several tricky downhills with sharp turns at the end and you had to be very careful going down these. Todd was right behind a guy going into a corner that lost his wheel and crashed (there was a bit of gravel on the road). We came across a bunch of folks that either had mechanical issues or flats. Thankful that neither of us had those issues!! There was plenty of elevation on this course and it wasn’t until around mile 52 that we encountered the first of what are referred to as “The Three Bitches”. These are some rather lengthy and steep hills that test your legs and will let you know quickly if you are close to cramping. I tried to get out of my saddle on the first one but realized my legs would go full cramp on me if I did, so I sat down and gritted my way up it. Todd looked strong on the hills and could have left me in dust if he wanted to, but he didn’t. At the end of the first loop we saw John and Jeremy who took the shuttle bus all the way out and that was a welcome boost of energy! On the next loop, we just kept trucking along. Todd and I were both taking in a bunch of fluids and eating what seemed like 1,000 Gu chews. I even at some banana halves they were handing out at the aid stations (this would help me later). We stopped a couple times between mile 80 and 100 to take a leak. This was the first time I would be the first to request a stop to pee before Todd in the 4 years we have trained together! During the last 30 to 40 miles we got rained on a decent bit but no heavy downpours. We made it to mile 100 and were looking forward to an easy 12 miles back in but there were still a couple hills and a headwind from hell that disrespected us. We finally get within sight of the parking garage (transition) when a dude (not in the race) crosses in our path and almost takes out a girl in front of us. He wrecked but she was okay. We dodged a bullet there! We make our way up the helix (who puts an uphill helix at the end of a 112 mile bike ride????) and see John and Jeremy again…seeing those guys on the race course always got us pumped! We hand off our bikes and head in to change for the run. Thank God that is over! You will never be more excited to run a marathon than after the first two stages of an Ironman!
Pretty uneventful. We tried to lube up appropriately while checking hotspots from the bike. Took a sip of water and started to run through the longest transition on the planet!!! I swear the transitions in this race add a half mile!
At the start of the run I am feeling a little stitch in my side/stomach. I think I may have been bloated from all the salt/water/Gatorade, but not sure. Within the first mile my right foot starts to go numb which is a first for me. We kept to our plan of running to the aid stations then walking through those for nutrition. The walking helped the numbness but it would not completely subside until about mile 9. Mile 3 and 17 were really cool as we got to run inside the Wisconsin football stadium. This was my favorite part of the run other than the finish. We did a decent job of keeping our pace running to aid stations and walking through them. We came across a couple big hills and walked up those. At about mile 8/9 I was the first (again) to request to take a leak at the aid station. We would do this ALOT for the rest of the race. We drank a LOT of fluids! We saw John and Jeremy several times on the run (they were like ninjas!) and always enjoyed those boosts of energy. The crowd support on the bike and run are unsurpassed by any race I have ever done! We got to the halfway point (literally saw the finish line and had to run around) and headed out for our second loop. We walked when we needed to and ran when we could. We went through the stadium again and shortly after that the rain started again. It was a bit demoralizing especially back in the park area where it was pitch black but we continued to push on! Every step we took was one more towards that finish line!! In the last few miles we did more running than walking and were getting more and more pumped about hearing our names called in those bright lights!
Then, within a half mile we started to hear the massive crowd. We took a couple final turns and saw the bright lights and the crowd of THOUSANDS waiting for us. I cannot explain to you that feeling. It is ELECTRIC!!! to put it mildly. Todd and I jogged down the finish shoot taking it all in. I high-fived a bunch of people (I couldn’t see their faces – I was blinded by the light, but I apparently high-fived Jeremy!). Then, as we started this long journey back in the Spring, we crossed the finish line together! I hope you get to experience something like that if you haven’t already! It is one of the greatest experiences life has to offer. To my friend and training partner, Todd, thank you! I tear up as I write this, but without you coming back for me at T1, this would not have been nearly the experience it ended up being. You sir, are one of the most selfless men I have met and I am beyond proud to call you my best friend and training partner! to many more great races to come!
I know I missed some stuff here but I am happy to share it over a beer or during a run!
Dream big and never let anyone (especially yourself) tell you that you can’t do something!