Ironman Wisconsin - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Madison, Wisconsin
United States
Ironman North America
58F / 14C
Total Time = 11h 59m 24s
Overall Rank = 485/2478
Age Group = 18-24
Age Group Rank = 29/87
Pre-race routine:

Everything leading up to race day was stressful. I had to wake up at 3am on Friday to catch a 4am bus to JFK. I worried constantly that my bike would get lost or damaged while in transit or that it wouldn't fit in a car. After arriving in Wisconsin, registration took a good 3 hours of standing in line and getting stiff legs. The convention center where the event was based was jam-packed at all times. There was always some last-minute thing that needed to be done and the logistics for the event was just miserable. I was so worried that somehow I would forget to do something and mess up race day.
Event warmup:

After sleeping 8 hours, I rose at 4am to get in a good breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. I waited for the crucial race-morning bowel movement (it came) and left for the race site with Taylor. I thought that arriving at 5:15 would give me enough time to get race-morning things done on time. It turns out that everything was rushed. Finally, Taylor, Michelle and I approached the water and slipped into our wetsuits. I constantly thought about my goal time of 12:00 (or, at the very least, beating Chris Connelly and Peter Chiu's time from last year!).
  • 1h 22m 34s
  • 3862 meters
  • 02m 08s / 100 meters

Swim (goal time 1:25, actual time 1:22.34): The swim start at Ironman Wisconsin was the largest in the history of any Ironman. I think 2550 athletes started this year. The countdown to the gun was a blur, and when it finally went off I couldn't believe myself. Within seconds, the water around me was swirling mass of bodies splashing and thrashing all over the place. It was impossible to get into a groove at this point. Eventually, as the field spread out, I found some space in the water and did my thing. I'm not a great swimmer, but today I felt more confident than usual. One thing that sucks about Wisconsin is that every leg is a two loop course. After finishing the first lap (1.2 miles), I was just about done. I didn't want to continue swimming. But, alas, I continued, and I got into a better groove than before. I zigzagged all over the lake and swallowed a lot of water and got kicked or elbowed in the face a few times, but I didn't let any of that get to my head. Before I knew it, I was crawling up the landing and stripping off my wetsuit. After exiting the water, athletes run up this parking garage helix ramp to get to the bike zone. The helix is lined with screaming spectators. It's a good feeling when they're cheering for you. At this point, I was excited to get on the bike and explore rural Madison.
What would you do differently?:

I would definitely go a little harder. And maybe kick a little.
Transition 1
  • 10m 58s

Ironman T1 is very different from a normal tri. You have to go into Monona and grab your bag before going to the changing room and changing there.
What would you do differently?:

Be a little faster with putting my bike stuff on. My T1 bag was not organized well enough and 11 minutes is way too long in T1.
  • 6h 31m 13s
  • 112 miles
  • 17.18 mile/hr

Bike (goal time 6:35, actual time 6:31.13): Changing into bike clothes after swimming is not the easiest thing in the world. Your body is not very responsive and your coordination is a little off. It took quite a while getting everything together, but I eventually got out to my bike and descended the helix to the street level. At this point, it was raining pretty steadily, and the temps were pretty darn cold. I set my heart rate upper limit at 140 for the first 30 miles and said to myself that I would step up 2 beats every 30 miles after. It turns out that I couldn't really sustain a heart rate higher than that without feeling a little bit uncomfortable, so I stayed at 140. With new race wheels, I felt a little more badass than usual. I was surprised that I was passing lots of people--including lots of macho-looking guys; on the other hand, I got passed by a ton of people too. My first loop 56 miles felt terrific. I averaged just under 19 mph. That was obviously too fast, as I slowed down significantly in the second half. In fact, my legs started to feel very heavy and turning the cranks got harder and harder. The terrain at Wisconsin is very hilly, but most of the hills are rolling (there are no huge climbs). It was hard to cruise at a consistent level. On the bike, I knew I had to average 17mph if i were to hit my goal time and to have any chance of going sub-12. Even though I slowed down a lot in the second half, I still managed to average 17.2mph.

Nutrition the bike is a hassle. I must've had 10 powerbars, 1/2 a dozen gel packets, an assortment of bananas and oranges, 8 or 9 water bottles, and 4 or 5 gatorade bottles. I also packed a sweet Einstein Bros bagel with cream cheese in my special needs bag at the halfway mark of the course. I felt pretty good about my nutrition.

I played leap frog with a number of people who I saw numerous times throughout the day. I talked with some University of Wisconsin cyclists and had a few brief conversations with other strangers. The bike segment is not as dramatic or intense as one would expect. Most people are conscious about pacing so at times it seems kind of slow.

One other thing. I don't know if I can have babies anymore. Sitting tilted forward onto my aerobars with less padding than cycling shorts (tri shorts are a little less padded), was a little inconvenient--and painful. Oh well. It was worth it!

As I finally finished the bike, I arrived back at Monona Terrace and jumped off my bike... and nearly fell over. My legs were like bricks. I ran through the center like the Hunchback of Notre Dame to get my running gear. After switching into my tri top and putting on my running shoes, my legs had recovered a little bit. I was ready to run.
What would you do differently?:

Pace myself a little better and end strong, not begin strong. Also, stay in aerobars for more time. Nonetheless, I performed pretty well.
Transition 2
  • 06m 40s

T2 begins when volunteers take your bike at the dismount zone. Then you go in and grab your T2 bag and proceed to the changing room. It's also very different from a typical T2.
What would you do differently?:

Go faster!
  • 3h 47m 59s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 42s  min/mile

Run (goal time 4:00, actual time 3:47.59): At this point, I was about 8:20 into the race. I didn't realize that T1 and T2 would take so much time. A 3:40 marathon seemed highly unlikely, so I almost gave up on the idea of breaking 12 hours. I told myself that I would go out conservatively for the first 13 miles before picking up the pace in the second half. Running a marathon after swimming and biking for 8 hours is pretty crazy. Every mile seemed to last forever. Essentially, I worked mile by mile, running 9 minutes or so until I saw the next mile marker. My pace was pretty steady, but a constant need to pee prevented me from getting into cruise mode. The porta pottie lines were always so long, so I usually peed illegally into the bushed when the officials weren't looking. After struggling up a gigantic hill at mile 7 I cruised back toward the Capitol (where the finish line is) to finish my first lap (13 miles). It's the most frustrating thing when you finish your first lap. 100 feet before the finish line, there is a sign telling you to turn around if you still have one more lap to go. I was so god damn close to the finish but I was still 13 long painful miles away. After looking at my 1/2 marathon time of 1:57, I pretty much gave up hope of breaking 12. I still wanted to do well (i.e. beat Peter and Chris) so I mentally prepared myself to go a little harder during the second 1/2. It worked out pretty well, and raising my HR 2-4 beats per mile, I managed to speed up a little. I was roughly shooting for 12:15 with 5.2 miles to go, when a young man came up from behind and said "let's go! 12 hours!". I shook my head and said there was no way. He then told me we had plenty of time and that we were on track. I looked at the time and did some mental calculations and realized that, yeah! it could be done. At this point ,I knew I had to pick up the pace. We pushed each other for about 1/2 a mile, but then he eased off and shouted at me to keep going. I knew I had to go. I increased my pace and prepared myself to go all out to break 12. The last 5 miles felt like an eternity. I really stepped up the pace and ended up passing a bunch of people. With 2.2 miles to go, I didn't have much time. I knew it was going to be close. I surged even more, and with 1.2 miles to go, I pretty much went in an all-out sprint with whatever I had left. Obviously, I was pretty tired already, so I only managed 7:15 mile pace, but that was just enough to break 12. Rounding the last turn heading into the finish, I was freaking cruising. All the fans knew what I was trying to do (break 12) so they kept screaming "go Wookie!!!" "that's it!!" I blazed past a number of people and saw the finish line and clock come into sight. I was a little delirious and couldn't read the clock from so far away, but I remember seeing the minute digit change. I thought it had just changed from 59 to 00, but actually it had changed from 58 to 59. I didn't know how long the final distance would take, so I took it upon myself to really sprint. I kicked it home and finished--11:59.24.
What would you do differently?:

Not much. If I had the guts, I would have gone a little harder, because I definitely had the potential (going 8 minutes faster in the second 1/2 marathon means you went too slow for the first 1/2!)
Post race
Warm down:

30 minute walk and pizza/sub break with Dave Madden.

The finish: The finish line at the Ironman is where the built-up emotion from the entire day finally reveals itself. As the world-famous commentator Mike Reilly shouted "Wookie, 19 years old from New Haven, yooouuu are an Ironman!!!" I crossed the finish line tape...and burst into tears. I had done it. Everything that I have sacrificed for the past months had paid off and I had achieved everything that i had wished for. I saw one of my friends from University of Wisconsin smiling from the stands and ran over to him and collapsed into his arms. I squeezed him as hard as I could and told him that I did it. Volunteers grabbed me and put the finisher's medal around my neck before trying to make sure I was coherent. Tears still in my eyes, a photographer took a photo of me with my medal. You can't really explain the sort of high that you get from completing such an incredible feat. Forget cocaine, forget ecstasy, forget nicotine. Ironman is the ultimate ultimate high, and it lasts forever.

The journey was long, but it was well worth it. Thanks for all the supportive emails before and during the race. Believe it or not, they made a difference. I thought of each and every one of you as I was racing and knew I had to represent Yale in the best way possible.

We'll see what happens with our Collegiate Mixed Team event results. The top 3 times get some sort of prize (I think there were only 5 mixed teams).

I think I am done with triathlons for the season. Hammerfest is probably not going to happen for me. I can't do another tri so soon. Instead, I'm going to take it easy for a bit, and focus on running afterwards. Hopefully I can do some 1/2 marathons (Hartford or Mystic) in mid-October.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Worrying about bonking, GI distress, and flats. Weather?

Event comments:

I ****ing love Ironman Wisconsin. From what I hear, the Collegiate Championship is not happening anymore. I am so sad. I really want to return to Madison at some point in the future. This is for anyone who wants to have the race of a lifetime--on a challenging course that will push your limits.

Email recap:
Ironman Wisconsin was THE MOST emotional and exhilarating day of my entire life. Nothing tops the kind of environment at an Ironman, especially Wisconsin. Even though it was freaking cold (low 50s) and freaking rainy and windy all day, the spectators were there at each of the 140.6 miles, cheering us on. I honestly could not have made it without the spectators. Over 4000 volunteers dotted the course, giving up their entire day to stand in the freezing rain to help us out.

Today I learned more about what it means to really challenge yourself. The Ironman is unlike your typical sporting event because you are never really fully exerting yourself. I never gasped for breath and kept my heart rate under control for the entire day. The Ironman teaches you that hard work and advanced preparations will pay off in the end.

I don't plan to do another Ironman. It's just too time consuming. My parents would probably disown me if I told them I was. A lot of people have made sacrifices to put up with the training that I've had to do. Nevertheless, I recommend doing an Ironman--and in particular, the Wisconsin one--to anyone who is interested in the single most unique experience available to (wo)men.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2006-08-28 12:00 AM
01:22:34 | 3862 meters | 02m 08s / 100meters
Age Group: 65/87
Overall: 1314/2478
Performance: Good
Suit: Xterra Vector Pro 2
Course: 2 loops counter-clockwise around Lake Monona. With current going out, against current coming back.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 70F / 21C Current: High
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Average Navigation: Below average
Rounding: Average
Time: 10:58
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Average
06:31:13 | 112 miles | 17.18 mile/hr
Age Group: 40/87
Overall: 852/2478
Performance: Good
907th for the bike leg. First 41 miles in 2:09:06 (19.1mph) Second 41 miles in 2:29:14 (16.5mph) Last 30 miles in 1:52:54 (15.9mph) AvgHR/MaxHR 139/159 Max speed 36.8 Calories: 3854
Wind: Strong with gusts
Course: First ~17 miles flat, out towards loop. Then, rollercoaster hills with 3 distinct climbs of moderate grade and distance. Last 17 miles flat cruise back into Madison.
Road: Smooth Wet Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 06:40
Overall: Below average
Riding w/ feet on shoes Average
Jumping off bike Average
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Average
Shoe and helmet removal Average
03:47:59 | 26.2 miles | 08m 42s  min/mile
Age Group: 11/87
Overall: 205/2478
Performance: Good
Turna1 57:57 Turb1 1:19:59 Halfrun 1:57:01 Turna2 2:52:19 Turnb2 3:13:48 2ndHalfrun 3:47:59 FIRST 1/2 1:57:00 (8:55/mile) 141bpm SECOND 1/2 1:50:59 (8:28/mile) 144bpm AvgHR/MaxHR 142/163 Calories: 2349
Course: Through downtown Madison. One major hill at mile 6 and 19. Fairly fast and lots of aid stations.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5