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Ironman Wisconsin - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Madison, Wisconsin
United States
Ironman North America
Total Time = 15h 12m 35s
Overall Rank = 1842/
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 287/356
Pre-race routine:

Alarm went off at 3:30 am. Had some oatmeal with a banana in it and a clif bar. Also some toast with PB&J and some coffee (to help nature take it's course quickly). Gathered our necessary items, tried to suppress my panic and we were out the door and in the car by 4:30 for the 15 minute drive from the hotel to the race site. Parking was easy at that time in the morning and we parked 2 blocks away from the race start. Dropped off our special needs bags, made last minute adjustments to transition bags and then checked on the bikes and put on my bento box, water bottles and filled my aero bottle. Everything looked good and I took a deep breath cause I still didn't fully comprehend that I was actually doing this thing today. Yikes!
Event warmup:

Not a lot. A little stretching, sat and relaxed, then put the wetsuit on, headed to the water and floated for about 15 minutes. Still not quite believing that the culmination of the last year was actually here.
  • 1h 22m 44s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 58s / 100 yards

I was fully expecting to get pummeled once the gun went off but everyone was really cautious and things went pretty smoothly. I guess we all knew we were in for a long day and starting the swim like a maniac wouldn't be very smart. It was pretty congested for the first lap and then things seemed to spread out a bit so I had plenty of room. I stayed to the outside of the bouys not wanting to get caught in the mess of people trying to corner those things tightly. It probably added distance and minutes to my time but I was totally fine with that in order to have space to swim. About half way through the first loop my wetsuit started to rub the side of my neck raw. I've had issues with the back of my neck so I body glided that but didn't do anything to the rest of my neck. It was really just a minor annoyance. I've never done 2.4 miles in one chunk before so there were things rubbing (like my underarms) that I hadn't had any problems with previously.
Overall my swim was fine. I didn't push too hard and just kept a nice easy stroke going. I was thinking of it as more of a warm up for the long day ahead. Felt great getting out of the water. Hooray for wetsuit stripeers!!! They made quick work of my wetsuit. My calves were a little tight but the run up the helix loosened those right up.
What would you do differently?:

Maybe tighten the corners a little. Other than that, everything felt good and I feel like I kept a good even pace.
Transition 1
  • 13m 23s

Ran into the bag room and grabbed my bag and headed into the men's changing room. I took off the tri shirt and shorts I had on under my wetsuit. The water from the lake is pretty stinky so I was happy I had clean dry clothes in my bag. The changing room was pretty crowded and it took a bit to find an empty chair. I body glided myself and made sure I had everything I needed like bike shoes and helmet and such.
What would you do differently?:

Well, I could actually physically practice the transitions so I get more into a routine. I always mean to do this but never really get around to it.
  • 7h 14m 51s
  • 112 miles
  • 15.45 mile/hr

I ran to my bike rack and one of the volunteers shouted my race number to another volunteer standing by my bike rack. He sprang into action but had a bit of a hard time getting my bike from the rack. He was trying so hard to be fast that he was getting ahead of himself. A+ for effort. He was awesome. I thanked him heartily and trotted off with my bike to the mounting area. Hopped on the bike and headed down the helix. The out portion of the course wasn't too bad. I hadn't previously done this part of the course so it was all new to me. Everybody said it totally flat but, um, it's not really. The first part of it is pretty flat but there are some pretty good hills on the second half of the out.
Reached Verona and then started on the loops. I've ridden the loops several times and knew what to expect so I felt pretty confident heading into this portion of the race. False sense of security. My plan was to try and not go out too hard in the first 50 miles. I wanted to really try to save my legs for the run. The major hills on the first loop were challenging but I felt pretty good on them. I did notice however that it was getting harder and harder to get my nutrition down. My stomach was starting to get a little queasy by the end of the first loop. As a result my legs really started to get fatigued. I was drinking lots of water because I wanted to make sure dehydration wouldn't sneak up on me on the run as a result of insufficient hydration on the bike. I had to stop and pee twice on the bike so I figured that was a good sign.
When I stopped at special needs, I was really starting to feel rotten. I had an uncrustable in there and downed that in about 3 bites. It made me feel better for a short time but that quickly wore off. I also replaced my perpetuam, animal crackers and beef jerkey none of which I really wanted any part of. There are some pretty good hills pretty soon after special needs and as I reached the top of one of those I really felt like I was going to lose my lunch. That started to get me worried about the big hills coming my way in about 30 miles. The rest of the bike just really started to go downhill fast. I think the heat was having an effect on me and I didn't realize it. My stomach just felt so uneasy and I couldn't get anything down. I tried to keep the perpetuam going but it wasn't working. I tried to down a banana from one of the aid stations but that wasn't going to happen without it coming right back up. I was just trying to hold on for the remainder of the bike. The 3 major hills on the second loop kicked my tail. I seriously wasn't sure if I could keep my bike moving forward on those hills and then when I would finally reach the top I just wanted to puke. What a great feeling!!
I got through the second loop and just had to do the 12 or so miles back to transition. This was hellish. I just couldn't keep my pace going at all. I was just getting slower and slower and slower. I was being passed like I was standing still. So not only do I KNOW I'm going slow, I have a ton of people passing me to REMIND me I'm going super slow. I've never had that happen to me on the bike. I just bonked. All I could think was....just keep going.....every pedal stroke gets you closer to being able to get off this thing.
I was also having trouble with comfort on the bike from the very start. My seat was fine, I was just having issues with my upper back and neck. They were screaming from mile 1. That hasn't usually been a huge issue for me in the past either. Must have been tension or something.
This was the low point of the race for me. I was hitting rock bottom and I still had a marathon to do. How I would do that????? I had no clue. It was one of those moments where you feel helpless and just want to put your head in your hands and cry. But I KNEW I would have moments like these going into this race and I KNEW I just needed to deal with it and get through it.
I finally got to transition and pedaled my way up the helix. I kind of remember someone grabbing my bike from me but that is really just a blur.
What would you do differently?:

My nutrition that normally works for me just blew up on me. I guess I need to re-evaluate and make some changes. I did plenty of long rides throughout the season and felt like the bike would be my strongest leg. It ended up being my weakest.
Transition 2
  • 10m 23s

I finally got to transition and pedaled my way up the helix. I kind of remember someone grabbing my bike from me but that is really just a blur. I was so out of it and so defeated. All I wanted to do was get to the mens changing room and sit down for a minute. I ran into transition and a volunteer had my T2 bag waiting for me. I grabbed it, thanked him and heading into the changing area. I sat down and put my head down. Then a volunteer came up and said something "what can I help you with? What do you need out of your bag?" I opened my mouth to answer but had to take a deep breath because I was about to lose it. I tooka few seconds to regain my composure and started to get changed for the run. The volunteer was simply awesome. Saw my dad coming out of transition and that who I needed to see. He's been a marathoner since I can remember and has always been someone I've looked up to as an athelete. So to see him there going nuts for me brought tears to my eyes. I ran over and shook his hand and he looked at me seriously and said "why does your hand feel cold??" I blamed it on the glass of icewater but that wasn't true. After the race he said he was a little worried at how pale I looked.

What would you do differently?:

Not much. I needed to regain my composure. Took my time.
  • 6h 11m 15s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 14m 10s  min/mile

First 5 miles were pretty terrible. I was just trying to get by stomach back. I walked the majority of the first 5 miles. Tried to drink lots of water and then when I felt like I could handle it I tried a few graps (which I wasn't a fan of) and an orange slice (HEAVEN!!!!!). I finally found something I could eat. So I had more. Started to feel better. I could now run. YES!!!! Then I started to have some coke and chicken broth. The Chicken broth was magic. It helped me so much. My head cleared and I felt human again. The only issue I had at the 6 mile mark was sore legs and THAT I could totally deal with. I decided to walk the aid stations and walk the uphills. I would run everything else. I had it in my head at the beginning of the run to walk the entire marathon and now I was running. I was doing what I trained to do. I felt so much better physically and mentally. Got to the tunaround and people are not kidding when they say they tease you. You literally run almost right to the finish, and as people on your right are continuing forward about 100 feet to the finish, you have to turn around a cone and do the loop all over again. The second loop was soooooo much better for me. The run through the football statium was actually fun. I started to joke around with fellow athletes and the volunteers. NOW I was actually enjoying the race again. I went through my bad times but got through it. Lesson learned. When I feel completely defeated, I still posess the ability to keep going and perservere. A lot of lessons learned about myself out there on the course. Midway through the second lap I started eating chips and had a couple cookies. My body loved the food. I would pass by mile markers like 20 and 21 and think "holy cow, have I really done 20 miles?????" I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking about for the entire time as I don't even remember a lot of the race. The crowds were absolutely amazing. They'd call me out by name and say stuff like "You're going to do this" and "Looking good Eric, you're gonna be an Ironman" can't even tell you how much that means when your in the thick of it. Got to the last mile and decided that I didn't care if it was all up hill, I'm running this last mile STRONG. I started to pick up the pace and was feeling good. I could hear Mike Reilly announcing and the crowd cheering. I ran up State street through the awesome crowds cheering saying "You're almost there" and "You're a rockstar!!!!" Then I made the left down the street that surrounds the capitol, and at the turn before the final turn I saw my wife (who finished about 2 hours ago) and my dad going crazy and cheering. That lit a fire in my legs to finish really strong. I made the final turn and made sure there was plenty of room between me and the guy in front of me and also the person behind me. I didn't want to finish in a group of people. I started down the shoot and and was high fiving people and just trying to take it all in. It really is kind of a blur. I didn't have time to get real emotional, I just finished strong! I came close to catching the guy in front of me cause he stopped to kiss his wife. I was thinking, "go go go or I'm gonna catch you, I dont' want to slow down" I wish he'd have saved the kiss for after the race.
Then I heard Mike Reilly say "From Buffalo Grove Illinois, Eric Smiles (My last name is Smies, everybody loves to throw that L in there) YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!!" Hot Damn! That's what I wanted to hear. All the months of training, all the sweat and time and sacrifices were completely worth it. I LOVED IT. I'm an Ironman.
What would you do differently?:

Not sure if there's anything except push myself a little harder.
Post race
Warm down:

Found my wife and gave her a smooch and a hug. This was the first Ironman for both of us, so we stood there saying "You're an Ironman" "NO, YOU'RE an Ironman!" Stood around a little and talked to my dad. My wife and I then went and had some pizza and sat for a bit. Then we went to collect our things, get our bikes, load em on the car and drive back to the hotel.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Nutrition and heat.

Event comments:

I LOVE THIS RACE. The course is extremely challanging. Especially the bike course. The hills can demoralize you. But once you complete it you know you've done something incredible. The race was extrememly well run from the check in on Friday to the post race stuff on Monday. I felt like we had a great "community" of athletes and volunteers gathered together for an incredible weekend. Everything about this race was top notch. I highly recommend this race to anyone. Just practice hills.
Considering that 5 years ago I was a smoker and about 60 pounds more than I weigh now and without an athletic bone in my body, I'm pretty damn proud of this accomplishment. If someone would have said back then that in 5 years I'd be an way I would have taken them seriously. Triathlon is now a way of life for me. It's opened the door to so many other things. Now that I know I can complete an Ironman, I want to do the Ironman BETTER. I'm hooked. I love the discipline it takes and I love the reward and sense of satisfaction in achieving the goals I set. It's totally inspiring to me.

Last updated: 2009-01-05 12:00 AM
01:22:44 | 4224 yards | 01m 58s / 100yards
Age Group: 225/356
Overall: 1490/
Performance: Good
Suit: sleeveless
Course: 2 loop rectangle course
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Good
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Good
Time: 13:23
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
07:14:51 | 112 miles | 15.45 mile/hr
Age Group: 300/356
Overall: 1906/
Performance: Below average
Wind: Little
Course: about 12 miles out, 2 loops, then 2 miles back.
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills: Below average
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 10:23
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
06:11:15 | 26.2 miles | 14m 10s  min/mile
Age Group: 287/356
Overall: 1841/
Performance: Average
Course: 2 loop course.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2009-09-18 12:11 PM

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Buffalo Grove, IL
Subject: Ironman Wisconsin

2009-09-18 1:02 PM
in reply to: #2413889

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Living in the past
Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
That's frickin' fantastic! Great race and congrats, Ironman! It's amazing to read about how each newbie IM athlete went through tough mental spots and came out the other end to push beyond all previous expectations of their abilities. Your experiences exemplify what it means to be an Ironman.

Sounds like congrats are in order for your wife too.

I was particularly touched by your comments about looking up to your father as an athlete and then seeing him excited for you and your performance. That's pretty cool.

Congrats again.

2009-09-18 3:24 PM
in reply to: #2414009

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over a barrier
Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
+1 to the above....I can relate to that as well.

Congrats to you BOTH
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