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Ironman Wisconsin - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Madison, Wisconsin
United States
Ironman North America
79F / 26C
Total Time = 14h 57m 12s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group = 35-39
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

DISCLAIMER: This is an extemely long race report, so would advise reading late night to enhance you sleeping comfort!

3:30 a.m.

Alarm goes off and I am up right away. I turned in around 8 p.m. Saturday night, and felt I had a solid nights rest and I was ready to go. I took a look around the room, looked at my race day bags for run/bike special needs and the Ironman logo that was emblazoned on the front of them. I was surprisingly calm, and approached this as any other race day morning; I grabbed water, and made my oatmeal in the silence of our hotel suite. Put on my tri gear I was going to wear under for the swim under my wetsuit and covered with shorts and a hoodie as there would be a chill fall air this morning. Grabbed my bottles (nutrition) and headed down to the lobby around 4 a.m. to meet up with everyone, have some coffee, chat and wait for all the folks to gather before heading downtown to Monona Terrace.

4:15 a.m.

Loaded up the vehicles and caravanned downtown. As we are coming into downtown, Eminem’s NOT AFRAID comes on the radio – “are you kidding”? I thought. I just kept quiet and listened – made no mentioned of it or even looked at anyone. I was in a zone. Parked the truck, grabbed my special needs and morning bag and headed towards the capital to drop my special needs bags off. With the family in tow, I decided to make the two block trek alone to gather my thoughts. Race day morning can be hectic, and for that moment...........I just needed so alone time as I felt some anxiety coming on. It was perfect timing - dropped my bags and met back up with the family in front of Monona Terrace and chatted for a bit.

Event warmup:

5:00 a.m.

Headed over to get body marked and get into transition to put my nutrition on my bike. Chris's wife, Monica, was doing body marking so I scoured the area till I found her. She only had one customer, so I jumped in line. I asked her to put 'IM TAT HERE' on my right calf.............and she honored my request. I then entered transition and made the long walk to my bike rack to find 'Madison'. I saw Pat who was already at his rig filling his bottles and gave him a solid fist pound - exchange some well wishes and headed on to my bike rack. Put my nutrition on the bike, turned on GPS, and put Garmin on my bike. Started to fill my tires, but seemed like everyone wanted to borrow my pump............I could use the break and had plenty of time. Chris stopped by for a quick chat - he hadn't turned in his special needs bags yet, so we agreed to meet atop the Terrace in a few. Finally got my pump back, finished my tires and back up to the top to visit with the family and wait on Chris.

6:00 a.m.

Final goodbyes to family and friends as I wanted them to get a front row seat up top to view the swim start. Stopped over by body marking so Chris could say his goodbyes to Monica, hit the porta potty and headed down to the swim start. Still trying to stay reserved at this point - it was really beneficial to have Pat and Chris there with me through this really did seem like any other race day. We got the wetsuits on and headed over to the water. Hit the porta potty there prior to running into Ryan Case. We chatted it up with him while he got his wetsuit on - he was going for a Kona slot, so it was pretty humbling to be standing there with him. Around 6:35 we headed over to get in the water. After making our way through the crowd, I pulled Chris off to the side...............I wasn't ready. I needed a minute to collect my thoughts. Ok........6:40 - let's do this.

6:40 a.m.

I take my first steps into Lake Monona, which was a ‘nippy’ 67 degrees, but not uncomfortable. Chris and I agreed that we would meet at the floating Ford signage about 25 yards out, and Pat soon followed. We hung out on the sign, just floating until shortly after the pros went off at 6:50. At 6:55, the National Anthem was sung…………..I took one last look up at the Helix and Monona Terrace…………..what an amazing sight from the water – thousands of family members and close friends there to support their loved ones…………they were part of the journey, and this was their moment too! Following the National Anthem, Pat and Chris decided to venture up further in the pack, while I stayed back………….a planned event on my part. I gave them the ‘good to go’ sign, broke loose from the Ford sign and swam out to the middle – back of the back. Took a look at the clock on shore………….6:59 and some small change – treading now – HR slowing increases…………..looked at the dude next to me and said “oh, It’s on like Donkey Kong now”……….if I could only have seen his eyes through his goggles – haha.

  • 1h 37m 56s
  • 4224 yards
  • 02m 19s / 100 yards

7:00 a.m.

BOOM!!! The cannon fires and it is a freaking mess………….I literally laughed in the water. I LOVED every single minute of it. Asses, elbows, hands, feet……… get it all in a 2,500+ mass swim start! I settled in rather quickly, sighted often to find as clear a path through the mess as possible…..which is a relative statement considering the sheer size of this race. The first long stretch parallel to Monona Terrace seemed like it flew by. I spent a lot of time ‘taking in the moment’ while looking up at the Terrace with each breath. It finally hit me maybe 4-5 minutes into the swim as I looked up……….I am doing IRONMAN…… Ok…… got work to do tough guy – back to swimming – long strokes….keep it smooth.

I rounded the first buoy, and all hell broke loose. I mean, it was literally worse than the start – 15 lanes of traffic down to 2………absolute Chaos!! I got pushed, kicked, punched…………you name it – I was in the ring with Ali or Tyson. Fortunately, this is only about a 140 meter stretch before making the turn to head back in. Once I made the turn, I made a b-line for inside the buoy line. This is where I wanted to be, as I knew the pros would be coming by the time I finished this length……………..and trust me – you don’t want to be in the way of a pro – you WILL go under! Again – this long stretch seemed to fly by, and I was making the turn to start my second loop in no time.

I swung wide to start the second loop, as I anticipated traffic to slow a little and things to clear up. For the most part it did, but still your random swimmer who couldn’t swim straight if they had a line to guide off of. This whole loop, I just thought about the day…………it was going to be long, but I knew I had the swim in the bag – I was comfortable, and all I had to do was keep putting one in front of the other. Again – I spent time watching the folks on top of Monona Terrace, wondering what my family thought of all this – if they were worried I’d got kicked or struggled on the start…………even though I told them all about it and not to worry……I would be enjoying it! Ha ha. Once again, around the turn around buoy’s for the final time. I passed time on the final stretch thinking about how I wanted my transition to go, my bike……………but most importantly, the swim finish – coming out of the water to the crowd, music, Mike Reilly announcing my name, the wetsuit strippers, etc.

Made the final turn for home and saw the Swim Exit arch, and turned on the jets. I wanted to get the blood flowing back in the legs before I tried to stand up. The closer I got, I could hear Mike’s voice announcing swimmers on exit……………the music grew louder, as did the crowd, with each passing stroke. Oh ya……….my turn is coming. And then I heard it………….This Is Ironman Baby – James Nissen, Tremont, IL………….checked the clock – 1:37:56. 2.4 mile swim complete.

Transition 1
  • 14m 2s

Ok – so I knew this would take a while and had planned on 10 minutes. Couple notes: You hit the timing mat right out of the water and you have to go through the wetsuit strippers, then make a run clear up the Helix, into Monona Terrace and changing room, then a long run to other end for my bike and to timing mat for bike out.

So with all that – I was ok with this time. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed for the bike – nutrition and mechanical items should they be needed out there. I also did a complete change from swim to bike gear. I felt great after the swim and couldn’t wait till I got on my bike………….my strongest discipline (well, so I thought). To Be Cont…..

Came outside to make my way to my bike when Gene hollered at me – look up and gave him a thumbs up for a picture, and off I went for my long run to my bike. Some dude in a Speedo with a star on the butt was assisting in transition. I didn’t even realize he had a Speedo on until I saw the pictures after the race. Ha Ha. Heard my family and friends whooping it up, gave them a fist pump, blew them a kiss and off I went.

  • 7h 12m 54s
  • 112 miles
  • 15.52 mile/hr

So I set out for what I thought was going to be the best part of this day………….stay tuned to find out. Down the Helix and onto John Nolen Drive. “Just Ride Along stupid” – “No Paste today”…………easy spinning out of town. The bike traffic was thick, but I stayed cool and level headed all the way to Verona just spinning. Before I knew it, I was on the streets in Verona and Fireman’s Park ready to start the famed ‘Loop’. I dropped to the small chain ring as I knew there was a small climb right out of the gate – easy does up, just spinning. Chris, Pat and I had ridden this course in July, so I felt comfortable we had a solid, air tight race strategy – easy spinning on first loop. Find a comfortable gear, and go one click easier. Done – executing perfect. I am hitting my nutrition and ready to start hour 2/bottle 2. At this point, I’m thinking all is well……………right around a 17.3 avg. pace – nice and steady, not pushing…………….just riding along. Through Mt. Horeb, over the rollercoaster, along the bluff and into Cross Plains. At the aid station in Cross Plains, I slowed to a stop and grabbed a water from a volunteer. I anticipated at this point, I would not make it back to special needs in Verona without running out of mixed Infinite, so I took the opportunity here to mix the flask I took with me in my jersey. I unclipped, and felt a slight twitch in my right quadriceps. I shook it off thinking nothing of it. Maybe took a minute for this stop and off I went, knowing when I started back, I was looking at Old Sauk Pass and Midtown to come………….again, thinking nothing of the ‘twitch’ at Cross Plains.

I hit Old Sauk Pass on the first loop, dropped to the small gear and started spinning – here we go………….up, up, up……….no issue. The folks were lined up on Old Sauk……… beating a drum to each spin of the pedals………the crowd was electric. I knew they would b there at Timber Lane and Midtown as well. Over the Pass and nice……… the bag. Make the right turn right after Old Sauk and I’m staring at Timber Lane– the BITCH! This hill was literally lined like the Tour De France – I even saw ELVIS! Once again, didn’t leave the saddle and spun up the Bitch! I knew I had some fun down hills coming to recover before Midtown, so just got back to arrow and enjoyed some ‘free speed’.

Midtown Climb – The Decision

The moment you have a decision to make during Ironman; This was it for me………….just between 40 and 50 miles into a 112 mile ride, as I started the climb on Midtown, both quads seized…………….just flat out locked up. A pain I have not experienced…………..sheer agony. Fortunately, I dropped my chain trying to unclip, so I had to get off the bike. I could walk…………….I hit the ground immediately and let the bike fall over. A spectator came running…………”NOOOO”, I said. “Don’t touch it”…………..referring to my bike. I didn’t want any assistance to DQ me from this race……………hell no. They asked if I was alright – I took at breath as if it were my last and said……….”never better!” They laughed – and I apologized for being rude and explained that I didn’t want their help to be considered outside assistance. They stood with me til I got my legs back and stretched out. I stood the bike back up, got the chain on. Eric Arndt ( who we have met at several races and also does the timing for the Tremont Triathlon was on the hill. He asked if I was alright – told him I was, but I just didn’t know what was happening…………..I was pissed – didn’t get it? I walked my bike for about a minute to make sure the legs were good for another go – saw Bob near the top – then Pats Family and the rest of the gang top side. Got back in the saddle and started spinning again – agony gone for now. Bob could see I was hurting and knew this probably was going to hurt my chances to hit my goal. He looked me right in the eyes and said – “it’s alright, you’re tough, this is a long day and it’s now a mental race for you”. Those words burned right to my soul.

I had read an article leading up to the race about a ‘box’. Only put in your box what was in your control – the space around you, your attitude, etc. and let the rest go. I reflected immediately on that article – I was now staring adversity right in the face. I had a decision to make – I could get down, and let it ruin my day or even quit, or I could take it in stride and make the best of it. I chose the latter. Chris, Pat and I had discussed many times during training, that while we had personal goals, we would just take what the day gave us. It was at this moment, when I looked up and said……………”alright, this is the day you are going to give me? First off, this is BS and secondly……….I got this………………whatever it takes……………no matter what!”

At this point, I made a deal that nothing was coming inside my ‘box’ with me the rest of the day. No one or nothing……………unless I gave it permission! My quads were just throbbing. My mind said………….drink lots of water, keep drinking. I REFUSED to deviate from my race nutrition plan – I’d rather be in pain that to go overboard to go too far the other way. I kept on the Infinite schedule as planned. I knew I would see my family back in Verona after the first loop, and I didn’t want them to see me hurting. I was still around 16.8 for the ride, so relatively close to the 17 mph avg for the first loop as planned.

I saw the crowd gather as I made the turn towards downtown Verona………………again, ELECTRIC. I saw all of our T3 support shirts as I approached, gave a big fist pump as I sailed by. I made sure I was out of their site before I said to myself “damn, that hurt” and backed it off again. Again – it’s my ‘box’ and I make the decisions moving forward. I decided I was going to back it way off to start the second loop and see what I had to get up the ‘Big 3’

Made it up Mt. Horeb on the second loop – again, spinning and overcompensating for the quads by pulling as much as I could on the pedals throughout the rest of the day. Back through Cross Plains and start back out to Old Sauk Pass. I got about .5 mile outside of Cross Plains……….on a flat stretch of road, and there they go again – both of them – locked up. What? They were throbbing so badly at this point – I told someone it reminded me of vomiting so much that it just hurt, and you were begging and pleading for no more dry heaves. Just let me stretch them out one more time. Stay in the box…………’s cool, we just need to get back to town about 4 p.m. and its all good. At this pace, it’ll happen, so relax I told myself.

I get back to Old Sauk Pass the second time………………not sure how this was going to turn out. Started the climb…………….locked up. You HAVE GOT to be kidding me…………….I continued to get pissed. I am NOT going out like this – not NOW not EVER!!!! I knew now that my family had to be worried – they know the bike is my strongest. I jump back in the saddle and who do I see? Bob Freaking Davis……………ya baby, this man stayed out there just for me to get me up that hill…………………”There’s my Big Dog” he said…………….and barked Big Dog all the way to the top……………..what a shot in the arm! AMAZING and selfless act of kindness………………I wasn’t going to let him down. I topped the pass and there were the remaining Kinsey and Davis IRONFans taking pictures. I gave Bob a fist pump at the top, and made sure I looked good for this photo up – Lord knows, I looked like crap the rest of the ride – I’m gonna get at least one good picture dammit!

That little boost was enough to get me up the Bitch hill at Timber Lane once again…………..and once again, I saw Elvis! All I had to do now was make it back over Midtown and I knew I was making it back to John Nolen Drive and Monona Terrace.

Midtown – Round Two………………Midtown won this round again, but it didn’t knock me out. I’m too strong!! Back into Verona, through town and finally made the left on Whalen to head back to Madison. This was the longest 14 mile ride I have ever had! I hurt SO bad……..I had done the math and knew I was going to get back around 4, leaving me 8 hours to finish this thing. I was convinced I was walking the marathon, but was ok with that – it was a fall back race strategy, and the one I accepted @ Midtown the first time around. I just hoped my family was hanging in there, and I prayed that if my wife talked to Bob out on the course, that he lied to her and told her I looked great. I can honestly say, that is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life………………it exceed 2 fold what I experienced with my IT Band in Mattoon last year – and that brought me to tears. But it wasn’t happening that way today – I had a marathon to do, and nothing was coming inside my box – Not a DAMN thing!

Here is the coolest part – I NEVER had the thought all day on the bike of ‘never again’. I kept telling myself – “wait till I get another shot at you” – payback is a beeyotch!

Well – the bike is what it was and I finally made it back to John Nolen Drive. I was coming around the lake, when realized…………..oh crap, one more climb!! I did not want my family to see me cramp, and I damn sure was not walking that Helix. I shook my legs out all the way down JND, so when I got to the Helix……………I gritted my teeth, went to the 27 and started spinning. I could hear my wife yelling – Dig Jr, Dig! If she only knew the pain………….lol, but the pain was worth hearing her voice at the top of that Helix – You got this baby! Oh ya – bike leg complete. A disappointing 7:12:54 against a goal of 6:30. I dismounted the bike at 4:04 p.m. and gave Madison a big ole kiss……………..she kept it together knowing I could not afford any major mechanical issues with the physical issues I was having and we gotter done!

Transition 2
  • 08m 1s

Enter T2 and get my run bag and head to the changing room. I change my top, get run at and sunglasses and looked at the volunteer. He says “you ok man” – I said……………”ya man, I’m good up here…………….but not down there” – pointing at both my head and then my legs. He asked what he could do for me. I asked him if he could please put on my socks and shoes……………I just didn’t want to hurt anymore – no more cramping – I’m not sure I could take that pain anymore (see the vomiting analogy above) He didn’t even hesitate – down he went and got my socks and shoes on…………………what a thankless job that is! God Bless those people!!!

Walked out of T2 and immediately saw the McKenzie fans at the end of the hallway – I high fived them all and they wished me the best. I then walked outside and saw my brother snapping photos off to the left. I walked over and hug him…………………told me he was proud of me! Pretty awesome moment there…………………but no emotions were coming in my ‘box’ – no time for that now! I hit the sunscreen station and got lathered up for the run and started my walk……………..what I anticipated to be a very LONG one. I saw my mother and father-in-law off to the right and slowly walked over and gave them a kiss and high five – each telling me how proud they were……………nope, didn’t let that in either. I then heard D yelling………………I walked towards her, and I knew that she knew I was hurting. She didn’t address or even ask about my pain or what was wrong………………..I needed that. She just said, you got this baby – you got this. I didn’t need sympathy at this point – she was emotional, and I expected and anticipated that, but I couldn’t let it in……………not now. I had a lot of work to do…………….and she knew that. I gave her a hug and kiss and then kept moving – saw Mik and Tay as I passed by D and gave each a hug. Till the day I pass on, I will NEVER forget what happened next. You see…………..I will set this up by saying that D has supported my goal to become an Ironman from the very beginning, but of no fault of her own………….didn’t really understand what all the ‘hubbub’ was about – or even what Ironman or it’s mantra was. She knew the distance, and had been to triathlons………….but until now. I told D as I was walking out of T2……….this may take awhile………..hinting, I am prolly walking it. I check the clock – 9 hrs and 12 minutes. I had 7:48 minutes to walk a marathon. Then she said it…………………… got this baby…………you WILL do this! My hair literally stood on my neck…………….my eyes welled……………she didn’t see of course, as I was walking away from her. Dammit…………….you are not coming in my box – oh hell, this can come in………..but nothing else. She had no idea until after the race what she just said. You WILL Do This is the mantra of Ironman – if you haven’t seen the video………….I recommend it. That was awesome…………………and you damn skippy I’m doing this!

  • 5h 44m 20s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 13m 08s  min/mile

I immediately set out at a walking pace I felt I could hold without cramping. Quads are throbbing, but I could walk. I made my way around the Capitol to State where I saw Bob. Again, he was pointing at his head……………..all mental now. I passed the 1 mile mark at an even 16:00 pace. Did the math and knew that would get me home, but it was too close for comfort. “you have to find someway to run part of this junior”…….”have to”. I decided I would try to run for a minute and see what happens, then I would walk again. I figured I could get a 14:50 or 15:00 pace if I did that and shave a little more time off. My original goal was 14:20 or the 14 hour bracket. This was shot to heck with the bike I had – it was just finish time now.
I started hitting the Gatorade and E-Caps early and often and at the very first aid station started on orange slices and pretzels. The 1 minute runs became 2 and 3 minute runs and then walk some more. With each passing mile, and aid station, I was coming back to life. I met Chris at mile 4.5 mile mark, his 9.5 mile mark his said. We chatted quickly and he stated Pat was right behind him – I told him I had a really tough bike, but I would be ok – I was feeling better. By this time, the chicken broth was brought out at the aid stations – I wasn’t expecting it until after dark, but I started on it right away. Liquid Heaven folks! I finally made it over to State Street where I knew my family would be. I hit the last aid station right before and picked up the pace as I could feel their energy. Running up State Street is just incredible – the street is just lined with screaming fans 5 rows deep on either side – outdoor patios full with folks eating and cheering you on……………each calling you by name as they are printed on the bibs. And there they were; my fans, and I was running. The last time they saw me I was walking. I passed a runner in front of me and made my way over to them – gave them some hugs and high fives – I was starting to feel it. As I left them and started back up State, Gene comes flying in with a high five…………….very cool. He walked with me for a minute as we chatted, then off I went. I flew back down State after the turnaround – then started the long lonely stretch out to inspiration mile. I finally reached inspiration mile that was lined with thousands of signs that family members made for their athletes, each with a special message. I tried to read as many as I could as it was keeping my mind off of running – my quads were now burning from the beating they took earlier today, but I knew they were not going to cramp – it was just pain from cramping for 70 miles. I was going to have to deal with this pain the rest of the night………….and then I saw Taylor’s sign. There it was – “Hey Jr, Pain is 4 Sissy’s”…………perfect timing! How freaking cool is that……………make the turnaround, and there it is again on the Jumbotron “Hey Jr, Pain is 4 Sissy’s”. I always tell the girls when they don’t feel good………….don’t be a sissy. Lol It was my turn not to be a sissy now – suck it up! I now had 9 miles in………….17.2 to go.

I told myself before the run I would not focus on numbers – didn’t want to know how many miles or when mile 18 (the Wall) was coming. Just want to know when I got to single digits. I got back to Camp Randall and saw Chris as he was about to enter on his second loop – around mile 2.5 and I was on mile 10.5………….still about 5 miles ahead of me. Pat was walking with another athlete and chatting when I met him, less than a ¼ mile behind Chris.

With about 1.5 to go back to the Capital and the turnaround, I see my family in an unexpected spot. D was waiting for me as I excited a tunnel and walked with me for about a block – we chatted and I think she knew I was feeling better. She was rallying the troops behind the scenes…………….sheer awesomeness. Jody, Tay and Jen were with her. I rounded the corner and headed down with a mile to go until the turnaround and saw my brother and family cheering me on and taking pictures. I wasn’t expecting to see any of them until the turnaround. I did wonder where my in-laws were though? And McKenzie, others? I turn up State towards the Capital – there were some more – McKenzie, JP/Jillian, Mik cheering me on……………………swing past special needs and they get my bag ready. I make the left and stare the finish line right in the face. I look down to the right, but point to the left for the volunteer so she knows I have one more. I get to the turnaround and point right at Mike Reilly, give him the 1 more to go sign…………..”I’ll be back for some Iron”, I said. As soon as I go through the turnaround, I hear D’s mom and dad yelling – was so awesome to see them still hanging in there – freaking IRON Troopers! I gave them a big point and then fist pump and up to special needs I went.

Didn’t spend much time at special needs – grabbed a new bottle, arm sleeves and e-caps and off I went. I looked at my watch and it said 12:06……………holy crap, I just did the first half in 2:54. If I do that again, it will be a 15 hour IM. Not acceptable, I need to shave some time off of that – what I thought was not possible – a 14 hour bracket finish……….was now a REAL possibility. One problem………….I had 13.1 miles to go, and I have yet to manage going more than .75 mile running. There were also no guar my legs would hold up…………..the pain was still there, just wasn’t letting it in my ‘box’. Yup…………..the walls were still up. Off I went.

I rounded the Capitol heading back out when I saw the funniest thing I had all day. A guy, dressed in an Aero helmet, sunglasses and a cape, standing behind an ironing board, with 2 irons……………..unplugged. He looks at me and says……………..that’s right baby – IRON-Man……….u are going to be an Ironman today baby! OMG – I nearly pee’d myself…………….which inadvertently, wouldn’t have been the first time today! Haha

I pass through the aid station on the back side of the Capitol and grab a glow stick, them some chicken broth and all the fixens as I did at every aid station to this point. I make the turn back down State Street, see McKenzie and the kids again. Makayla had one of the funnier signs of the day - it read…….Run Like A Mutha, which I found humorous since I felt like I was running like my mother.

I get to mile 14 feeling good and head back towards where I saw D, the girls and my brother’s family last. I see my brother, sister in law, and Tay first. They start running along side of me and he says………..”dude, that’s a good pace you got going for having almost 130 miles in already. Ha Ha. That was the first time I actually thought about how far I was going today. Then I thought…………..damn skippy, this is Ironman brother. He asked how I felt, and for the most part I was good, but told him my quads were still on fire, but feet and calves were good to go…….and that’s all I needed.

I see D, Jody and Jen up ahead off to the side. As I approach them, D starts to walk along side……………she has a large Red Bull drink. Oh…………I wanted that SO bad. She said I could have one at the finish line. The guy in front of me starts laughing and says………….dude, that’s like 12 more F N miles. I know, I thought………….and I probably wouldn’t feel like one then anyway. I was doing well keeping things out of my box at this point – staying positive and not thinking about time or mileage. I hadn’t looked at my watch since halfway, and made a pact with myself not too. I was going to push to get that 14 hour bracket finish, and I didn’t want to tell myself it was ok at any point to let up or slow down.

I approach Camp Randall the final time – was a cool experience to run through the stadium. I get down in the stadium and a guy yells, dude……you gotta run on the field. Nope, I am not giving anyone a reason to DQ me – not happening. He runs down the middle of the field, into the far endzone and yells, Touchdown baby! Ha Ha. Crazy fool!

As I leave Camp Randall, I see Dewey – he had about a 5k left to finish is first loop and looked to be having a rough day, but still in good spirits. I reached the point where I met Chris on the first loop, and didn’t see him. At that point, I knew I was making up some time. With each passing aid station, I was feeling better. Uh oh………seepage. My mind started to wander to the finish line………….no dammit, not now – you are NOT coming in this box. I have 10 miles to go………….no guarantees. Whew – that was close, I thought. I pass by mile 17 – right through the wall at 18. I see a man rolled in foil laying on the ground seizing while medics attend to him. I can’t look as my stomach starts to turn. Not that I have a weak stomach, but that could be me and I didn’t want that in my box either.

I knew I would see my family on State Street again and kept trucking. I make the turn off the dark path that runs along the lake and see D at the top of the incline. She jogs with me down to State and I see my family on the corner. I was not expecting them for another couple blocks, so this was pretty awesome. Gave some high fives and fist pumps and headed up to the turnaround. I was flying now. Back down State towards my family…………..they were not expecting me that quick. It was on baby. My wife yells – “somebody wants something” – I was feeling it now. I round the corner and D yells, “next time we see you, it will be at the finish”………….ugh, leak………the box is leaking! Sealed it………….whew, did someone say the finish? Not there yet – I have 7 miles to go.

Back out through inspiration mile and pass mile 20. “Just a 10k to go Jr”……’s go time now. Hit my last big aid station fill around mile 21 just at the end of inspirational mile. One big gulp of chicken broth, filled the bottle with Perform, hit some e-caps, and a little water. I was going to blow past the aid stations from here on………… tank was good to go.

I pass mile 23 and see Dewey shortly thereafter. He was walking and struggling – I yelled at him “Let’s Go Dewey – You got this man”, hoping it was enough to get him started again. He had another 10 miles to go, and I was looking at my final 5k. I pass Camp Randall on my left and back through campus – Mile 24 and I see the race official following a runner – ready to start pulling people.

I see the 25 Miles sign in the distance, and as I pass I slow to a walk. I had read several reports where you could hear the finish line at this point. I slowed and listened – yup…………there it was, no start running again stupid. A quick glance to the watch. I think I am going to break 15.

I round the corner to go up State the final time and see the Capitol in lights against the black sky. Wow…………a surreal moment. I am going to be an Ironman! I reach the top of State and start around the Capitol – only 2 RH turns and a LH down the finish chute. I take a look at my watch………14:54. Plenty of time – less than quarter mile. I slow to a walk., and gently folded down the sides of the box.

I wanted this time here and now – alone. I didn’t want my family to see me breakdown – I wanted them to see the strong man, the Ironman that they came to see.

With the sides folded down, I was at my most vulnerable I had been all day and I broke down. All the long hours of training and work to get to this point, the sacrifices my wife and girls made to share their husband and father with this thing called Ironman, the guilt I felt from being selfish when I had to get a swim, bike or run in and miss dinner with them…………….only to eat leftovers when I got home. Would my grandfather be proud right now…………I had thought about him all day long – he was my ‘wingman’. My brother, his family, my kids, friends, all of them; they were all day strong. I knew bug was at home cheering me on behind a computer screen and wondered what she was thinking. I knew my brother had been updating my mother, grandmother and niece throughout the day – but were they watching now? I could see everyone’s reaction here, but I knew I had family and friends watching from all walks, all over…………who had spent there entire Sunday watching a silly computer screen, and following a GPS symbol as it made it’s 140.6 mile trek – and now I was ‘blinking’ within a few hundred yards of the finish line. I gathered myself back together – it’s time…………the moment is near. Just as I started to run again………….my final thought. I slow back to a walk and broke down once again – I heard it again. You WILL Do This! The last thing D said to me before I left on the run……….I lost it for a brief moment, gathered it back up and took off.

That ½ block behind the Capitol was my place, and will forever be etched in my mind. I made the first RH turn and took a peek over my shoulder. I had 3 people right on my heels, and slowed once again to a walk – let them pass. I wanted this moment to myself. I made the second RH turn and could see the left hander – the crowd thickened 10-20 deep it seemed on either side – just absolutely electric! I made the LH turn into a sea of people waving signs, cheering uncontrollably, the street and finish line chute illuminated with flood lights, music blaring, horns, shakers, cowbells…………..whatever made noise was be used. I looked to the heavens and pointed…………Thank You! One last peek over my left shoulder to make sure no one was behind me. I heard Chris yell to my right – a look, point and fist pump his way. A chest pound and one more point to the sky. I crossed the mat through the Wheaties arch and knew that Mike Reilly now had my information – I pointed right at him, cupped both hands around my ears and nodded my head, my family and friends were staged off to the left – saw them out of the corner of my eye in there bright neon yellow shirts they had been sporting all day – they Exploded as I passed by them with one fist pumping in the air…………………and then I heard it loud and clear:

James Nissen, from Tremont, Illinois……….YOU are an IRONMAN!!

The pain was gone – it left a while ago, but now this just felt Euphoric! Both fist in the air all the way across the line…………..this was my One Moment – my One Opportunity – to seize everything I have ever wanted; would I capture it? You’re damn right I did!

At 7:00 a.m., I took my first stoke in the water and wondered what the day had in store for me. At 9:57 p.m. – 14 hours, 57 minutes, and 12 seconds later………………..I found out: 140.6 Miles of AMAZING!!

I sent a Thank You out to everyone before this race – there are so many of you to thank, and hopefully I have done that. If I have yet to thank you, it will be forthcoming. You ALL played a part in this – and you all shared part of that 140.6 miles. THANK YOU again………………….the journey is just beginning!

Post race

Last updated: 2009-09-15 12:00 AM
01:37:56 | 4224 yards | 02m 19s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 14:02
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
07:12:54 | 112 miles | 15.52 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 08:01
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:44:20 | 26.2 miles | 13m 08s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2010-09-16 12:31 PM

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Subject: Ironman Wisconsin

2010-09-16 1:11 PM
in reply to: #3102373

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Extreme Veteran
Pekin, IL
Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
Awesome.  Best race report I've ever read.  Just have to decide which new nickname to give you...Slim?  Shady?  Em?  lol.  Can't wait to do it all again.  And you'll get another chance at those hills when we take Gene up there for some training laps. 
2010-09-16 1:53 PM
in reply to: #3102485

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Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
I think 'Slim' would be appropriate!

Edited by JamesNissen 2010-09-16 1:54 PM
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