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Ironman Wisconsin - Triathlon

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Madison, Wisconsin
United States
World Triathlon Corporation
70F / 21C
Total Time = 12h 16m 5s
Overall Rank = 600/2990
Age Group = 25-29
Age Group Rank = 66/196
Pre-race routine:

Alarm went off at 4am, but for not much use as I woke up at 2:30 and couldn't fall back to sleep. I got to bed around 10:30 the night before so I was going to be operating today on 4 hours of sleep. I got up, put on my tri gear, threw on sweats, grabbed my specials needs/morning clothes bags and went down to the lobby of the hotel to grab breakfast. Breakfast consisted of my traditional oatmeal, banana and coffee. I left the hotel at 5:15 and walked the 5 blocks over to Monona Terrace, the site of transition and focal point of the race.The top level of the terrace was packed with both athletes and spectators. I got my body marked by a volunteer and went over to where my bike was racked and loaded it with nutrition and the bottles I had brought. I met up with the rest of my training group to say some final send offs before going down to the water.
Event warmup:

The weather was going to be next to perfect that day, but having a high close to 70 at mid day meant a chilly 50 degrees at sunrise. That being said, after changing my sweats for my wetsuit I wanted to get in the water as soon as I could since Lake Monona was 20 degrees warmer at 70 degrees. To get down to the water you had to walk from the top level site of transition down the helix parking ramp. Every athlete had to enter the water through the same 20 foot wide arch, so the combination of spectators and 2,500 athletes caused a pretty big backup.

Since Ironman Wisconsin would be my first mass swim start I kind of planned ahead where I wanted to position myself. A water ski jump marks the center of the start line. I was told the best swimmers position themselves close to the jump where the buoy line is. The weak swimmers linger in the back while the competent swimmers stay on the outside away from the ski jump but along the start line. I'm a fairly good swimmer. I'm no shark, but I wanted to start in front but away from the ski jump. I figured the side of the ski jump opposite of the shore would be the least congested area and my best bet.

I wanted to be in the water at least 20 minutes before the cannon to get acclimated and warm up a bit, but with the backup I didn't enter until about 3 minutes before the start. In a panic I had to essentially sprint 100 meters through everyone bobbing in the water to get where I wanted to be. By the time I got to a spot I was content with we were about a minute out from the start. I wasn't even paying attention to Mike Reilly's voice blaring over the PA. I didn't even have a chance to collect my thoughts on what was about to commence.
  • 1h 11m 22s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 41s / 100 yards

Cannon went off and the washing machine turned on. I started where I wanted to be in the front and away from the cluster of swimmers aiming to go up the middle so I was able to start with decent amount of space to get moving. I've seen pictures of the swim start from prior years. It must of been an amazing sight for the people spectating, but it was hard to gain a perspective being in the water. Just chaos. The first 200 meters was a lot of shifting of slow swimmers starting in the front and faster swimmers starting in the back. A lot of bumping and people climbing over each other. I was trying to sight the first red buoy marking the first turn, but it being 1000 meters away close to the John Nolan Drive bridge made it impossible to see. Not really an issue; just follow the person in front of me.

Compared to swimming in Lake Michigan, Lake Monona is calm and warm. Outside of the 2,500 other swimmers it's a very nice swim. Normally in a pool I breath bi-laterally, but in open water with other people around I stick to breathing on the left. I have a history of problems with my left shoulder and having also separated it earlier in the summer I wanted to keep an eye if anyone was coming up on me that might bump it.

I was told it's tradition to Moo when you round the first turn buoy. I thought this was maybe only done by a handful of people. As I approached I picked my head out of the water and to my surprise heard a chorus of moo'ing, so I let out my best Moo. As we turned I realized how wide the swim pack was spread. I also thought there were a lack of intermediate buoys so it was surprisingly difficult to tell the exact direction of the course. Again, just follow the person in front of you.

I was able to really get a pace going when we turned again and did the long mile stretch back northeast. I'm not sure if I was just getting bored but I really started to get irritated with the crooked swimmers around me. I'm always pretty aware of my surroundings when I'm in the water, so it was a little bothersome when someone would start weaving back towards me after bumping me 30 seconds prior. At one point some guy got clocked in the face by the heel of my foot. I looked back and saw he was bobbing in the water and had is goggles off. Felt bad, but oh well. It happens.

At the 3rd turn I checked my watch to see where I was at. Pleasantly surprised to be at 53 minutes and about a 800 meters to go. I swam this course back in August and completed it in 1:20, so my goal was to get 1:15. I was definitely going to get that.

You didn't really get a sense of the crowd out on the water but coming back in you started to really hear them. Mike Reilly was naming people exiting the water and heard him mention my name as I got up the ramp.

Transition 1
  • 10m 18s

I unzipped my wetsuit and removed my cap and goggles. I had a volunteer strip off my wetsuit and then jogged up the helix to the top level of the terrace to get to transition. The crowd lined the whole way and was going nuts. My adrenaline was pumping and I felt great.

Transition at Ironman Wisconsin works a little differently than most other Tri's. Instead of of setting up all your gear at where your bike is racked, you have two gear bags. One for swim to bike, and the other for bike to run. Each bag is put in separate transition rooms inside. When you come inside the terrace you go grab your bike gear bag and take it to a changing room. There you have a volunteer who helps you put your stuff on or pack up your wetsuit and swim stuff. Depending on how busy transition is when you enter you may or may not have another volunteer go grab your bike and have it waiting for you when you come back outside.

Transition was getting busy when I got there and had to handle my gear bag myself. I went back outside and had the designated volunteers lube me up with sunscreen. I stopped at a porta potty and then went and retrieved my bike. Bike out was at the top of the opposite parking ramp helix at the south west end of the terrace.

  • 6h 41m 44s
  • 112 miles
  • 16.73 mile/hr

The biggest question mark heading into the race for me was the biking segment. I was having on and off knee issues from biking throughout training. My most recent flair up came 3 weeks prior during my last training ride on the course. As a result I did not ride for the 3 weeks leading up the the race as I tried to rest and do a PT routine to improve it. Combing that and the drop in activity from tapering made me pretty neurotic leading up to race day. On the Thursday before the race I went to see a doctor after it wasn't improving very much. I was told I had Plica syndrome due to poor patella tracking on my pedal stroke. This is contradicting as another doctor told me I simply have tendonitis back in June. Whatever. I just wanted the knee to be pain free for the race and decided to get a cortisone injection as sort of a last ditch effort. I went on a quick 45 minute spin the day before the race to test out the knee and it was still painful. The cortisone was marginally helping. The pain wasn't unbearable, but I just wasn't sure if it was going to stay at the same level after 5 or 6 hours on the bike. I didn't have a goal for the ride; just get through it.

The Ironman Wisconsin bike course is renown for it's difficulty. It's widely considered the most difficult bike of any Ironman distance race. The course is relatively simple in layout, but is very technical in handling. You're constantly going up and down the whole ride, a real rollercoaster. There's very little flat riding and you will get familiar with all you're gears very quickly. I trained on the course a couple a times over the summer and have grown to love it despite developing knee problems when riding it. The course is a 16 mile 'stick' through Fitchburg out to Verona where you do 2 laps of a 41 mile loop before heading back to Madison on the same stick you came out on. Much of the course is back country roads winding through Wisconsin farmland. You also ride through the towns of Mt. Horeb and Cross Plains on the loop. A distinct characteristic of the course are 3 big hills that occur in a 5 mile span towards the end of the loop. They're just known as "the 3 Bitches," and since you do 2 laps you end up climbing 6 bitches.

I ended up riding out of transition at 8:20am. The temperature was still on the cooler side and my tri uniform was still wet from the swim. I had a dry bike jersey that I put on, but was still rather cold starting the ride. There was still no wind being that early in the morning so I averaged a solid 18 mph on the stick out to Verona.

As far as nutrition I had 3 disposable bottles. 1 was water while the other two were endurance formula. I'd alternate between the two and would replace them at aid stations. I planned to go through 8 24oz bottles throughout the ride. I also brought 2 Clif bars and a sleeve of salty nuts that were to be consumed in the first 56 mies and then replaced at special needs for the second half of the ride. I decided to hold off on the gels until the run and stick with solid food for the bike since the gels can shoot through your system a little too quickly. I was considering using BASE salt instead of tablets since the tablets have been difficult on my stomach in the past, but since I never really trained with BASE I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to experiment now.

The first few miles of the loop are rather enjoyable with nice rolling hills. Once you get to the 5 miles leading into Mt. Horeb the route becomes rather uneventful as you ride a false flat until a long but gradual hill into town. The route along Witte road and Garfoot after Mt. Horeb are my favorite sections of the course. All the climbs have great downhills immediately following where you can pick up great speed. After riding through Cross Plains you encounter the 3 bitches. All 3 had huge crowds where people were partying in costumes and cheering riders up the hills. It almost had a Tour De France feel to it where people were running right along side you and getting directly in your face encouraging you to push harder. The crowds actually made the 3 hills awesome to ride up and I sort of looked forward to them.

After riding back through Verona I made a pit stop at the porta potty and grabbed more food from my special needs bag. I also packed a short canister of Pringles that I shoved in the top of my Tri jersey as I rode. This served as a convenient vessel to feed myself as it was right in front of my face. Once I ate the Pringles I dumped the nuts I had into the canister. Worked brilliantly.

I felt solid from an energy standpoint on the second loop, but could tell I wasn't as sharp on as my shifting became a lot more lazy on the hills. I could sense other riders were a little more out of gas as there was a bit less chatter on the course. My knees were hurting but to my relief they weren't getting any worse. Other parts of my body were starting to hurt, particularly my back, so my knee's weren't 100% preoccupying my mind.

The wind also started to pick up as morning turned to afternoon. Nothing big, but a moderate SW wind that did slow my pace down a bit on the second loop. However, this wind would actually serve as a nice tailwind on the stick back to Madison. My bike time was just under 6 hours when I finished the second loop so I was happy knowing I was going to finish the course in under 7 hours. It took me 7:15 to do the course a month prior, so I was expecting to get around that time. I got back to Monona Terrace after being on my bike for 6:41. Very pleasantly surprised.

What would you do differently?:

They say the rider makes the bike, not the other way around. I tend to agree with that but I think upgrading from my road to a Tri bike would help shave at least 20-30 minutes from my time.
Transition 2
  • 10m 19s

Rode back up the helix to the dismount line. Volunteers took my bike and I trotted back inside the terrace to the bike to run room. I still felt pretty good. Legs were moving alright. My knees were stinging. I plopped myself down in a chair with my bag in the changing room. I remember thinking to myself "Let's take it easy hear. You've made good time thus far. No need to rush." I changed shoes. put on my race belt and then put on my visor. A volunteer took my bike gear and I went to an aid table. Drank some water and lathered vaseline around my armpits and shoulders as the combination of salt, sweat and my tri top began to cause some chafing. I looked around the room and saw a lot of the other guys sitting back and really taking their time. A lot of them looked really beat up from the ride. Despite telling myself to take it slow and easy in this transition I then had a voice in my head whisper "no reason to stand around. Let's get moving." I then left the terrace to the run out. Enter the Marathon.
  • 4h 02m 22s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 09m 15s  min/mile

The Ironman marathon is very different than a straight up marathon primarily since it comes at the end of an already very long day. The nutrition and hydration plan on the bike is primarily intended to prepare yourself for the run. If you start that marathon dehydrated or malnourished in any way, you're dead. You'll have a very long and frustrating run.

I found a good run strategy during a 70.3 earlier in the summer. Instead of thinking about the distance left in the run and how far you've gone, you focus on running the mile or so from aid station to aid station. This breaks up the run into short 1 to 1.5 mile runs and you walk the aid stations. This strategy also provides structure and you won't have a tendency to stop at random periods just because you want to walk for a bit. Run from aid station to aid station. That's it and don't stop in between. I made an emphasis to run extremely conservative in the first 2 miles as it's not a good barometer for how your run will be. Reassess how you feel once you settle in and adjust your pace.

The run is two 1/2 marathon loops around downtown and the UW Campus. Being a Wisconsin Alum it was pretty neat running this course. Definitely felt a lot of nostalgia. As I was told crowd support on the course was great. State Street, in particular, had throngs of people in the bars and outdoor cafes lining the street. You could hear the crowd all the way from Bascom Hill as you approached which really got you fired up. Another feature of the course is a run through Camp Randall stadium. This sounded cool on paper but with the stadium empty and no music playing or video on the jumbotron it was a little uneventful. The field turf also didn't offer the best footing.

I started to feel settled in about 3 miles into the run. My legs didn't feel heavy and I was holding an 8:50 pace. I wanted to see if I could hold this for the first loop. My aid station routine was gatorade then water. Every 3-4 miles I would take a gel. I didn't bother with any of the other stuff they had.

At one of the turnarounds I noticed Lucy, a teammate from my training group, only about 100 yards ahead of me. We typically ran together during group runs as we pace pretty similar. I had no intentions to try to catch up to her but after she took a longer stop at the mile 11 aid station we started running with each other.

We ran back up to the Capitol and I completed the first loop in 1:58. I then starting thinking if I could get my marathon in under 4 hours. The frustrating part of the run is that the half way point is right in front of the finish, so you see the finish and hear Mike Reilly's voice but you have do go back out for another 13 miles.

My knees were really starting to kill on the second loop and could feel myself running out of gas. Thankfully myself and Lucy chatted a bit which helped take my mind off my condition. We ran together for about 8 miles and then we split at certain periods as I was walking each aid station and she said she was cramping a bit.

I ran close to a 9:00/mile up until about mile 20 where my legs started to feel heavy and it was getting tough to turn them over as fast. The last 10k I was running at around 9:30/mile. However I did hydrate and fuel properly throughout the day, so I didn't feel like I was getting close to bonking.

While on the lakeshore path I heard the foghorn from Memorial Union indicating an hour till dusk. I was going to finish in daylight! I wasn't going to break the 4 hour marathon, but my original goal was 4:30 so I have to be happy with the run regardless. I had a lot of emotions running through me as I ran up State Street towards the capitol. I've been wanting to do this race for 3 years and dedicated countless hours preparing for it. The finish line was approaching and it was all about to be over. I came down the chute, got onto the carpet, and I'll never forget Mike Reilly calling my name and telling me "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Post race
Warm down:

There seemed to be an excessive amount of volunteers catching people at the finish. A nice older lady grabbed me as another volunteer got a medal and finisher gear for me. I was in a bit of a memorized state of mind. We walked over to where they were taking the finisher photos. She was still clutching my arm and it was starting to bother me as I felt alright. I guess in hindsight I didn't realize she was asking me a series of questions and was doing an examination of my physical condition. Since I was having a bit of a reflective spaced out moment I guess I looked like a candidate for medical attention. After she released me I went and found my family by the food tent and gave them hugs and posed for pictures.

I tried looking for the rest of my training team at our designated meet up spot but no one was there yet. My coach later told me "That's the price you pay for finishing in 12 hours."

I went to a bar with my parents around the corner. They had a pretty long day tracking and following me around the course, so they were pretty hungry. I was getting some GI issues so food was not appetizing to me. My legs became insanely stiff and I desperately needed to get ice on my knees. I went back to the hotel, showered, changed and headed back to the finish line to meet with the rest of my training group and catch the mid night finishers.

Event comments:

Ironman Wisconsin is really a special race. It's very well organized and all 3 courses are excellent. The city embraces the event which really makes a difference. From talking with people who've raced other IMs they concur that Madison has arguably the best crowd support. The volunteers made the experience a well oiled machine. The only thing I had to worry about was performing as an athlete and that's all I ever want in a race. I'll be back in a few years to do this race again.

Last updated: 2015-03-03 12:00 AM
01:11:22 | 4224 yards | 01m 41s / 100yards
Age Group: 60/196
Overall: 546/2990
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 70F / 21C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 10:18
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:41:44 | 112 miles | 16.73 mile/hr
Age Group: 93/196
Overall: 1069/2990
Wind: Some
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 10:19
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:02:22 | 26.2 miles | 09m 15s  min/mile
Age Group: 66/196
Overall: 600/2990
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]

2015-09-17 2:40 PM

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Chicago, Illinois
Subject: Ironman Wisconsin

2015-09-18 9:59 AM
in reply to: #5141541

Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
Awesome detailed race report! Congrats on the great performance!
I volunteered this year and signed up to do it next year as my first IM.
If you saw a clown, a cop, or a pink ninja on the bike course those fools were from our group. haha
2015-09-18 4:07 PM
in reply to: #5141541

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Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin

CES, right?  

We've never met, but I remember you from the race! I was at the tent all day. I remember that you looked really strong on the run. Great job!

2015-09-19 9:00 AM
in reply to: #5141541

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Extreme Veteran
Sidney, Ohio
Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
Great report, and impressive run after a long day!
2015-09-20 1:03 AM
in reply to: doxie

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Chicago, Illinois
Subject: RE: Ironman Wisconsin
Yep! You guys were awesome throughout the day. Thanks for coming up!
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