Number 11 done and once again I find myself saying “wow, that was a tough one!” Just once I’d like to finish one saying “well that was easier than I expected” 🙂
This was an interesting event as Madison had severe flooding a few weeks before the IRONMAN which caused huge amounts of flooding and there were concerns the whole event may get cancelled, the swim may be cancelled, the bike could be cancelled etc. As it turns out the event was a full IRONAM with all the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run trimmings just with a few last minute modifications to the swim and bike to accommodate to the flooded areas. Amazing work by the race coordinator and team for still running an amazing event.
I arrived Thursday in Madison and registered on Friday. This was my first IRONMAN where the transition areas were all inside the conference center while the bikes were stored on the 4th floor of the car park (parking lot). I picked up my bike from TriBike transport (which was a ways a way for this event and was a pain getting it to and from the bike transition area but I don’t think there were many options for them).
I had a few changes this year to my equipment. I had Assioma power pedals for my bike, new bike shoes and some new swim googles as I’m trying to solve the problem of my always leaking googles 🙂
Friday afternoon I packed my bags per my new gear list and had some awesome pasta and chicken from Naples 15.
Saturday morning I checked in which was smooth as always then I had the opportunity to have breakfast with the voice of IRONMAN Mike Reilly and the race coordinator along with about 7 other athletes. It was great hearing his stories and hearing from other athletes. It also triggered a few things in my head I’d never thought about before.
1, Why you have your age on your calf. I’d never understood why you have to put your age on your calf other than to add to your humiliation as the old lady overtakes you and you can see exactly how old she is and the reason for that is I’m not competitive however if you are competing in your age group you want to see the age of people to see if you are competing against them, e.g. they run past you, you see your age and so you run them down. They were complaining about people that cover up the age with socks etc. Makes total sense! Which led to point 2.
2, The big fuss over moving from mass start, to age group start to rolling, self-seed start. Now I like the self-seed rolling start as there are less people in any portion of the water and I didn’t see the big deal but it comes back to point 1. If you are competitive you can’t tell WHEN others in your age group started. Just because they are behind you on the run doesn’t mean they are actually behind you as maybe they started after you in the swim. If you do a mass start or age group start then you know you all started at the same time and so your relative position on the course is the real position which is important when you are trying to place.
Interesting stuff that doesn’t matter to me as I just try to finish but certainly understand this for competitive people!
For the rest of the day I really just relaxed, watched some movies, had pizza for lunch then the awesome pasta for dinner again, put on my tritats (badly) and got about 5 hours sleep.
Race morning woke up a bit before my 3am alarm. Had apple sauce, protein shake and some bagel. I left the room 4:40 for a 5am transition open where I quickly check my bags are still there and then got my tires pumped up to 100 and put on my drinks. This year I also took the back back they give you to carry my bags so more importantly I could use it at the END of the day when I had to stumble my way back to the hotel post event and somehow get the bike down 4 flights of stairs to TriBike 🙂
Everyone hung out in the warm inside of the convention center till about 6:15 when we departed for the swim start which was moved a little bit further to accommodate for the flooded areas. I had already put on my wetsuit, I put the backpack inside my morning clothes bag and handed it in just before the swim start then put myself at the very back of the 1:21 to 1:30 group.
The age groupers started at 6:40 I think and I got in the water about 7:00. You actually had to swim out to wear the swim started but your time started as you got in the water so the swim time is slightly longer. My Garmin actually showed I swam 2.721 miles which is probably why my swim time was slightly longer than normal at 1:35. Well, also the fact that half way through the water got choppier and my googles started leaking a tiny bit. Really not much. Definitely not enough to mess with. But I did. I pushed on the googles which successfully enabled the google to completely fill with water basically blinding me in that eye. After deciding that I had not done enough damage I then tried to fix it and successfully filled the other google with water as well and this water was disgusting. Remember the flooding well lots of stuff had got washed into the water. As you swam you felt strings of stuff in your hands and you could not see a foot. The water had been closed 3 days earlier due to bacterial as 10s of thousands of gallons of waste water had washed into the lake but apparently it had disappeared 🙂 Anyway I was not blind and it got to a point I had to stop, I was treading water trying to clear the googles but it was a losing battle at that point. I just had to resign myself to doing my best and just swim but those stops and the longer swim added to my time. Apart from that thought swim was just one big loop and while the chop did pick up about half way though it wasn’t that bad although I was chatting to someone at lunch today who said he stopped during the swim as he started hyper ventilating so obviously it was enough to freak some people out 😦
After getting out the water the wet suit strippers (they help you get out the wetsuit not anything else 🙂 ) get you out the suit and you then had to run a little distance to the transition which was up on the 4th floor so you had to run up a twisting car ramp for 4 floors where you grabbed your bag and got changed in the indoor changing area (which was great). For the bike I bought an IRONMAN pizza bike shirt which I thought was funny however it means for the whole 2 loop bike course people would shout “Look its pizza man”. Not exactly what I wanted but oh well. People seemed to like it.
Since you were up on the 4th floor the start of the bike course was descending down the 4 levels on the car ramp (which only dawned on me at the end meant I had to go up it at the end, ugh). The weather was great. It ranged from about 55 at the start of the day to 70 at the peak but it was bright sun and I got sun burnt again during the bike even though I had two laters of sunscreen on 🙂 The bike course was out about 15 miles then two loops then back 15 miles. It was hilly. Always hilly. There were some big downhills (obviously) but those are fast so you spent a lot of time going up hill. There were some pretty big ones. In one section there were 3 hills close together which were known as the three witches (but the word wasn’t witches but rhymed with it) and they were pretty tough and obviously you had to do them twice. Since I had the power peddles I was trying to maintain around 180. Now I had never used them before (I know I know, shouldn’t use new stuff) as all my training is on indoor bike where it also tells you power and 180 seems maintainable for me. As you can see from the data my power dipped as the race went on but not terribly so fairly happy with it but it definitely took a lot out of me. 5,627 ft of elevation gain according to my bike computer. The new bike shoes and pedals worked well though and I actually found them better in terms of pressure on my feet than my old ones. During the ride my drink cages came loose so had to stop and tighten them but that was on only equipment issue and I’ll take that any day of the week!! The bike course was very pretty, lots of fields and nice nature views. Great aid station support and lot of spectators at different points on the course so that was awesome as well. Definitely a great (but though) bike course. I noticed the signs are getting meaner 🙂 There was the normal ones about if it was easy it would be called your Mom but now there were ones letting you know you still had a long way to go and were no where close to finishing. They were a little soul crushing :-D. They were always at the top of a very large hill as well. I think the best thing you can do is keep a steady effort and because it was a rolling course you did get recovery from the uphill fairly shortly after. As normal on the bike I used the Gatorade on the course and had a gel and waffle each hour.
At the end of the bike you cycled up the 4 levels of ramp (grrr) then into transition and a quick change into the running gear and off onto the run. There were some rolling hills but nothing terrible. The run was two loops. There seemed to be aid stations every half a mile but I’m sure that was not right 🙂 But the support was awesome as were the crowds. I managed to maintain a decent pace for the first 10 miles but then got a stitch and was having issues (but a trip to the bathroom helped 🙂 ). Twice during the loop you run in and out of the Madison town center which was awesome and really gets you fired up. 945 feet of elevation gain the Garmin said for the run.
The final run to the finish line was amazing, I had made a mental note to ensure I actually interacted with crowds and actually smile for the camera. Mike remembered me from the breakfast and as I crossed the line he told me good luck getting to my 12 🙂 Got my medal, hat and shirt. Grabbed my bags, got my bike, carried it down 4 flights of steps to TriBike then grabbed some pizza and back to the hotel.
My final time …..
Once back at the hotel spoke to my wife, showered, ate a little bit and then failed to really sleep other than for about an hour but when I woke up I had drenched my pillow and covers in sweat which was bizarre! Apart from that just watched TV.
In the morning I got the store about 6:05 where there were already about 30 people in the line. I bought my finisher t-shirts and polo and that was my IRONMAN adventure closed.
IRONMAN Wisconsin was awesome. I think it was a tough event but pretty much all of them have been tough this year (except Texas which I think is a fairly easy one apart from heat). The event was super well organized, the course with very interesting and the crowds are amazing. If you are looking for a challenging event then definitely recommend.