September 20, 2008

Ironman Wisconsin race report

Ok so that last post was simply just a warm up to get a few good photos up here from the trip and explain what I did over the few days leading up to the race... which is always important. But here comes the nitty gritty of what happened between the hours of 7am and 6pm the day of Ironman Wisconsin.

I had a lot of goals for the race which I had put down on the blog and been very vocal about before the race began. A good friend of mine read somewhere that if you say your goals to at least 6 people, you have at least a 25% better chance of attaining them. I'm a sucker for every little advantage I can get, so I obliged and was very forthcoming in my intent on this race. Now the only thing I can say (in the literary style of one of the greats) "even the best laid plans of mice and men..."

So without further adieu, here it is, the formal race report:

2.4 mile swim (goal of somewhere between 55:00-58:00, actual was 56:13)
I got into the water that morning and felt pretty good, anxious as always, but somehow, after getting in and splashing around in the shallows, I saw Phil and said good luck to him. Weird that with 2400 other people around (and all in black neoprene wetsuits) that I was able to find his goofy smile, but we said our good lucks and seeded ourselves accordingly. I lined up to the right about 30 feet from the inner buoy and was right on the front of the line. I actually heard some people talking about my red sweede goggles and they were saying that their 100m times didn't allow them to wear sweedes. I found this amusing as I was always an okay swimmer, but in Ironman races, you never really know who is next to you. They could be a sub 3 marathoner, but a slow ass swimmer, you never know. And besides the swim is like the easiest part of the day, it's over so quickly, it's sad...

But I digress. I saw some other people wearing swedish goggles and lined up with them. You may think it's kind of weird that I am going on and on about the types of goggles that people were wearing, but if you are sporting sweedes for an IM, it likely means that you were a swimmer once in high school or college and know your stuff. This is verified by the following situation. We're all floating in the water like 5 minutes before the cannon goes off and this guy next to me speaks up and addresses the little group that I was in. He says, "alright everyone, no kicking, no punching, no grabbing ankles, no dunking, lets just have a nice clean start" and we all laughed a little but then everyone started nodding their heads in agreement and said, "okay...yeah, that sounds good..."
The gun went off and no one touched me.

Let me repeat that, no one touched me. The ironman is affectionatively known as the "fight, bike, run" to some people because the swim can be a freaking masacre. People get pulled out of the water, punched in the gets ugly at times. People swim over the top of you, it's insane to be in the middle of it. The only reason it happens is that everyone packs in so tightly vertically (because we are all treading water) and when the cannon sounds and you start swimming you go horizontally and you are suddenly on top of each other and getting kicked in the face and people are climbing all over you, it's weird. But this one touched me, we all started swimming (and swimming fast) and by the time we got to the first turn, we were pretty well situated in our own space.
The first turn comes (after about a half mile) and again, no contact. Turns in the swim leg of the Ironman are notorious as well because people bunch up and try to sight on the turn and it just generally gets pretty congested. This time nothing. It was divine, amazing, and the perfect swim I think. The second lap was fast and I locked onto a good pair of feet and was drafting comfortably (or maybe a little above my comfort level) but regardless, we were cruising, so i was happy. I was pleased to be done with the second loop and as I exited the water and was going under the banner, I noticed I had split my watch at a 56:13 swim split. I was shocked, but in my head for some reason it wasn't fast enough. I think I had secretly wanted a 55, but I knew I had done it as fast as I could've. There was a long day ahead of me and the time was mine.
T1 swim to bike - goal time of 5:00 - actual time of 5:20
Not bad. I exited the water, got my wetsuit stripped off and was forced to run up the helix of the parking garage on the end of the Monona Terrace 3 floors before we hit the transition bag area. On the way up, I almost threw up a little in my mouth. My body wasn't used to running uphill after swimming so quickly and as we spiraled up the helix, my lunch almost came up. I choked it down and got into the transition zone though. Had a great volunteer who helped me with everything and I decided against the arm warmers. I put on my bike shoes and that was a bad idea because as I ran about the 300 yards around the corner, down the hall, out the door, and thru the transition area to my bike, I was clomping in bike shoes the entire time. If anyone wants to race IM Wisconsin, DON'T put your bike shoes on in the transition area. Wait until you get your bike and run barefoot holding your bike shoes, trust me, it will be MUCH faster.

Bike 112 miles - goal time of 5:35=20.3mph - actual time of 5:43:21=19.57mph
Out on the bike, we rolled down the helix (weeeee!) and onto the bike course. Dad and I had driven it on the Thursday before the race and he exclaimed, "it doesn't look that bad" and I knew better. There didn't seem to be a flat spot on the course. It's a 15 mile stretch before you get to the 2 looped 40 mile section and it's constant rolling hills.

I knew what I wanted to do on the bike and how I needed to do it. I am terrible at pacing however (most folks know this) and I attacked the first loop of the bike. Big mistake. I should've held back and kept it in the proverbial small ring (which you couldn't do because the hills were so steep and ever changing that you were shifting every 5 seconds) Regardless, I was flying thru the cornfields on the new pimped out bike with borrowed Reynolds Wheels (Thanks Doug Bush!) It was fun and I split thru the first loop directly on target at 20.31mph average speed.
Now a funny thing happened out there in the cornfields of Wisconsin. The road was really bumpy....I have an X Lab mini wing on the back of my saddle with some Profile Design Karbon Kages on it. During about every single one of my training rides this year, I launched bottles out the back whenever I went over bumps. So before the race started, I saw a bike in transition with a ruberband around the nossel of the bottle that he had in his rear cages. Great idea, so I bought a huge rubberband and tried it out. Thought it would work perfectly because I always eject bottles. It did not. Simple as that, it didn't work AT ALL.

10 miles into the ride, I reach back to grab some water after sipping on the CarboPro and Gatorade mixture that was in the chalupa and I reach back to find no bottle there, only a rubber band dangling from my cage. Ok, no need to panic, there's aid stations everywhere on the bike, I'll just grab more water in a bit. I do and as soon as I put it in, like a mile down the road, I hear it bouncing off the pavement. I had even put the rubberband around the nose of the bottle to hold it in place, but that just pushed in the nose and made the bottle slide out the BOTTOM of the cage...not cool. Now I have to wait another 30 minutes for another attempt at water.

So in the meantime, I still need to intake as many calories as possibble so I'm drinking the chalupa mixture and it's very concentrated. I should be washing it down with water but I can't seem to hang on to a bottle to save my life. So, I finally rolled thru the first loop and felt okay. As I said before I split thru in 20.31mph, not bad, but I knew I needed to back off a little because I could feel my legs getting a little more and a little more smoked as I rode on.

Miles 60-90 were rough. I hit a definite rough patch and saw a lot of 17mph readings on the speedometer. It was a trying time. I had already launched several bottles and at the halfway mark I got an actual plastic, green, gatorade water bottle handed to me at the bottle hand up. I was stoked. Maybe this one wouldn't fly out the back I thought. NOT A MILE DOWN THE ROAD, I heard it bounce off the pavement and it landed like a grenade ready to take out the people behind me. I apologized as they went past and they didn't look too happy at my inability to keep a bottle on my bike.
At this time, the chalupa mixture was just about gone and I had no liquid on my bike, only a Clif Bar which I unwillingly choked down sans water because I needed to. I had a rough patch at this time and the hills were hurting my legs. For an hour and a half I just wanted to be off of my bike and I was watching that average speed dip well below where I thought it should be (which kind of made things worse for my mental state) It was tough, but I survived it. I rolled back to the split off to go back to the transition area and gladly realized that was all net downhill, what a nice surprise. That might have just saved my average speed. My butt was sore from bouncing over all the lumps in the road and I just wanted to start running and have a good marathon.
T2 Bike to run - goal time of 2:00 - actual time of 2:22
Nothing really special here, I climbed up the helix (how awful after 111 miles of hills) and jumped off my bike at the top leaving my shoes in the pedals. I gladly gave my bike to a volunteer and ran into the terrace and grabbed my bag and sat down. A kid about 15 years old came and helped me. He couldn't get my bag open so I just told him to, "RIP IT!!!" and then apologized because I yelled at him. I got my shoes on and calf sleeves and was off. Nothing special, just happy to be running. I ran down the helix and was off on the run course.

26.2 mile run - goal of between 3:20-3:30 - actual time of 3:57:40
I was off and running. I said before that I have a really hard time pacing myself sometimes and running is a problem. I split thru the first 4 miles in 28:07 and knew that was trouble. I wanted to split 7:43's all day (or at least 7:45's) and that would get me to a 3:30 marathon. At 4 miles I was on pace to split a 3:00...that wasn't likely. But the thing is I was getting passed by SO MANY people in my age group on the bike and I wanted to make up the ground that they had taken from me. I desperately wanted to be on the podium again and this was my time to shine.
I split thru 8 miles really well. I was feeling good, passed about 15 people in my AG and then something hit. It was mile 9 and I suddenly felt weird. My legs were tight and my abs were too on my left side. I had been drinking Coke at the aid stations and that was okay, but I felt off. I stopped to breifly stretch my quad and pulled it up to my butt and instantly my hamstring seized. It was terribble pain, so I let go and tried the other leg, same result. It didn't cramp FULLY, but it was close. You know the feeling. I started walking a little to ease it out and just remembered the motto of dad's quarter and this blog, "Keep Moving Forward". I would start to run only to have my abs cramp so that I wasn't running upright anymore. For those who know him, I looked like I was Frank Farrar. It was crazy, but I soldiered on.

I think what had happened was that I was cramping from lack of water in my muscles from the bike. I hadn't taken any salt that day because I only peed once on the bike and it was not a lot and I wasn't intaking enough liquids anyway. So the combination of low salt and low liquid left my muscles ready to stop working at any time. But I made it thru loop one in 1:47 and multiplied that thru my head and realized that I could still pull off a 3:34 marathon. Pretty close to goal time.

Miles 9-19 were rough again. I was doing a combination walk run thing (no rhyme or reason to it) and by the time I got to Badger Stadium again, I thought that I could run the entire field and then just walk up the exit ramp to the rest of the run course. I ran down the field, over to the other side and my abs cramped again. I walked halfway back and ran until the ramp and walked up it. It was not pretty. I finished the first loop, gave a hug to my dad and a little ways down the road at the special needs station, I changed my socks and shoes because they were wet with sweat and water. I think I was just looking for an excuse to stop again. I was tired...
In retrospect, I should have removed the calf sleeves because they were retaining so much water. But I kept them on. After running a few miles it felt like there was a stone in my shoe, so I had the excuse to stop again and check it out. Turns out it was the stem of an!?! I don't know how it got there, but I'm glad I took it out. I was finishing up the first loop and going up a main street to get to the start of the 2nd loop and all of the sudden a lot of people started cheering for what I thought was me. Turns out it was Chris McDonald coming up behind me and I slapped him five and congratulated him as he ran past on his win. Cool. :o)

At about mile 17 or 18 at an aid station, I knew I needed to do something drastic. I walked thru it and picked up a handful of pretzels, 2 powerbars and as much solid food as I could. My stomach was feeling weird from all the coke and I needed something. It worked. By mile 19 I was running again. I ran with a really cute girl in my age group from Colorado who was a PT and that was a good thing to distract the pain. We chatted a while and it made the miles click by faster. I got to the motivational mile and saw a message that my dad had written to me. I don't remember what it said, but it was something my dad would say. I was running and wanted to stop by soldiered on.

I crossed the line and tried to flast a #3 with one hand and the "hang loose" with the other, but i was tired. Even my post race photo looked tired. I somehow sneaked in under 10:45 for an official finishing time of 10:44:56. I'm pleased, but unhappy at the little things that went wrong that day. I feel like I could've done some things differently and had a different result. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm happy at my time, I know it's quick, but when you have a goal time in your head and it ends up different from that, it's unsettling... I ended up 25th in my age group and no where near the podium. I would've had to go sub 9:43 to get in the top 5 and sub 9:40 to get to Kona.
So that's how I'll leave it. I don't know if I will ever go back for the IM in Wisconsin. It didn't really suit my riding style on the bike. It was a fun one to check off the list and I'm already signed up for IMLP in 2009 anyway. I hope you are happy this is done, I sure am :o) Done and done. Take care (whomever is reading) and I hope that you train and rest hard. I know I'll be resting hard. Cheers.

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