September 17, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin: Pre-Race and Swim

"Someday my body will not be able to do this. Today is not that day." - Unknown

Race Week

Race week in Madison is always a good time. I stay with my family just blocks from the athlete's village and always have friends racing or volunteering. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and spent time with my mom. At dinner my good friends Laura and Chris, also racing, joined us and then spent the night. Laura and I were gabbing until midnight while Chris wished we'd run out of things to talk about (Chris: it will never happen). There was a lot of excitement in the air.

I spent the next few days checking in and doing small workouts. I invited fellow blogger Kevin to join us for a practice swim Thursday, the lake was literally perfect.

I was feeling a little over stimulated and run down and wanted to keep all under control. I developed an infection on the toe of my already bad foot, the plantar fascias were hanging on by threads and I started feeling under the weather Friday after the athlete's dinner. I went to bed at 10 and slept until 8, missing the next group swim. I felt awful. I was feverish. I started thinking how hard it would be to race 140.6 miles while sick. I pushed it as far into the back of my mind as I could and hoped for the best.

I spent Saturday with my family laying low, resting and packing and checking everything in. I was out of sorts but excited. It felt like an incredible gift to be getting ready for my fourth

Dinner was so ridiculously early we arrived before the restaurant even opened! I was wearing a fashionable ensemble consisting of a sundress and compression tights. I was battling inflammation and not willing to sacrifice svelte ankles for fashion. Luckily most of the other folks dining at 5pm were also with an athlete and totally understood. Anyone else likely thought I had incredibly bad taste in leggings.

I was ready for bed at 8:30 and asleep by 9:30, by far the earliest ever before a race. I went to sleep unsettled, praying I'd wake up feeling better. A friend said at the athlete's dinner that some days you wake up more fit than others. I really wanted Sunday to be a fit day.

Race Morning

I was up promptly at 3:30am. I'm amazed how I shoot out of bed like a rocket on Ironman morning without even a lingering thought of hitting the snooze button. I ate breakfast within 10 minutes of waking - whole wheat English muffin with cashew butter, one banana and a cup of coffee. I have struggled with getting food down this early in the a.m., but on Sunday it worked. I ate everything and drank two large glasses of water. I mixed up my Gatorade bottles - two for the bike and one to drink throughout the morning before the start. Just before 5am we left for transition. My whole family walked with me this time, hoping for a better swim start viewing spot. Walking to the race with them in the dark was wonderful. I was surprisingly nervous and needed all the support and distraction I could get.

I ran into Laura on my way to my bike. We had arranged to wear special US tops for the anniversary of September 11. I was so happy to see her, she immediately eased my nerves.

I spent a little time in Monona Terrace, the location of the transition changing areas (everything is indoors at Ironman Wisconsin) before heading down to the start to find my family. I wanted to spend some time with them before getting into the water.

I got suited up, said my goodbyes and headed toward the water. They announced a moment of silence to honor the victims of 9-11 just as I neared the water. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. This day meant so much to me. While the national anthem was sung, I stepped into the water and started my Ironman journey.


I found a solid start position about 2/3 of the way over from the buoy line and about 6 swimmers back. I was taking a bit of contact during the treading and thought I was in for another brutal WI swim. But when the cannon went off and U2's "Perfect Day" filled the air, all went smoother than I expected. I had no panic whatsoever, minimal contact and relatively clear water. Sure there were people all around, but the contact was normal, not violent. It only got better. Even the turns were better this year. On the back side of the first loop I heard the fighter jets take off for the 9-11 flyover, but didn't see them. I knew it was roughly 7:30. I was doing pretty well.

I started the second loop still feeling great and thought, "I have to do that again?!" The first stretch felt long and included my only rough contact. I breathe only on my left and a guy swimming on my left punched me hard in my right cheek as I turned to breathe. It was a big impact, I had to stop and get my bearings before moving on. But the rest was uneventful. The most memorable moment happened on the back side of the second loop. The fighter jets I had heard earlier flew over Lake Monona, so low I felt I could reach out and touch them. I stopped and watched as they flew over hundreds of people swimming in the lake and hundreds more on the shore and the terrace. It was a sight I will never forget.

I didn't wear a watch in the swim because I didn't want to feel bad if my time on the first loop was disgraceful. I only swam 60,000 yards in training and I'm a weak swimmer in general, so my expectations were humble. I was aiming for a 1:45 or less and mostly wanted to feel good when I stepped out of the water. And it turned out that I felt amazing coming out of the water, especially when I saw my family. I was so overjoyed I didn't bother to look at the clock. I later found out I swam just two minutes slower than last year, which was far better than expected. I also felt the best I've ever felt coming out of an Ironman swim. The day was a fit day so far.

Time: 1:38:41

I Suck at Race Reports

In 2009, I wrote an epic race report after my Ironman Wisconsin journey that captured the day so beautifully and evoked more than a few tears, particularly when I documented my ill-fated "run" with a torn PF. I did another decent 3-part report for Ironman Lake Placid in 2010. But after setting a huge PR just 7 weeks later at Ironman Wisconsin 2010, I failed to do a report. I think I just forgot and every time I remembered it slipped my mind. It was by far my best day ever racing and I never put it on paper. I thought about doing it before the race this year but didn't have the time.

I also have a half-draft of my Escape From Alcatraz report from June. That's sad. So my realization is that I absolutely suck at writing race reports. I think they are good when I actually do them, but for some reason I have a hard time getting started.

I'm going to start my Wisconsin report this weekend with a goal of having it up by next week. And maybe when I'm done I'll finish Alcatraz and do a retrospective look at IMWI 2010. It was a race worth remembering and would be nice to reflect on.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy reading the reports of those who don't slack and wait so long people forgot you actually raced.

September 12, 2011

Short and Sweet - Fourth Ironman Finish

Yesterday was a really incredible day on the 2011 Ironman Wisconsin course. I finished my fourth Ironman in 24 months and loved every (painful) moment of it. Ironman is really hard, but nothing could make you feel more alive. It wasn't my best race from a time standpoint, but having to fight so hard for the finish made it so meaningful.

More details to come, but in the meantime, once again... I am an Ironman. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

September 10, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin: Go Time!

As always, race week has flown by and I'm now less than 24 hours from the start of my fourth Ironman. I've really enjoyed the time here in Madison and am looking forward to a great day tomorrow.

For anyone interested in tracking me on Sunday I'll be racing under number 517.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of September 11, I'll be wearing this race top all day on the course.

I have no doubt it will be a very emotional and significant day for me. A young firefighter racing IMWI spoke at the athlete's dinner last night. He said to ask ourselves on race morning what this day means to us and to carry the emotions of the day into the other parts of our lives. He'll be doing the marathon in his full firefighting gear. I can't wait to see him out there.

The week has been filled with activities and friends, all feeling like a celebration of what we've accomplished thus far. Just being here in Madison to start the race is a gift, regardless of the outcome.

I had the opportunity to meet up and swim with fellow blogger Kevin, racing his first Ironman and no doubt kicking some serious ass out there. Be sure to cheer him on as well.

See you on the other side, hopefully as a four-time Ironman!

September 5, 2011

Third Time's a Charm!

Those of us racing Ironman Wisconsin have reached that critical one week out point. All day yesterday I kept thinking, "where will I be at this time?" I had my final longer workout of a 45 mile ride with a 6 mile brick run and when I started the run I realized it was just about the time I'd be starting the marathon in 7 days. I certainly didn't feel like I had a marathon in me yesterday, but that's the magic of Ironman. Somehow I will have it in me when Sunday rolls around.

My cheering crew will be wearing this fun shirt:

It's my fourth Ironman, but my third time on the Wisconsin course. This race will always hold a special place in my heart.

So, how am I feeling? Definitely a little under-prepared, but essentially ready given the circumstances. My running took a positive turn over the past two weeks so if my feet hold up and I nail my bike nutrition, I may still be able to pull off a decent run this Sunday.

But I'm not placing any pressure on goals this time around. I have a race plan and will stick to the plan, but it's not about setting PRs or hitting time goals. It's about my approach, my nutrition and my attitude. For each segment of the race I have guessed a finish time, but really don't care about the number. A good friend has a quote on her training log: "You get what you train for." I trained for an Ironman for sure, but could have done better. But this is my third season of long course and my fourth Ironman, so that might count for something. My fitness is deeper even if it hasn't been my best season and I know the course, know what it feels like to be 130 miles into 140.6 and as my coach always says, I race a lot better than I train.

Sunday will be a celebration. It will be a poignant and memorable way for me to reflect on the past 10 years and the anniversary of September 11. Ironman after all is a celebration of life, of tackling challenges and overcoming them.

Jordan Rapp, in his recent speech after winning Ironman Canada said it best:

"Ironman is the sort of momentous – but terrestrial – experience that allows us, ever so briefly, to get close enough to the stars to reach out and touch the heavens... You do an Ironman because you want to reach the stars. And you want to do it the hard way. Because that is what makes it special."


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