Ironman Wisconsin Race Recap: 2015

We did it!

Yes, I’m sticking with “we” — as I’ve said to anyone asking about the race, I wouldn’t have been able to finish in nearly the same time without the overwhelming support lining the Ironman Wisconsin course. The crowds were incredible and my personal support group made up of family and friends made everything 10x easier.

And the training? Same story! I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance without my family’s support, encouragement from friends, and the insane amount of selflessness shown from my girlfriend (/ roommate), Melissa. But more on that later…

Taper & Race Week

Starting the taper process felt like crap. I can’t speak to the science behind it, but it felt like the fatigue of long hours each week had finally caught up to me. As I got deeper into the taper, though, I started feeling my legs come back and could feel myself get stronger each day.

The massages from TRIFACTIVE definitely helped as well.

As I approached race week, I went from 2 large coffees every day to nuthin’ about 10 days out. It wasn’t fun. And it wasn’t the absence of caffeine that was tough; I really just missed the ritual of coffee. I have issues.

I attribute this to the decrease in workouts and the fatigue that had set in, but I also started napping regularly. It was definitely new for me and it actually led to me feeling great every morning – waking up before my alarm most days. (Sure, cutting caffeine probably had something to do with it too.)

I felt calm leading into the race. Stressed about the thought of leaving work as well as packing (I’d grown accustomed to having my “bike crap corner” in my apartment), but overall calm about the race. My mantra for the week was, “Welp, can’t do anything about it now!” and I think that helped.

The day before the race was my birthday and it was awesome having family around to celebrate. I read that getting away from the chaos of the Ironman crowd on the night before the race is a good idea for newbies, so we decided on an Italian place in Manona for dinner.

The morning of the race I felt extremely calm as well. Excited, but ready. I had a good-sized breakfast nice and early with 12-grain bread, peanut butter, banana, oatmeal, granola, and some Hammer Heed drink.

Once we got to the race, I had a few last-minute things to do (check bike tires, bathroom, body marking, bathroom, fill h2o bottles, bathroom, etc.) and then it was time to throw on the wetsuit. I said, “Bye!” to my early morning support group and that was that. Thanks Mom & Melissa.

The rest of this post will be a list of memories from each part of the race — I tried jotting down some notes the day after, but overall, the race was just an exciting blur.

Swim // 1:10:02

  • Took forever to get everyone in the water, thought I was going to miss the start
  • No time for a warm up, so I swam out past the ski jump and decided that would be a good place to start
  • 2,000 people in the water is a lot of people in the water
  • When the cannon goes off to start the swim, I definitely got chills
  • Within the first quarter of a mile, a woman (swimming diagonally right in front of me) threw her head out of the water and yelled, “F— you!” If me gently touching her leg as she cut me off was the worst thing that happened to her during that chaotic swim, I’ll be amazed
  • First mile was really hostile, then it started to spread out. It didn’t tighten up again until the final stretch leading out of the water
  • Overall, I swam really wide around the buoys. It definitely added some time, but it kept the whole swim relatively calm
  • Will I ever have a race where my goggles aren’t fogged up for most of it? I used brand new goggles too…
  • I couldn’t find many feet to swim on. Ironic considering there were 2,000 people in the water. I found one guy during the second mile, but even he was hit or miss (wasn’t swimming very straight)

Transition 1 // 7:42

  • Coming out of the water, I saw my family on the right and my sister holding a big poster of my latest half Ironman finishing picture. I thought, “I know that picture!” (No kidding, idiot…)
  • I wasn’t tired from the swim at all, really. I was just extremely happy while running up the helix and into transition. I think the feeling of, “I’m finally doing this!” overshadowed any fatigue at this point. Crowds were really cool as well
  • Transition area was pretty hectic and packed (way more than the second transition)
  • While grabbing all of my nutrition for the bike, I somehow didn’t grab my salt pills. Brain fart?

Bike // 6:04:38

  • Bike course had a weird start – mostly single file and technical turns through parking lot / bike path
  • Theme of the bike… having to pee constantly! It was super annoying because it’s really hard to pee unless you’re going downhill / not pedaling. It was also hard to find a point with no one behind me (yes, pee sprays). I probably peed 10 times before finally using the porta potty at mile 56 during the special needs section
  • I felt incredible through 56 miles, stuck to nutrition plan really well
  • I might have pushed a little too hard around 60-70 because I started feeling cramped glutes around 70-85
  • The hills were awesome, so fun riding through everyone. Most of the hills were lined with people about 3-4 deep on each side. Spinning slowly up each hill was a party
  • Plenty of long fast downhills – those were a blast too
  • The hardest parts for me were the long false flats. Boring and tough. Also, gets into the “passing game” with other riders
  • On one of the final hills on the loop, it was hilarious seeing my whole family, then my friend Max from my cycling team, then my friend Matt and his entire family… all on the same 50 foot stretch of hill! Huge burst of energy at that point
  • At one point, I was going uphill and eating with no one around except 3 people in lawn chairs in the grass. I lost balance and sloppily rode off the road into the gravel. Somehow, I was able to stay clipped into the bike and got back on the road. I joked with the three spectators that it was their fault
  • The clowns on some hills were hilarious
  • I felt like I slowed down a ton towards the end, but got a slight “second wind” coming back down the stick and into Madison
  • At the very end, I felt pretty crappy. Last 5 miles or so were the same sharp uphill, single file paths, etc. I was starting to cramp up again
  • It was really weird timing, but I saw my Dad right before riding across the bridge and into T2. He had just gotten there and said he watched for maybe 3 minutes before I came riding by. Can’t believe the timing!

Transition 2 // 4:49

  • Honestly, I had to pee so bad that I don’t even remember much of this. I remember that it was tough to think about what I needed in T2 because of how badly I wanted to get out and into a porta potty

Run // 4:28:28

  • I came out of T2 and saw a big Drake head on the left and thought “I should rap a Drake line to these people!” Then, I realized it was my friends Dave and Vanessa! Such an awesome and unexpected surprise
  • There were so many people in downtown Madison, PACKED roads, everyone saying your name as you pass. Incredible feeling (while I still felt fresh/strong… later on, I noticed the crowd less and less)
  • I was surprised at how good I felt through 10 miles… probably pushed too hard between 5-10 (my mile time got as low as 8:30 or so at times. Oops! Won’t do that again.)
  • Running through the football stadium was pretty cool, especially the first time while I was feeling good and in a good mood
  • “You look smooth” was one thing that stuck out from spectators as being good to hear. I think that was my goal for most of the run, just to run smoothly
  • There was a HUGE hill in the middle of the campus. What the hell was that about?? I jogged up the hill very slow the first lap and walked most of it on the second lap
  • At some point around 12 miles, I hit a wall. Dizzy, couldn’t really eat, just felt awful overall. I tried to stay motivated enough to run (jog slowly) between aid stations and then walk the distance of the aid station
  • Around 13 miles, right before the run circles back downtown before heading out for a second lap. The hurt was strong! It was perfect timing that my sister, Meg, showed up in the middle of nowhere to run with me a bit. (By the way… pretty sure I said, “Can’t talk” at this point and acted grumpy. Thanks for doing the talking for me!)
  • Started drinking coke to calm my stomach and it actually worked really well. I might have had coke at every mile for the last 7 miles or so
  • The hardest part was probably during the stretch on the gravel path by the lake because there was no one there and it went on pretty long. I think I got in my own head during this part
  • I heard a spectator say “eleven fifteen” and I (wrongly) thought she was saying we were at the 11hr 15min mark of the race. I still had 7 miles to go (or something like that) so I gave up on my goal of breaking 12 hours. Then, with about 4.5 miles to go, I heard someone say “it’s 6:11pm” and I realized I could break 12 hours if I really pushed and got back into a stride of about 10min/mile. No idea how, but that was enough motivation to get my legs back
  • Just outside of downtown, I was behind a woman who saw friends by the road and they said, “Hey, you got 12 hours! Less than a mile left, keep it up and you got it!” I saw she had a GPS watch on and I thought, “Nice. If her goal is 12 hours, just follow her in and you got it”
  • Once I was downtown, I saw Dave near the capital building and he said, “Two more turns and you got it! You broke 12!”
  • I still wasn’t sure what time it was and part of me wouldn’t believe anyone until I saw it on the finish line clock. The woman I was pacing behind went down the tunnel and I looked back to make sure no one was behind me (so I could enjoy the jog down the chute). I looked up and saw “11:55” and lost it… so excited, so relieved, really just surprised. Felt amazing. 2 big fist pumps, couple “yeah!” yells, and I crossed the line
  • Right after the finish, I felt incredible. Got a picture taken, then walked over to see my family. Tears from Mom and Melissa, and big hugs all around. When I was finally able to sit down on a curb, I started getting cold and light-headed for just a minute or two. Other than that, I still felt good!

Finish // 11:55:39

Thank Yous

Huge thank you to my family for their support throughout the race as well as the much-needed pep talks through the training process.

Thanks to all of my friends for supporting me as well. My social life took a nose dive throughout the summer, but I still got texts asking about workouts, how races went, etc. Thanks, squad.

  • Mom – without your encouragement on a few of those long training weekends, I don’t know what I would have done. Thanks for believing in me throughout the whole process and I’ll never forget calling you after I registered for the race last year. I thought you’d kill me, but instead, you were encouraging. That meant the world.
  • Dad – sorry for shaving my legs and thanks for letting me snake your coffee on those early morning rides in Wheaton.
  • Meg/James – I started triathlon because of you both. Thanks for the much-needed beginners tips, some of my first ever “serious” bike rides, and the endless encouragement. Your support throughout race day was colossal! (Mrs. Meg even had to take a sick day from school the next day… sorry Meg!)
  • Scott – stay Gucci, my friend. Can’t wait to do a tri with you soon.
  • Andrew C. – thanks for being the best unpaid coach on the planet. I would have been completely lost come race day if not for your stories and pointers. I owe you lots of beers (and your bike trainer… I should give that back too…)
  • Tim B. – grade-A training partner, had a blast doing races with you throughout the past couple of years. Looking forward to an Ironman together soon. (We’re so effed…)
  • Dave & Vanessa – the Drake poster couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks so much for the surprise and getting me through the marathon!
  • Roll: Bike Shop – a bunch of studs, thanks for letting a closet triathlete hang out

And last, but not least:

  • Melissa – not sure I can thank you enough for being supportive throughout this whole thing. You’ve dealt with weeks where we barely saw each other, countless early mornings, plans constantly changed or cancelled to fit in workouts, and you didn’t once question why I was doing it. In fact, it wasn’t even a question when I signed up and talked about how many hours I would have to dedicate towards training. You were selfless throughout the whole process and I owe you a million times over. Thank you.

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