I woke up at 3:45, took a shower, ate breakfast (English muffin with PB, 1.5 C applesauce, coffee) and did one last double check to make sure I had everything. We were out the door by 5. My parents dropped me off at Monona Terrace and they took my special needs bags to drop off. I felt like I had the perfect amount of time to get body marked, add nutrition to my bike and check on my bike & run bags before downing a banana and making my way to meet the team for a picture.
I got in the water at about 6:45 and made my way just to the right of the ski ramp.
This was my first time doing a mass swim start with 2000+ people and oddly enough the only moment of panic I had was for about 30 seconds before the swim started where I felt like there were bodies everywhere and I didn’t have space to even tread water. I backed up a couple feet and found a little more space. There was a lot of contact in the first 5 minutes or so but I found a nice open space until the first turn buoy where things got crowded again. I took this as an opportunity to moo (as is tradition to do at this race). There was minor crowding and a few hands and elbows here and there throughout the entire swim but for the most part I was really able to stay in my box and focus on only the things I could control. I counted strokes and before I knew it the swim was over. I had a lot of fun on the swim and really enjoyed breathing to the left to see the big crowd at the terrace.
I found a wetsuit stripper (volunteers who help pull wetsuits off) they yanked it off for me and then I walked/jogged up the helix. Found my bag & had a volunteer help me put my swim stuff away as I put my helmet on. Stuffed shot bloks into my tri top, grabbed my shoes and ran out the door. I stopped at the sunscreen folks, they lathered me up (ouch! First indication of chaffing on the neck from my wetsuit) and then I made the long jog to my bike. My Tri team was all racked together and close to bike out which was really nice! Slowly spun down the helix which was crowded and made worse by some guys trying to pass people on it (you have 112 miles to pass me, why are you trying to do it at mile .002?)
For the first 20 miles or so all I was doing was checking in with myself and reminding myself to ride easy. I had these ridiculous leg warmers that I bought when I was in China years ago. The day before I left for Madison I thought that they might do the trick as arm warmers and they did! I tossed them at the aid station right after valley road. Once I got into the Wisconsin farmland part of the bike, I started to really focus on nutrition and staying in my aero bars as much as I could. For the 1st half of the bike my nutrition was on point – I was downing just over 1 bottle of Gatorade Endurance/hour & a shot blok about ~15 minutes. More than anything, I had FUN on the first loop. The spectator support was AMAZING! Made even better by the friends and family who were out there just to support me! I can’t recall which aid station, but I did stop and use the porta potty once on the first loop. I also stopped at special needs to grab a honey stinger waffle and apply more chamois cream (which I am partially regretting now, but it probably wouldn’t have made a difference so I’m going to let it go).
At special needs it was 1:04PM, I wasn’t worried yet. On the 2nd loop, there is a false flat into Mt. Horeb that ended up having a head wind, at the time I just thought it was a little annoying, but looking back now realize it really slowed me down. The rest of the bike all blends together for me so I can’t exactly recall the details of where I was when certain things were happening other than that the last 2 hours were mostly panic. Everyone I saw was saying “I don’t know if we’re going to make it” or “we need to avg 16MPH the whole way (before the 3 hills) in order to make it” I did a horrible job of staying inside my own box and the doubt overwhelmed me. I tried pushing and made really poor decisions that I would have never made otherwise (like not eating or drinking anything for the last 2 hours because it would slow me down). Race officials would ride by, I would ask the time and they would say “we think you can make it, if we didn’t, we’d pull you, keep pushing” Within a matter of seconds my thoughts would bounce from “oh man, I hope I see someone I know so that I can just get in their car and put an end to this” to “move your ass! You got this! You’re going to be an Ironman!” I felt like I was cruising on the last 15 miles into town and I thought for sure I would make it. In the back of my mind I was thinking “you haven’t had any calories for 2 hours, even if you do make it, how are you going to run a marathon?” but then I would quickly remind myself to worry about that when the time came. I got to that final hill on the way back into Madison and I saw three people in front of me, all three of them were walking their bikes up the hill. That wasn’t going to be me. I powered up it and then really did hit the gas as hard as I possibly could through all the admin junk back into downtown. I’ve been at transition spectating at 5:30 and I know how crazy loud it can get. It was quiet and as I passed volunteers up the helix they weren’t saying anything. I saw my family & friends as I was spinning up and they gave me the biggest, best cheer I’ve ever heard. I crossed the line and saw the clock with the official race time that said 10 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds. I missed the bike cutoff by 4 minutes.
Despite the result, I had a hell of a fun time. I think I was smiling for the entire 114.4 miles. I am going to be back. I love this sport! At the end of the day, the machine I built to execute this thing just wasn’t strong or sharp enough yet. When I registered for this race last October I had to take walk breaks during a 5k, and I had never ridden my bike for more than 30 miles. It was a lot of progress to make in less than a year, and it could have been done, but I needed to give it more than I did.
I’ve been playing the following quotes over and over in my head the last two days:
“The course doesn’t care what you say you’ve done. It only gives you what you’ve earned”
“Don’t let success get to your head or let failure get to your heart”
I told myself that I wouldn’t make any decisions about races for next year for at least 2 weeks (Yesterday I was all “I shouldn’t register for IMWI next year” today I’m all “I NEED to register for next year” ). So, I’m going to take that time to reflect and transition out of ironman training mode (with that being said, it’s taking everything in me to not hop on my bike and start sharpening this machine right now).
I feel like this experience gives me more insight into what it takes to get it done. I’m looking forward to getting stronger. I have a lot of work to do in terms of body comp which will help tremendously and since I don’t think I’ll be breaking up with this sport anytime soon I am going to allow myself to start playing with the big kid toys – get a power meter, a tri bike, and get in tune with my body and training data over the next year.