Race Report: Ironman Wisconsin-Madison

My mantra for the week was: "Just relax." I was trying my best to avoid stress, if something happened, I would take it in stride. The boys got a little amped up at times, but I just smiled and stayed in my zone. Calm, cool, and collective.

The day before the race was a day for tying up loose ends. We were responsible for one, and only one, thing all day: turn in our bikes and bags to the transition areas. Piece of cake!

I was having issues, however, because my newly-inflated tires went flat after just ten minutes. My Quadrents (four parents, mine and Adams) ran around town like chickens with their heads cut off to find me chamois cream and new tubes. Luckily, they were able to find them at Machinery Row with only marginal issues (the valve stems weren't long enough, and the chamois cream wasn't really chamois cream, but instead wet-suit lube). I then tightened the valve stem on my front and rear tubes, and crossed my fingers that they'd hold air until the morning.

After eating a delicious lunch with the Quadrents at Cosi (Signature salad: grilled chicken, pears, cranberries, which was exactly what I was looking for), we headed back to the Ironman Village and exchanged the tubes and lube at Machinery Row. I ended up getting Assos chamois cream, which was much different than what I've always used (Chamois Butt'er by Paceline). I put some on in the hotel just before I took a nap, and it tingled. Oooh! It was nice, though, and it didn't bring about any allergic reactions, so I tucked it into my morning clothes bag.

After a bit of excitement from the boys ...

...and a quick nap, Jess arrived at our hotel with a plethora of goodies for me to munch on. I love my MegaTough teammates! We then piled in the car and headed to the Quadrents hotel, where I dropped off the cow bell and gave them one last hug before they would see me risk my life in the sport that is Ironman triathlon. Jess, Adam, and I grabbed a pizza (or three) from Unos and we got to bed well before 9pm.

I slept so well on Saturday night. I didn't wake up but once, and was alert and awake at 4am. Perfect. I munched on some Peanut Butter Panda Puffs and drank some water, was able to do my morning ritual, and got dressed. The guys were getting excited. We grabbed our gear and walked to the Aliant Energy Center for the bus pickup. As soon as we got there, we headed to the special needs drop offs and then to the swim-to-bike transition. I checked my tires, and like magic, they were still inflated. SWEET. I topped them off with a neighbor-girl's pump, and then went to the hotel transition zone to grab my nutrition.

Into my aerobottle (PodiumQuest 72ounce dual bottle) went:
2 tablets of Kona Kola Nuun + water (large volume space)
1 Nuun container-volume Fruit Punch Cytomax and water (small volume space)

I then punctured my food bag (a sandwich size zip-lock bag) onto my aerobottle through the straws, which was filled with:
4 packs of Honey Stinger chews
4 Larabars (2 peanut butter and jelly, 2 cherry pie)

I headed back to T1 to drop off my Nuun tube in my swim-to-bike bag. Adam and I loitered around T1 for a bit, and with about 40minutes before the start, headed to the beach. It was somewhat euphoric walking down the helix. We stepped lightly, with our wetsuits hung over our shoulders. I saw Laurie on our way down, and wished her a good race. After I grabbed some body glide from AJ, I pulled on the wetsuit and headed to the water. I was in there probably ten minutes before the pros started, which was nice because I could watch their race start up-close and was able to get stretched out, get water moving around in my suit, and get comfortable.

The swim was a crazy mess. After the cannon went off, it was like a giant washing machine out there. I got kicked, punched, elbowed, held, crotched, head-butted, you name it. The turns were a standstill, but I did get a kick out of a few of the athletes that moo'd their way around the first buoy. I ended up poking a guy to get his attention so I could ask him to stop elbowing me in the chest. He told me to bugger off in a not-so-polite way, and I ended up swimming a hundred meters or so a little faster to get away from the dude. I never understood why people try so hard to hit others when they are swimming. If you just swim in a straight line, and head straight to the buoys, you shouldn't run into anyone. Right?

I had no idea where I was after the first lap. I ended up taking the inside buoy line and swimming a little extra, but did get some in-the-zone time where I found a rhythm and didn't have anyone around me. That isn't necessarily the best strategy, because swimming extra in a 2.4mile swim is never a good idea, but it gave me peace of mind and let me reconnect. Before I knew it, I was making the last turn and I saw the ski jump. I was almost done! I hammered it in a little, trying to stay straight and take long strokes. I swam all the way to the shore, and grabbed a hand to help me out of the water. I was really surprised at how well I felt standing, and that I was able to run. I glanced at the clock, which said 1:15. No way, I was 5minutes under what I had hoped to swim. Sweet, especially since I didn't feel like I ever really gave'er out there. I laid down and a stripper took off my suit, which was awesome. I ran up the helix and was all smiles. The people lining the helix and cheering us on was a blur, but it made the climb seem like it only had one level.

Some great spectators!

I headed into the Terrace to T1, where I grabbed my bag and proceeded to dump it out all over the floor. I felt bad for the volunteer who was trying to help me, because I didn't realize she was helping me until after I dumped all my stuff. My bag of pretzels that I had stashed was open, and so I lost all my pretzels. I grabbed my flask of Cytomax powder and stuffed it into my jersey, but forgot to grab my Nuun. That was a mistake that I didn't realize until near the end of the first lap on the bike.

The bikes lined up in Transition 1.

I ran out of T1 with my shoes on and headed straight for my bike. The volunteers on the parking deck were yelling out my number as I came through, and they had my bike off the rack when I arrived. Perfect! I ran down the middle and dodged the men who were making their way to their end of the deck. As soon as I got across the Mount Line, I pulled to the side and hopped on. Rolling down the helix was exhilarating. People lined the helix on this end too, and I couldn't stop smiling as I clipped my shoe closed and got in line.

It seemed silly to me when a guy with a rear disk and aero helmet tried to get by the double-wide line of bikers heading to the park about a mile into the ride. Other than the fact that there was a no-passing zone ahead, it just seemed too early to be stressing about getting ahead. I so ever eloquently yelled: "OOH Gotta go! Get your Kona spot NOW!" and he didn't find it amusing, but the others around me did. If he was getting out of the water when I was, he probably didn't have a great chance of getting a Kona slot, but ya never know.

The bike was incredible. I had ridden the course before, so I knew what to expect. After the no-pass zone (in which a 40-44yr old woman still tried to pass, what a dork), I tried to avoid getting sucked into someone else's rear tire, but halfway through the stick was pretty congested. By the time we made it to the loop, though, I had found a good spot and yo-yo'd with a group of guys. Nothing too exciting happened. I did see a guy get a red card (for drafting) and knew it was coming because the motorbike and officials were riding next to me, watching the dude draft. I didn't know what my speed was because my nutrition bag covered my computer. I'd look at it every once in a while to see what time I had. I ate every twenty-thirty minutes, and the Larabars were a little dry so it encouraged me to drink more fluids.

The first loop was great. I raced the hills smart, focusing on getting into the right gear before the sharp turns and subsequent uphills. I knew the course from memory, and was able to pass a lot of people on the more technical aspects, which is a huge stride for me. Having only started cycling last year (my first ride ever on a road bike with clipless pedals was a 125mile tour of the Keweenaw in 2007), I was very apprehensive about riding in aero and being aggressive at the beginning of this summer. But on Sunday, I was able to fly down the hills and take the turns aggressively. I was even able to maneuver around others with not-so-great bike handling skills. Score one for me!

Anyway, back to the bike: Dudes would fly by me at the start of the hills, so I stayed tucked in on the right and just waited. I focused on what I was doing; I maintained the pressure in my feet on the pedals and just focused on my race. About halfway up every hill, I'd continue to spin up the hills and would pass the hammerheads that had blown by me only a few hundred meters back. And I'd not only pass them, I'd fly by them. Over the crest, onto the downhill, I'd have so much left for that hill that I didn't get wiped. The hammerheads wouldn't catch back up to me until the bottom of the hills or the start of the next one. Fine by me. I ended up beating the majority of these guys by the end of the bike, which was rewarding. The ones that I didn't come in before were smarter about the hills (like the roadie I yo-yo'd with).

The hills were a festival. Spectators lined them and were cheering. There was one that had guys in bikinis and wigs, and others where I saw my friend, Zac. It was exciting to get to the crest of the hills and pass the guys, where the crowds would go nuts. On the first lap, I passed Ian on the bikini/wigs hill, and at the top of that hill, AJ passed me in his neon-colored suit. Sweet!

Because I had left my Nuun in T1, I was forced to grab Gatorade Endurance at a few of the aid stations. I also lost my flask (fell out of my pocket) somewhere. Although I'm not a fan of Gatorade, and haven't been training with it whatsoever, it did my stomach well. I would ride through aid stations quickly, filling up my aerobottle with what the volunteers were handing out. I didn't stop once. No pit stops, no mechanicals. Just a perfect 112miles. Toward the end, I just couldn't stomach anymore Gatorade, though, so I rode through the last 12 miles or so without any fluids.

I also never really felt like I was pushing it to the max. There was a sign at the start of the loop that said something like "It's all about your attitude." I adopted that mantra as well. I would smile at spectators, wave or give the peace sign as I passed a mass of people. I'd cheer on the other cyclists as they would pass me or as I would pass them. It was nice that our race numbers had our names on them. When I was climbing up a hill on the second lap, and I saw my friend Zac, I put my fist in the air and cheered. That got everyone going, especially since I was doing it while passing about six guys like they were standing still! I got passed by AJ again somehow coming into Verona, which was just a crazy blur of spectatorship. Something must have happened, I didn't remember seeing him on the side of the road with a mechanical, though...

The last little stretch was the stick back to Madison, and it was a little more rough than I liked. There was a stretch of several miles that was bumpy, and it was not comfortable. At that point, I just wanted to be back on the smooth roads with hills. But I stuck it out, got back on the smoother roads, and headed into T2. My bike time was 5:49. Turns out, Adam's aero bars would be rattled loose on the bumpy road, and he'd have to ride the last 12* miles on his pursuit bars. Frustrating.
EDIT: Adam lost his aero bar stability with 24 miles to go, not 12.

(By the way: On the bike, I probably consumed three bags of chews and two Larabars. There was still a lot of food left over, but I think the calories I consumed from Cyto/Gatorade supplemented my nutrition and made me less hungry.)

T2 went by fast. I was just over 3minutes, and I even sat down to change my shoes. The Yanx laces on my new Brooks Trances were perfect, and they even matched the color of my shoes! Score again! When I first got off the bike, I could barely stand, and I felt dizzy and my legs like Jello. I had felt like this before, and I knew it wasn't anything that had to do with my hydration/nutrition; it was simply that I was on a bike for nearly 6hours.

I caught back up with AJ coming out of T2, and we ran for a mile or so together. He informed me of his GI distress on the bike, and it made sense then why I didn't see him (he was in a porta-john). I ended up dropping him, but only briefly, as he caught back up around mile 2. Then, around mile 4 or so, he began walking for a little bit, and I took off and never looked back.
I was excited to see Adam when I was making the return loop, which meant he wasn't too far back. AJ kept dropping farther and farther back, because I'd see him on the turnarounds, and then he was no longer there.

I walked every aid station, where I'd have at least a cup or two of Coke. Sometimes, I'd grab a banana. The sponges made for a great relief, and I'd tuck them in my shoulder straps. About halfway through each mile, I'd squeeze the sponges for some added relief, and then throw them when I got to the aid stations. I threw ice down my shirt and in Coke. Man, I love Coke.
Check out my sweet shoes... so comfy!

During the first half, I probably ran 9min/mile average. I stopped and walked up the "big hills"- Observatory hill, in particular. My second half, I probably averaged 10min/mile, because I walked a little more- a few spots in between aid stations where my legs would start to feel funny. Interestingly, about a mile out as I was coming into State Street to finish my first lap, my toes started to cramp. It didn't hurt, I could just feel them curl up. I focused on straightening them, and it worked, but only for a short time. They'd curl again. Eventually, this led to some foot cramping and a hint of calf cramping, but nothing I couldn't keep running through. It was very strange, because I would tell myself "No cramping up!" when my toes would start to curl and my calf would hint at cramping, and as soon as I would focus on my legs and feet, the cramps would disappear. Very strange.

By the end of the second lap, I was pretty gassed. I trotted through State Street, trying to keep it together. I saw my friend Matt, and could hear him yelling "KILLIAN!" from the corner. I smiled really big, and rounded the corner where the special needs bags were. I saw my parents, and gave them a high five. I kept smiling, pushing, digging deep.

I got closer to the finish and saw a guy in front of me. I didn't want to pass him, because I didn't want to take away his photo-finish opportunity, but we were a good 100m from the line and he was going a little too slow. So I went around him, pushed it into the finish, and felt the tears come as I crossed the line.

It's hard to describe what went on in my head during the race. I never felt like I didn't want to go on. I never thought, "I don't think I can finish." I knew I could finish, I knew I could just keep moving forward. When I saw the clock say 11:26, I couldn't believe it. I think, for the most part, that was why I was almost brought to tears. Did I really just run my first Ironman under 12hours? Did I really do it and still feel like I don't want to die?

I found my dad and friends, Jess and Tien-Tien, as I came out of the finish corral. I was energized, excited, smiling and bouncy. They were surprised I wasn't a crumpled mess on the concrete. I found my parents and the rest of the Quadrents and we waited for the rest of my group to come in.
After being convinced to grab some food, I watched as Adam came across the finish and received his medal. He was also smiling, upright, and looked strong. We walked to the grassy area by the capitol and laid on the grass with the dogs. The Quadrants grabbed some dinner and brought us back some gluten-free pizza from Uno's. We waited for Ian to come through, and then it was time to hit the hay.

Overall, I'd say I had a great first-Ironman experience. I don't remember bonking, I don't remember entering the pain-cave. I remember it being fun. I enjoyed that we got to experience the true Midwest environment. Biking around cornfields and silos, swimming in an inland lake, running along waterfront trails. Wisconsin is a great venue for the event, and it seemed like tens of thousands of spectators were out to cheer, help, and enjoy the race day. Madison is such a beautiful town, with so many dining options for people with special diets.

Will I do it again? Heck yes! I am excited to do another Ironman, and I will definitely try to get a Madison spot again. I didn't sign up for it in 2010, but maybe some other year.

Are you hooked? You better believe it. I want to do more triathlons next year. I am not sure if I will be doing a long course or not, but I will definitely be shooting for several 70.3's to build my resume.

What's next on the list?
I am doing the Columbus Marathon in four weeks. I won a free entry through Racevine.com and can't wait to run on a flat, fast course.

Any special shout-outs? I could not have done this race if it weren't for my training partner (and boyfriend), Adam. Adam has helped me on the bike, and I have helped him on the run. We make a great team.

My parents (and Adam's) have supported us so immensely through this whole process. They drove to Madison to watch our race, brought us goodies, let us nap, and tied up loose ends for us. I love you, Mom and Dad! Also, thanks to my family and friends for following and encouraging me.

Special thanks to Ian, too. We have trained together since the wee winter months to build our strength and endurance for the event. Master Swimmer Ian has helped greatly to improve both mine and Adam's swim technique and speed.

Thanks to Team Mega Tough for the encouragement, to my advisor for being so understanding of all the time I spent training!!

I also couldn't have done this under such awesome conditions without these great sponsors:

Brooks Running Company
The Bike Shop
Honey Stinger


Now its time to start planning races for 2010. Until next time...


Iain said...

Girl you smacked it.

Next time work harder, you're not supposed to enjoy an Ironman.

Awesome racing Megan. Well done girl :-)

Devon said...

Congrats Megan! What a great experience and you seriously rocked it! So happy for you! Go on girl!

Swissy said...

You are amazing. I am really impressed by your performance.
Let me know if you are ever racing in Europe...I would love to come cheer you on;-)

libgyrl said...

Fantastic. Nice report. Super race!

Charisa said...

Congrats! I love Cosi too - signature salad rocks!

Samantha said...

You are so incredibly awesome, Megan! Congrats on a spectacular race!

Clearly, you should come to Boston in 2010 :)

Marlene said...

Congratulations Megan! WOW, what an incredible accomplishment. Sounds (and looks) like you were strong throughout the race - amazing!

Uptown Girl said...

Wow, this was so inspiring to read:) Congrats on the IM. Very awesome to hear you felt good about it and want to do it again! That's a sign of a good time - literally and figuratively.