What a crazy journey it has been. Last year, Joe & I signed up for the Ironman, because hey, we did a half and it was fun, we do a ton of races, we could probably do this, right? Then we got engaged and things got super busy, but we still somehow found time to race throughout the summer and get ready for the beast that was the Ironman Wisconsin in Madison. I can’t believe how it snuck up on us.
As a first time Ironmanner, this was terrifying…. I was so anxious that morning, I think even beforehand it was so surreal that I wasn’t actually able to comprehend what we were going to do that day. I decided my only goal was to finish, we didn’t train the hardest compared to those more dedicated because I like having a life, so wanted to see what we could do… here goes.
We stayed in Madison West at AmercInn because it was cheaper, it was a 10-15 minute drive to the Convention Center, which wasn’t too bad, because Joe’s brother volunteered so we were able to park IN the convention center, which is where EVERYTHING went down… thank the LORD. I would not have been able to take a shuttle to a parking lot and then go home afterward. It was also intimidating/weird/new to me that you’d transition for the bike IN a convention center, and for the run, and only your bike would be on the FOURTH FLOOR of a parking lot… which yes, you had to run up after the swim and bike up after 112 miles… sweet. Oh yea, they WEIGH you as you pick up your race day necessities so that they know how badly off you are if you end up dehydrated and what to give you.. did I mention I weighed myself two days AFTER and I lost 8 lbs?? GEEZ.
- The swim… I was BEYOND nervous to try out a mass swim start for the first time at an Ironman, as well as swim 2.4 miles in one shot in a wetsuit in one go.. not ideal. Joe & I decided to swim closest to the buoys, so we were essentially treading for like 15 minutes, which was okay because I usually need time to calm down and acclimate first. Once we heard the cannon, it was off to the races in a GIANT washing machine. People, no matter how nice they are the rest of the race, were BRUTAL during the swim. I think because everyone’s nervous about this leg, no one’s that confident, it’s a complete sh*tshow and I wash kicked in the chest a few times, hit all over the place, literally could NOT slow down to do breast stroke without getting run over… so just found a way to deal with it. It ended up going by fast, I knew I was getting a HORRIBLE rash on my neck but had to keep going, and feel great about my 1:32 hour swim.
- Running up the helix seemed like it would suck.. it wasn’t that bad when you have billions of random people lined up, screaming for you to run.. that made it easier, and oh to have someone pull your wetsuit off for you! When I got upstairs to the convention center ballroom, I grabbed my bike bag and headed to the women’s changing area, where some angelic volunteer grabbed me, sat me down, dumped all my stuff out and started asking ‘ need this or no’ while she helped me get my socks on, shoes on, remember my helmet and nutrition. She was fantastic.
- A quick run back outside (and bathroom break because NO I will NEVER pee my pants during a race… there’s no need guys) and down the helix and off into several different cities. Man, oh man, was this course HILLY. I knew it would be, I knew it said ‘challenging hills’ and things like that but holy crap, I was RARELY if ever NOT climbing a hill. That sucked. I was about an hour slower than I thought because the hills plus 10-12mph winds really killed me, and again my only goal was to FINISH and I didn’t know if I could do that when 1. I’d never yet biked 112 miles and 2. I needed some strength left in me for the run.
- NUTRITION: I ditched a nuun water bottle after finishing 2 nuun drinks (sad) to make room for water and gatorade, and tried to down that every like 30 minutes / every water stop. I don’t drink water during runs because it upsets my stomach, so I knew I had to get it in here. I also forced myself to eat a honeystinger, a cliff peanut butter bar or a poptart (treat, I needed it at hour 4) every hour, and then the last few hours had bananas and gus because I don’t like eating on a bike but knew I had to.
- After a quick transition back into the convention center, I handed off my bike to a very nice volunteer and somehow forced myself to get going to run. I bought Hokas just for this pretty much, and man did they save my feet because I literally RAN a marathon … My M.O. is to run each mile, and then I get a quick walk break for gatorade & gu. It helps me get through each mile. My friend who rode ALL the way up saw me in the first few miles & ran with me for a bit to really get me going, which was so nice, and the fans here are CRAZY and so entertaining on both the run and bike which really helps entertain yourself ALL day.
- Towards 13 miles I was getting really down, my garmin had died and I realized oh I still have 13 miles to go.. fantastic. I think this race being on September 11 was so emotional and motivational, because I felt like I could never complain because it was such a monumental day and I should be grateful I can do this.. so that really helped me stay tough. I saw Joe halfway through who told me his ankle hurt & he was going to walk and to catch up… which somehow I did at about mile 22 or 23 so we could walk and talk, then we saw his brother too who walked with us. The amazing chicken broth REALLY made us want ramen after dark, we still have yet to get it, once our throats stop burning we will… the last 2 miles or so also have tons of fans still out since it was about 14 1/2 hours later when we approached the finish line for real (turning around at mile 13 is a mind f*ck and a tease!) and we both ran in together holding hands because we’re cute like that and it was a really long day.