It’s official. I finished, and I am now an Ironman. I finished in 15 hours 15 minutes and 30 seconds.
It was an emotional day for quite a few reasons. On Saturday, after checking in my bike and transition gear at Monona Terrace I learned that my grandpa had passed away. So as I prepared for and raced in the most challenging race of my life, I was grieving the loss of my grandpa B. I thought about him a lot through out the entire day, and held back my tears many times as I thought of my mom telling me that I’d have an ironman angel with me every step of the way.
The whole Ironman experience was amazing from start to finish. I felt very lucky that we had such fantastic weather. Minimal wind, sunny and a high of 75 degrees. It was close to perfect in my book.
Here is a recap of the incredible day.
Swim: I’m not going to lie, the swim was brutal. A mass swim start of 2,700+ people is amazing to watch, but it’s pretty freaky to be a part of. Coach Joe’s strategy of swimming to the inside of the course and cutting in to swim around the outside of the turn buoy was a great strategy. This allowed for me to deal with a lot less traffic and swim faster. The worst part of the entire course was at the corner buoys. They were awful due to the crazy amounts of people trying to scramble around the buoy, and it really was a scramble. Arms and legs everywhere clawing to get around the floating marker. I had to hold onto a kayak after turning each buoy just to slow my heart rate down and get my nerves under control.
The most challenging part of the swim course was the sun. Throughout the entire back side of the course (over a mile in length) we had the sun pouring into our faces making it very difficult to see where the heck we were swimming. Again, I had to grab onto kayaks just to see where the next buoys were. As I turned the final buoy, I was able to sight the large brown building that I noticed during the Friday practice swim. It made a nice tall object to use as a sighting marker and as long as I swam towards it I knew I was heading in the right direction. All things considered, I finished the swim in 1:29:28 which I’m happy with as I was hoping to finish under 90 minutes.
T1: As I crawled out of the water, there were volunteers standing in waist-deep water assisting athletes onto land. As you traveled up to Monona Terrace, the banana peelers were ready for you. The banana peelers are volunteers that help you peel off your wetsuit. Let me just say that they are fantastic at what they do. All you do is pull the wetsuit past your hips, sit down on the ground and then poof! They whip it off in one slick pull.
Next I traveled up the helix, a spiral-style parking ramp that is lined with spectators cheering wildly at us all. As you head into the bike gear room volunteers are waiting to grab your bag for you. Once you have your gear bag you travel into the changing room. Many people change their clothes, but I just grabbed my nutrition/fuel belt, helmet, shoes, sunglasses and was on my way. I made a quick stop at the volunteers who were gloved up and ready to smear your body with sunscreen and then I proceeded to grab my bike. As you travel down the many rows of bikes, the crazy-awesome volunteers were shouting your number so that someone could grab your bike for you and get you out of the bike course as quickly as possible.
Bike: I mounted my bike, coasted down the helix ramp and began my 112-mile trek through Dane County. I knew that this was a challenging bike course so I made sure to take it easy and not go out too hard. I also kept up on my nutrition plan which included the soft-boiled potatoes, Honey Stinger waffles and energy chews and I took advantage of a couple Bonk Breaker bars at the fueling stations. I was very happy with my nutrition plan the entire day, it was a huge component to my success that day.
This bike course is extremely hilly. There was plenty of crowd support on the three toughest hills known as the Three Sisters (or the Three Bitches depending on who you ask). Spectators line these hills as if I’m biking in the Tour de France and help cheer you up the hills. There are all sorts of signs, costumes and words of support that you will read, see and hear on these hills. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. [Read more…]