||Sunday, September 12, 2004
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 35 - 39
||515 / 1969
|Age Group Place:
||102 / 329
||"A good (training) day" -or- "Your existence makes me _____"
IRONMAN WISCONSIN 2004
September 12 / Madison WI / I think there was one cloud all day - 85F with South winds up to 10mph.
POST-EVENT REPORT (scroll down for pre-event report)
[Freshwater 72F(?) counter-clockwise two-lap swim with an in-water start]
It was a good experience to go through the start sequence, since it will likely mirror that of Kona. There is only one small ramp in and out of the water, so it took quite some time to get 2200 athletes into the water. I got into the water relatively early (~20 minutes before the cannon) and marshaled for a while in some open water behind and to the side of the start line. I did not wear a watch for the swim, but I slowly filtered into the crowd as I sensed the start was near. Still there were tons of people and I didn’t squeeze close-in to the start line. Despite talk about flying flags and marks to seed oneself, I never saw them against the backdrop of people on the beach. The announcing loudspeakers didn’t project out well towards the water, either. I did figure out at one point that there was less than two minutes before the start and decided then to hold my current position and start from there.
Wearing no wetsuit and starting somewhat behind the front line, I started relatively defensively. I had no problems heading out on the first loop, but felt that I was giving up ground much of the way. Ditto on the return. On the second loop, the crowd seemed to spread out laterally and I had the sense that I was gaining ground. The pack seemed to tighten up again after turning for home and I felt that I was at least matching with the speed of the main flow.
I never saw a clock coming out of the water, but I knew that I was over an hour for the swim, longer than I had hoped to do. Not enough speedwork in practice and the slow start led to that. At least I’ve got five weeks to fix that before the big race.
[~100 yard run to the helical parking ramp, then around the ramp to level 4…inside the convention center to a bag pickup room halfway through the building, then the changing room…outside to the parking lot entrance all the way back to the top of the helix, with about 200 yards of further running to make it to the exit gate.]
T1 was long.
[Lollypop-shaped course starting with the 16-mile stem, two 40-mile loops and a return on the stem…rolling hills the entire distance with both false flats and high-amplitude climbs and descents.]
On the bike, down the helix on the west side, quickly up to speed on the main drag, and then turn on the speed governor. My HR plan was to max out at 130, except for the hills where I’d keep it as low as possible. Even with the swim and the long dash through T1, I found my HR in the 120s pretty quickly.
And now, it was time to be patient. Very patient. Patient for hours. I passed a couple of riders in the first mile as we all got our bike bearings straight, but it didn’t take too long after that for the rush from behind to begin. “This is not your day” I told myself, “This is their day” as I looked at other bicyclists zoom past. They weren’t zooming past too fast, though. I passed the first 5-mile sign in exactly 16 minutes, which was a little better than I expected. I reached the 10-mile point exactly 16 minutes after that. “Well, now I know what 130HR translates into time.” I couldn’t resist the mental math exercise…16x22 equals…160 + 160 + 32 which is…320 and…352. Plus, oh, three-fifths of 16 is about, what, nine? Make that all 361 which is…six hours and a minute. By the time I did all of that, I was at mile 15, having done a 15:45. All right, I’m on a six-hour pace.
All this time, I’ve also been employing my experimental feeding strategy. I did wait five minutes after going down the helix before touching anything, but then it was time to chug the “Cocktail”. At a race like this, you never know exactly where the aid stations are going to be. In this case, they were spaced farther apart than usual, averaging 15 miles. The first was came around mile 12, and I had the first Cocktail serving already chugged by then. Aid #2 didn’t come until mile 30, by which time I pretty much had the second Cocktail serving down. I was pretty well loaded with fuel here, having frontloaded a bunch of calories while burning less than normal.
The famous rolling hills begin in earnest around mile 30. Most riders who pass me at this point of the race are doing so on the climbs. On the flats and the downhills, I’m keeping pace and sometimes making passes…but everyone who goes by me is doing so by putting out big wattage on the climbs. At this point, I can’t look at any person going by and “tell” if he or she is going to just ride away or is going to blow up and die on the second loop. I’m sure that I’ll see some of these people again…I just don’t know who they will be.
The spectators on the roads start getting bigger near the end of the first loop. There are three steep climbs in this section, and a fairly large crowd line both sides of each, even though we are still a way out into the countryside. I have to remind myself to keep eating, so I’ve been working through my gel flasks. I carried three for the first half of the ride, but since I’m not working full bore, I’m going to end up having one unused flask by the time I reach Special Needs.
I also carried along some salt tablets and Tums on the ride. I wasn’t using Gatorade (just the Cocktail and water), so I figured a salt tablet an hour was prudent. I put both the salt tablets and the Tums in the same Ziploc baggie, which resulted in a little messy mixture when I first reached for it. One of the salt capsules had broken open and, mixed with the heat, my baggie looked like something that you would use to dye Easter eggs. Nonetheless, most of the contents were intact and useable.
As for the stomach, mixing up the Cocktail entraps a little bit of gas, so it was important for me to discharge it regularly from both the oral and anal ports. I had no problems doing this during the ride.
Eventually, I made it to the town of Verona where the loop ends. The town hosts a festival, complete with a Pig Roast, for the spectators as the bicyclists go by. Though I’d heard stories about the crowds in Verona, I was still surprised by the size of the crowd as I turned onto Main Street at the top of a hill. There was a sea of humanity throughout the town…cheering on bicyclists and gorging on pork. Only in Wisconsin. My watch showed 2:55 of riding time as I started the second loop.
In previous Ironmans, I had never stopped on a bike ride to, uh, “go”. However, I’m not wanting to impart additional bowel stress on my system before the run, and having chugged at least a half-gallon of fluids so far on the ride, I decide to answer Nature’s Call at Mile 70. This turned out to be a great call, and I felt like $100,000,000,000 afterward.
In the remaining bike miles, I began to see a few familiar faces as riders who had passed me were either having mechanical problems or were getting tired. I kept hawking my watch…the HR was spending more time above 130 than below, and I was trying to be a little more diligent in keeping the HR down on the descents and the flats. All the while, I’m seeing my estimated time of arrival creeping up to where six hours is a 50/50 proposition.
Sign Of The Day appears at mile 75. It says, "Your Existence Makes Me Smile."
Only in the last 10 miles or so do I give into my pride (a little) and tap the imaginary throttles forward in an attempt to finish the ride in under six hours. I make it back to the top of the helix with seconds to spare. Although my HR-measured effort remained steady throughout the ride, the second loop was nine minutes longer than the first due to (1) slowing down for the Special Needs pickup, (2) the stop at Mile 70, (3) a little more wind, and (4) as one gets gradually tired over time, the body has to work harder to maintain the same speed…and I wasn’t working harder.
[ride halfway through the parking lot to drop of bike, run straight into to the changing area, run outside through the rest of the parking lot and out the back to start the marathon.]
No big deal. After standard housekeeping, I was ready to run.
[Two-loop urban run with four significant climbs and 2-3 other rolling climbs…all through either downtown or the university campus.]
The plan for the run changed after consulting with my coach. Instead of starting slow and building up, the new plan was to run for 10k at Ironman race pace, and then to “shut it down”.
The first mile was insane, and I was barely in control. It’s downhill, there’s plenty of crown energy, and I’m fully fueled. Ironman race pace to me is somewhere between 8:00 and 8:30. My breakout mile is under 6:40.
I tap the imaginary throttles back a few percent for the second mile. This mile is mostly flat except for a new section that includes climbing up and over a pedestrian overpass, just like scaling a 20-foot high wall. Nonetheless, I’m still a warp speeds turning a 7:30.
Mile three has an uphill section passing by the football stadium. 8:00 flat.
By now, I’m beginning to feel the warmth of the day. I feel like I’m still running well, but the relatively flat fourth mile takes 8:30 to cover. I’m ready to start taking food (gel) again for the first time since the bike ride. I’m lapped by Dave Harju here.
The big hill on the course comes next. It’s somewhat long and steep and the five-mile mark is halfway up it. I go 8:50 here with more climbing to do. That wasn’t too encouraging.
There’s more climbing to do, then a short and steep descent followed by a flat section to a turnaround located at the end of mile six. With the climb and the heat, I just sneak in this mile before my watch hits nine minutes. Whatever speed I have left, I keep it up to the next aid station. I run the 10k in about 50 minutes. Pretty good, but not at all thrilled about the last three miles.
I jogged lightly for the next mile to the next PortaJohn, where I cleared my anal port to resume the free flow of gas discharge. I then treated myself to a mile of walking. (It was during this mile that I get passed by The Gerk, whom I expected to be way out in front of me.)
From here on out, the “shut it down” strategy was to jog at 11 min/mile pace to aid stations, walk until I have consumed all that I have partaken, and then to resume the jog. Already, the mental mathematician is at work and at some point I calculate an overall finish time around 12:12, the time that the Naval Observatory says will be sunset. Just like the “six hour” “goal” for the bike ride, sunset becomes the “goal” for the finish. (Of my previous Ironmans, I had finished before sunset for all but Florida, when I finished in the twilight about four minutes after sundown.) Of course, I’m done “working”. I worked for 120 miles…now I’m trying to “not” work (and not get injured) for 20.
I begin my second loop of the run about 9:20 into the day. Dave Harju is already eating pizza.
I cross paths with Nicole Deboom on the pedestrian overpass.
At the base of the big climb, I again answer Nature’s Call. Nature wasn’t too kind to me here. I had picked up the speed just a touch, but the IT bands and the stomach were starting to feel the stress of the long day. Also, this PortaJohn was sitting out in the sun all day, and I was getting baked doing my thing. I suddenly felt lousy and declared a mandatory walk mile.
I felt better after walking up the hill. I resumed the “shut down” jog but wondered if I’d make a sunset finish now.
No problems through to mile 20. Mental Mathman looks at the sun in the sky. I’ll need to 12-out for a daylight finish, but I’m certainly feeling fresh enough to do that without straining myself.
Approaching the Point of Must Return (the final turnaround) near mile 21, I see Ed Zerkle, King of the TriCats, heading for home. We’ve been near each other most of the day. He’s now in front of me by four minutes. For the first time in a while, I rest my hands on the imaginary throttles and barely nudge them forward.
I enjoy my final extended smorgasbord with under four miles to go. I continue my easy cruise over the hill at the football stadium. I pass Ed inside of three to go.
At 6:45PM, I’m at the base of the pedestrian overpass.
At 6:52PM, I’m jogging east. My shadow is 40 yards long. I’ve got a mile and a half to go.
At 6:54PM, I’m jogging north passing the mile 25 sign after finishing my first sub-10-minute mile in three hours. The sun is barely over the tops of the buildings to the west. Sunset’s going to be earlier than predicted. I’ve nudged the throttles forward a little more. Now, I think that the finish photo is going to come out lousy…the Capital will appear in the photo in a dark shadow.
At 7PM, I’m running up the final hill with about a half mile to go. I’ve shut off the stopwatch. For many yards, I close my eyes…I don’t see the crowd, I’m not sure that I hear the crowd, but I do feel the crowd.
Circling around Capital Square, I’m flying past everybody, both first and second lap runners. I round the final curve and sight the finish with nobody between it and myself. I’ve got the attention of the whole audience. There’s a gesture here and there and a couple of high fives…but for the most part I’m still giving my eyes a rest and sensing the moment through sound and feel.
And let me say that 140.6 miles feels the same, whether you do it as fast as you can or at a gentle pace. I felt sore in the same places as I did at the finish lines for the other Ironmans…just not as severe this time. I also felt good in the same places too, though I suppose the good feelings were similarly muted by the restricted effort.
Ironman will always be a long day. On this day, though, I still learned much about myself and how to make the next IronDay a little more enriching. The experiments worked well. I made some correctable mistakes. I found some areas of improvement where I can concentrate my final weeks of training before Hawaii. Now physically recovered, I’m looking forward more than ever to showing up and showing off in Kona.
As for the finish line photo, everything’s in a dark shadow and my eyes are closed.
Similar to David Glover’s pre-Vineman approach, I’m offering for publication and general consumption my pre-race gameplan for Ironman Wisconsin 2004…a race where I am planning on having my worst Ironman ever. (But only in terms of time…I’m hoping for this to be the best Ironman in every other realm and frame of reference.)
I undertake this exercise not necessarily to emulate David, but for reasons similar to his…to actually force myself to approach an Iron-distance race analytically. It also helps me put this event in perspective with the goals for the entire season and, best of all, it helps me look forward to the event instead of approaching it with apprehension.
Ironman Wisconsin 2004 is a pleasant reward for a season gone very well. I was fortunate to earn a slot to this event at Eagleman.
My approach to IM “MOO” is unusual. I am NOT doing the event for time. I am NOT trying to qualify for the 2005 Hawaii Ironman. My entry into the 2004 Hawaii Ironman, subsequent to Eagleman, completely changed my perspective on my participation at IM MOO.
Instead, IM MOO is a dress rehearsal for the Kona Coast. It’s an opportunity to ride the same bike, wear the same clothes, use the same equipment and eat the same food. Only the level of effort will be different, and it will be significantly different in places.
IM MOO is also an opportunity to enjoy the Ironman experience. I have found it very difficult this season to keep my focus on the “finish line”…and I’m not just referring to the white strip of tape on Alii Drive. Even though I DO have a picture on my desk of that piece of Kailua-Kona waterfront, I still struggle around the two-hour mark of long runs wondering what, if anything, is worth the pain of slogging alone on a muddy trail under rainclouds. The answer to that, I’m dearly hoping, will re-emerge in a Midwestern college town.
As always, this is all subject to change…
Final long bike ride (4 hours) and a nautical mile swim. Wash and clean the bicycle. Do most of the packing.
Day off from training. Day on at the office. Load the car.
Day on at the office. Probably some light training during the lunch hour. Embark for Wisconsin after the rush hour.
Arrive in Madison mid-afternoon. Unpack the car. Do some very light exercise to unwind from the drive. Otherwise, relax and veg.
Breakfast buffet in the morning hosted by TriSports. Register. OpCheck the bicycle. May ride out onto the course for up to a loop and/or ride the run course if possible. Relax, then carbo dinner. Sleep deeply.
Start really watching what I eat and drink. Keying on eating good complex carbos and sodium, plus hydrating.
An easy jog (1.5 miles) to the race site, then an easy swim. Breakfast on the way back to hotel. Final OpCheck of bike, then go to pre-race meeting. After meeting, drive the bike course while munching down on a sandwich. Complex carbos dinner. Go to sleep and dream big dreams.
Sunday (raceday) morning:
Reveille at 0345. Shower, and then try to eat at least 1000 calories.
Walk over to the race. Sip on some Gatorade/Gel on the way over.
Adjust gross weight for takeoff, taxi into position and hold.
This is purely a dress rehearsal for Ironman Hawaii. Well, it’s a training day as well. I’m hoping to gain some valuable experience in racing at the Ironman distance, validate some racing/nutrition experimentation, and get to know some of my fellow competitors and volunteers. (I'm trying to track down one racer in particular...there's a good story about his firstborn daughter if you Google "Rae Gerking".) This is about as casual an approach to an Ironman that I can imagine. Ironman is still a large challenge, and it is a long day.
The swim is the only part of IM Wisconsin that I plan to attack at “full effort” throughout. I will be wearing a one-piece Zoot tri-suit in Hawaii for the bike and run, but I’m used to swimming in a pool with a regular “Speedo” and am leaning on doing that in Hawaii as well. Unless the water temp is too cold to go without a wetsuit, I plan to swim in a Speedo here to test my theory.
I’ve had a couple of good OW swims recently, but I swam them much more aggressively than I would for an Ironman. For Wisconsin, I’d like to establish a good position within the mass, and then try to let the crowd do some of the work for me.
Expected split: 58:00 +/- 2 minutes [Personal Best – 58:23 @ CDA’04 | Personal Worst - 1:06:22 @ CAL’00 (on the 2.4 nautical mile course)]
It’s a rolling hills route. As this is a training trial for Hawaii, I am interested not so much in speed but experimenting with feeding, setup and maintaining a steady effort. I plan to run a relatively light HR for a race (~120s), but to stay on the bike for the entire ride. Based on a similar riding effort at the Eat A Peach Century, that will yield around 17-18 mph average. Plan to come out of the aero position occasionally to keep limber. Plan to race with the wheels (Reynolds DVs) that I’ll use in Hawaii. Plan to eat, and start eating early.
I’ll start the bike with two large bottles of something very similar to Brian Shea’s “Ironman Cocktail” (see the recipe on the PBN website). I used this concoction on the Reston Century / RATMan and didn’t have stomach problems afterward. This is intended to deliver a bunch of liquid calories. I’ll also carry two/three gel flasks.
No later than the second aid station, I should consume one of the cocktail bottles and replace it with a bottle of water. Thence, I’ll alternate sucking down water and cocktail mix for both the hydration and nutrition. Should be finished with cocktail #2 by 40 miles, replacing that bottle with Gatorade. Use water for washing down gel and splashing on face through to special needs. Special needs will contain another pair of cocktail bottles and another pair/trio of gel flasks. Repeat the cycle.
Will take some salt tablets and consume them at a gradual rate (~ 1/hr) unless heat/humidity dictates greater use.
Dismount from the bike, giving it a pat and/or a kiss in appreciation for carrying me for so long without a terminal breakdown. Know briefly that outside of a complete physical collapse, I’ll be an Ironman for the fourth time.
Expected split: 6:20 +/- 15 minutes [PB – 4:57 @ FLA’03 | PW 5:45 @ CAL’00]
No matter what, I do not want to risk either an injury or something that will detract from further preparations for Kona. The likely place for something like that to occur is on the run.
My plan is to again start a leg very conservatively, but slowly build some speed over time. I tend to struggle in the last few miles of the marathon, but this time my goal is to negative split the run. I would like to run 10/11-minute miles for the first quarter of the run (~7 miles), 9/10-minute miles for the remainder of the first half of the run (to mile 13.1), 8 ½-minute miles to mile 20 and maintain at least that average to the end. I plan to ditch the HR transmitter at T2.
The big question mark, however, will be the actions of my stomach. The condition of my stomach will probably be predetermined by what I do on the bike ride. I’ll carry two gel flasks for the run with an extra pair in the special needs bag. Carry salt tablets and Tums and use if necessary. (Might go preemptive with the Tums early) Alternating aid stations will be Gatorade/Cola (start the cola NLT the second lap) and water + gel and/or salt tablets.
Expected split: 4:05 +/- 10 minutes [PB – 3:52 @ FLA’03 | PW – 4:22 @ CDA’04]
Enjoy the moment…and the food. Sleep with my finisher’s medal. I’m sure that I’ll sleep best if I finish with strength at the end of the run and feeling that I could have done this course much faster.
Expected finish time: 11:30 +/- 25 minutes (Sunset at 12:12)
[PB – 9:59 @ FLA’03 | PW – 11:18 @ CAL’00]