Ironman Wisconsin, Madison 2008

Time: 9:43:39
Swim: 52:25 (2nd AGer)
T1: 5:33
Bike: 5:18:20
T2: 1:36 (fastest!)
Run: 3:25:47
28th overall, 3rd M35-39

Race Analysis here.

Felt more nervous the morning of this race than any I can remember. I urged the alarm not to go off as I lay awake for the last 10 minutes wishing for some legitimate, face saving ‘out’ which I knew wouldn’t arrive. 4am off the alarm goes. Very few words are exchanged between Jo and I though I believe I may have said how nervous I felt. Couldn’t even face food, forced down a couple of pieces of beef jerky and some nuts. I didn’t worry about this as I knew from past experience and some reading that provided you’d eaten ok during your taper the pre race breakfast was not really that important.

We headed down to transition just before 5am. I’d decided I was not going to faff – check the bike and get outa there. Both Jo and I were faff free zones and before we knew it we were done and it was only 5:30am. Luckily Madison is based at this great centre called Monona Terrace so there was loads of space indoors just to chill out. We sat for about 40 minutes and I did something I’ve not done before in a race – I laid down and just tried to relax and eliminate all thoughts. Each time the race came to mind I tried to push it aside – very “Mark Allen”.

Headed down to the water – wanting to get in early to ensure a good start spot. Was in about 20 minutes before the start. Warmed up till the Pro’s went off and then moved into position. I went right to the front on the prime line. I also tried to play it smart with the small talk. People often ask what time you’re going to do – I think both to help seed themselves but also to help pick feet to follow. So when asked I said “low 50s” – the hope being it would encourage people to start behind me. With hindsight I think it encourage the fastest swimmer to start next to me !

Gun goes and I stuck to my plan. Slight change on previous races, decided I wasn’t going to go balls out but instead try a slightly more conservative approach and do just enough to stay clear of the masses.

This worked great and slowly I edged away. The guy to the left of me was moving quick and the guy to the right was doing well, but unlike me he needs to raise his head to sight and he lost loads of time each time. I spoke to him after the race and he said he just couldn’t stick on my toes … that made me feel great. Anyway… the guy to my left is going great guns and I get on his toes. Very soon we have gapped the whole of the field. I can’t believe it we are a pack of two out in front. I stick with him for a while but the pace is too much for me especially as it’s quite difficult to stay bang on his toes so I decide to let him go. He slowly pulls away. Every so often I take a big breath and look over my shoulder to see where I am. I can’t quite believe it but we are miles ahead. By half way the nearest group is a full buoy behind. This is awesome. Continue smooth on the second lap and really enjoy it as I pass loads of Pro’s and start to go by age groupers on their first lap. Exit , though the chasing pack had closed alot I still came out 2nd age grouper in 52:25 and I’m buzzing.

Wetsuit strippers are awesome – this is something unique (in my experience) to North American Sports Ironman races – they have loads of people ripping off your wetsuit – BLISS. Run up the Helix, one of the several unique features of Wisconsin – a mere 3 or 4 storeys of spiral multi storey carpark entry ramp with loads of spectators cheering you on. Then inside for transition – carpet… nice ! Massive run through transition before down the other Helix and out on the course.

Wisconsin has a very demanding bike course. In it’s own way it’s as challenging (terrain wise) as Lanzarote. In fact, I would say it’s a more technical course requiring real patience in order not to blow up. It is massively rolling and care must be exercised not to blow up. I’d decided that my approach would be to NOT work hard on the uphills – this would be measure by keeping my breathing controlled. First 20 miles a german guy in my age group goes by at a fair rate of knots, I see he’s going to be well away by the end. [ASIDE: I spoke to him after the race and asked what he does to be so quick on the bike. Turns out he was a professional cross country skier and then did 10 years of cycle racing !]. I stuck with my plan but did not feel that great at all. Decided not to look at my average speed but felt ok about my pace just based on the few riders that I saw. It was clear that I was pretty much with the pace of the race around me and since I’d finished the swim so far up that couldn’t be so bad. I then started reeling in some of the female pro’s so despite not feeling great I must be doing ok.

For the first time I had a bento box on my bike and I had kendal mint cake and nine bars. The former was a great success and the latter abit too chewie. I’m not really one for nutrition by the numbers and go rather by feel. I guess my basis is try and get so real(ish) food in on the bike (ie not gels and bars with tonnes of crap added as I feel this can lead to stomach problems later). I eat as I feel and take water or gatorade at the aid stations again based on how I feel.

Throughout the first lap it was pretty lonely. The odd occassion have someone go by but for alot of the time I could have been out on a training ride on my own (except for everyone cheering me on!). Great sign on the course … something like “Go IronWoman, men don’t iron” … made me smile.

Second lap brought a head wind and lots more company as I started passing some of the back markers. My plan was to push on in the second lap if I felt good.. I didn’t and starting the second lap with the head wind I felt worse. Kept reminding myself that I was at the pace of the race (whatever that meant to me!) since very few people were passing me and those that did only moved away slowly. Reminding myself also of something I believe Mark Allen said – that you don’t have to feel good to be having a good race. With about 30 miles to go Brunold passed me. This is a local guy that has won my age group for the past several years. Not a good swimmer but normally cranks out a low 5 hour bike split followed by a low 3 hour run. I hadn’t realised he was racing again so this was hugely encouraging that it was this late in the race that he passed me. Also, he didn’t pull away too quickly. This may be because I just started to feel good. AT LAST ! I was now pushing bigs gears on the flat and rather than my legs screaming “ease off” they were screaming “yeh baby!” Fun at last. In the last 10 miles in to T2 I managed to pass two guys.

I started to focus on the run and reminding myself I didn’t want the mental meltdown of Germany that I was going to push it. I was encouraged that I was pushing hard on the bike at the end and felt good. I had energy in reserve and I now looked at my bike time and it was going to be good. Sub 5.20 which i knew was good on this course. Only issue was in the final 2 miles the inside of my left thigh started to cramp … luckily riding through it seemed to ease it.

I hurtled through  T2 in super quick time. Out on the run my legs felt great in the initial euphoria of finishing the bike and chuffed the cramp on the bike was non existent running. Then the bike legs hit but I knew it would go and I’d run well. Hit 2 miles in about 14 minutes so was very happy (it was downhill for a big bit!) and I was now running comfortably. Some girls with a “SWF Looking for Good Ironman” sign cheered me on. Said I was looking strong and asked how I felt. Got a big cheer when I said I felt great. Going by all the cafes on state street was awesome. There was no other athlete on there, I smiled as the cheers started and this only got  them going more, so I smiled more etc… had a shiver go down my spine and started to well up. This is what makes Ironman so awesome.

I was running well but I was suffering. Luckily each mile split was showing around the 7.30 mark so happy. There are a few out and back bits on each lap so I could see the competition behind. Happy to see most were going slower than me and everyone that went by was either in their 40s or 30-34. I was pretty sure I was in 3 or 4th in my age group and started to feel the Kona slot was now there for me to lose. This made me feel strong as each time I’ve had that thought it’s made me determined not to let it slip.

Second lap (of 2) and things started to get tough. I could feel my right calf twinge with cramp. From there on it periodically half cramped I did a sort of running hop / limp and it cleared. The odd occasion I yelped but each time it didn’t quite go. With so far to go this was getting a little concerning. It progressively got more frequent so I finally started resorting to gels and holding back the pace a little to nurse it home. Don’t think they helped at all. I think the hard surface (mostly concrete) we ran on made it very tough. I was looking forward to the uphills now as I was running more comfortably on them. I also tried to remove my mind from the thought of the distance and just focus on the moment. For short spells this worked really well. I passed the point I’d seen Jo on the first lap. Then I saw her – she looked really happy and was absolutely flying, for once I didn’t get to scream at her, instead she screamed “Looking good gorgeous” – just what I needed with about 3 miles to go.

2 miles to cramp. BANG. Calf cramps completely. Classic foot straight in line with my leg, stop dead, Really painful getting my toes down and slowly stretching it. Have to apologise to the crowd for my language. Get it sorted and tentatively start running again, it doesn’t go and I get back to pace. It almost feels better running faster.

Finally into the last half mile and tonnes of support. Enjoy this. Down the finishers shoot I’m all on my own, see the clock for the first time (I’d not started my watch until the run) and though I knew I’d be under 10 hours I was chuffed with how far. The crowd was great and as I relaxed the calf almost went again. I focussed and got across the line and immediately it cramped completely and I fell over over. Agony, especially as the first few helpers didn’t know what to do and they made it worse. I laid just beyond the finish line for about 5 minutes before they managed to get me to my feet. One of the helpers said “Well you certainly gave it your all”. I had and I was chuffed to buggery ;o)

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