Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report (Warning...LONG)

If you would have told me last year at this time if I would be winning an Ironman I would have thought you were crazy. You see, last year at this time I wasn't even running as I was dealing with some foot injuries. All I can say's amazing what can happen in a year.

IMMOO was my 2nd Ironman. My 1st Ironman was Kona in 2005 and I swore afterwards that I probably would never do one again. Well, 4 years later I was finally recovered from Kona and ready to tackle the IM distance again. I chose Wisconsin for the challenging course, amazing crowd support, cool city (much like Austin), and wanting to try and qualify for Kona as a 'pro' and not having to do two Ironmans in one year since IMMOO is a qualifier for 2010.

The week leading up to IMMOO I was feeling quite calm which is unusual. I knew I had done the work and the race would just be all about pacing and nutrition, something that I haven't been good at, but really practiced during all my training rides/runs. Thursday night we arrived in Madison and had the pleasure of staying with a friend of mine from college who lives about 15 minutes from the race site. It was nice staying away from all the hype that occurs during race week which can be a bit stressful at times. Friday was the usual pre-race routine with workouts, pro meeting, napping and ofcouse eating. My friends from Minnesota/Boulder...aka 'Travel Club' arrived on Saturday and we were able to hang out and catch up with each other. It was so special having them there as most of them have never spectated an Ironman before (I don't think they knew what they were getting into!).

PRE-RACE: Wake up call was 4:00am. I maybe slept three hours. Kept tossing and turning all night with some crazy dreams. Morning breakfast included oatmeal with almond butter and almond milk, banana, and an EFS bar. It took me about an hour to eat everything because when I'm nervous I have trouble eating. Got to transition and took care of all my business and before I knew it, we were at the swim start.

THE SWIM: Wetsuit swim which it probably should not have been, but there were no if's, and's or but's about it. The race director told the 'pros' that there would be no discussion about wetsuits even though the water temp was ~75 degrees. I'm actually a little embarrassed to say that I swam in college because my swim time did not reflect what I am capable of. B beat me by 7 minutes in the water. 7 minutes! I was thinking he would out swim me by maybe 4 minutes but 7? Can't explain it but just a crappy swim. I thought I had a great start and was swimming in a large pack for maybe the first 500 or so. I soon realized this pack was going a bit slower then I wanted to go. So, I made my way to the front and noticed there was quite a big gap to the front pack. It was too late to try and catch them. I ended up leading a couple of guys around for the second loop.

T1: Exiting the water the crowd was going nuts. It was incredible. I looked down at my watch and it said 56 minutes. A little off of what I expected. I didn't know how many girls were ahead of me but I assumed a few since it was such a lousy swim. Transition took you up a parking ramp and it was lined with spectators cheering and yelling. I've never seen anything like it. You could not help but smile. People were shouting that I was 2nd out of the water and only 2 minutes down from the leader. After that adrenaline rush to my bike that poor swim was out of my mind. It's a long day and anything can happen.

THE BIKE: I hopped on my bike and told myself it's just another Saturday long ride. Start out easy and finish strong was the plan. The bike course is challenging but honest and I loved every minute of it. There was never a dull moment. You were either climbing, aero or turning another corner. Spectators were out all around the course so someone was always cheering for you. Everyone told me to be patient and conservative the first loop of the bike or else I would suffer on the second loop. Well, I took that advice for about the first 40 miles and then said...screw it, I felt so good that I just want to ride and ride hard. It felt effortless and I couldn't believe it. I caught the woman's leader, Hilary Biscay, on a climb at about mile 50 and earned the bike prime. A few miles later I took a look behind me and I saw no one and just kept turning the pedals. My legs were feeling light and I just kept plugging away enjoying every moment. I wish I could bottle up the feeling that I had and take it with me to every race.

My nutrition was spot on. Every 10 minutes I would eat/drink something...clif blocks, EFS sports drink, and EFS gel. At half way, I ate a clif bar just to get some solids in me. The roads were a bit rough, and at about mile 10 my sponge in my aero bottle came flying off. So... every bump I hit after that, I would get splashed in the face with water from my aero bottle. I actually think that losing my sponge was a good thing. Since I would lose so much water after every bump, I had to refill my aero bottle at every aid station which forced me to drink more water. Also, getting splashed in the face every so often helped cool me off a bit. The miles went by fast and soon enough I hit T2 with the lead.

T2: Off the bike and straight to the porta can. Just wanted to make sure I had no stomach issues and I actually had to pee which was a good sign. Being first into T2 was incredible. I couldn't stop smiling, as I was leading an Ironman race. Unbelievable. Now I was just hoping my running legs would be there.

THE RUN: Again, starting the run I just thought to myself it's just another Sunday long run. No big deal. I had no idea how much of a lead I had coming off the bike. I just wanted to settle into a comfortable pace and make everyone have to work hard to catch me. Mile 1 was 7:00 pace which was not the comfortable pace I was looking for. I knew I needed to back it off if I wanted to survive but I felt so good. Mile 2 was 7:22 and it felt slow and still knew I needed to slow down a bit. The bike escort wasn't allowed to give me splits or talk to me and I wasn't allowed to ask him any questions. Everyone on the course just kept telling me that I had a great lead. Well, what does that mean? 2 minutes...10 minutes? I tried getting splits on some of the out and back sections but there are so many turns on the course that it's hard to get an accurate time. The first 18 miles or so went by quick and I still felt great. Again, I followed my nutrition just as I did on all my training runs. I carried a fuel belt with EFS gel and would take a sip of it every two miles. At about mile 18 the wheels started to come off and my smile started to fade. I was ready to be done as the legs were tired and starting to get that wonderful cramping feeling. The last 8 miles were survival mode. I started walking the aid stations to make sure I was getting enough fluids in. The spectators and athletes out on the course were the ones that got me to the finish line. Everyone was so encouraging and I knew if I could just keep shuffling and moving forward, I would come away with the win.

THE FINISH: Words can't even describe it, so here is a picture.

Everything still seems like a blur to me. I had the biggest smile on my face, high fiving the crowds and hugged my 'travel club' friends before I hit the tape and was an Ironman Champion. B was there at the finish line with tears in his eyes and put my medal around my neck. I was an emotional wreck and am again tearing up as I write this. I still can't believe it. I am overwhelmed. It truly was an amazing, magical day that I will never forget.

THANK YOUS: A tremendous thank you to all my sponsors...Austin Tri-Cylist, Performance Wellness, First Endurance, TYR, Xterra Wetsuits, Rogue Running and Pure Sport Recovery. To my family of being so understanding of my training. 'Travel Club' for traveling from Minnesota and Boulder to watch me, Brandon and Lars race. It was so special having them there. And to my wonderful husband B for being so amazing and can't thank enough for all his support. B also had an amazing race finishing 9th 'pro' (I don't think people realize that B also works a full-time 40 hour a week job and is still able to place in the top 10 of any race he does...impressive).

BTW...I have not yet heard from FORD about replacing my Ford Craptour for something nicer.


amy said...

Awesome race report, and congrats again!!!

Finangers said...

finally someone admits it...the secret to a woman's success is a strong man standing behind her!

Priscilla said...

Congratulations! Inspriational to say the least...

Chris Tremonte said...

Congratulations, Amy! I was very excited to hear the news!

GoBigGreen said...

Congrats! I am from MN and I am proud that you went to school here. sometime i want to do an IM and it will likely be IM MOO!

Nicole Johnson said...

Great write-up Amy! And that pic you posted is awesome. It was a blast to see you guys and watch you WIN! You are welcome here anytime. :)

Keep in touch.

Erin said...

Way to Go AMY! Ryan filled me in on the good news and I'm so happy for you!!
Hope you have recovered and ready to tackle the next one ;)

TRI TO BE FUNNY-Carrie Barrett said...

such an inspiration to us all!!

Anonymous said...

It was amazing! Great blog Amy!

Jacqueline Harrill said...

I am living in Dallas, TX but from Green Bay, WI! Glad you got to enjoy the city and had such a wonderful race. I am training for my first Ironman, Arizona! Thanks for being such an inspiration.