Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin Re-cap

Ok, so its been over a week since Ironman Wisconsin (IMWI).  I've been working on this race summary/re-cap little by little, added some photo's (courtesy of Paige Reeves), and finished it.  Since the race I have done almost nothing with regards to exercise.  I have little aches and pain in a few spots that I haven't been paying attention to either since the race and need to get on the ball so they don't get any worse (sore left knee, right foot is in very bad shape=plantar fasciitis).  My 2011 plan only went thru September 10th with IMWI following on the the 11th.  I sort of feel lost without a plan to follow.  Anyway....

The race went pretty well.  I finished in 12:12:20 -- I estimated my potential at 11:05:00, but I had the math worked out so that I would finish under 13 hours in and land at 12:30:00.  I figured I'd fall somewhere in between the two times, which I did.  It started out pretty good and I was on track to be closer to 11 hours total than to 12, but things fell apart on the run.  I have my theories and reasons why and know that if I do it again, barring unforeseen issues, I could hit 11 to 11:30.  Regardless of all of that I am not complaining, I'm happy that I finished and believe I did so in a respectable time. I also feel blessed to have the gift of health and that I am physically able to swim, bike, and run (or other misc activities), as so many aren't able to do so. To those than can partipate in physical activities and challenge themselves, but don't, here's a  Steve Prefontaine  quote: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."  Doesn't fit exactly, but you get it.  Don't waste what you have.

Here's how the race went down for me...

SWIM: 2.4 miles (1.2  mile loop x 2)
My potential= 1 hr 20 min (gave myself up to 1 hr 45 min)

I have never done a tri that involved a deep water swim start (if that's what its called).  They herded 2500+ participants, 1038 first time IM attemptees I think they said, into the water thru a boat launch that was wide enough for one boat trailer.  This took a while.  I think I got in line at about 6:35 - 6:40 and made it into the water by 6:45.  I only went about chest deep and waited till they said we had 5 minutes till we started before I went to the deeper water.  They started the pro's at 6:50 then made a few announcements and paused for a moment of silence for the victims of "9/11"  as that day was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. There were only a couple more minutes till they started us so I swam out to get positioned.  I was about 15 rows back and about in the middle of the pack judging by the width of the area that we could start in. Everyone had to start at once--no age groups were separated, men and women, all ages, all started together. GO!!  Within about 1 minutes it was pure craziness. I figured that because there were 2500 people going all at once and we all had to swim for 2.4 miles, that most people would take it easy, relatively speaking.  I was wrong.  I felt like a salmon or a trout swimming up stream, fighting the power of a fast flowing river.  (Note: before we started, the water was very calm, almost glass like as there was very little wind.).  The course was set up as a large rectangle--I was told about .4 to .5 miles on the long sides, and about .15 on the ends; then there's a little jaunt to get back to shore.  SEE SWIM COURSE HERE.  As we get down the first long side of the loop and approach the corner for a left turn, there is a stall and I just about had to stop. I was told to expect this.  I didn't have to tread in one spot for more than about 5 seconds, but during this time I heard the "herd" of swimmers "MOOOING".  Yes, they were mooing.  Since some call the race "IMOO" due to the race being in the "Dairyland" state, I guess this is a tradition.  I did not partake.  The next corner and the buoy after that the herd slowed again.  Eventually I got thru lap one, took a quick look at my watch and saw 37 min and some change. Couldn't tell how many seconds, but I called it 38 min.  As I got into lap two I did the math and figured the flow of the swimmers made lap one a bit easier than lap two would be, but lap one had a few slowdowns so maybe lap two would be around 38 minutes.  So, 1 hr 16 min for the swim. Oops, don't forget the swim back to shore. So, I guessed 1 hr 19 minutes or so.  I got thru lap two and aimed for shore. When I was able to stand, my watch read 1:19:31, but with people in front of me all being funneled into the chute to cross the mat, for the timer to click off the swim, there was some time added on.
SWIM TIME: 1 hr 19 min 51 sec

Transition 1 (swim to bike)
Goal: around 10 min

The common advice for T1 at IMWI was to walk it--so I did.  After exiting the water, we get to the 'strippers'.  Yes, included in the $575 race fee, we get a strip show.  No "ones" required if you know what I mean.  Ok, seriously though, they are wetsuit strippers.  A whole line of them willing to rip your wetsuit right off your body. As I was crossing the timing mat from the water I took off my goggles and cap, then then top half of my suit. When you get to the strippers, you just lay on your back and they rip in off from chest to toes.  VERY SLICK.  I thru the suit over my shoulders and started a slight trot. The crowd is just ridiculous and you want to run.  We had to go up a spiraling car ramp known as the "helix".  Its not steep, but its a fairly long way to get to the transition area.  So I walk up the helix, enter Monona Terrace (think of a convention center with ball rooms) where our transition bags were, and its a giant chaotic, but organized zoo.  A volunteer hands me my bag and I head to the mens transition room. A volunteer in there helps unpack your bag while you strip down -- if totally changing.  My stuff was all layed out and as I put on the fresh tri-shorts and top, my wetsuit and other junk were put back in the bag.  I left carrying my shoes and exited the building to find volunteers with foil pans full of sunscreen. They were gloved and slathering it where ever skin showed.  They were not skimping--it went on thick.  I then hopped in one of the portapotties--need I say more.  I must have swallowed a lot of lake Monona.  Then on to the area where the bikes were.  I grabbed my bike and headed toward the exit. But wait--more volunteers there were holding bikes just before we exited so we could put on our shoes.  I clicked off my lap button as I crossed the mat and saw "12" something. Little longer than I wanted, but oh well.  Its not a race. Oh, wait, it is, but....
T2 Time: 12 min 29 sec

BIKE: 112 miles (lollipop style two loop course)
My Potential: 5 hr 45 min (gave myself up to 6 hr 30 min)

We rode down the opposite helix car ramp thing that we walked/ran up after exiting the swim. This was not bad and was actually sorta fun.  Once out on the road we had about a mile or so before entering a "no passing" zone.  For safety reasons they didn't want us to pass anyone for a short stretch (couple miles) as we were on a narrow bike/walking path that zig-zagged a bit before we got away from down town Madison and out on some county roads.  This worked out pretty good actually, as you had time to collect your thoughts and start out easy.  I have a tendency to go too hard at the start of the bike (and run as you'll see below). Only a few miles out on the course, in the no passing zone, there was a rider down being put on a stretcher. Poor guy. That is exactly what I was worrying about and why I budgeted so much time.  I wanted to take no chances and ride conservatively to avoid something freaky.  Was that guy riding right?  Maybe, maybe not. He could have hit a lone pebble on the path and slid out.  Could have flatted and lost control.  Who knows. 

The course consists of a 16 mile ride out, then two loops of 40 miles, then 16 miles back.  SEE COURSE HERE. There were so many people out on the course that I felt like I was riding the MS150.  Big groups of people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities.  I didn't see anyone explicately drafting as it was so hard to not ride in a group.  However, it was very different from a road-race-type-peloton.  I couldn't see that anyone was getting an advantage over anyone else on the way out to the loop.  Once off the 'out' section and on to the loop, it started to thin out.  As many told me, and I've read, there was no shortage of decisions to be made on the course. IMWI bike course is said to be the toughest IM bike course in the U.S.  Its not all up hill and doesn't have an Alp d'eus type climb, but they say its tough because there very few spots where you're just riding--your either climbing up hills or rollers, turning, cruising down curvey descents, etc.  There are 4 sections that I would call climbs, but other than that I didn't think the course was too bad.  I compare tri courses to road race routes, which may not be a fair way to analyse and compare because you don't ride a tri the same way you do a road race.  However, it is a nice frame of reference because it sets the bar high.  Road races alway include unseemingly sprintable hills designed to separate the pack a bit.  The IMWI course had those and would actually make for a good road race loop.  Overall I thought the course was pretty fun to ride.  When I got thru the first loop I was starting to feel the mileage.  After the first of the four climbs in the loop in the town of Mt. Horeb I pulled over in the feed zone and went for the Coca Cola (20 oz) I brought along.  I believe this is about 67 or so miles in.  I took down about half the cola and it did its thing.  I drank the rest of the Coke on the fly after the next climb.  Soon the lap was done and it was just a 16 mile shot back to Mad town.  A little tailwind and for the most part a loss of elevation made for a fast ride back averaging 21.66 mph.

Back at the Terrace, we road up the helix and a volunteer took our bike and racked it.
BIKE TIME: 5 hr 53 min 38 sec (19.0 mph average)

Transition 2 (bike to run)
Goal: around 5 minutes

After they took our bikes we headed into Monona Terrace again and into where are run bags were. Same routine--volunteer handed you your bag then you went to the mens transition room.  Fully assisted by a volunteer who unpacked then repacked your bag.  I completely changed into a different tri suit and headed out.  More sunsreen and on to the run course.  What a relief. I was only a short 26.2 mile trot from becoming an Ironman : )
T2 Time: 5 min 30 sec

RUN: 26.2 miles (two loops of 13.1)
My Potential: 3 hr 45 min (allowing 4 hours)

How I figured out what I could run a marathon in was mostly guesswork based on prior tri's and training runs, like how most people figure it out, but what I didn't have was a prior marathon result. Also, predicting longer races based on previous results at smaller ones assumes that you have increased your training volume and workout durations to meet the demands of the longer race.  I didn't do that.  I put in a few really long rides and runs that wouldn't have been in the plan had I not had been registered for IMWI.  For the most part, my training volume was good enough to do ok to good at races up to half-iron distance, but only just enough to get thru something longer.  For run training, the longest run I did was18 miles, just about a month prior to IM.  Before the IM, that was my longest run ever.  Going 3:45 to 4 hours for a marathon would mean a pace range of roughly 8:40 to 9:10 per mile.  So, what happened. Well, I started off WAY TOO FAST.  It didn't feel fast and I didn't know my speed until mile 1 sounded off on my watch.  Here's the first 4 miles:
  • 6 min 53 sec
  • 8 min 42 sec (but this included a pee break so maybe 7: 45 - 8 min of running?) 
  • 8 min 6 sec
  • 7 min 39 sec
I was really trying to slow it down and ease off.  Sometime during the early part of mile 5 it hit me--a wall.  I could feel the adrenaline wearing off and I was going down hill.  Here's the next 4 miles:
  • 10 min 53 sec
  • 13 min 14 sec
  • 10 min 10 sec
  • 10 min 5 sec
What I ended up doing was reaching a feed-zone/rest stop, stopping to grab cola/sports drink/water, walking thru there and another block or so while finishing my drinks, then jogging to the next one. I figure for miles 5 thru 22 I repeated that pattern.  At about mile 10 I started nibbling on oranges and grapes.  By mile 14 ro 15 I was chowing down on them.  I think what I happened is that I was just zapped of all energy to run without stopping;  I think since I stopped eating solids (Clif Bloks and sandwiches) on the way in on the bike that come time to run I was tapped.  My mouth would chew, but didn't want to swallow.  I had 15 Clif Bloks on me for the run which is 500 calories, but I ate just one and could barely get it down.  At about mile 18 or so, I met up with a guy who was doing the same jog, walk, drink, jog pattern, only his issue was that he could eat, but his stomach wanted none of that.  Overall time at that point was just before the 11 hour mark.  We wanted to go under 12, only had 8 miles to go, so thought we could do it.  We repeated our pattern for a couple miles and kept reevaluating the math. Not looking good for 12 hours.  After we accidentally walked from one rest stop till we could see the next, we figured by that time we'd have to PR a 10k so getting under 12 hours was not going to happen.  We got thru the feedzone and started up again.  That was all he could take. He told me to go on as he was going to walk the rest of it.  I told him  I'd walk it, but he encouraged me to go.  I think we had 4 miles to go.  Once I started running I felt great. The pound of grapes I snarfed down the last few miles were kicking in.  I ran 8:45's and stopped once to chat with a guy who was wearing Five Fingers.  He was trotting only as fast as I walked with him.  We were under 2 miles to go--I guess I was--he had had less than two to go for the lap and would have to start another.  I took off and ran the rest of the way in.  What a site it is to see the finishing arches.  I didn't sprint or speed up--just jogged the last stretch. DONE!  IRONMAN IT IS!
RUN TIME: 4 hrs 40 min 54 sec

TOTAL TIME= 12:12:20

Looking back I think my marathon estimate would have been right and I could have ran 9:10's had I not started out so fast.  Oh well, I am still overly happy with my result.  Will I do another? During the run I was determined I would NOT.  However, now that I know where I messed up I would like to do it again.  I'm probably going to wait till I am in the next AG.  Maybe in 2015 when I am in the 45-49 AG.  Who knows.

If this is the way Ironman's are run with regards to how they're organized, these events are truly top-notch.  Seriously.  Although expensive, they are worth it.  I can't describe how devoted the volunteers were. This thing was organized so well its hard to describe.  To use a convention center and parking ramp for the transition area made for a very sheltered, yet spacious transition area.  This was the 10th running of the event and they've probably worked out all the kinks, but still--it was almost flawless.  The perfect weather didn't hurt either...  Overall it was a great experience.

Next post will cover what I ate and drank as a lot of people ask about that.

PICTURES (all taken by Paige Reeves):

Calm waters before the race.

The 'Helix' crowded with people waiting for us to run up it.

The herd approaching the first left turn. $100 if you can point me out.

Lot of bikes. Look up the right side. See the first barrel--my bike is on the end next to it.

Me. Suffering.

Me heading to my bike. #1879.
One of the climbs in the bike course

WINNER! Ezequiel Morales (8:45:18 !)      

Overall Winner

Joe Moyer, right, finishing. He finished in 10:20:34 and some change. 61st overall.

Jeremy Ekman finishing (11:49:30)

Diana Koepp and me. I passed her a couple times, but she ended up finishing a little more than a half hour in front of me. Nice run Diana!

Post race--I really did finish before it got dark.

What the last stretch to the finish looks like.

Fireman guy--did whole marathon in uniform. 


J-No said...

What's on the band around your arm?

Nice job.

Mario said...

GPS pod. I wear a Suunto T3c heart rate monitor. The watch is small because the GPS is separate. That way you can train with the HRM when you don't need GPS and don't have a huge computer on your wrist (ie Garmin).

Brian said...

How do you think the 111 helped you before this race? I know you thought the experience with the transitions at the 111 would be a good experience for you.

Which shoes did you go with? Unless I missed it, I didn't see that in your report.

Again, great job Mario!

Mario said...

TriStar 111 helped in the way we had separate bags and sorting out what we put in them. However, I got a little too much confidence from that race running 6:25 av pace it made me think I could/should run sub 8's at IM. I probably would have started the marathon too fast anyway :)

Went with the Kinvara's.