Kelly the Culinarian: Race Recap: 2017 Ironman Wisconsin

Friday, September 22, 2017

Race Recap: 2017 Ironman Wisconsin

Six-word summary: Another PR, but time for time off.

It has been a hell of a summer, my friends. I have been off the grid for long enough that I feel a layer of guilt about my lack of blogging. I'll admit, my training for my third Ironman Wisconsin (2016, 2014) was lackluster. Last year, we went to Madison weekend after weekend to bike the course. We even had a stellar peak training weekend where we swam 2.4 miles Friday, biked 100 Saturday and ran 16 Sunday.

This year, I was a bit more slapdash. I loosely followed a training plan, working out 6/7 most weeks, and working up to a 100-mile bike ride, 2.4-mile open water swim and 18-mile run, just not all in the same weekend. I regretted signing up for an Ironman two years in a row. For me, it's too much. Training became another box that I feel guilty leaving unchecked (hence, why I am writing this recap two weeks after the event at 2 a.m. in a fit of insomnia).

But, practice does make perfect. We have the perfect Airbnb and decided that this year, we were staying Thursday through Monday. The first year, Alyssa and I did this in our Hipster Hideaway, and last year, I felt unduly stressed trying to pack up everything to get there by Friday night.

This year was downright leisurely. I spent most of Thursday morning packing up the car, checking our lists and organizing the trip. We drove to Madison and complete athlete check in in record time (not my only PR that day). We had enough time that I got my bike out to have the mechanics check it out. Good thing I did - the bike shop that changed my chain the week before put it on backward. I paid for a tune up after that because who knows what the hell else they screwed up. That evening, we took advantage of happy hour pricing and finally checked out Hopcat. The crack fries are amazing and during happy hour, a damn good burger is $5.95. I love Madison.

Friday, we tried to sleep in. We spent some quality time packing our transition bags and walking through everything we may need.  We dropped off our bikes and joined Mark for a short practice swim during which I tried on my brand-new goggles. They're my standard pair, but I bought a new one the week before to prevent a repeat of my first Ironman.

Saturday was more of the same. Lots of watching of Lost interrupted by only by dropping off our transition bags and walking around the expo. This year, I put all my hydration on my bike the night before. I noticed last year that it's surprisingly hard to find water in transition the morning of, and it's one less thing to worry about.

My favorite part of staying at an Airbnb (besides everyone getting their own room and more privacy), is we have a kick-ass kitchen. Instead of waiting around to eat and getting home later than we like, we made a metric ton of pasta for our assembled friends and family. We got dinner out of the way and turned in for the night at maybe 8:30 p.m. Unlike my current state, I slept well over eight hours for the week leading up to the event.

We awoke at 4:15 a.m. to apply sunscreen and body markings. Brent's mom bought us a new type of sunscreen that you apply the night before and the morning of that worked far better than my standard stuff. Zealios (they don't pay me, I just like the stuff), was my pasty skin's dream.

After that, we put on extra clothing and headed down to the Ironman Village. I pumped up my tires and got out of there ASAP to avoid the nervous energy.

Because this is the first year they've done a wave start for IMWI, I wanted to be near the beach early. Last year, I was sliding into the water as the cannon went off and I wanted to position myself to have a strong swim. I was headed down the helix at 6:15 a.m. for my 6:45 wave. I was at the front of the pack and got into the water with time to spare. You can no longer do a practice swim and get in the water 5 minutes before your wave starts, which I think was enough time.

I don't think the wave start did much to improve my state of mind. It just seemed less exciting. In fact, as the first non-pro wave, when the clock got to 6:45, Mike Reilly just said "Go." No cannon. Nothing. So off I went.

Every swim starts with a little panic for me. I don't know why. I get a little worked up about what happens next, and even with the wave start, I got kicked in the head hard enough to make my ears ring. I level out by the time I get to the first turn buoy, but I already knew I wasn't having the epic swim I did last year. My fault - I didn't swim as much as I should and didn't have nearly the open water swim experience I needed.

But all that didn't matter. I was really in my element by the time I got to the halfway buoy. I'd found a pattern and location in the pack that worked, and I was gliding along through the day. Out of nowhere, my goggles snapped right off my face into three distinct pieces. One arm shot out of the water and I started waving for help while the other hand clutched the remains of my goggles. A jetski tried to come over to me, but I was so far into the pack that they couldn't get close. I had to sidestroke over to them and try to get my very cold fingers to work in piece them back together enough to finish the remaining 1/3 of the swim. That happened right around 52 minutes in, so I knew my swim would not be the 1:10 I hoped for.

When I got to the second turn buoy after finding my bearings again, I was thoroughly pissed and over it. I forgot there was another buoy and thought I was headed for the beach, leading to more off-course swimming and general orneriness on my part.

I was angry getting out of the water. Why do I keep trusting speedo when twice their shitty goggles have kicked my Ironman day off in the most displeasing way? I looked like a monster coming out of the water and felt like it, too.

The wetsuit stripped was lovely and I was running up the helix in no time. I saw Brent's mom and asked her to hold onto the goggles so I could complain about it later. I got my bag in no time and was out of my swimsuit like three steps into the change room. I had a tough time getting into my bike stuff and felt a little clunky out of the water, but soon enough I was running barefoot through transition. My bike space was towards the end so when I got there, I sat on the ground and got my bike shoes on and away I went.

I hadn't even left the Alliant Center when I saw my first incident of some decked-out dude in all the gear throwing his bike into the bushes. Guess he was having a worse day than me.

I headed out on the stick towards Verona and settled in for the bulk of my day. Side note: This is a bit of an Facebook legend that people aren't sure is real, but I totally saw a dude without a seat, riding upright and passing me on a hill. His saddle was tucked into his bike jersey. If you believe the hype reported in certain circles online, he broke is seat post in T1 and rode the entire bike like that. One woman reports taking his bike from him in T2, and another said he missed a Kona roll down slot my 26 seconds. It's unclear if it's the same dude or if there are two mystery men with the same laughable problem, although there doesn't seem to be a debate that the dude/s finished the entire 112-mile bike seatless. I am not worthy.

This year, I didn't bother with a bike or a run special needs bag knowing we didn't not get them back last year. Instead, I had a PBJ sandwich and oreos in my jersey pocket and snacked anytime I stopped to pee. Which happened to by like three times. At least I knew I was hydrated.

Learning from my follies of the past, I took a bottle of some sort of hydration at every aid station and made it my goal to have space on my bike to swap out at the next station.

Weird fact: This year's Gatorade Endurance or Ironman formula or whatever they were offering stained my bottles the most vibrant shade of orange. I've never seen that happen, and it didn't taste that strong. I wonder what it did to my insides.

In addition to the gatorade and my snacks, I tried to grab a cliff mini bar or other snack as often as I could. I never ate a gel, but I did have probably four of those mini bars, so I was set.

It's always surreal on the bike because it's easy to lose sight of the fact that you're racing because it's such a long day. You don't want to go all out because you need to save your legs, but you can't zone out or it will take forever. I did bike up Barlow this year for the first time and wish I hadn't. My legs were toast for some time and it wasn't worth it.

As always, when I made it to the stick back, I knew I was going to finish my day. I made it up the helix and jogged into transition, which was mercifully shorter than my first transition. I was back out on the road in no time and caught Jess long enough to tell her why my swim was crap, then off I went around the square. I had no plan or strategy other than to try and run more this year.

I would run a bike, walk up a hill, run a bit, take some pretzels, jog a bit. Around mile six, I caught up to a friend and we chatted while she power walked through campus. When I went to take a job down a hill, she decided she'd rather keep up with me than run it alone. So that's how Andrea and I ended up spending many an hour traipsing through Madison and its outer trails.

I finally saw Brent as I settled into my second loop, well after taking a two-pack of Advil for a creaky knee. The gel caps are where it's at, friends. Insta-relief. I thought I recalled the aid stations having more food, but alas, I was many pretzels short of a meal worth eating.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the chicken broth came out and I had visions of warmer clothing. This year was unseasonably cool. I believe we reached a high of 67 that day (the following weekend was into the 80s, and today, it hit 95 on my dashboard during my evening commute).

I start dreaming of finishing well before the second loop starts, but this year, I was fixated on the idea of finally hearing Mike Reilly clearly say, "Kelly Stone, You Are an Ironman." It's been a long time coming and after such a not banner year, I wanted it more than I wanted this all to be over.

When we got to the square, Andrea motioned for me to go on to have my moment. It was everything I remember and everything I love about the long, miserable day and even longer training toil.

I crossed the finish line and was met by Brent's mom and Alyssa. They were both volunteering at the finish line collecting chips and were changing shifts as I finished right before 9 p.m. I felt pretty good finishing, other than very cold. Terri gave me her jacket and called Jess so I could retrieve my clothes. I collected my things and skipped the finisher's photos in favor of collecting some food and heading across the street to get my stuff from my friends who so lovingly collected it from race officials. Gear in hand, Alyssa and Jess and I craftily made it back to the finish line to get prime seats for Brent's finish.

We were in such a plum spot that I watched Mike Reilly eat a sandwich and took medal selfies with him in the background. When Brent made it across the finish line, we all headed to a nearby hotel to chill for a while. We opted not to go out to eat afterwards this year, and instead got more food at the finish line and went back to our Airbnb for showers and bedtime. I'd love to say I slept in until noon, but I was up fairly early. We made breakfast, packed up and drove home with our mountain of laundry, medals and pride still intact.

The fact that I managed to continue to take time off my PR in spite of training that left much to be desired makes me wonder if I'm holding back on race day or what. Maybe one day I'll have a summer where I can give it my all and really leave it out there, but this was not that year. I am abstaining from Ironmans for 2018 and will see if I feel the itch in 2019. For now, I have so much other stuff that vies for my attention. I'd like to return to the race when I've earned it and know I can make improvements on my performance.

The upswing is that the backpack and medal are better this year than all the others I've received, and I know I will enjoy running and biking more when it's not a mandate in my life.

Cost: $700ish (but who's counting now)
Time: 14:08:01 (a PR of three minutes)
Pros: Well-run race with tons of volunteers and premium everything: shirts, medals, swag, aid stations
Cons: $$$, sacrificing your summer, neverneding guilt/anxiety over not training enough, the roads are rough in spots and Barlow is a nightmare

1 comment:

Maggie W said...

Congrats on another Ironman! You seem so casual about it :) Taking a break can be a good thing. I'm glad I took a break from running, now that I'm getting back into it, I'm enjoying it more than I was when I stopped (although I was also in pain from runners knee, so there's that).