Friday, September 14, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin 2012: "When I grow up I want to be an Ironman!"

Ironman Wisconsin, 2012. Where to begin? LF, you know that I was sort of conflicted about doing this thing altogether.  There I was, hearing bad news about Dad in Oregon, wondering why I should go through with it, and if I went through with it (Ironman) what sort of a mess would I be come race day?  But I went ahead and booked ticket for Oregon for 9/11 and went ahead with my Ironman plans. After all, wouldn't Dad want me to race? (Of course!) So packed, prepared, trained, I headed to Madison to spend a weekend with the crew.  My new training buddy and hero, Jilly, has done the IMOO race each of it's 11 years, and she's a veteran and friend of many.  I don't know if I was completely prepared for the flurry of gifts, fun and glam that would carry us through what often is a terribly stressful few days.  First off, I received a gift, the Esther Williams style swim cap:

OK, I'll wear it, but only if I can sidestroke for 2.4 miles!

OK, get it from this angle: lovely!
 It's only Thursday, in case your wondering. And usually I'm wandering around thinking of some sort of trouble to get myself into.  Jilly and Beth, veteran IMMOOers, insist it's dinnertime at about 5PM. Really?  The women are serious about the routine, early dinner, early bed all three nights leading up to race day--but of course!  I drag our small crew to a pasta place that I like, and it's right across State Street Nogginz, where I get my hair trimmed on a regular basis.  One of the gals on the floor remembered me from another visit I paid, and we chatted about ironman and housing and life in general. It was a great evening.

any grey yet??
 The real purpose behind bedtime on time on Thursday night?  Friday morning Lake Monona swim.  Here we are, and, as you can see, I've got my cap & ready to wear.

Tim (first timer),  Beth (x6) , Jilly (x12), Karen (x7).
 OK, LF, you might as well be reminded, if you don't know already, that I'm sort of conflicted about a whole bunch of the Ironman stuff.  It seems, often, that I'm surrounded by a certain type of people with certain views about humanity and the world and the United States, etc.. So, any opportunity to delve a tiny bit deeper into the communities we visit is a welcome one for me.  Madison, home to fabulous markets, locally produced food, and generally lefty leaning politics, is a great place to hang out. Here's a guy holding a sign in the capital building, in case we forgot, for just a moment, that the polarization in Wisconsin is any less than that in the rest of the US.
"Scottie's new little dog, Erwin, had another accident and pooped all over the constitution."
And next, my much anticipated trip to the Willie Street Co-op, where I was convinced it was finally time to become a member, even though I don't even live in Madison. When you buy this much in the bulk section, I think I pretty much might as well have "easy prey" stamped right upon my forehead.
Bread. rice, grains, tahini, ginormous peanut butter, ginormous honey, and more!

Why wouldn't you want to join the co-op, huh?
And then, it's back to the Hotel, and it's only Friday! What will we possibly do until 7AM Sunday??? First, I'm introduced to the Rhombus of Revulsion.  Beth's sense of humor is legendary, and barely reveals what a fierce wit and competitive spirit lies beneath the cool exterior. Some people hire coaches and obsess relentlessly upon their race strategy, training, gear, and the like. Some people build a Rhombus and call it a day. Some people do a combination of the both.

The Rhombus of Revulsion
Saturday morning. Time for next year's registration (next year?) and a visit to the nations LARGEST Farmer's Market!  I peruse the scene, wishing I could shop here every week, and adoring Madison on a crisp September morning.  I can't buy any of the produce, but I settle on some great looking Pumpkin Bread that The Silly Yak is selling.  It proves to be the fuel for race day, breakfast, lunch and more. Yeah, mushy pumpkin bread!  My bread seller gave me great wishes for a great Ironman.
OK, put me in your blog!@!
And then, time to stand in line to profess our eternal love of the sport, Ironman in particular.  Jilly, veteran of 12 Ironmans (including the illustrious Hawaii IM), finds a t-shirt at the expo in the kids section which suits her just perfectly:
When I grow up I want to be an Ironman!
Time for more clowning around. I was joking that I'd like, for once, a photo of me finishing at Madison in the broad daylight, when the pros and top age groupers cross the line, so here I am:
Yeah, baby!  I feel fresh!
Not without the extra walk around market, Jilly needs to say hello to her Madison Aunt who is out registering voters.  Lovely.
Sometime around dinner my family arrived in town and we had a bit of fun.  Kids need a bit of Mom time, a few minutes chatting in the hotel and a few bites of candy, it's all good.
And before we know it, it's race morning. Up at 4:20, out the door by 5:00. Race doesn't start until 7AM, but who's kidding, after all year, we need to be on time and on time means early!
Ready to go!
So what about the race? Naturally, I didn't get any IM pictures on my camera, I was too busy doing the work of the day.  It was chilly and breezy in the early hours.  We were worried that we would be sloshed around in the water, and perhaps chilled on the bike.  I had my moments of worry during the swim, trying not to get a rib knocked by some guys big feet (27% women at this race), and keeping my sight on the buoys (not entirely successful).  The two loop course had been changed to a single 2.4 mile loop, so I was able to relax a bit more and swim my own race.  I was proud that I didn't get too sidetracked emotionally by the nature of the mass swim start.  I held my focus, did what I could do, and kept my energy to myself.  1:16, not my fastest IM swim, but I didn't feel cranky, and was prepared to feel cheerful coming out of the water.  The transition from swim to bike is unique in Madison IM.  We run up the fabulous parking garage helix that is part of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace. 
This run isn't short, it's quite long for a triathlon  transition, but the helix is lined by cheering and dancing and drumming spectators, a beginning of a day filled with the most sizeable groups of spectators in any race I've participated in.  And then, onto the bike for 112 glorious miles.  Peter and Addie caught me going out of the transition area, so I was thrilled to see my peeps.  I love that they want to be there for me. Love them!
I think I've talked about difficult rides, I've posted pictures of IM Wisconsin course, I've kvetched about itches and pains and hours on the saddle. For whatever reason, today felt simply great on the bike.  I was wearing leg and arm warmers for most of the ride, I had planned my nutrition carefully (profile water bottle, refilled every few hours), and three perpetuum bottles, only one ready-mixed, the others waiting for water.  I ate the famous pumpkin bread, bananas, gu, and a flew cliff shots.  I felt indestructible, until mile 56 when I stopped at the Special Needs station.  The sprightly volunteer helped drag my leg warmers off, I grabbed three Willie Street Co-op olives from my Special Needs Bag, and I was on my way.  Half way there, and I knew the wind was picking up and it would be tough to match my current pace.  I settled into something a bit more modest and concentrated on hitting the hills properly and not getting any sort of penalty.  By mile 90 the wind was fierce and my back was sore, but I knew I was there. I hadn't been looking at my watch, but i had a good feeling about my split.  I knew that I would be not too far over 6 hours, and on a windy day like this, I'll take it!

By the time I started the run, I was feeling rotten.  How can I possibly collapse this day into a post?  It's truly a tremendously long day, so I have to admit that I was so thrilled to see Julie and Nan and Peter and Ashby and Addie as I headed out on the run.  They lightened my load ever slightly, but by the time I gave Addie a hug I was crying and also when I saw Matt around the corner.  I figured I didn't have a chance.  I was nauseous, tired, and so sick of Ironman, really. But of course, if you checked yesterday's post you know I made it, and I made it by slowing down enough to pay attention to my heart rate, and just shuffling along, one mile at a time.  I don't like running at anything over 145 bpm for too much time, so anything under mile 20 i want to see HR of 145 or less.  Funny, as time progressed, I noticed that I mostly just didn't want to run anymore, it wasn't a problem with my HR formula.  So although I did slow quite a bit between miles 13 and 20, i never really gave up, and by the end I was ready to pick it up a little bit. More than I can say of some other times I've tried the distance.  Also a plus: NO major gastric distress, which I honestly think has as much to do with luck as anything else!
LF, you might recall that I dedicated this race to my Dad, who is slowing down each and every day.  How did this work out on the course?  I kept it together emotionally, and for sure, he was with me for the duration of the weekend.  I certainly thought of the sort of pain that he's experiencing with any sort of movement these days, and that supported my ability to confront the pain of Ironman.  But I remember two things that connected me to Dad so intensely.  First, I'm often consumed with the isolation and loneliness that elder & ailing friends go through, Dad, as much as anybody.  As we near 90, and confront illness, there just isn't much company anymore.  I've certainly participated in Lonely Ironmans (and workouts), but the defining characteristic of this race is the sheer population of cheering spectators on the course.  As I turned onto State Street, lined with cheering and dancing folks and friends, I thought, wow, better appreciate the company, thinking about Dad.  So I did what I could to engage with these wacky supporters.  Any time I heard music, all day long, I'd pump my hands and sing along, no matter how silly the song (usually metal or pop). When I did this, smiling, the cheers elevated, and of course, it made me think of Dad, and how popular his smile and genuine spirit have always been (the nicest man on campus).

Finish photo~!

Finished with Ironman in a practically blistering 12:25:03! I'll take it.  Brother, Scott, asked me if it was a PR, no, but it is a RR (Recent Record!) it's been a LONG time since I broke 13 hours and I'm thrilled to pieces!!!! Hugs for family and friend Julie, and it's food, then shower time!  All in preparation for the fact that the kids have talked their way into stealing my bed for a night, while Peter drives home, and in fact that I'm going back out onto the course for a bit more celebrating.
Friends Louie and Tammy are getting married on the course! What sweeties.  Louie waits until Tammy comes in, friends gather, take photos, then the two, after quick ceremony, run to the finish line for Tammy's finish.

Jilly and Mike Reilly, almost midnight!

And before we know it, it's 11PM and we've got an hour to celebrate and bring in the final athletes before midnight. I've always wanted to attend this end of the festivities, but for whatever reason, I haven't.  This year, Jilly insisted we get to the bleachers at the finish line and the experience was fantastic. Long time IM emcee Mike Riley sings and dances and keeps fans energized so that there is a sizeable crowd for the very final finishers of the race, near the end of the day.  A really moving time, we were standing up along the barrier, banging on the panels so that runners would hear us from around the capitol.  The whole experience was electrifying, and I was so glad that I had dedicated myself to this weekend.

You. Are. an Ironman!

Mike stops a final finisher, work the crowd...savor the moment.

This man has been at this work for How Many years?
And it's all over. A complete day. The next morning we wake to the electrifying news that Beth had passed at least 3 in her age group in the final four miles of the run to take her division (never scoff at somebody who's race preparation includes a Rhombus of Revulsion). And we all eat some yummy food, wander around, pack our stuff, and marvel at our feats, new comers and old timers alike.  Newbie Tim is electrified to have finished, and us old ladies are chalking up another year at the race.  Just wait til next year!  In fact, as I've been saying all weekend: "It's all about 2013!"
"let's look like ladies of leisure..."

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