Ironman Louisville 2017 Race Recap

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017

October 14, 2017

Ironman Louisville – What a day!  After 30 weeks of training, straining, and complaining I have finally crossed the Fourth Street Live! finish line!  And what a finish line!  And to finish my third Ironman with my teammates once again makes it all the sweeter.  Here’s the recap of my week leading up to and my experiences and memories of Ironman Louisville 2017!  (Brace yourself –  Tons of photos and tons of paragraphs ahead!)

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INTRODUCTION:  My four other Gunner teammates and I felt a little too emboldened after having a great race at Ironman Lake Placid in 2016, so we kidded around and prompted each other to do another in 2018 until we got serious about it.  Louisville kept coming up as a strong possibility.  I knew Ironman Louisville would fall around the same time of year as the Chicago Marathon, so I had to make a decision – Ironman Louisville or the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s premier event.  When the gang decided that Lou was a go, Alex, Dave, Jeff and I all applied and Ironman Louisville was on our calendars.  The only Gunner missing was John, who had just welcomed a new baby to his growing family and would have to opt out this time.  He was definitely there in spirit!

Once again, I decided to use Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit 30-week competitive training plan with one major change.  I decided that the swim plan was too exhaustive for me, with three swims per week that were mostly 2500 yards or more.  My swim technique is by no means something to be proud of, but I think it’s about as good as it is going to get.  And after swimming 1:18 at IMLP, I felt that I could cut it back and still do well.  So I switched to the Just Finish swim plan of the book until I decided that was too much as well!  I ended up doing most of my swim training at home in my own pool, two 45 minute swims per week.  I focused on good technique during those swims and figured that if I could swim 45 minutes without being drained, swimming another 30 to 45 minutes in a race would be no problem.  

With that major change to the swim plan, I also decided that this year I was going to gun a little harder and step out of my comfort zone in other areas too.  I had a full aero disc wheel for my bike, but had chickened out using it in Lake Placid and in other races as well.  I finally just said screw it, and threw the dumb thing onto my bike and trained with it.  I rode that thing all spring, summer and fall and quickly came to the realization that I was way too conservative of a Ironman triathlete.  I’m using the disc wheel, dang it.  I almost chickened out using it on race day with good reason, but I held my ground.  

The links to my thirty weeks of training can be found here:  Race Week is Here!

The call to the gate has been played!  Now, off to the race!

 

WEDNESDAY:  The plan was to caravan as a group down to Louisville.  Jeff needed a ride, so he took the train to Mokena and I picked him up and we waited until Dave and his gang pulled into town.  A quick trip to Mindy’s restaurant for a dinner and off we went to Louisville.

We arrived in the city sometime after 1am and started to check into our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown.  That’s when we were greeted by one of Louisville’s finest – 30 cents guy.  This guy was asking for money, but the strange thing is he was only asking for 30 cents.  “It’s ONLY 30 CENTS” was his request, which he made over and over again.  Funny thing is I had 30 cents in my pocket, but there was no way I was giving it to him.  Pro tip:  If you’re going to beg for money, be nice about it.  And don’t be weird and request some stupid arbitrary number like 30 cents.  What the hell do you buy with 30 cents anyway?  

 

THURSDAY:  After breakfast with the gang, I did a quick 3 mile run. We then all walked to the Ironman village to register and pick up our packets. Seeing that my birthday was coming two days after the race, I decided to treat myself to some early birthday gifts.  After buying a cycling jersey, tri kit, zippered hoodie, two t-shirts, a hat, a visor, a long sleeve tech shirt, and two coffee mugs, I decided that was plenty for now and to save some for the finisher’s jacket on Monday.  

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Walking to the Athlete Village

 

After exiting the Ironman store, we were just in time for the Athlete Briefing, a course talk that they say is mandatory, but it’s not like they take attendance.  It pays to go to it though, as each course is different, and there were some changes to the swim start at Ironman Louisville.  Not long into it, we encountered weirdo number two.  I wish I had taken his picture, but he appeared to be a somewhat inebriated version of Tulio from “The Road to El Dorado” and Dave Navarro.  

 

This weirdo’s M.O. was to stand on the outside of the Athlete Village and stare at us.  He later made entry and stood and listened to the course talk as well, like the drafting rule changes were the best advice he had ever heard.  Maybe he was considering a last minute entry into the race.  Last I saw of him, he was doing chin-ups on a parkway tree.  

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Watching the non-Mike Reilly voice of Ironman Louisville, Dave Ragsdale.  He did a great job.  Apparently Alex was too cool to wear his backpack like the rest of his Gunner teammates.

 

We did a little course reconnaissance, seeing that the transition area and the Swim Out was nearby.  I kind of wish we hadn’t looked at the water because we saw a bunch of floating logs and debris in the water, and of particular note a group of about six or so fish.  Yes, I know that there are fish in the water.  But these things were insanely HUGE!!!  They looked almost prehistoric, and moved their mouths super slow, almost like they were silently telling us that they planned to dine well on Sunday morning.  

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Their mouths were literally big enough to swallow a softball.  I’m not kidding.

 

After a late lunch at an Italian place on Fourth Street Live (I had the spaghetti pie), we decided to drive the bike course.  If looking at the water was a mistake, we should have also skipped the bike course drive.  It was not what I was expecting.  Rolling hills in Illinois must mean something totally different in Kentucky, because these things were relentless and looked horrible.  Nothing we could do about it at this point.  It was probably a good idea to see what we were dealing with, but it certainly didn’t look like fun.

 

FRIDAY:  I got up and ran a four mile out and back on the run course and thankfully found it to be pleasurable, i.e. no hills. Now it seemed like Louisville was being taken over by Ironman triathletes and their families.  It was getting crowded and the excitement was starting to build.  We attended the athlete welcoming ceremony on Fourth Street Live and were treated to a pretty decent band and a really inspirational video about some of our fellow Ironman competitors.  

Dinner was at TGIFriday’s, and I stayed up and greeted Kari and Ben who arrived late.

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Four Gunners enjoying the welcome ceremony.

 

SATURDAY:  Kari and I got up early and had breakfast with Jeff. He talked me into doing the optional practice swim and I’m glad I did.  It was a simple ten to fifteen minute dip, but it always helps me realize that the swim course isn’t anything to worry about.  The water temp was mild, free of debris and man eating fish. Upon getting out of the water, I ran a mile with Ben, who had just returned from his own run.

Upon getting back to the hotel, I double checked my gear bags.  

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After debating about what to wear last week, I decided that I would stay true to the Gunner team and wear the team tri kit.  I brought the water shoes so that I could walk without stepping in triathlete piss that covered the path to the Swim Start.  I’m glad I did.
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Nothing special here.  I opted for the white arm warmers made from tube socks over the black long sleeve cycling shirt.
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The weather looked to be cool and possibly rainy, so I threw in this windbreaker that I bought at Dick’s on Friday.  Once again, I’m glad I did because I grabbed it and used it later on the run.
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I added a short and long sleeve team shirt in case I wanted to change, but I ended up staying in the kit.  I drank some of the Gatorade, and to my surprise had only enough of the baby powder to put in one shoe.  I opted for the visor over the hat.  I need to make this simpler.  There’s too many choices.
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Stopping traffic to take a group photo.  Jeff, Alex, me and Dave (l-r).

After packing up, our group walked to transition to rack our bikes and drop off our bags.  About 3/4 of the way there, I realized that Ben was carrying the Bike Gear Bag, and I had thought Kari had the Run Gear bag.  She wasn’t carrying it.  Oops.  Just like that I had my first freakout of the day.  Did I leave it in the hotel room?  On the elevator?   In the lobby?  On a street corner?  Kari was kind enough to walk back to the hotel, find it in the room and grab it.  All was good with the world again.  It’s a good thing I am married to one of the greatest sherpa’s of all time.

My gear bags were in a great spot, third row deep and all the way down at the end, thanks to the row ending with my bib number:  2400.  That made it super easy to find.

We stopped at a pizza place for dinner and then headed home to get off our feet and chill out for the night.  It was race day eve!

 

SUNDAY RACE DAY!

The alarm went off at 4 am, and I got up and took a shower.  I don’t usually do that, but I took Dave’s advice and let it wake me up.  I felt pretty good.  I got dressed, ate a bagel and some banana and gathered up my Morning Clothes bag and headed down to the lobby to meet up with the crew.  

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Looking mostly awake, but slightly terrified.

 

We shuffled our way to transition and checked our gear – added water bottles, checked the tires, made sure our gear bags were still there – then it was off to body marking.  I think body marking is somewhat strange and useless.  I guess it makes it easier to identify our bodies if we drown, crash off a cliff, or have a major grabber on the run.  Oh well, I try to have fun with it and I requested my usual smiley face on the calf.  That’s about as close as I will get to getting an Ironman tattoo.  

Louisville had somewhat of a unique rolling swim start that underwent a change for 2017.  It was still a rolling start, but instead of a first come/first serve method of getting in line, you self-seeded yourself into a grouping based on your predicted swim finish time.  I was overthinking this too much, because my swim PR from last year at Lake Placid would have put me in the 1:20 group, but I also knew and expected that the Louisville current aided swim would make me faster, and I should possibly get in with a faster group.  That morning Dave opted to go into the faster group and I played it conservative and stuck with the 1:20 to 1:30 group with Jeff.  My thinking was that I would rather swim around and pass others than have faster swimmers swim over me.  

As we approached the dock where we enter, I could hear Ben yelling for me even with my ear plugs in.  I ditched my water shoes and Jeff and I opted to join the line of the swimmers jumping off the closest dock.  “Why should I swim an extra 10 yards?” was my thinking.  I waved to Ben and Kari and then jumped in and started my journey.

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Jeff and I acknowledging our superfans.
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I hesitated before jumping in because I didn’t want to cannonball the girl in front of me.  Looks like Jeff beat me into the water!  I’m already in fourth place!  Geronimo!

 

THE SWIM

2.4 Miles > 1:09:18 > 78th in M50-54 A/G > 716th Male > 957th Overall

Equipment:  Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuit > Speedo Rx smoke goggles > Hearos swim earplugs > EPIX Custom Triathlon Kit (all day) > Garmin Forerunner 910XT (all day)

As soon as I was horizontal in the water I felt at ease and in control.  The water was slightly cooler than it had been the day before in the practice swim, but it felt perfect.  I reminded myself to dial it back for about 10-15 minutes and make sure I don’t get above a perceived Z2 effort.  The course has you swimming upstream around Towhead Island and then a little further into the Ohio River until you reach the turn buoy.  Just as we passed the island, it seemed like the water temp dropped about 5-10 degrees.  I saw another athlete post a similar reaction, so I know I wasn’t misperceiving that.  A little after I made my way over to the turn buoy I felt it warm up again.  Not sure what was going on with that.  There was a little bit of choppiness to the water in the last third of the swim, but I just made sure to rotate in the water a little more and had no issues with it.

After a little contact turning around that first buoy, I began the remaining 2/3’s of the trip back.  I’m terrible when it comes to sensing slight changes in the wind and apparently the current as well, but I could tell that I was quickly closing in on the bridges we had to swim under.  It was no time until I got past the last bridge and could spot Joe’s Crab Shack, which was near the Swim Out.  I started swimming a little harder in that last 10 minutes and was amazed when I saw my watch time of 1:09, a PR by almost 10 minutes.  

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My Garmin swim map.  I’m amazed at how “straight” I swam.  Most of the jagged parts were due to me avoiding groups of other swimmers.

 

The Ironman Louisville swim was without a doubt the most painless, cramp-free, quickest and most enjoyable of the three Ironman swims I have done.  There were no fish, no logs, no odors, and nothing that was unexpected.  It was awesome.  

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SWIM > BIKE TRANSITION – T1

11:14

After getting out of the water I immediately saw Ben and Kari and most of our cheer crew.  I jogged up to the wetsuit strippers and let them do the job.  Then it was off to T1 and find my Bike Gear bag and my bike for the next part of the race.  

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On my way to T1.
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Found my pile of money (bike) and headed to Bike Out.

 

THE BIKE

112 Miles > 6:12:14 > 78th Place M50-54 A/G > 698th Place Male > 840th Place Overall

Equipment:  Specialized Shiv Pro Triathlon Bike > Specialized Trivent Expert Cycling Shoes > FLO aero wheels 30 front/Full back > Louis Garneau Superleggera Aero Helmet > Garmin Edge 500 Bike Computer > Feetures Mini Crew Light Cushion Socks > Homemade Tube Sock Arm Warmers > GU Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean Energy Gel in Two GU Energy Gel Flasks > Salt Stick Dispenser with Salt Capsules

The bike ride had been on my mind since driving it on Friday.  We had seen the hills on the two looped portion and they did not look all that friendly.  But the main player of the day would not turn out to be the hills, it was the weather.  

We had been keeping an eye on the weather for a couple of weeks, and it was shaping up to be a hot day in the 80’s until the last few days prior to Sunday.  The temps were predicted to be much cooler, which was welcome, however that also meant that a cold front was expected midday, bringing gusts of around 30 mph and strong sustained winds for the day, as well as the chance for rain and thunderstorms.  The thunderstorms didn’t materialize, but we did have light rain and strong gusts.  

I had made the decision much earlier in training that I wasn’t going to wimp out anymore by not using my full disc aero wheel, and I had racked my bike with that full disc wheel for the race.  And even though I managed to somehow stay upright in strong crosswinds, it was not easy.  I found myself several times leaning very aggressively into the crosswind, hoping not to get blown off my intended line.  It was hard.

Heading out of Louisville was amazingly gentle, a fast ride made possible by a flat road and a super strong tailwind.  The first ten miles I had averaged about 21 mph and it was easy riding.  

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Flat and fast along the banks of the Ohio River on River Road leaving Louisville.

 

I finally got to the turn for the loops and felt the crosswind for the first time.  And then the hills started.  After riding them a little I realized that they really weren’t all that bad.  Compared to Wisconsin and Lake Placid, these were not as bad.  The climbs were pretty short in duration, and there were plenty of screaming down hills thrown in as well.  My Garmin registered a top speed of 41 mph, and there were several descents in which I hit 30+ mph.  

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Heading through LaGrange for the first time and being greeted by the gang.  I was feeling pretty good here.

 

Upon getting to LaGrange, the weather was warming up.  I had tossed the arm warmers in the transition in town and could feel myself sweating a little more.  My Garmin said the temperature had risen into the low 80’s, but I don’t think it got that warm.  I would say mid to upper 70’s.  It lasted maybe thirty minutes and then it clouded over, got cooler and started to sprinkle.  

The rain was pesky, never really completely wetting the roadway to the point were I felt it was a concern.  But now that it was raining slightly, and the temps had dropped, I went from being slightly warm to being uncomfortably cool.  It wasn’t unbearable, but I did regret not keeping my arm warmers.  

At Mile 45 I found myself riding mostly alone and got a little concerned that I missed the second loop turn.  I finally caught up with the next rider, who was standing and pedaling, and I asked him if he was on his first or second loop.  He said he was on his first loop and that the turn for the second loop is still ahead.  Immediately after asking him the question though, I realized why he was standing – he was urinating.  I almost laughed at him while he was responding to me, but I was able to contain myself.  Triathlon is weird.  

The turn for the second loop finally came and off I went back toward LaGrange.  I stopped at the aid station there and found the toilets (I don’t pee myself, although there were times I considered it).  Upon exiting I was greeted by a volunteer who had a table of miscellaneous stuff – pretzel sticks, chips, grapes, and other stuff.  But it was the Vasoline that caught my eye.  I had forgotten to apply some Glide in T1, so I grabbed a stick full of the goo and stuck it in my pants.  I rode pretty comfortably after that.  The volunteer said the Vasoline was pretty popular.  No doubt.  I also stopped at the Bike Special Needs and grabbed the little yellow jacket I bought.  I thought I might need it again, seeing that I had already seen the temps drop once.

After getting through the second loop and turning back west, I could see that the weather ahead of me looked awful.  And it was really windy at this point.  Around the 90 mile marker I passed Jeff and said hello.  He said hi back, but didn’t appear to be in the mood to talk.  We must of rode a similar pace back because he later came out of T2 right after me.  

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Finishing up the final mile or so of the ride.

 

I pushed a pretty hard pace between 90 and 105 miles or so, but then decided to relax a little on the rougher River Road and spin my legs to recover for the run a little bit.  I was pretty glad to come back into Louisville and get off the bike.  It was a great ride, especially considering the brutal weather and the challenging rollers, but I was glad to be heading in for the run.  Had I not stopped in four of the aid stations, I probably would have saved 10 minutes on that ride.  In all, the bike course is challenging and technical, but plenty of fun to ride.

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BIKE > RUN TRANSITION – T2

9:03

I was amazed to once again see Ben yelling for me there at the end of the ride.  He really did a great job making sure to be loud and get my attention and cheer me on.  Every time  seeing him and the others was a big emotional lift.  

I dismounted and started the walk into transition, where along the way I handed my pile of money (bike) off to some kid who couldn’t have been more than 10, and continued my post-ride shuffle into the change tent.  I could see the amused look on many of the spectators getting a good chuckle at our hunched over and hobbled walk.  I was even laughing at some of the others as well.

In my bag I had packed a large baby wipe and used it to towel myself off.  Even if it was just for the refreshing smell, it made me feel better.  I grabbed my bib belt, shoved my feet into my shoes, and opted for the visor instead of the hat.  I kept the rain jacket in my back pocket, and I am very glad I did.

 

THE RUN

26.2 Miles > 4:05:07 > 24th Place M50-54 A/G > 341st Place Male > 434th Place Overall

Equipment:  Boco Visor > Nishiki Weather/Wind Resistant Cycling Jacket > Hoka One One Clifton 3 > Fuel Belt Bib Belt with Pouch

When I came out of the change tent I was surprised to see Jeff.  I had passed him on the bike and never saw him pass me back, so he must have been right behind me.  He was trying to determine if waiting for a portable toilet to open up was in his best interest, and I saw him jog off to a set further up from Run Out.  But he was right there with me, and I knew he was going to be chasing me down soon.  

I was barely out of T2 when I saw Dave’s son Maxwell, who was cheering like mad.  He was telling me that I only had a little run of 26 miles to go.  Funny kid.  Kari and Ben saw me again and I advised them that Jeff was right behind me.  They took this bit of information somewhat nonchalantly, and it dawned on me they new exactly where everyone was at.  “Yeah, we know he’s behind you.  Now get going!”  

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Already tired of running and I haven’t even left T2 yet.

 

Kari and Ben had discovered that Louisville has a bike share program and decided to hop a couple of bikes and chase me around the first part of the first loop.  I would get up the road a little and then out of the blue Ben would yell “GO Papa!” which usually took me by surprise.  He even caught me once coming out of the porta-john, at which I just shook my head.

Right after that potty break, I saw that Jeff had caught up with me.  It was then he said he had crashed on the bike!  No wonder he wasn’t up for small talk out on the bike course when I had seen him earlier.  He said that some dope had passed him and then stopped right in front of him, causing him to crash and being tossed over his handlebars.  He ended up with a pretty good sized bump on his forehead, but seemed to be doing okay.  

Jeff and I jogged together for most of the first four miles of the first loop out, but my desire to walk the aid stations and multiple porta-john breaks caused him to gain a little distance on me.  I had been passing some gas quite a bit, a common occurrence which many of the other racers also experienced from the sound of it.  The saying in triathlon is “Never Trust a Fart,” and I had already “trusted” about a half dozen of them, so I was playing it safe by continually wasting my time in the toilet.  But after awhile, I must have gotten most of the gas out of me and never felt the need to go again other than pee breaks.  I was staying hydrated pretty well, and was content with my hydration and nutrition plan on the run.  I was hitting the Coke and chicken broth, and eating the pretzels/potato chips and bananas when I felt like it.  I kept up the gel intake at every 30 minutes as well.  I never ran out of energy on the course.  

Jeff knew that one of his former bosses was in the race and they met up on the run course somewhere around the 7 mile mark.  I had started to creep back up on Jeff, and when I saw them jogging together and sharing their experiences of the day, I decided to try to sneak by and pass them unnoticed.  But Jeff saw me and gave me some well wishes for the rest of the race.  It was at that point that I thought he might be struggling a little.  

Up next for me was seeing Alex, and I jogged with him for a little while.  I came to realize that he was about 5 miles from being a two time Ironman and I was still on my first loop.  We didn’t stride together for long, and he was off to finish.

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Alex was gunning for the finish, and I was hamming it up on the first loop.

 

It wasn’t long until I was also near the finish; however, I had to make the turn for my second loop.  It’s somewhat of a sickening feeling when the halfway turnaround point is very close to the finish line.  I was feeling really good at this point and figured that if I was still doing well with 10K to go, I would probably start my kick.  And that’s what I did.  I got lots of “great pace, Chris” and “nice run” from the spectators, who could read my name on the front of my bib.  I did like the fact that the fans along the course could cheer for you personally.  It freaks you out the first time, and then you figure it out.  

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Another picture of me running, just because I kind of like this one.

 

The turn at the end of the out loop was near the 20 mile mark and it was now go time for me.  I felt really good. I picked up my pace and was running just under 8 minute miles and passing a good number of runners.  Around the 22 mile mark I drank a little chicken broth and it wasn’t long after that that it seemed like it wasn’t settling so well.  I started to get slightly nauseated, and I burped a couple of times, which seemed to alleviate the nausea.  When I hit the 24 mile mark, I was now pretty comfortable.  I had ran this out and back on Friday, and had done this run back once already in the race.  It was time to hit it.  I had set a goal for myself pre-race that I wanted to try to break 4 hours in the run.  I knew it would be close because my half marathon split was a little over 2 hours.  But I knew that I had pushed pretty hard the second half, and was kicking to the end.

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I was dueling it out with this girl for the last mile.  She “chicked” me in the chute.  Maxwell was the first to see me approaching and was yelling for me to get to the end.

 

As I approached the finish chute I took a look at my watch and noticed that I was clearly going to be under 12 hours, far exceeding my goal of being sub 12:30.  The emotions of finishing started to hit me.  I can get a little emotional during the race – finishing the swim, and the start of the run both got me a little choked up.  But coming in to this finish line was amazing!  It was supercharged with excitement, and I was flying high on adrenaline.  As I came down Fourth Street Live! to the finish it was almost a blur.  I couldn’t hear any music, or even the announcer introducing me and saying the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  Just as I was crossing I almost got tripped up on the rug and almost did a complete faceplant!  But I was able to collect myself and finish the race, even if I was an emotional wreck.

The Ironman Louisville run course couldn’t have been better.  Flat and fast and the volunteers were awesome.  A four hour and five minute marathon after biking and swimming 114.4 miles seemed impossible to me.  4:05 is quicker than some of the stand alone marathons I have run.  Even I’m impressed.  Just like the slogan says, “Anything Is Possible.”  

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THE FINISH

140.6 Miles > 11:46:55 > 43rd M50-54 A/G > 479th Male Overall > 600th place Overall Finisher

Equipment:  A cot, a blanket, a bottle of water, Base Salt, and an Ironman Louisville Finisher’s Medal

I ended Ironman Lake Placid 2016 in pretty good shape.  I was able to walk, talk, and do other stuff without much effort.  This time was the complete opposite.  I was a blubbering mess.  I wanted to keep moving, but the finisher chute was quite short.  My finish line catcher was amazing, and stayed with me while I tried to figure out what the heck was going to happen to me.  At some point I saw Ben and Kari and walked over to greet them at the fence.  I let it out.  The catcher asked if this was “normal” – lol.  I handed my hat and finisher’s shirt to Kari and tried to collect myself.  But I could tell I was starting to get chilled in the low to mid 50 degree temps.  I asked the catcher to walk me to the medical tent.

Once inside the medical tent I was directed to a cot, had my blood pressure taken (110/70, 80 bpm) was told to lie down and had a blanket placed over me.  I was now in full shiver mode and from my prone position could see that there was IV bags hanging all around.  As I laid there wondering when they were going to give me the IV, I came to the conclusion that they probably weren’t.  They had provided me a water bottle, and I still had my Base Salt container, so I figured I might as well start getting my electrolytes up on my own.  I started licking the salt and trying to absorb it sublingually, and kept pushing the water.  I suppose I laid there for thirty minutes and finally sat up.  The shivering was over, and I was feeling better.  My nurse Stacy walked me to the porta-john and I knew at that point I was doing much better.  

I was allowed to keep the blanket and was very thankful for that as it was 50 degrees out and the wind of the day had not subsided at all.  As I walked out, I took a look over at the recovery tent where there was more food and drink, but I could see that Ben and Kari were waiting for me on the other side of the fence.  The area where the Morning Clothes bags were being held was nearby and I went over and retrieved mine.  I met my wife and son and said lets go back to the hotel.

After a shower and a change of clothes, we walked back to the finish area and had dinner at TGIFriday’s.  I needed some salty carbs and protein, so I ordered some soup, a steak and fries.  I ate what I could and was feeling much better.  

Since this race didn’t have a hard finish at midnight, and the fact that it was cold and my left leg was getting super sore, we decided to pack it in and not watch some of the final finishers.  I kind of regret not sticking around for what is usually the highlight of the day, but I had no more to give to the day, and my crew was also tired of chasing me around.   It was time for bed.

 

MONDAY

I was anxious to get up and get breakfast so we could get over to the Ironman store in the Athlete Village.  I wanted to get that finisher’s jacket that Ironmen seem to covet for some reason.  Kari and I flagged down weirdo number 3, a cabbie who was done with his shift for the night, but decided he could drive us to the Great Lawn where the Athlete Village was located.  He was a little strange with his conversations about once owning a yachting jacket like the America’s Cup guys use, but at least he could give us a lift.

I expected that there would be a line and wasn’t let down.  It was pretty long, and since we had gotten there late I figured all of the jackets were probably sold out by now.  But we decided to stick it out, and since the awards ceremony was about to begin, we had something to occupy our time while we stood in line.  

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The line to get into the Ironman Store tent.  During the days leading up to the race they didn’t seem to give a damn about how many people were in the store.  But post-race, they would only let about 10 people in at a time.  Dumb.

 

Once inside the store, I found my jacket in my size and we bought a couple of t-shirts for the girls and made a beeline out of there.  It was time to check out of the hotel and hit the road for home.  

 

POST RACE ANALYSIS

Ironman Louisville was awesome.  It produced another personal best for me and a time that I am really proud of.  I’m amazed that I went from being in 992nd place overall after the swim, to 840th overall after the bike, to 434th overall after the run.  I had moved up hundreds of places after that awesome run.  600th out of 2,273 finishers is also pretty awesome.  

I highly recommend Ironman Louisville for anyone looking to find a fast and contact free swim, a challenging but interesting bike course, and a flat and fast run with an awesome finish line like no other.  

 

THE GUNNERS

Alex:  10:14:57 > 5th Place M18-24 A/G  PODIUM FINISH > 155th Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher

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The kid is a natural.  Look at that smile – HE LOVES THIS SPORT!!!

 

Dave:  11:40:20 > 41st Place M50-54 A/G > 548th Place Overall > 3 time Ironman Finisher

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The All-Time Undisputed King of Ironman.

 

Jeff:  12:14:27 > 107th Place M45-49 A/G > 802nd Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher

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A legend at overcoming bad luck.  I’m pretty sure he PR’d all three disciplines at Ironman Louisville.

 

THANKS

As usual, I have many to thank.  My friends at work, who probably regret asking about my training once I start answering.  Thanks Lou, Micah, Jeff, Julie, Mary, Tracy, and the others, and especially my Super Fan, Carl!  I’m still not getting the tattoo, Carl.

Thanks go to the Mueller’s, who like us had to sacrifice to make sure Jeff could get his training in, especially with moving to Downtown Chicago, and having a recent high school graduate off to college in late August.  Jill, Emma and Charlie, thanks for coming to the race and supporting us and chasing us around.

Without Carla securing our hotel needs for every race we do, and doing such a great job at it, we would probably be staying in a dive hotel an hour outside of town.  Instead we had wonderful suites in downtown Louisville, right next to the finish line.  Carla, you are the best.  And to the other DeForest’s, Max and Zach, and Lizzy and Alex’s girlfriend Kennedy, thanks for cheering as loud as you did.  Seeing you guys was great.

To my son Ben, it was a great relief having you there.  Thanks for chasing me around the course, running with me before the race, and going and retrieving my pile of money (bike) and gear bags, and putting up with such a long day of Gunner racing.  I really appreciate it.  

And lastly, a huge thanks to my endurance partner in life, my wife Kari.  Thanks for keeping me on task during training, allowing me to go do those crazy long rides all the while we were loading our lives with a new home, a recent college graduate, a second year college student, and a busy high schooler in a competitive marching band who was also learning to drive.  Thanks for being there for me as always.  I love you.

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Beauty and the Beast, (r to l).

 

Thanks for reading!  On to my next adventure – my first Boston Marathon in 2018!  

 

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P.S. – I was searching the lost and found photos and was surprised to see a picture of weirdo #2 walking on the bike course.  Tulio and Dave Navarro, am I right?

 

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Ironman Louisville 2017 – DAY DONE!
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2017 Manteno Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When:  07/29/2017, 8:00am

Where:  Manteno, Illinois

Distance:  Sprint:  400 yard Swim, 11 mile Bike, 3.1 mile Run

Results:  1:02:40 – 9th overall, 1st place M50-54

I expected to be underwhelmed with this race a little.  There wasn’t much information to be found online as I looked into this race.  The club that hosted it doesn’t really have a website or Facebook page that I could find, the host location (Manteno Sportsman’s Club) had just one post on their FB page, and the sign-up website didn’t list the race distances or provide a course map at all.  I was kind of in the dark about it all.  I ended up emailing the listed contact on the registration site and asked for info.  A day later I was emailed the athlete guide.  At least I now knew when packet pick-up was and when transition opened.  When I did sign up for the race I asked my wife Kari if she would be interested in doing the duathlon.  She committed and we joined the field.

I set my alarm for 4:30 am, but had a really restless night of sleep.  I got up and got ready, while Kari groaned.  We hit the road around 5:30 am and drove the 25 miles or so to Manteno, Illinois.

After arriving, we picked up our packets and walked our junk to transition.  It was a rack it where you like transition, so I chose an end rack location not far from a large tree for ease of finding the bike.

I decided to burn off some race anxiety and ran a couple loops of the run out course.  After that, Kari and I walked around trying to stay warm on a somewhat cool 63 degree summer morning.

Race day water temp was 80 degrees, so no wetsuit.  I did see one guy with one on, but he also had a white swim cap and I remembered hearing that a guy with a white cap would be in the water helping the unsure beginners in the water.

There were four swim waves – Men 39 and Under / Men 40 and Over / Ladies 39 and Under / Ladies 40 and Over.  I was in the second wave and sized up my competition.  I didn’t really see anyone in the M50-54 age group, but I knew there had to be a few.  There was a guy in transition who was a first timer and I answered a few of his questions in transition.  He approached me on the beach and asked more questions.  I was glad I could offer him some advice.  He was a little nervous.  I hope he did okay.  I didn’t see him at the finish.

SWIM:  400 Yards, 9:07, Average pace 2:17, 3rd in A/G, 58th Overall

The horn blew and I waded into the water as others ran.  The water was perfect.  Smooth and a comfortable temp.  We got to the one turn buoy in fairly good time, and I was feeling pretty good.  There was some bunching up, and some minor contact, but it settled down and we all began swimming straight back into a blinding morning sun.  I felt like I had a great swim, but was surprised to see my time in the results.  I guess that includes the run to T1, but I know I swim faster than that.  I got to T1 and spent 1:16 getting ready for the ride.

BIKE:  11 Miles, 30:14, Average speed 21.8 mph, 2nd in A/G, 10th Overall

I got to T1 and decided to go without socks.  I got ready as fast as I could and took off running out to Bike Out.  Once on the bike I took off.   I hit 27 mph leading out of the event site and was amazed how easy it felt.  A few turns later I was out of the town and in cornfields, passing numerous first wave starters and most of the duathlon competitors.  I got passed by one guy on the bike, right around the 0.5 mile mark.  He and I left transition together, but he mounted his bike before the bike mount line and the referee told him to dismount and mount after the line.  I wonder if he got a 2 minute penalty.  But he blew by me, and I was still doing 25 mph at that point.  He must have been ticked.

The course had two hairpin turnarounds, which weren’t that big of a deal.  I had to slow for a slower rider at the second one, but I ramped it back up quickly.  The day had started to become slightly windy, but there were enough turns where you weren’t dealing with a headwind for a long stretch of time.  There was a cop standing at the bottom of the hill with a radar gun.  I went by him at 27 mph.  Later on at the awards ceremony, they crowned the faster rider at 35 mph I think.  They gave him an award.

I hustled back to T2 and made the quick change to running in 1:14.

RUN:  3.1 miles, 20:46, 6:42 per mile pace ave., 1st in A/G, 8th Overall

I started running and immediately wondered if my heart was going to explode.  It didn’t and I quickly settled into race pace.  I passed a guy about 1/2 mile into the run and he said I was crushing it.  He probably thought I was crazy, because I certainly did.  But I just started going and picking off runners one by one.  It wasn’t until about the 2 mile mark that I saw two guys running together in my age group.  They said I should join their old man group and run with them, but I gracefully declined.  I kept my pace going and they didn’t try to match it.  I’m glad they didn’t, because the results showed that I beat them both by 19 seconds.

FINISH TIME:  1:02:40, 1st in A/G, 9th Overall

After finishing, I recovered with some water and walking around.  I found friend Brian Swift, a para-triathlete who had done the swim portion of the relay, while his kids did the bike and run.  Very inspiring to watch him do the swim.

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Not long after that I grabbed my camera out of transition and went to watch Kari finish the race.  We cooled down and had great conversation with a few others we knew and some new triathlete friends we met.

After getting some pizza and a banana, I decided to check the results and was shocked to see that I had finished 1st in the age group.  At the awards ceremony, I took my place on the highest podium, a first for me, and received my award, a drinking glass etched with 1st place on it.

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I’ve won 1st place in my age group before, but never got to stand on the top tier of the finisher’s podium!

CONCLUSION:  

Even with my questions about how well run the race would be, it turned out to be a great day.  The venue was more than adequate, the lake was very nice, and the bike and run course was all on pavement that was in great shape.  And Kari confided in me later that she actually had fun!  I would definitely do this one again.

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Two happy campers ready to head home.

RACE RESULTS:  http://results.itsracetime.com/results.aspx?CId=17095&RId=276

 

Short Run on a Long Day 2017 Race Recap

When:  6/21/2016, 7:00pm

Where:  Frankfort, Illinois

Distance:  5K

Results:  20:45 Official, 20:42 Garmin watch – 16th overall, 3rd place M50-54

I went into the my fourth running of this race with low expectations.  I haven’t really focused on any sort of short speed work due to training for Ironman Louisville, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give a 5K a try.  And by try I mean gunning as hard as I can.  But the race ended up being somewhat educational for me.

For this race I decided to wear my heart rate strap and monitor my heart rate through the 5K to see if my max HR is anywhere near the 220 bpm minus your age.  This method is an easy way to determine your max heart rate, which you can then use to set your heart rate zones to train in.  However, many don’t trust the calculation for some reason.  I’m 53 years old, so using the 220-age formula I should have a max heart rate of 167.

So if you are going to use a 5K to see where your max heart rate is you should do a little warm up then go all out at max effort for 5K.  So I strapped on my Garmin and the heart rate monitor strap and let it rip.  Here’s what it told me:

 

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Not sure why there is a 10 second difference in the moving time and the elapsed time.  That may explain the watch time vs. the official time.  Maybe I lost a little satellite connection somewhere on the run.  I did not stop for anything until the finish line.

 

And the 5K field test revealed a peak max heart rate of 169 bpm, with an average of 163 bpm.  And the times that I glanced at my watch during the race I usually saw 166 bpm staring back at me.  I guess the 220-age is accurate enough for me.

 

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I was also surprised to see that the Garmin nailed the 3.1 mile distance exactly.  

 

Okay, enough of the scientific stuff.  Back to the race.  I got there much later than I usually do and parked in the neighborhood next to the park where the race starts and ends near my friend Dian’s house.  Lo and behold, Dian was actually outside!  We chatted up ourselves a little bit and she thought the race had started already.  Silly Dian.  I explained that the runners will warm up prior to the race.  She thought that was nuts.  Gave me a chuckle though.

Over at the park, the usual suspects were there:  Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club made a strong showing, Tinley Track & Trail was also present.  Mr. Mustache Runner guy was there, with his shirt tucked in as usual.  And many more familiar faces.  It wasn’t until the race was almost ready to go when Nate Troester showed up at the start line, and I knew our eventual winner was finally here.

The guy that starts the race stands right in the middle of the road, orders us not to run him over, tells us not to start until he says “GO!” then proceeds to say “Okay, let’s go” prior to saying “On your mark, get set, GO!”  Park district run races can be really strange. In the old days, races were run by runners who kind of knew what they were doing, and these park district guys don’t look like they run much.  Anyway, at GO! we all took off and tried to avoid the dumb cherry picker thing in the path of the race route that has a guy up there with a camera.  So dumb.  You never see the pictures on their website or Facebook page, but damn, they got to have a cherry picker right on the road with a camera guy taking pictures that no one will ever see.

I had picked my mark, a guy named Chris S. who is in my age group and started just in front of me.  I decided to hold his pace for as long as I could.  That didn’t last long.  I might have held on to him for about a half mile before I could tell I had maxed out my heart rate without even looking at my watch.  I watched him pull away.  That move of trying to stay with him got me through the first mile with a 6:18 split.  NO BUENO!  So much for the negative split strategy.  He kicked my butt again, as usual.

After the first mile I decided to dial it back a touch and find my race pace comfort zone and found myself running with a guy wearing a Ironman Racine 70.3 t-shirt.  We were pacing together pretty well.  We turned off the path together and on to the side street to head back and about 1.5 miles into it we got passed by some kid.  “Damn kids” I muttered, and Racine man agreed.

We ran together until the 2 mile split (6:47 min/mile) and he started to pull just a little bit ahead.  I tried to match pace but I had spent too much energy on that first mile.  He pulled ahead about 50 yards with about a 1/2 mile to go and that’s how it ended.  The third mile split was 6:53 min/mile for me.

I checked the race results and learned Racine man was in my age group.  He got 15th place overall, 2nd in the age group.  Since this park district run race only awards the top 2 finishers in each age group with a medal, whereas most races go three deep, I knew I wasn’t going to add a medal to my medal rack this time around.  You win some, you lose some.

Here is page one the results:  Shortrun

Overall, it was a good race for me.  I found that the 220-minus age max heart rate calculation is nearly exact to my actual field tested heart rate.  I got to race some good competition.  And there was pizza at the finish line.

 

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A tie dye participant shirt.  Yay.  

 

2017 ET Batavia Triathlon Race Report

When:  6/11/2017

Where:  Batavia, Illinois

Distances:  400 yard Swim, 14.7 mile Bike, 4.1 mile Run

Time:  1:19:01

Back for the fourth time to do the race in Batavia.  I really enjoy this one.  It’s a quick swim, rolling hills bike route with plenty of time to go fast, and a flat and fast trail run.

This week I experimented somewhat with pushing my limits a little.  I decided to use my full disc aero wheel on the bike, something I chickened out with a year ago.  I also decided to swim without the wetsuit, thanks to the water temperature being just warm enough for my comfort level.  I’m glad I didn’t have to fight with it to get it on and off.  That is a chore.

The temperature of the morning was comfortable, but the day would get warm later.  It wasn’t bad on the bike, but I did start to feel it somewhat on the run.

 

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Satisfied with my pre-race transition set up.  

 

SWIM – 7:16 minutes, 208th overall

The swim started well for me.  I felt like my pace was good.  I got to the turn and made it to the backside of the swim and kept swimming.  It is pretty shallow in this part of the man-made, sandy bottom public swimming hole, and most people walk the back side of it.  I decided to keep swimming until about 10 yards from the turn for the second lap.  Once swimming again, I found myself in a much crowded field of swimmers, as more had joined in on the fun, thanks to a time trial type start.  But I made it through and started walking the back part of it earlier, just like everyone else.

T1 – 1:44 minutes

Getting to T1 was quick, no need to fuss with removing the wetsuit.  Grabbed my bike gear and bike and was gone to Bike Out.

BIKE – 40:58 minutes, 21.5 MPH average, 36th overall

There is a sharp climb right away which sent my heart rate into the red, where it would stay for quite a while, most of the ride actually.  I really pushed myself on the ride and it paid off with a quick ride.  There was some cross wind, but it didn’t last long.  I ate a gel just into the first mile, and one more just before getting back to T2 to fuel for the run.

T2 – 1:18 minutes

RUN – 27:43 minutes, 6:46 average per mile, 27th overall

There was a slight deviation to the final mile of the run as the trail near a public works facility was under construction.  Fortunately, the detour had a nice downhill leading back to the bridge that takes you back over the Fox River and the trail on the other side to the finish.  The run was going well, but I was feeling the heat a little even though it was almost completely shaded.  I took water at the water station twice and splashed it on me and in me as best as I could.  I passed a lot of younger racers and not seeing hardly any in my 50-54 Age Group.  That’s because they were ahead of me!  There was one guy with 50 written on his calf.  I decided to pace with him for a little while and then pass him in the last mile if I could.  He had is bib on backwards, and I realized his bib was white, which meant he was in the duathlon (run/bike/run) race and not in the triathlon.  So, knowing that I wasn’t really competing with him, I decided to push tempo again and pass him.  He must of saw my 53 on my calf and he reacted.  Once we got to that downhill at about 3.25 miles, he took off.  I started to chuckle because I knew he was racing me even though I wasn’t competing with him in his event.  I slowly worked on catching up with him, but I knew that I didn’t have to worry about him.

When I got back to the finish, I cooled down and got some fluids in me.  I knew it would be a while before the award ceremony, so I decided to walk back to transition, take a shower, gather my bike and junk and take it to the car.  I then drove back to the VFW where the finish line area was located.

I decided to grab a couple pieces of pizza and check out the results.  Fourth in the age group – no award this year.  I was kind of expecting to finish a little higher than the 3rd place I won last year, but just didn’t have it in me.  Upon review the posted results online later in the day I realized my swim time did me in.  It was a full minute slower than last year!  I’m not really sure why that is.  It could be the wetsuit I guess, but I really did feel like I swam pretty well.  Oh well.  The swim ranking had me 208th overall.  That is really sad.  I also dropped in the overall ranking from 2016, from 23rd to 37th.  The guy that beat me for 3rd place beat me by 7 seconds.  One glimmer of hope, the 2nd place age group winner was a 50 year old, so he is the newcomer to the rank, whereas I am starting to age into the next group.  Not my day, I guess.  Maybe next year I will be kicking butt in the 55-59 A/G as the young gun.

 

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Still proud of my medal.  Glad to add it to the rack.

Here’s the link to the race results:  http://cc247.raceresults.space/2017/2017_ETBatavia_OA.htm

 

 

2017 Summertime Stride 5K Race Report

When:  6/3/2017, 8:30 am

Where:  Mokena, Illinois

Distance:  5K

Results:  20:57 Official, 10th overall, 10th Male overall, 1st place M50-54

http://www.thtiming.com/images/2017_stride_overall.pdf

When I show up for a 5K I tend to start scanning the people gathered around, looking for the usual suspects, the people I will key on as my competition.  Since school was officially over for the high schools, I figured I would see a handful of high school age runners, fresh off of their track seasons, and there were a few.  I also saw this kid who looked about 9 (the results indicate he was 11), and he had the “look.”  Short running shorts, a set of wrap around sunglasses, and New Balance shoes that looked like racing flats.  It was about 40 minutes until start and he went out for his warm up.  I knew a runner when I saw one.  I also saw a guy wearing a Calvin College Track Team singlet who looked fast as well (he was the eventual winner).  It wasn’t until I saw Nate Troester, a local guy who wins every race, that I knew for sure that I certainly wasn’t going to win this race!

My wife Kari joined me in this race as it is walking distance from our house.  We walked down to the park about 3/4 of a mile away and signed up.  It was starting to get warm, and the race start time of 8:30 am was not helping.  Much too late to start a summertime race, in my opinion.  I tried talking Kari into gunning from the start, but she’s happy to run the race her way.  I was already starting to build adrenaline for the start time.

I did some easy warm up and then headed to the start line.  I’m always amazed at the number of slow people and kids at the front of the line.  One guy said he’s staying back to let the rabbits go, but this guy was in the front as well.  I dislike the tight corral type starts.  They are too crowded, and filled with too many slowpokes at the front of the pack.

A couple of minutes later a horn sounded and we were off.  I was surprised that many of the kids were holding tempo pretty good at the beginning, but by the time we got a half mile into it the first small climb appeared, and they started to drop off.  It was also in that first half mile that I was surprised to see Nate Troester standing there clapping for everyone.  I guess he was just hanging around.  I was happy to see that I had just picked up a finisher’s spot!

At the first mile, a local kid named Merrigan was running along with me and not far off the first place female.  We went through the first mile in 6:25 pace and I thought she would be good.  But later I found out she had a sore knee from an earlier mishap and ended up dropping out.  I kept pace behind the first girl for the next mile, as I also chased the one grey haired guy up ahead of me.  He was moving pretty well and not showing any signs of letting up.

After the turn around, we climbed the few remaining hills and settled in for the last mile.  I caught the first place girl and passed her.  I could see the grey haired guy up ahead, but he was pulling away, as was the kid with the sunglasses.  That kid knew what he was doing, running the tangents and basically picking off more and more runners.

I tried using the last downhill to pick up pace, using it to pass an 8th grade kid, and then accelerate through the last turn for the last 10th of a mile.  I couldn’t catch anyone ahead of me, and there was no one directly behind me to worry about, so I glided in across the finish in 20:57.

I grabbed a water and dumped it over my head to cool down.  I then walked back to the turn and waited with my daughter Rebecca for Kari to finish.  She came by looking very strong, but I tried to tell her that she was getting out-kicked by a 5 year old!  She didn’t care.  To get beat by a 5 year old would have killed me.

When the results were posted I was surprised to see that I finished 10th, and first in my age group.  I would have bet that the grey haired guy ahead of me was in my age group.  It turns out he was 58!  Smoking fast for 58!  I also checked the results for Kari and learned that she medaled as well, taking 3rd in her a/g!  Well done!

In all, it’s a fun local race, and I thoroughly enjoyed the run with my wife.

 

2014 Ironman Muncie 70.3 Race Report

Note from me: I originally posted this on a blog site called iamtri.com. Unfortunately, that website is no longer valid, but through some magic performed by my computer knowledgeable college son, he was able to recover my posts. I am sharing them here so that I may preserve my memories from my first Ironman 70.3. Chris

 

2014 Ironman Muncie 70.3 Race Report

July 12, 2014

My First IM 70.3!

For my third triathlon of 2014 and designated “A” race this year, I decided to pick a 70.3 distance, and since I live near Chicago I had three really popular choices to choose from:  Racine, Steelhead and Muncie.  After hearing about a horrible swim in Racine in 2013, and seeing Steelhead is in the same Lake Michigan body of water, I opted for a reservoir/lake located in the middle of Indiana – Muncie!  The only negatives that people had about this location was that the run course was hilly, and that it was hot.  Aren’t they all?  Signed up in February and goaded my buddies to join me.

Location 

The race is held just south of Muncie in the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  It is very rural and peaceful.  The lake is pretty large, with a great swim area and a new facilities building for washrooms and showers.  After hesitating on booking a hotel in Muncie, we opted to stay at the Hampton Inn in Anderson, which was a popular choice with many of the other racers.  It was about a half hour away from the race site, but the town had plenty of dining and other options.

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I watched this helicopter fly in and land on Thursday night.  I wish I knew there was helicopter parking, I would have flown in myself!  (Just kidding – triathletes can’t afford a helicopter.)

Friday/Race Day Eve

I got to Anderson late on Thursday and checked in.  My friends and I met up on Friday morning and started planning our day.  We opted for a short 20 minute run to settle our nerves and knock the cobwebs off of a rest day on Thursday.

We hopped into our cars and headed to the race expo.  We decided to take advantage of the optional bike racking on Friday to avoid one less issue on Saturday/Race day morning.  After picking up our packets, we stuck the stickers on our bikes and wheeled them into the transition area.

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The KX5 all racked and ready to go.

After checking out the expo, buying the expensive Ironman event merchandise and grabbing something to eat, we sat and listened to the race talk.  There were hints that the water temperature may be just cool enough for an unusual for Muncie, wetsuit legal swim.

Race Morning

Wetsuit legal!  Just barely, but many of us were relieved.  The wetsuit for me has become a security blanket of sorts, although I have done races without one.  Anytime I spend time looking at a big body of water, I get nervous.  Wetsuits take that anxiety away for me.

We got up at 4am and hit the road at about 5am.  I slept well, thanks to taking 1/2 of an Ambien that my physician buddy gave me.  But I did wake up twice due to stomach issues.  Spent a lot of time in the port-a-potty line, and was able to get things taken care of.

I set up my transition, pumped up my tires to 120 psi, and took some time to visualize the trip from the Swim Out to Bike Out.

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It has taken me some time, but I’m starting to see the benefit of not bringing all my junk to transition.

The race started at 7am, but my wave didn’t start until 7:55, so I had plenty of time to watch others and my other racing buddies start the race.

 

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Bride and bridesmaid.  I had my buddy Dave help me zip up an obviously too tight for me wetsuit.  

 

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Can you tell which triathlete needs prescription goggles to see?  That would be me.  Dave and I picking our swim line.

 

1.2 MILE SWIM

The water was a perfect temperature.  Usually I don’t do well in cold water, but this water was perfect.  I chose to swim the inside of the buoys until the turns and had no issues at all with other swimmers.  Zig-zagging was minimal.  I did start to get a calf cramp in my legs about 2/3’s of the way into the swim.  I just slowed down, kicked a little less and was fine.  I started to notice that I was catching the white and pink capped swimmers  that had started in waves 5 and 10 minutes ahead of me, respectively.  That was a positive sign for me that I was having a good swim.  Toward the last four or five buoys to go, I decided to pick up the pace.  I could see some athletes were standing, but I swam until my fingers hit bottom.

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Out of the water declaring “Piece of Cake!”  It really was the most uneventful swim.  

 

After getting out of the water I sat down and the volunteer wetsuit strippers (or peelers, as they prefer) yanked off my suit and it was a slogfest up to T1.  It was uphill on a rocky path, which was covered with thin carpet.  But everyone seemed to be walking.  I was like, “Hey, get out of the way!  This IS a race, right?”

SWIM TIME:  42:17

T1

After getting by the field of swim zombies heading to T1, I got to my bike and quickly dried my feet and head off and changed into the cycling gear.  Heading to the exit, I spied the toilets and went in.  I had to go while I was in the water, but just couldn’t do it while I was swimming.

T1 TIME:  5:48

56 MILE BIKE

Everything I heard about the bike course at Muncie was that it was flat and fast.  Nope.  I will give you fast, but it wasn’t flat.  I guess that I’m just too used to the flat rails-to-trails trail that I constantly ride at home.  That is flat.  The portion of the course that leads to and from the looped highway is 16 miles of hills, turns and potholes.  The race announcer said at the course talk that when prepping the bike course, they normally go through about 3 bags of cold patch asphalt. This course required more than 30!  Admittedly, it was a little rough, but easily rideable.

My heart rate monitor started chirping at me right away.  I was trying to stay in Z3, but was well into Z4 for the first 45 minutes or so.  Finally got it settled down and locked in.  The two loops were done on a closed highway, which was new for the course.  Two twenty mile loops.  The two aid stations rocked, helping me reload my bottles while I used the bathroom again.  Peeing was a good sign for me, as I was sweating quite a lot.  Since I was in a later start wave, I had a lot of fast riders zipping by me on my first loop as they finished their second loops.  It was a lot less crowded on my second loop.

 

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Heading out of T1 for 56 miles of “flat” riding.  Yeah, right.  My son and daughter are behind me in the green and pink shirts.  

Around 40 miles I had an issue.  A little before I had taken a drink of Gatorade and got back into an aero position and had a little acid reflux.  Nothing too bad, but gave me some discomfort.  But the real issue I had was I tried to eat a GU and I swallowed it a little rough, causing some coughing and throat irritation.  I dealt with that for at least ten miles.  I couldn’t get my throat cleared, and it was to the point I was gagging.  Finally got over it, but it was not fun.

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The last of the second loop on Highway 35.

The sun had finally made an appearance on an otherwise cloudy day.  I knew with the run coming up, having the sun out would not be good.  Fortunately, the skies cloudy over again.

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My kids watching the action on the bike course.  Well, Ashley was watching with her eyes closed.  

Coming in to T2 I had that feeling that 56 miles was hard.  Even though I had done a full Ironman less than a year before, I couldn’t fathom having to do another 56!  Glad I was coming in for the run.

BIKE TIME:  3:01:31

T2

The second transition was quick.  I grabbed the water bottle that I had in transition for rinsing my feet off, and used it on my head.  A good sweat rinse felt great.  I downed another GU, put on the visor, bib belt, and running shoes and I was off to get some sunscreen and run a half marathon.

T2 TIME:  3:16

13.1 MILE RUN

I was concerned I had pushed too hard on the bike and would suffer a little on the run, but in reality I felt great.  I got to the first aid station in 7:45 according to my watch.  I told my self to back it off.  I hit the first of several really great aid stations and hit the water, ice, cola, and pretzels to get me going down the road.  The aid stations are about a mile apart, and were well stocked and manned.  The volunteers were once again, pretty awesome.

At every aid station I would take ice and shove it into my trisuit to get my temperature down.  Seemed to work pretty good.  Take some ice water, drink the water and then shove the ice in my clothes.  I took a banana a couple of times, but mainly stuck with my eating a GU every half hour, plenty of fluids, and a salt capsule every hour or so.

Around the 5.5 mile area, I spotted my buddy Dave ahead and started to catch up.  Just before seeing him go by, his brother John was passing by heading back to the finish.  Big boost to seeing him.  John started in the wave before us with a 5 minute head start.  I knew I had work to do to try to catch him, so I gently started picking up the pace.  I passed Dave right around the turn around, and started in on the hills back to the finish.

The hills were brutal.  A lot of athletes were walking up them.  I just kept my turnover going and powered through.  At mile 9, I decided to start pushing.  I passed a lot of people those last 4 miles.  In all, I can only remember getting passed by one guy on the course, who was younger than me, and he had a good pace going.  The only other runner that passed me was a younger girl who outkicked me in the chute after I had already passed her a 1/2 mile earlier.

I had driven to the event site several times on that run course, so I knew I was getting close.  The few sprinkles that had started were more of a relief than a bother.  I was already soaked.  My feet squished when I took a step.  I got to the final climb and really pushed through that last hill, feeling relieved to see the tents and finishing chute.  I could see my family and hit my watch to see that I had easily broken 6 hours in my first 70.3 attempt.

RUN TIME:  1:53:18

     FINISH TIME:  5:46:10 (PR)

RECOVERY AND POST RACE

I knew I was spent and just wanted to walk a little.  I met up with my family and sat down in a chair.  After a few minutes I decided to head to the medical tent to see if I could get some Perform to drink, and after talking with the staff, I decided to enter and sit down.  They got me a wet towel and I put it around my neck, and started drinking the cold Perform.  Thank goodness it was Lemon-Lime flavor.  Before I knew it they had a blood pressure cuff on me and advised me that I was 100/70.  A little low, but not dead.  I told them that I had hydrated well, and had taken a salt capsule every hour.  The doctor offered an IV, but I turned it down as I was starting to come around.

Once out of the medical tent, I met my buddies who now had all finished.  We swapped stories and race recaps and ate a little from the athlete food tent.  After laying around for a while, we claimed our bikes from transition and headed back to the hotel in Anderson.

THANKS

Thanks go once again to my great family, who spent their weekend watching me do my thing.  It is truly a blessing to have such support.  The photos my wife and kids took were awesome.

Thanks also to Carla for setting up our hotel for the weekend and being such a great planner and photographer.

And finally, I know I wouldn’t have as much fun doing these tri’s without my lifelong friends, Dave and John, and also Dave’s son Alex.  I love the fun we have, and certainly the friendly competition.  Alex, being only 19 and on the U of Iowa Tri-Hawks team, will always come in first.  But with the finish order this year – John, me and Dave – we now have each had a race in which we have won.  That is pretty cool.

Another awesome triathlon experience, shared with my best buddies and family.  I am blessed.

 

Ironman Wisconsin 2013 Race Report

Note from me:  I originally posted this on a blog site called iamtri.com.  Unfortunately, that website is no longer valid, and through some magic performed by my computer knowledgeable college son, he was able to recover my posts.  I am sharing them here so that I may preserve my memories from my first Ironman.  Chris

 

2013 IRONMAN WISCONSIN Race Report

September 8, 2013

 

I AM AN IRONMAN!!!

I did it!  And surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed it!

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Okay, so it may not looked like I enjoyed it, but I actually did! Kind of a smile/cry thing going on at this point.  

 

When I started this adventure, my friends and I debated as to whether to try to do this together.  I was somewhat torn, because I felt that my experience running marathons and good training would help me race the Ironman.  And my friends seemed to prefer to be just finishers.  And then I rode the bike course.  Three flats, a broken spoke, a monumental bonk, and watching my buddies ride the course with ease on that first ride gave me a huge reality check.  I now had to respect the hills, and I made the decision then that I would train hard and race smart.  Finishing was now my goal.  And my friends would also soon see their potential.  We spent 30 weeks getting ready for September 8, 2013, and had a great time training together.  I will long remember the training as well as the race.  I’ve said over and over that the training was the hard part, the race will be the reward.  And that statement proved to be true.

Here is how I became an Ironman.

 

INTRO TO TRIATHLON/IRONMAN

My training partners, Dave and John, are my lifelong friends.  We have known each other since 1969 or so.  Dave and I went from kindergarten through college together, and his little brother John was always a shadow to us.  We spent a huge part of our youth together, so naturally, when John got an interest in triathlons, he started ingraining us with the idea of doing it with him.  As a runner, I always thought marathons and 5K races were plenty for me to handle.  And whenever I watched the Ironman on television, I would always shake my head at how that was even possible.

John worked his magic on me and Dave, and we finally committed.  Then reality set in – I had to learn to swim!  Well, I had the basics down, but there was no way I could swim effortlessly for even 50 yards, let alone a mile.  So, I started doing a lot of swimming in my pool.  I found that I was trying to swim too fast, sprinting instead of pacing myself through the water.  I had to develop technique and pace.

First up for me was a sprint tri that didn’t go so well.  What should have taken me 12 minutes or so to swim 500 meters ended up being a 17 minute survival swim.  But the bike and run went well, and I was hooked.  As we were driving to that tri, Dave asked me what I thought about doing an Ironman.  Here I am trying not to freak out heading to my first triathlon, one I should mention, that was not wet suit legal due to the 82 degree water temp, and he wants to know if I want to do an Ironman!  I don’t remember what my response was at that moment, but I had a feeling that wading in the water of an Ironman start was going to be in my future.

I was able to do one more triathlon in 2012, the Olympic distance of the Chicago Triathlon.  We had a great time and did really well.  I was becoming a triathlete!  So, on September 10, 2012, we three sat at our computers and hit submit on a race entry for the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin.  When it was accepted, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was almost sick about it.  But we were in!

 

TRAINING

Dave had some experience training for his marathon and triathlons by using training books by Don Fink.  He suggested that we purchase his book, “Be Iron Fit” and follow the competitive training program to get us through the Ironman.  I wasn’t so sure.  The more I looked into the Ironman, I saw time and again that using a coach might be the way to go.  So I contacted a local coach and met with her.  In reality, I thought I was contacting the head of a local club, but she made it very clear that she was a very good triathlete and coach.  Her advice was just what I was wanting to hear.  Then she advised me of her fee – $200 per month.  It was clear – Don Fink’s book it is!

We counted back 30 weeks from 9/8/13 and started our training on 2/11/13.  Mondays were always a day off recovery day.  Tuesdays were swim and run efforts.  Wednesday was a bike to run brick.  Thursday was a swim and bike, with Friday being a run.  Later in the program, a third swim for the week was added on Friday.  Saturdays were long bike rides, and Sundays were long runs.  As the program progressed, a brick bike/run was added to the weekend.

Coming off a hard year of running in 2012, I was glad the program started very easy.  It obviously progressed in the typical fashion until we went from an hour long weekend ride to a 6 hour, near century effort.  I realized how well thought out the plan was, and started to trust it completely.

I was a little worried about the swim, so I started that in January, hitting the local high school pool.  I quickly realized I am not a fast swimmer.  I started looking at YouTube videos and found a link to a DVD called “Total Immersion Swimming,” which was geared toward open water swimming.  I bought it and learned a lot, especially how to break the swim down into its basic components.  Swimming is all about technique, and I focused on that as I also increased distance.

The worst part of training was being stuck indoors on the treadmill and trainer.  Nothing worse than riding your bike in the basement during winter.  I watched a lot of home improvement shows during those rides.

Getting outside was tremendous.  I was riding my Trek 2.3 road bike, which served me well.  But when I rode with Dave and John they would drop me easily.  I thought maybe that my bike was heavier (it is) and my gearing was smaller than theirs (it is).  But what was really going on was that they just flat out rock the bike.  Very good cyclists.  We decided in the summer to head up to Verona and ride the infamous hilly course of Ironman Wisconsin.  We got a late start at it due to a rain storm and started a little low on fuel.  The ride started out horribly.  I got two flats within 15 minutes of leaving.  We got lost several times just trying to get out of Verona.  Then I got another flat in Mt. Horeb after getting dropped by Dave and John.  I fixed the flat and then we hit the rollers of Witte Road.  Then I broke a spoke on my rear tire going 35mph down the first hill.  My luck and confidence were non-existent at that point.  It was really then that I decided I would need a bike upgrade, more training time in the saddle, and a new plan to make sure I survived the bike so I could do the run.  Racing IM Wisconsin was no longer in the plan.

In July, I went to Spokes in Wheaton, IL and told the guy sitting there that I wanted to go fast.  He fitted me for a tri bike fit for a pro, emptied my wallet and I went home with a new Specialized Shiv Pro.  I regretted the purchase at first, but after a few long rides with my partners, it became apparent that I made a good choice.  I really improved my cycling with that bike.  Now I wasn’t so worried.  But I feared I made a rookie mistake by buying the bike and trying to get used to it too close to the event.  However, it didn’t take long to master the different riding position.

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Me and the “KX5.”  Looks fast standing still.  The bike, that is.

 

I had some great weeks and some not so great, but I stuck to the plan as close as I could.  I am convinced “Be Iron Fit” prepared me well.  Over 30 weeks of training I covered over 217,000 yards of swimming, 2500 miles of biking, and 800 miles of running to get ready for my 140.6 mile adventure.

 

THE 2013 IRONMAN WISCONSIN RACE

We arrived in Madison on Thursday night and checked into the Monona Hilton, which is ground central for the race.  The expo is right there, along with where the course finishes.  My room had an awesome view of Lake Monona and of the top level of the Monona Terrace parking garage, which is where the bikes are racked for the race.  If you are thinking of doing IM WI, this is a great place to stay.

Friday we checked in, which is required – no Saturday registration.  We sat in on the “mandatory” course talk and race rules.  I don’t know how they would know if you attended it or not, but we listened and got nervous.  Actually, all of Friday and Saturday were just filled with anxiety for me.  I was having trouble not letting the event make me more nervous than I wanted. Just looking at the enormity of the lake was something I found I couldn’t do.  John is a doctor and uses Ambien to help him sleep on nights before big events like this.  I had turned him down before other events, but I decided to try it on Thursday night.  I slept well.  Friday, I opted not to take it and did not sleep as well. I knew I’d take one on Saturday night.

We also sat in on the Pro panel, which featured 2 top women and 3 top male pros in the race field.  The eventual winner of the race was one of them, Maik Twelsiek from Germany.  Mike Reilly, aka “The Voice of Ironman” asked them questions.  I got more nervous listening to them.

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Mike Reilly – aka “The Voice of Ironman” – in the red hat.

 

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My Run Gear Bag (2585) in a sea of others.

 

John had his bike checked by the Trek crew there and they informed him how messed up it was!  All summer long I had to listen to his chain squeal when we rode.  They said it was junk, as too was his cassette.  They ended up giving him a nice granny climbing gear, which allowed him to spin up the tough hills easily.  This made him happy, as he thought he was going to have to walk them.

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Dave making us enough PB&J’s to feed all of the triathletes.  I remember eating

a couple of bites in T1, but we really just had them in our bags as a back up in case

we needed real food.  

 

We made the same mistake most newbies make by walking around on an 85 degree Saturday, checking out all the exhibits and turning in our bags and racking our bikes.  It was hot, we were getting too much sun, and we were on our feet for way too long.  At about 2pm or so we ended up at Francesca’s, an Italian restaurant about a block up the street from the finish line.  I had angel hair with marinara sauce, and some bread and felt very full.  Later around 6pm, we ate a little more, some cheesy bread, some salty french fries (not sure if that was advised, but they tasted good) and a portion of a grilled cheese sandwich.  I made sure I drank a few bottles of water and some Gatorade and kept pretty well hydrated.

I finally retreated to my room to watch some college football and relax, and await the arrival of my very busy family.  My son is a XC runner at Loras College and had his first meet.  Dave’s kids go to U of Iowa and picked him up on their way from Iowa City.  They got there late.  My wife arrived around 9pm with my two girls, a high schooler who had marching band practice all day, and my 6th grader who had a late afternoon soccer game.

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My cheer crew!  Daughter Ashely, Mom-in-Law Darla, Son Ben, Wife Kari,

Daughter Rebecca, and Dad-in-Law Gary.

 

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We made sure we didn’t go through the finish line.  We didn’t want

to jinx ourselves.  Walked around in the heat too much on Saturday.

Newbies.

 

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John (left) and his brother Dave with their racked bikes.  My two best buddies.

 

I took the Ambien and the next thing I heard was the alarm at 4:15am.  It was go time!

The Ambien did wonders.  Not only did I sleep well, but for the first time since getting there, I actually felt relaxed and emotionally excited.  I got up and ate a plain bagel with peanut butter, a banana and had a cup of coffee.  I spent some time in the bathroom making sure everything was taken care of.  That went well.  I met the others and grabbed our swim stuff and headed to the transition to pump up our tires and load up the bike with our bottles.  I packed about 1/2 the nutrition that I would have normally consumed on a solo ride of that length, just to make sure that I had the flavor I liked.  Weighed me down though.

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Getting body marked by a volunteer. 

 

We got our bodies marked and I had my first freak out of the day.  She asked my how old I was and I immediately sensed that I was going to get marked with my actual age and not the crazy way USAT wants it done.  I’m 49, but in tri’s you usually are marked with the age you will be on December 31 of that year.  I checked with another body marker and they said that they were told to go with the actual age.  Okay then, mark me 49.  Not five minutes later I see my buddy Dave and he’s marked the other way.  C’mon, Man!  Oh well, it didn’t matter anyway, because I used so much Tri-Slide on my wet suit that it erased the markings.

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Donning my tri dunce cap.  I wear glasses and my goggles are prescription, so I 

need to wear them to see.  I’m practically the only one wearing goggles pre-swim

and in T1.

 

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 Fairly happy trio, all things considered.  Dave, John and myself.

 

THE SWIM – 2.4 MILES – 1:30.37

The weather gods blessed us.  On Saturday, we had hot sun, mid-80’s temperature and could feel it.  Race day morning arrived with a forecasted high of 74 beautiful degrees and overcast conditions.  The only caveat was that there was a 12-15mph wind forecasted for the day.  That made for some choppy waters.

We were still standing on the ground at 6:50 when the cannon went off for the pro athlete start.  It was now very real.  As soon as that was done, they kept pushing us to get in the water which we did.  I downed a Gatorade Prime pre-race drink and ate a gel.  We then entered the water and waded over to the back middle of the start area and I got separated from Dave and John.  We weren’t in the water for more than 5 minutes when 7am hit and the cannon went off. They wanted to be closer to the inside, but I had decided that I would angle over on the front stretch.  I was hoping to avoid getting pummeled and swimmed on.  Didn’t matter.  It was tough!  At times there were people swimming perpendicular in front of me.  I kept sighting, not only for the next buoy, but also for open and clear water to swim in.  I think I had maybe one full minute of peaceful swimming during the whole swim.  I got hit in the goggles about four times, each time causing me to stop and readjust my goggles.  I was getting a little ticked off.

I MOO’ed when I went around the first buoy, as it is the tradition at IM Wisconsin.  I kept up my plan of trying to stay in clear water and just swim buoy to buoy.  On the back stretch, things got interesting.  We were heading into the wind and the water became very rough.  Rough as in there were waves, rough.  I usually bi-lateral breathe, but ended up breathing on my left side, because I was getting more water than air on my right.  To add to that problem, my goggles had leaked a little water in the left eye and was mixing with my anti-fog and burning my eye.  Having water in your goggles is no fun, and especially crummy when its burning your eye.  I toughed it out, but when I exited the water I could tell that my eye was not right.  I felt like I had a little bit of film on it, and also like I had something in my eye.  It got better on the bike as I rode through the next stage of the race.

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I’m in there somewhere.  This is the last leg of the swim, heading to the swim exit.

 

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Coming out of the water in 1:30.  Not sure why my wetsuit is not slick like the

others.  Also not sure what the guy behind me is yelling about.

 

T1 – SWIM TO BIKE TRANSITION – 14:18

I let the strippers do their job and two of them ripped my wet suit off of me while I laid on the ground trying not to get emotional.  I was so glad the swim was over.  I took my time getting my land legs back under me and jogged up the Helix (the curly ramp to get to the top parking level where T1 is located).  I went into the room where the swim-to-bike bags were located and the volunteers asked if I needed help finding it.  I had put some pink tape on the bag and drawstrings to help me find it, and I found it with ease.  Next up was the changing room, aka the “Get Naked Room” where there were plenty of naked guys standing around.  I found an empty seat and a volunteer helped me get my junk out of the bag.  I grabbed the PB&J sandwich and took a couple of bites.  I toweled off a little and put on my cycling jersey.  I kept on my tri shorts, as I had worn them under the wet suit in the swim.  I put on socks, grabbed my shoes and out I went.  I headed outside and debated about putting on sunscreen on a cloudy day.  I played it safe and had a volunteer put some on my arms, neck, ears, and nose.  Then I made the long run to my bike and headed to the mounting area.  Not sure how that ended up being 14 minutes of transition time.  I think I was a little emotionally spent sitting in the chair getting changed and took a little longer than I would have normally.

 

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Just crossing the timing strip and heading out onto the bike course.

 

THE BIKE – 112 MILES – 7:33.51

I had a blast on the bike.  It was truly the best part of the day.  The crowds and volunteers were outstanding.  There was rarely a time when you didn’t see a spectator cheering you and a volunteer helping you.  As I rode down the Bike Out helix and onto the bike path, I felt a little cold.  I kind of expected that, as I had just got out of the water and was still wet.  But I wished I had donned my arm warmers.  I rode the stick out (the course is a lollipop type course, where you ride out to a two loop course and then head back) and was struggling to get my heart rate into a manageable range.  I had planned to keep it around 120 bpm or so, but was hitting the 140’s throughout the first 45 minutes of the ride.  When we finally got to the loops in Verona I noticed that I had finally settled it down.

I am so glad I had ridden the loops in training, as it gave me no surprises.  I could have rode the course without volunteers directing us along.  And, I was actually enjoying the ride for a change.  My plan was to stop at every aid station and eat and replenish my reserves.  I would eat one GU gel every half hour, and I set my timer to remind me to do so.  Every hour I tried to drink a full bottle of water or Ironman Perform, but I wasn’t liking the Perform so much.  I drank about 1/2 bottle every hour.  I took one Salt Stick salt capsule every hour, along with eating a Bonk Breaker bar (the snack size is what they had on course, which is half the size of a regular bar) and a chunk of banana.  I also used the bathroom at several of the stops, as peeing on the course was a DQ.  And there was no way I was peeing myself on the bike.  Yuk.

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Coming into Verona and the aid station on the first loop.

 

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The second loop had much fewer fans, but I was still feeling pretty good.

 

The hills were no problem for me this time on the course.  I just sat and spinned up as best as I could, only getting out of the saddle a couple of times.  I also made sure that I GU’ed about 5 minutes before getting to them.  Being on a sugar high makes a big difference on the hills.  The section of the course that has the toughest hills have the nickname of the “Three Bitches,” and I passed several struggling riders on those hills.  Matter of fact, I don’t think anyone passed me on any of the tougher climbs.  Lots of fun going up the hills.  On the second loop, I actually popped a little “wheelie” to entertain the boisterous crowds.  I got a big cheer for that.

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Just hitting the top of the third of the toughest hills.  You can see how far back

the hill climbs, and there were several like this.  And you had to do them twice.

 

On the first loop I had made it about 30 miles or so into the ride and was reaching the fun rollers of Witte Road when things got exciting.  A motorcycle cop whizzed by and a little bit after that came the first pro, Romain Guillaume, a Frenchman who we dubbed the “Little Guy” at the expo.  He was booking.  It wasn’t long before other pro riders were whipping by.

The rest of the ride was terrific.  My time was about where it I thought I would be, but when I looked at my GPS watch it said I had 20 minutes of stop time!  I should have not spent so much time in the aid stations!  The watch also revealed a top speed of 43mph, a new high for me!

After getting home I saw that Ironman had uploaded a race day video of the race and I viewed it.  I was very surprised to see that I was in it, at about the 3:27 mark, riding my bike in a group of about 4-5 riders heading up some hills.  You can see it here:  

 

T2 – BIKE TO RUN TRANSITION – 11:28

This transition was much smoother for me and quicker as well.  I decided to get naked and change into a fresh pair of tri shorts for the run.  I had three shirt options, but I chose the matching tri shirt because it had a zipper that I could unzip if I got warm, and I liked the idea of a snug fitting top so nipple chafing would be minimal.  Normally, I run without a shirt on warm days, but its not allowed in Ironman.  I rubbed Body Glide all over the soles of my feet.  And then I used the creamy version of Body Glide and coated my toes with it.  Tossed on a pair of good running socks, threw a little baby powder into my shoes, and pulled them on.  I took off my heart rate monitor strap due to the watch still being on my bike, donned bright yellow/green visor that matched my shoes, and out I went.  The sun screeners offered sunscreen again, even though there hadn’t been any sun all day, and it was about to be twilight.  I let them put a little on my ears, neck, bald spot and shoulders, and headed to the port-o-john.  I ate a Bonk Breaker bar, which along with bananas, I had been eating about every hour on the bike, and headed out to the run out exit.

 

THE RUN – 26.2 MILES – 5:07.18

The first step of a marathon always seems to be the hardest for me, because you know there will be thousands more to follow.  My plan was to run from aid station to aid station and eat and drink what they had on course.  I carried two gels as a back up in case I didn’t get one at the stop.  But the course had plenty of everything as far as nutrition was concerned.  I had brought along a Gatorade Recover from my bike gear bag, and sipped it for the first few miles until I didn’t want to carry the dumb thing around any more.  I didn’t need it anyway.

The weird thing about the marathon was that it seemed like I hit the wall in reverse order.  The first six miles were somewhat of a struggle for me.  I felt hot and was sweating early in the race, and then I would get cold.  Not sure if getting off the bike, where there was constant cooling going on made me feel hot at first, and then after sweating for a few miles, getting chilled when I actually got away from the shelter of the downtown buildings and felt some breeze.  But anyway, it wasn’t until mile 7 that I felt like I was running well and feeling good.  Matter of fact, mile 7 through 17 or so felt great.

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Early on in the first loop of the marathon.

 

I maintained the same eating pattern of a GU gel every half hour, but since the aid stations were every mile, I started the buffet eating, snacking on a combination of bananas, potato chips, and pretzels.  Those three went very well together for me.  I usually followed it up with some cola and some ice water.  I also maintained the Salt Stick salt capsule every hour.  But no matter how much or how little I ate, any swallowing was followed by an urge to pass gas.  There is a saying in triathlons that says “never trust a fart.”  I heeded that advice, and visited the port-o-john at several aid stations to be sure.  But, as soon as I passed gas, the urge went away until the next eating session.  This repeated itself nearly every mile.

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I have teased my son that he looks like the “Keep on Truckin'” guy from the 

70’s when he runs.  The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, I suppose.

 

A highlight of the course takes you into Camp Randall Stadium, where the UW Badgers play football.  Very cool to get to run on the field.  We made two passes through the stadium on the two loop run course.  Neither time did I see a photographer, so I was a little disappointed not to get a photo of that.  The campus was awesome, lots of cool old buildings and great crowds.  There was one hill called Observatory Hill that I walked.  It was a brutal hill, and most everyone walked it.

I had great team support on the run.  I saw Dave’s family several times, with his son Alex running along with me a few times.  Great kid and a good triathlete.  I’m sure an Ironman is in his future.  My family rocked the run course.  Although I only saw them twice on the bike course in Verona, I saw them numerous times on the run course.  My son Ben and wife Kari would run to different check points to see me, thanks to the friendly layout of the two-loop, out and back course.  I didn’t think that I would like the course the way it was laid out, having to run within a couple hundred feet of the finish line at the 13.1 mile mark and turn around and head back out.  But seeing it once helped me digest where I was going and how much more I had to do.

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Coming up to check in with the family.  I was using them for support and they were

assessing my condition.  I felt pretty good.  The two girls behind me chatted the 

whole time they were together.

 

It got dark on the second loop, and the trail portion of the course became a little scary at times.  There were times that I would step funny, not knowing where my foot was landing.  Also, on the course you often had people running the opposite direction of you.  There were a couple of times I entered the port-o-john and came out not remembering which way I was heading!  Fortunately, I never made a wrong turn.

After about the 16th mile, I switched up and sometimes skipped the banana/chips/pretzels combo and just went with liquid.  By this time chicken broth was being served and I took it at every station that had it.  It was just warm enough to drink it down and it tasted great.  I would follow that up with a cup of cola, and the ice water.  I felt like I had nailed the fourth discipline of triathlon, nutrition, very well.

Around the 22 mile marker I was my wife and son again and they found me in pretty good shape.  I told them I would see them at the finish.  But my son met me again between mile 24 and 25 and ran with me a little.  At this point, I was running like I had just started a 5K, passing people left and right.  Ben took a short cut to the finish, and I paced myself closer and closer to the finish.

As I made the final turn toward the chute, I looked behind to make sure no one was coming up behind me and that I wasn’t going to catch up too close to the guy finishing ahead of me.  I wanted to make sure I had a little moment in the chute to myself.  I saw my family and tried to high-five all of them, and reveled in the crowd as I crossed the finish line.  “Chris Hedges from Mokena, Illinois, (and some other guy) you are an Ironman!” said Mike Reilly in a somewhat relaxed manner.  It didn’t matter how he said it, all I heard was that I was an Ironman.

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Not sure what I was doing with my arms!  Not very Ironman-ish. 

 

I was immediately met by some catchers and peppered with questions.  I told them I felt great.  They gave me a mylar blanket, a finishers shirt and hat, and of course, the Ironman finisher medal.  The girl reminded me to hit my stop button on my watch, which I had forgotten about.  They asked me if I would like a photo, and I said “heck yeah!” and he held my stuff while I gave a smile and said cheese.

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Proof that I am an Ironman!

 

POST RACE – 140.6 MILES – FINISH TIME – 14:37.31

I was quickly met by Dave and John, who I knew had beaten me to the finish line.  Not only beat me there, but they personally CRUSHED their inaugural IM’s.  We started out with me thinking I would race it and they would survive it, and in the end, they just flat out slayed it, and I was content to be the finisher!  Dave had a sub-13 and John was just a little over 13 hours.  Very impressive for their first Ironman, heck for anyone’s first time for that matter.

We went into the recovery area and I was given a cola and more Ironman Perform.  I was starting to feel a little light headed, a little hypoglycemic, so I made sure I got some sugar in me.  I asked for a bag of ice and rested it on the back of my neck for a little while.  I quickly came around and ate a slice of pizza, while comparing race notes with John.  My wife wasn’t allowed in the recovery area, but I could see she was monitoring me very closely, because she has had to deal with quite a few of my post-marathon crash and burns!  But there would be no crash and burn this time.  We spent about 30 minutes in the area and then went back to the hotel.  The decision was made to go get our bikes and gear bags, so we limped our way down to the transition, where the great volunteers happily gathered our stuff for us.

We made it up to the hotel room and I decided that I had enough for the day and took a shower and tried to go to bed.  But being so close to the finish, I could hear the runners being announced. And since I had overdosed on caffeine from the cola and GU/Roctane all day, I was wide awake. I decided to try to watch the finishers on the live website feed, but I couldn’t pull it up.  There was about 1/2 hour left and I decided that I was going to go down and watch the final finishers.  Kari was not so sure it was a great idea.  But, I wouldn’t be able to sleep with all that noise anyway.  I saw John, whose room was right next to mine, and found Dave eating in the hotel lobby, and told them we were going to go watch the final finishers.  They joined us about five minutes after Kari and I got there.  I have to admit, I am so glad we went down to watch.  It was so uplifting to see these final people meet their Ironman goals with minutes, sometimes seconds, to spare.  One of the final finishers was a 2013 Ironman Wisconsin Facebook group friend, who managed to finish with less than two minutes to spare.  Later on, I discovered her story got better.  She made the swim cut-off by 20 seconds!  She made the bike cut-off by like a minute!  And now she, in her first attempt, became an Ironman in 16:58.  Not only that, she was in the 60-65 age group, and finished with a podium placing 5th in her A/G!  Barely makes the cut in each segment and podiums!  Outstanding.  There were many awesome finishers, and Mike Reilly was right there in front of us welcoming them all home.  What a perfect way to end the day!

Here is a link to my Finisher’s Pix race day video.  I shows me at various checkpoints in the race.  I don’t remember high-fiving the volunteer at the 13.1 turn, but I’m glad I did!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuxDzKJ66To&list=FLBHNceAyJ1iqiYYmINSxUeQ&index=3

 

CONCLUSION

Here is a wrap up of my race equipment.

  • Blue Seventy Reaction wet suit
  • Bike – Specialized Shiv Pro, equipped with a Fuelselage (an integrated hydration bottle), two bottle cages, two saddle bags with CO2 cartridges and tire levers and spare tubes, SRAM Red with 52/36 and 11/28 gearing
  • Timex Ironman GPS  with heart rate monitor for the bike ride
  • TYR tri shorts for the bike, with a full zippered Champion Systems cycling jersey
  • LG tri top and shorts for the run
  • ASICS Gel-Nimbus 14 shoes for the run

 

Here is my nutrition routine for the race.

  • Gatorade Prime and GU taken prior to the swim start
  • Two bottles of Gatorade to start the bike ride, then replenished with Ironman Perform on course, about one bottle per hour, along with water
  • One gel every half hour, alternating regular GU and Roctane (bike and run portions)
  • One Salt Stick salt capsule every hour (bike and run portions)
  • One Bonk Breaker Bite every hour (bike portion)
  • Bananas (about 1/5 of a whole banana) every aid station when I felt like I wanted it
  • Small amount of potato chips and pretzels at nearly every aid station (run portion)
  • An occasional GU Chomp when I wanted something to chew on (bike portion)
  • Cola and chicken broth at every aid station (run portion)
  • Ice and water every aid station (run portion)

(Note – the liquids on the run were very small portions, of which I sometimes took extra, and sometimes didn’t finish it all.)

 

What I did right –

  • I got a good night’s sleep the eve of the race thanks to an Ambien.
  • I had my bike checked at the shop two weeks prior to the race.  No issues with such a new bike, but the cables were tightened and the bike got a thorough looking over by a pro bike mechanic.
  • I didn’t freak out in the water when it got rough with the other swimmers.
  • I paced myself well and stayed within my race plan.
  • I nailed the nutrition, never really feeling hungry or hypoglycemic.
  • I used my own bottles.  Several riders used the bottles on course and I saw dozens of full bottles laying on the road side at every bump on the course.
  • I rode the course a couple times during training!  That was vital.

 

What I could improve on –

  • I should have adapted to the cool race day temperature and allowed myself to push my limit a little further.  I think it could have been a sub 13:30 day had I taken advantage of the 75 degree and overcast day.
  • I wasted far too much time stopping at each aid station.  My GPS watch showed that I had 20 minutes of stoppage time on the bike!  Add up the time spent walking through the aid stations on the run, and I could have easily wasted 30 to 40 minutes there as well.
  • I bought my tri bike late into the training.  Although I adapted quickly to the different riding style, my neck and back could have benefited from a longer training season.
  • I shouldn’t have carried all of my necessary nutrition on the bike in my cycling jersey pockets.  There was plenty of nutrition on the course, and you could have grabbed one or two extra at each stop if you are afraid of dropping one.
  • I had three options for running clothes in my bag.  In the end, I went with what I had originally planned to wear.
  • I brought every piece of triathlon equipment I owned and didn’t really need it all.  Security blanket, I guess.  There was plenty of stuff at the expo that you could buy if you needed something.
  • Lastly, transitions!  I pride myself at flying through most smaller race transitions, but I wasted too much time in the Monona Terrace.

Also…

  • “Be Iron Fit,” by Don Fink.  An excellent training manual for the Ironman triathlete.
  • “Racing Ironman Wisconsin,” by Raymond Britt.  A complete guide to everything you need to know about IM Wisconsin by a guy who has done it many times.
  • “Total Immersion Swimming” – A good open water/distance swimming dvd.

 

So, I am an Ironman.  I took my time, executed my plan, and really enjoyed the day.  I can’t think of a better way to experience Ironman.

 

THANKS 

I have to give thanks and credit where credit is due.  Without the support of my family and friends, it would have been a long summer.

Thanks go to…

My friends Dave and John.  Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure with me.  I would have never done it without you guys.  Another awesome life experience among the many I have shared with you two over the years.  You are my brothers.  I love you.  You are Ironmen!

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Ironfriends.  Ironmen.

 

Dave’s wife Carla.  Thanks for putting up with us.  And especially, thanks for being our official travel agent and fan.  Every event we went to we would have been sleeping in our cars if it wasn’t for your great skills at getting us the best of the best hotel rooms.  Thanks for monitoring us, keeping us on track, keeping us in line, taking photos, and being a great fan.

Elizabeth and Alex, for making the trip from U of Iowa, and picking up my son Ben along the way.  And special thanks to Alex for running with me during our week in Pentwater, and along with me at several of the points along the run route.  It definitely was a pick-me-up.  I hope some day that you too, will fulfill your dream of doing the Ironman.  I know you want to!  Don’t worry about Grandma Sally.  We got your back!  Also, Dave’s two little guys.   It’s hard to have dad training so hard, but you two guys were great supporters.  I also see a future triathlete in Max for sure!

Mandy and baby Lilly, for putting up with John and us.  Being a new mom and having a Ironman training husband was tough, I’m sure.  You deserve something really nice from John!

Sally and Al, Janet, and Connie for coming out for support.  See Sally, it wasn’t so bad.

My in-laws, Darla and Gary for putting up with me and watching my kids and filling in when I wasn’t able to drive to soccer or whatever.  Gary, don’t think I didn’t notice that huge smile on your face when I was on the bike route!  Darla, thanks for bragging on me to everyone you know.  Thanks for being my fans.

My Facebook friends, who at first thought this might not be a well-advised event, but quickly learned that I was going to do it anyway.  Thanks for putting up with all my bragging and posts of my running and tri results.  (Especially, Peggy, who may be the only friend that bothered to read these weekly posts that I threw together every Sunday!)

My work friends, especially Lou and Julie for taking the time to track me during the event and sit in front of their laptops watching the live feed to see me finish.  It really meant a lot to me.  Thanks for listening to me drone on and on about my training, Lou!

My children Ben, Ashley and Rebecca.  I have tried to be a good role model, and I’m glad to see that my running has rubbed off on, well 2 of the 3!  I’m not giving up on you, Ashley!  I was blessed with three wonderful kids.  Thanks to Ben for running with Mom and meeting me along the route.  I can’t say enough how much that meant to me.

And lastly, my wife Kari.  She has had to deal with my numerous marathon efforts, running races, long absences on the weekends, and the money I spent to do this crazy event.  Thanks for being so supportive and loving.  You are an Iron-wife!  I love you.

Chris Hedges – Ironman

p.s. – MOO!