Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin (IMOO)

Well it's been a while since my last blog update and this year's Ironman Wisconsin experience seems like the perfect excuse to lay down some more "bits". I didn't sign up for IMWI last year when after the 2008 race and like most Ironman races it filled within hours. Despite not having a regular entry I was still interested in doing the race and kept a close watch on the Community Fund slots available for this event. As the season moved on there were still plenty of spots left and I was starting to get into shape. I thought that I'd test myself at the Pigman Half in IA and if I didn't implode at that race I'd go ahead and sign up. Pigman turned out to be very tough, severe winds and rain - I even cracked my front wheel [well actually CY's front wheel] getting pushed into a pot hole. Making matters worse, the sun came out on the run and it was hot and steamy - (I pretty much melted) but despite the now legendary day at Pigman I decided to sign up for IMWI anyway.

I had already done the SCS IMWI training camp in late July so I had a chance to ride the course, swim the swim and run a loop of the marathon. (Coaches Kris, Dan and John were full of great advice and race plan information plus lots of experience on the course between them). The one important lesson I learned at the camp was that a 12-23 cassette was not going to be enough. I actually had a 12-25 on my bike but due to mechanical issues couldn't get it into the big ring during our training ride. I ended up putting on a 12-27 for the race and was pretty happy about that. (more on that below).

This would be my 3rd Ironman (having done AZ 06', and FL 07' - skipped 08' so I could go watch CY in Kona) and I was admittedly not very nervous and didn't have any real pressure. My goal was to really just get out there and enjoy the day and try to finish in under 13hrs. I've always wanted to do IMWI as it's my home state and the crowds there are fantastic! I've gone to watch the race 4-5 times and always thought about signing up.

I had the good fortune of training with my Buddy EZ all summer as he was gearing up for his first IM. His wife like mine has gone to Kona and is one of the top women in the state. I told EZ we should have a FB group - "Guys that get their butts kicked by their wives in Triathlon". In all fairness these ladies are really good so no sympathy for us. There were plenty of other MN athletes signed up for the race including a few of our fellow Penn Team members (Karl, Cathy, and Susan) and plenty of other people from the local scene (our good friend Jmac, plus Jan, Rich, Doug, Mark, Tracie, Pam, Terry, and many more...)

Let's race!

Race day came so fast it was unbelievable. CY and Jen drove me down to Madtown so I could "get my race groove on" whatever that means. We got there Friday afternoon - made it through checkin (saw Scott H and coach Kris both volunteering) and then headed to the Hull's cabin about 45 mins away. It was a nice place to chill out and relax while the excitement of the race continued to build. Saturday morning sped along quickly and we headed back for bike checkin and then to a local hotel so we would be nearby for race morning. Lots of people love to come and watch this race and the standard protocol is for racers to extend a welcome to spectators to crash at their hotel. We filled our room with a full crew including bodies on the floor. (CY, Jen, Me, Angie, Merrilee... ) You might think it's a distraction to have a bunch of people in your room on race night but I say the more the merrier. I slept like a rock from about 10:00pm until 5:00am.

We all piled in the minivan in the morning and headed for Merona Terrace. It was a bit foggy but the sun would soon burn that off. I had plenty of time to eat, hydrate, double check my stuff, top off the air in my tires and sit around with EZ in our wet suits babbling about what was in front of us. All good so far!

About 6:40 we decided we'd better head down to the swim start. My plan was to get to the buoy line and try and swim inside the buoys hoping it would be less congested. About two-thirds of the way out there I noticed it was jammed around the buoy. At my current position it was pretty open so I started thinking this might work. I was treading water when I heard a "Kerry" and spun around to see Mark E - he was thinking what I was (start here) and it was refreshing to be in the middle of 2500 athletes and find someone you actually know.

The canon sounded and the little gap collapsed. I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of swimmers all swimming hard and with what appeared to be reckless abandon. It was for sure the roughest IM swim I had ever experienced with pulling, tugging, people swimming over the top of people and I even got hit on the right side of my head by a guy swimming on my left - sheesh that was a wide stroke. The swim is basically a rectangle set out about 200m from shore that you loop around twice. It's longest legs are the down and back so I figured maybe by the time we hit the first turn buoy things would settle in a bit. No chance - the congestion at the first turn brought us to a complete stop as people crawled over one another to try and get around the corner. I'm pretty comfortable in the water so despite it being rough I was able to stay calm and just try and not waste energy. I know the swim keeps a lot of people from doing an IM and this kind of mayhem plays big part. When all is said and done though it's really a key piece of the overall experience so I hope they keep the mass starts especially so everyone is on the same clock. I think people are getting better at just hanging back if they don't want to be in the blender.

By turn 4 things had spread out enough to find some open water for the second loop. I eventually came around the final turn and headed for shore. From the final turn it's a good 300+m so while the end was in site there was still a little work left. I exited the swim in 1:07 and change which was an Ironman best for me. The wetsuit strippers did their thing and I was off running up the famous Helix lined with tons of cheering spectators. About half way up I hit my main support crew and they were loud and inspiring. I was forecasting 1:15 in the swim and :15 in T1 so I had a little time to spare.

In T1 I put on a skin suit to wear on the bike - borderline too hot for the day as it was long sleeved but I figured with pooring water over me at the aid stations and keeping the sun off me it was probably going to work. I came out of T1 in just under 10 mins. The sunscreen people piled a bunch of what felt like SPF 70 on me and I headed for my bike. (The sunscreen never really seemed to soak in - see the pics for proof of that ;) As I hit my bike rack location there was Denny a local tri friend who was volunteering in T1 and he handed my bike (and held it as I put on my shoes) - again really nice to have someone you know helping out during the race! I hopped on my bike and headed out on the hilly double loop course. Temps were pretty mild and the wind was low so things were looking good - I had a big smile on my face.

About 12 miles into the course I noticed a photog buzzing up on a moto. It was none other than Paul Phillips who is both a friend and someone who has taught me a thing or two about photography. Paul saw me and proceeded to ride around me (front, back, side, etc...) taking lots of fun shots - Thanks Paul! I got a few strange looks like who is this guy getting all the photo attention.... Also turns out that Paul's moto driver (Tim) was a Trek guy so my TTX was getting a little extra attention.

Things were going well on the bike and I kept telling myself hold back the first loop - don't go out too hard, try and stay hydrated. Well two out of three wasn't bad... more on the hydration to come but first - I had my initial set back of the day at around mile 17ish. I hit a pot hole and my left aero bar elbow pad dropped to about a 45 degree angle. I had been dialing in my position with some fine tuning the last couple rides and apparently didn't dial it quite tight enough ;) With a normal aero position out of the picture for the next 100 miles I quickly began experimenting with other ways to get comfortable. I ended up spending a lot of time sitting up but on this course with all the hills that didn't seem all bad.

There are a few places in the loop section of this course where you expect to see lots of friendly faces. Old Saulk Pass is the first one of those spots and I was very excited when I got there. It's a long climb but most the way up are people (some in costumes) cheering you along. I knew my posse was going to be there and I was excited. I saw a lot of friendly faces (Cindy, Kris, Devon, Hector etc... ) but not my crew... turns out I was running a few minutes ahead of their elaborately mapped out spreadsheet (It's really hard to watch for a bunch of different people in a big race like this and accurately predict where they will be). so I'd miss them on loop one - oh well next time around.

Not long after that hill came what we call the "Tour De France" hill so named because people stand in the road on both sides and you only have a narrow gap to climb through - very fun. Rounding out the tri-fecta of named hill climbs is "road kill hill" so named for obvious reasons. At this climb I saw Denny, Johny J, Nick, and plenty of others... It's great to hear your name and get a boost of energy from the crowd.

About this time I was starting to get some classic signs of dehydration - not good given I was only about half way through the bike. I had learned the dehydration lesson the hard way at IMAZ and I didn't want to repeat that. In IMFL I had a goal of drinking so much I'd have to pee on the bike but failed to achieve that. In fact I've never had to stop and pee in any previous IM which as you can imagine is not ideal. Staying hydrated in long course races is not something I've mastered and this would be no exception. By the time I hit Old Saulk Pass the second time (~mile 87) I was loosing my voice and had the fish bowl thing going in my head and I was clearly loosing power. The good news was my crew was there and I pulled over to say hello and get a few experienced words from coach Kris about getting hydrated fast or the marathon was going to really hurt. I did my best to drink as much as I could take for the rest of the ride. The body doesn't always cooperate and sometimes it just wants nothing...

On top of the dehydration my knees were really starting to hurt. I had been fine all summer until the test ride in July where the 12-23 had taken it's toll on me and I first felt some pain back then. The intensity kept increasing and my pace was suffering. I just kept telling myself - keep it together - ride slower if you need to - maybe this is only a cycling pain and you won't feel it on the run...

I hobbled into T2 (saw CY at the entrance to the Helix cheering me on) and I was very glad to be off the bike. With the slow down I ended up riding about 6:24 on the bike but I was still on track to break 13 hrs which was my target for the day. In T2 - I ran into yet another friendly face (Steve S) volunteering - it was my lucky day for hitting people I knew - Steve assisted me out of the skin suit and into my running gear. I was definitely in a bit of an Ironman fog by this point and in fact I didn't even notice I had put my tri shorts on backward... (I would run the entire marathon without noticing - after the race CY pointed it out as I was about to change into more comfortable clothes).

I knew the marathon was going to be tough but really when is a marathon at the end of an Ironman not tough? I started out slow and smooth with a focus on drinking as much as possible at the aid stations that thankfully come every mile. I had a hat on at the beginning and put ice in it to melt on my head. At each aid station I'd get some cola, water, gatorade and ice - mixing in whatever food looked good (mostly cookies - I love cookies). When they had chicken broth I'd take some of that too. Just a couple miles into the race JMac ran by and she was looking very strong - we exchanged encouraging words and I watched her sail off into the sunset.

The loop through Camp Randall Stadium was fun - the turf was nice and soft and it was quiet and peaceful in there. The ramp to get in and out was not so friendly but fortunately short. My plan was to run the entire marathon walking through the aid stations to make sure I got enough fuel and hydration and maybe walk up part of Observatory hill - the longest steepest hill on the course. So far I was on track and felt like I'd at least slowed if not stopped the rate at which I was dehydrating. In fact at mile 8 I actually had to jump in the biffy and yes for the first time ever in an IM race I had to pee - It's the little thing that keep you going out there :)

The posse had some well defined spots on the course where I knew I would be seeing them and just like clockwork they were there. There were tons of other friendly faces along the way as well which again really makes this a special place to race an IM. When I was nearing the end of the first loop of the run I heard that EZ was now under a minute behind me. I expected to see him on the bike but he was battling a slow leak toward the end of the ride struggling to keep any air in his tire. Just into the first mile of the second loop my training buddy pulled up next to me and we spent a few minutes talking about our adventure thus far. I was starting to recover but not ready to run any faster so it wasn't too long before he was out of sight.

Somewhere during the next mile I managed to drop my container of salt tabs. I had spare tabs everywhere all day (Special needs on the Bike, T1 and T2 bags, Special needs on the run) but by now I was past all those backup spots. The good news for me was that as I was explaining this to CY (who had jumped on her Mt Bike so she could see me in a few more spots on the second loop of the run) a guy running next to me over heard and actually volunteered to give me some of his salt tabs. The triathlete crowd is in general a friendly bunch but this act of kindness was going to be key to keeping me going for the next 11 miles.

Another bit of good news was that my knees were not hurting while running and I was actually starting to feel stronger. My pace was picking up and somewhere around mile 20 I felt pretty good. This deep into the marathon you start to see lots of people who are totally spent and frequently walking (some having thrown in the towel completely knowing they will make the finish by midnight even if they walk the last half dozen miles). I was picking up steam and even went by a few friendly faces who had gone out too hard and were now suffering.

I saw CY for the final time with about 4 miles to go and we both realized that if I could pick it up a just little and hold it together I'd end up under 12:30:00 for the day. She rode off to see JMac and EZ and others at the finish line and I started to push a little. I was really feeling good now (hey it feels great knowing you're almost done) and when I turned the corner onto State Street I was at my best pace of the day. I flew past the last aid station and headed to the capital and then to the final couple turns. That last stretch down to the finish lined with crowds in the bleachers and the voice of Ironman Mike Reilly calling out every finisher by name and letting them know "You are an Ironman" is priceless. Yes there were a few setbacks during the day but I was coming in to the finish feeling good and finishing under my target time (ended up 12:26:) and so glad I decided to sign up.

I actually had fun out there and holding it together during the run and gradually feeling better and better made for a really upbeat mood and awesome experience. I was so happy (for like the next few days even). Boosting the joy was the fact that so many of my friends were out there racing too. There is something about epic experiences like this that bond people together in a special way both athletes and spectators. I'm so glad I signed up and did the race!! Thanks to everyone who supported the race in one way or another - there was so much FB, Twitter, txt msging etc... going on as well - just awesome!

Post race:

So after crossing the line grabbing a finisher shirt/hat and medal I found CY. I figured I'd better at least weigh in and see how much I was down (hydration check). I asked if I could use the scale in the Med Tent and they said no problem but we will have to pull your starting weight and make it an official check. Ugh - I was down over 12 pounds and that raised a few red flags. After a bunch of questions, a check of the vitals, and a blood test to check electrolyte levels - they decided to be on the safe side and I got a 500 ml IV. During which I drank two bottles of water and some chicken broth. They said all was good after that and they let me go :)

It's fun to stay until midnight watching the last of the official finishers cross the line. We did that in Florida and in Kona and it was a blast. Unfortunately this time CY and I would have to hit the road as I had a flight to London the next day (Monday) and we needed to get at least half way home Sunday night. First stop was McDonalds for an Angus Burger and fries - oh and they were fresh piping hot fires too - sweet! There would be a few more stops on the route for snacks :) We got home Monday in plenty of time for me to swap bags and head to the Airport.

As I was between flights MSP-DTW-LHR - I got the txt msg from CY that she was signed up for IMWI 2010! Ok maybe rewind play for next year :)

[Thanks for all the great pics Brian, Julie, CY, Jen, Denny, Paul, Nick...]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kona Recap

Ok - back from vacation and I have managed to put some photos of the "big" race together. It was a fantastic day out there with plenty of fun and excitement to keep things going. As promised - tons of race photos here

It was great to see Jeremy Sartain dig deep and make it through the race despite his condition - totally amazing...

This place is magic for sure with crowds going strong until midnight cheering in the last of the racers making the cut.

The strong prevailed on the day...

CY had some fun after the race - all I could do was point and click...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kona "K"overage

Levels of excitement are of course very high. The Cameras are charged up and ready to go.

The "Navy" is one of the sponsors out here this year and they are here in force :) It's going to be a fun fun day tomorrow. I'll try and make a few updates during the day on facebook so check there for iPhone Photos and comments.

Nick ( is here covering the race so be sure to checkout his site as well.

The big guns are ready to give it their best and I'm rooting for Mr Potts. Lots of Pro Spectators here to watch - we saw Greg and Laura B plus Matty R and others today.

Lava Java has been jammed all week - it has achieved icon status and seems to be the place to hang...

The Germans (Mr S) were camped out here all morning.

Last minutes warm ups in the scenic venue...

Kiersten (16) & Karin (14) are here and excited to cheer on CY number 1614 - must be some kind of good Karma!

Pre-race slideshow here and I'll put up a ton of photos after the race.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

USAT Nationals

It was a bit of a gloomy overcast day at Hagg Lake near Portland but with light winds and cooler temps the athletes were pretty happy about the conditions. As for the photogs some better light would have been great but like the athletes we make due with what the day brings.

I had a chance to run the 10K course and swim the 1500m loop the day before the race. The run which is on the 2 loop bike course had 4 meaningful hills in each direction of the out and back route. The water temp was low 70s and they used the mega sized buoys which was awesome for sighting. The water level was significantly lower this year so there was a pretty steep and long run up from the lake to T1.

With everyone racing in their respective age group waves it was hard to track all the athletes I knew but I managed to grab a few shots of some of them and have a 100+ image slide show posted here.

Local athletes Curt, Cathy and Brian had excellent performances, Curt with a 2nd AG finish and capturing the fastest bike split for a second year in a row. Brian was 2nd Master and in the top 10 overall. CY won her AG and posted the 2nd fastest women's time! Also Madison's Mark H and Cindy B had a podium AG finishes plus Cindy had this really huge bag of chocolate trail mix that kept us fueled during the pro races.

I captured a few of the sights and sounds on video below for your viewing pleasure. Off to Dallas this weekend for the Toyota US Open then Kona next weekend to watch the "Big One".

Train safe.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Black Dog TT - it's a wrap

Well another season at the "Dog" has come to an end. Consider this a quick tribute post to all those who have toiled out there this year on this 7+ mile "speed workout" every other Wednesday. The race is named for the Black Dog coal and gas fired power station that looms in the background on the Minnesota river. The name Black Dog came originally from the Black Dog band of Souix Indians and their Chief Black Dog who settled the area around 1750.
The event is put on by Silver Cycling and the title sponsor is Hollywood Cycles (Details at the link).

Each event attracts around 100 riders and they are sent out in Time Trial format with 30 second intervals. I've enjoyed watching the action and snapping a few photos - once in a while I even give it a whirl myself :). This event has been around for quite a while and is very well run. There's a good mix of participants including both roadies and triathletes. There are even some fun categories like Tandem and Recumbent.
Click the play button and get a feel for what the action is like.

We'll see you out there next year right???
(For a hi-res version of the video click here)