I spent all summer reading people’s Ironman recaps, looking for tips, advice, what to expect,… anything. The recaps tone ranged from disappointed to just another day, to they felt super spectacular all day. The super spectacular people were liars I thought. But then I found myself on mile 16 of the run smiling, running with pep in my step, feeling like one of those so-called liars.
Sunday morning started with some last minute changes to my transition bags, and some bike preparations. As I was making my way around the Monona Terrace I kept hearing my name “Hey! Steena! Good luck Steena!” It was a blur of familiar faces. My favorite good luck came from Jackie Arendt, who by the way WON, first female finisher. She patted me on the shoulder and told me good luck. I thought, “a professional just thwapped my shoulder, she totally left some professional magic on me!”
Getting into the water I kept reminding myself how much I love choppy open water swims and getting groped by all the flailing arms around me. I love it. I really do. A calm swim is boring, there’s nothing to think about. I had plenty to think about in this swim, with weaving around swimmers, ducking into waves, people grabbing my ankles, getting elbowed in the head, and they MOO’ed!! They really moo’ed at the first turn. This is Ironman Wisconsin.
I got out of the water in 1:26 and made my way towards the wetsuit strippers. As they started to pull the wetsuit off my left calf cramped, “STOP, WAIT CRAMP!” The volunteer quickly massaged it out and got my wetsuit off. Man those volunteers are incredible people. I ran up the helix and it hardly felt like I was running, the crowds of people were so loud and energetic. Very cool experience.
Transition felt like it took 20 minutes, but it was “only” 13. I changed into dry clothes and applied my butt-cream in front of a volunteer which is just as awkward as I thought it would be. Simone was volunteering in the woman’s changing area and she kept coming over shouting words of encouragement. She made me laugh and get on the bike smiling.
On the bike, I immediately starting cramming a Bonk Breaker into my mouth, remembering how violently hungry I was after my 2.4 mile training swims. I was determined to stay on top of the hunger. The first 10 miles felt a little weary, thinking about all that was ahead. Once I was onto Whalen Road, familiar territory for me, the uneasy feeling went away.
The bike course was a party on wheels. The spectator support throughout the course is unbelievable, I can’t even begin to try to list all of the crazy costumed people that I saw, but they made me laugh throughout the entire course. One guy, on the top of Midtown Road was wearing a t-shirt with the outline of a woman’s body in a bikini, and a black-haired wig over his crotch, when I laughed at him he said, “Hey, I know you! I rode my bike with you once!” I had no idea who he was at the time, but go figure, I really did do a training ride with him in June!
The three major hills on the course known as “The Bitches” were the easiest they have ever felt to me with the spectators making me laugh all the way up. I hardly knew I was riding up a hill! And the hills on Getz Road and Garfoot Road were a breeze to me after training on this course all summer long. They say “trust your training”, this is maybe the first time I’ve ever felt that saying to be true. Knowing every inch of the bike course was hugely beneficial.
I think it’s important to note that I avoided eye contact with my bike computer throughout the 112 miles too. Not obsessing over mph kept my head and legs in a happy place. Lastly I want to list all of the food that I took in because I didn’t have a fuel plan, I just ate. I had 3 Bonk Breakers, an unknown quantity of ShotBloks, Skittles, Sea salt potato chips, 1 chocolate HammerGel, a half a bagel with peanut butter, a banana chunk, a Nutroll, and drank water and Nuun. This worked perfectly for me, I don’t think I’ll use a fuel plan in the future.
Transition 2 was quick, I changed my clothes, threw on my Mizunos and race belt, done. Simone was again shouting encouragement at me. On my way out of the door she yelled “in just 26.2 miles you’ll be an Ironman!” It was the perfect thing to yell, I grinned from ear to ear.
On the run course, I saw John right away. He asked me how I was feeling, I wasn’t sure yet, so I just said that my butt hurt, I just spent over 7 hours on the bike. Butt hurt aside, I was running. When I hit mile 1 thought “Ha, cool, I just ran a mile after riding 112 miles. No reason to walk now, keep running!” At the first aid station I took my first cup of cola from Becca, she said I looked great. I told her I feeeel great and kept running. I didn’t take my first walk break until after mile 2. Without a stopwatch for an exact 4:1 run/walk ratio I picked landmarks that I thought might take a minute to walk to. This was my run/walk strategy, landmarks and hills. I really felt great and wanted to hold on to that for as long as possible.
On Observatory Drive where the worst of the run course hills are, a guy next to me started to tell me what a disappointment the whole day was. I had no room in my mind for negativity, so as soon as we reached the top of the first hill I wished him luck and took off running. I wanted to be so far away from the negativity that I actually ran the second hill on Observatory Drive, where everyone else was walking. It felt awesome to be running that hill.
I saw John again a little after mile 6. It occurred to me that I should tell him that I felt good so that he wouldn’t worry. I gave him a sweaty hug and kept running. There were so many people I knew on the course, at aid stations, and cheering that really helped keep my spirits high. Thank you to everyone that was there! You really were a part of what made the day special!
At the halfway point turn around I looked at my Garmin and saw 2:32 and thought, “Wow, if I keep moving at this speed, and maybe walk less, I could break 5!” So I took off, a bit recklessly. I remembered all the places I walked on the first loop and ran through those places, except for the hills. The miles ticked by fairly quickly. When I got to the aid station at mile 17 Lisa Ruth put a glow necklace around my neck, and her friend said, “Wow, how’d you get back here so fast?!!” I told him I’M FLYING!! I truly felt like I was flying.
Sorry to make this post even longer with how I fueled the marathon, but I do want to remember in the future what I did that worked. Again, I didn’t have a fuel plan. My aid station strategy was to take a cup of cola from one volunteer, walk to the next volunteer that was handing out ice, guzzle the melted ice-water, and then dump the remaining ice into the cup of cola. Drink. Magic. The entire marathon was fueled by cola, potato chips, 2 HammerGels, and a couple of orange slices.
After an aid station at mile 21 it became harder to start running after a walk break. Once I got running again, I fought the urge to stop, knowing how hard it would be to restart again. Mile 23, 24, 25.. everything hurt, but I was so close, I knew I was on my way to the coveted “You are an Ironman!!” announcement by Mike Reilley. I rounded that final corner that I loved spectating last year where you see the look on a person’s face who is about to finish. I got to be that person! I made sure to leave enough space between me and the guy running down the finish chute ahead of me, and hoped to god the person behind me wouldn’t beeline ahead to interfere with my moment….
Happiest finish ever.
There was not one dark moment in the entire race, and I am not lying about that. I am PROUD of each and every split. The day couldn’t have been any better. I can’t give enough thanks to all the volunteers, my ridiculously proud husband, friends who where there from 5:00 AM to the finish, just, everyone, thank you.
There was a sign that read “Chafe now, brag forever” … I didn’t chafe, but I’m still going to brag, I am an Ironman!
Swim 2.4 miles: 1:26:19
Bike 112 miles: 7:19:16
Run 26.2: 5:12:44