Up at 4:00. Quickly dressed, packed up remaining nutrition for the day and drove up to Madison. Ate a couple of muffins and drank a bottle of airborne. Emotions were all over the board, from nausea, to calm, to fighting off tears. Once at the terrace I dropped off special needs bags, stopped at the bike, dropped off nutrition, aired up the tires, and attempted to walk away. I think I turned back three times and just looked at Wilson trying to remember what I forgot. Finally left and walked through the transition bag rooms, didn't open the bags, just verified they were still there. This was one of my fears, coming into T1 or T2 and having my bags missing. After that I tried to find a quiet relaxing place. It was only 5:30. The terrace was a madhouse, so I headed down to the lakefront. Ran into a couple of friends, met up with the family, one last stop at the porta potty (I think my 5th of the morning, nerves are a wonderful thing) and it's time to go, finally.
I get a queasy stomach again just reading this. The energy and emotion of ironman race morning are really something to experience. I can't really put it into words.
Got in the water with about 15 minutes to go. After the pros went off I left the comfort of the standing depth water and headed out to the start area to tread water. Lined up about half way between the ski ramp and shore, maybe 10 people back, adjusted position a couple of times when it got to crowded for my comfort level. Without much warning the cannon went off, I was expecting a countdown or something, but it didn't happen, just boom, and we were off. Holy crap, I'm doing an ironman swim. This thought/emotion was going through me the entire swim. I was elated. The start was/is everything you'd expect. I didn't take any serious blows, but my right eye got kicked four or five times. I was regularly pushed, swam into, swam over, etc. Nothing excessive or violent, but it was rough. I don't remember a whole lot about the swim, it went by so fast, I was really enjoying it. Swam wide the entire time, cut in fairly close to the turn buoys, then went wide again. Every once in a while I'd catch a glimpse of the announcer or hear the crowd. Heard "sweet emotion" by Aerosmith as I was starting the second loop. Somewhere mid swim my stomach started to not be real happy. Perhaps it was my effort to drink the lake dry, I don't know. Being surrounded by swimmers, the previously calm lake had an odd irregular chop, I had some trouble getting clean breaths through much of the swim and drank a lot of water. Well hydrated I was.
Now reading this again, I'm starting to tear up. It was an incredible feeling to be out there doing an Ironman swim. It was easy almost. Just keep swimming, keep your emotions in check, don't overdue it. Such a good time.
I continue to excel at changing clothes. T1 and T2 were my best events relative to the field, T1 - 123/339 age group, 644/2397 overall. When I saw the clock coming out of the water I was absolutely thrilled. Managed to get out of the water without issue and made my way to the wetsuit strippers. I think I passed Amy Jo here, but everything was such a blur. The wetsuit stripper knew me, but I had/have absolutely no idea who it was. I'm sorry, I just survived an Ironman swim, and did it faster than I thought was really realistic, nothing was fully registering with me at this point. Made my way up to the terrace, grabbed my bag, and headed into the changing room. The men's changing room is not a pretty sight. Got in, got out, and tried not to look around. Carried my shoes and made my way through the bike racks to a volunteer waiting with my bike. I promptly told him "That's not my bike." Did I mention I was having fun? I don't know that I've ever seen a grown man become so flustered so quickly, but he took it really well. Made my way to just shy of the dismount line before putting my shoes on. Let's go for a ride.
Maybe I'm an ass, but that dude with my bike was funny, and being a slow swimmer, there were not a whole lot of bikes left on the rack.
I'm doing a freaking Ironman. Couldn't have wiped the smile off my face. I was having so much fun. Ride out to Verona and the first loop absolutely flew by. Rode in the aerobars through the flats and downhills. Sat up and put my hands in the elbow cups and just spun easy up all the hills. Many commented that it looked like I was just out for an easy Sunday ride. I was. Second loop was much of the same. The three bitch hills took some effort to get up this time, but it was still easier than any training ride on the course. Stomach continued to be unhappy with me, but it was tolerable. The ride back to Madison was more difficult. A slight wind had picked up and we were now riding into it. It was also pretty warm by this point. It hadn't really bothered me, but in combination with the wind, and the 100 miles I'd already gone, I was now ready to get off the bike. Tina's hill was my low point on the course. That hill is never mentioned when discussing the course, but it's a real bear 100+ miles into a ride. Once up that the rest of the ride in was easy again. Riding up the helix was a great feeling.
I had so much fun on the bike, seriously. The 6-1/2 hours literally flew by.
Like T1, T2 was one of my better events relative to the field, 105/356 and 843/2307. 35+ years of getting dressed myself is finally paying off. Swung a leg over my bike at the top of the helix and coasted to the bike catchers. Grabbed my garmin and ran into the terrace. My friend Wade was volunteering in the T2 bag room, he grabbed my transition bag and got a huge hug (I'm not a hugger), that's how happy I still was. The faces in T2 weren't nearly as fresh and happy as they were in T1. Got in, got out.
Yeah I was still on cloud nine, feeling great, ready to take on the world.
And now Robert's race falls apart. As usual, any stomach issues I have get exponentially magnified by running. I headed out of T2 at an easy pace and it wasn't good. Made it to the first aid station and walked through that. Ran down State and Henry, made the turn onto Dayton and ran maybe another block. I wanted to puke, seriously needed to puke. The heat finally hit me full bore and the stomach wasn't having anything to do with this running bullshit. So I started walking, thinking it was a long race, if I can get my stomach to settle, I'll be able to start running again and hopefully salvage the run. So I walked, and I ate and I drank, nothing was helping. Oranges, grapes, coke, water, ice. GE has never settled with me, so I ignored that. I had been chewing tums on and off since starting the bike and had a bag with me so I tried those as well. Tried running again at Camp Randall, made it about half way around. Didn't try again until the downhill at Observatory, was easier than walking. By this point I was good and pissed off.
Right there is the understatement of the year. I was fuming, didn't want to keep walking, couldn't run, and knew in my mind if I stopped moving forward for even a minute my race was over.
I didn't train all year to walk my way through Ironman. I still wanted to puke, half wanted to quit, and definitely didn't feel good about the effort. I don't remember when but the stomach finally started to come around, but by the time it had, the walking had caused major blisters on both feet. Walking was tolerable, running was not. On the second lap I only ran the first downhill on state and observatory again.
When I made the turn on the second lap I did some mental math and figured I could break 14-hours with a little running and some luck. My short run down State ended any thought of more running this day. Disappointing.
Somewhere on the return leg of the second lap, my attitude came back around. I realized I can actually walk pretty darn fast and I wasn't looking at a 7 hour death march. Started talking more with the spectators and volunteers and I think the smile more or less returned. Dumped a cup of water over my sons head at one point, which earned a pretty good laugh from the crowd on Henry. Hardest part of the race for me was the last 2-3 miles, not because of how I felt, but because I was watching so many people heading out for there second loop. I knew how they felt, and I knew how difficult (if not impossible) it was going to be for many of them to make the cutoff. It was inspiring to see them head out and not give up, but it was really hard to watch.
This was really hard, I knew what it took to get myself to the starting line healthy. I was already disappointed in my effort, but I was going to finish. I can't imagine what it must have felt like to have come all this way and possibly dnf. It still chokes me up some. We sat at Ian's on State Street until midnight hoping/praying some last friends would make the corner and finish. It was hard.
At the last aid station I grabbed one last cup of water, needed to fix my hair for the finish :) There hadn't been anyone behind me, but just before I made the turn onto MLK I noticed a runner coming in from behind. So I ran. The crowd was great, I high fived a bunch, at one point (unknowingly) knocking my garmim off its wrist strap and into the street. Tossed my glow stick into the crowd and crossed the line. Awesome feeling.
I was told I came in pretty fast. I probably did. If there is one race day thing I would have changed I would have slowed down and take in the finish instead of rushing through. It was all such a blur.
I initially felt pretty bad about my run. After looking at some numbers I'm coming around. I had what I consider an awesome swim, finished 304/356 in my age group and 1968/2397 overall. My craptastic run yielded me a 251/356 age group rank and a 1601/2397 overall rank. That either says something about my swimming ability or the difficulty of an ironman run. You decide.
I still don't really know how I feel about the race. Time of my life, so much fun, so many emotions. I'm not thrilled about my time, but I'm not incredibly disappointed either. I said it days after the race and I still feel this way, I feel like I have a score to settle with the run course. Not saying I'm jumping back in anytime soon. But I could foresee another Ironman in my future.
Some claim that Ironman was/is a life changing experience. I don't really see it that way. Ironman was a challenge, a dream per se. It didn't end the way I would have liked, but I did do it. I'm the same person I was September 12, maybe a little softer, but still the same person.
What's next, I don't know. If it weren't for the many friends made and people met, I think I could walk away from triathlon and not look back. As it is, there are too many good people in the sport, too many inspirational stories, too many potential experiences out there to just walk away.
2010 will likely be an "off" year, I have yard work to catch up on, a dog to train, and a wife doing her first half. Madison Marathon is a likely foe, and maybe an olympic or even a half. Beyond that I just don't know.