I’ve been looking through some old blog posts leading up to Ironman Wisconsin last September and came across this one that I wrote 8 months before the race about how I imagined IMWI would “feel.” I thought I’d go back and write short post-script-actualities (in italics) on each of these projections.
What Ironman Wisconsin “Feels Like” (originally written January 25, 2013)
Sometimes I’ll sit here watching Ironman Wisconsin videos and get chills. It’s surreal to think I will be on that course in seven months.
Post Script: I still get chills when I think about the morning of the race, but mainly just because it was so cool. The energy was off the charts and you just can’t explain what it feels like standing with nearly 3,000 people in wetsuits. They say preparation is the key and I was very calm and confident standing on the edge of Lake Monona.
I can already see the eyes of the Fab Five as we enter the water, a symbolic beginning to the end of training. Five guys focused on the same goal for over 8 months – and it all comes down to this. Once the swim starts, I may not see them for the next 10 – 12 hours, but in many ways we’ll be connected as one.
In reality I saw the eyes of Kevin for a few minutes on shore, then floated with Jim and Mark before the race, but I didn’t see Daniel that morning. It was a little more splintered than I envisioned. I was hoping to reenact the “Pearl Jam 10” cover photo in our wetsuit, but the reality of our individual challenges took precedent We’d tossed around the idea of drafting each other during the swim, but after seeing the conditions, it would have been impossible. Just too much congestion, not to mention very choppy water.
Tonight, I am there. I hear the screams from hundreds perched on balconies overlooking the water. I hear the encouraging words of athletes floating around me. I hear the cannon explode, sending me into mystery.
We found our place about 20 minutes before the race and tread water. You don’t really hear the fans, but the music is cranked and Mike Riley is doing his thing. Everyone in the water was very respectful of each other. This was a long road and everyone knew how the other felt. I heard Riley say, “One minute to the start,” and that is when it felt most real. Jim, Mark and I exchanged hi-fives, then found our places. I wouldn’t see them again for 10 hours.
I feel the water splashing in Lake Monona. . . the mass of humanity pounding me with no regard . . . the serenity of a place humans weren’t meant to go.
The swim was almost exactly what I imagined, but a bit more difficult. The water was very choppy and sighting was a major challenge. I was amazed at the amount of people who swam in front of me at a 90 degree angle. Many people had problems with direction and I had very few stretches of clean water. On a swim this long it’s best not to think too much, so I just kept churning. My neck was chaffed and I by the time I reached shore I was more than ready to be on my bike.
I feel the slippery shore as I exit the water . . . my bare feet slapping concrete as I climb the winding road to the top of the transition helix.
I could never quite grasp the concept of the helix and whether or not running up a ramp would be difficult after swimming 2.4 miles. Now I know the answer. The energy from the fans literally carries you up to transition. The encouragement and electricity is off the charts. Make sure to slap a few hi-fives and random drums along the way.
My ass hits the seat for the first of many times that day. My thighs burn as I roll through picturesque farmland. Cheering fans slap my back while they hug the narrow climb in Verona like a Tour de France.
The Wisconsin bike course is legendary in Ironman lore and I couldn’t wait. I drove the course with Rebekah two days before and on one hand wished I hadn’t because it seemed very intimidating in a car. I rode a ton of hills in preparation, but can honestly say I think the course was tougher than I imagined. They say relentless hills and that is not an understatement. You must be prepared for gearing lots of up and downs. The “Tour de France” talk is legit and trust me you will need the energy of those spectators on your second loop.
The loop through Camp Randall stadium, home of my favorite football team, takes me back to players I idolized as a child. A gauntlet of familiar faces wave signs and give high fives as I recall college memories from State Street.
By the time I hit Camp Randall I wasn’t thinking much about my favorite football team. I didn’t have that giddy feeling or look around in the stands for ghosts of Badger days gone by. I was just trying to hold it together. The State Street thing was amazing, though. You can’t help but feel like part of the party. It’s definitely rock star time as people line up 5 deep on one of the greatest streets there is to celebrate your hard work while they get plowed.
My ankles ache as I turn the final corner and feel the rush of the finish line. I glance at the majestic state capitol, embrace the tunnel of fans, and culminate the biggest physical accomplishment of my life.
This is exactly how it happened. It was still light, but by the time I got to the capitol it loomed in an ominous way. It “felt” dark, and I still had two and a half blocks left. It literally felt like I was a kid running home to beat the street lights, and as luck would have it my family and friends were waiting at the front door. The Ironman finish was extreme relief replaced by jubilation. My work was “done” and now it was time to let it sink into my bones.
It’s in my bones and won’t release me.
I grew up in Wisconsin, so this Ironman was extra special to me. I will forever be jaded by that, but I can honestly say I doubt there is a more enjoyable Ironman in this country. The mass start swim is epic, the bike course was my favorite ride of the year, and the run could stand alone as a great marathon. But the major selling point is the crowd. The people in Wisconsin embrace this race and turn it into a party. There is very little “dead space” anywhere on the course. There’s always someone there to give you a boost when you need it most, and believe me, I needed a lot of them.