On Thursday September 9, 2010, my journey to becoming a 2-time Ironman began. I packed up my car and headed to Madison, Wisconsin. All week I was feeling nervous and excited. You would think, the second time around, it would be easier. I had no expectations the first-time around and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, so Florida was not so bad.
I got up to Madison and checked into my hotel and went out and found a Whole Foods. Now I was ready for the week! Got all my healthy, organic foods, nothing could stop me. I met a friend who has raced this course before at a very popular Madison restaurant for dinner. It was great seeing a familiar face around and just enjoying dinner. After dinner, we walked by the finish line area, getting set-up for the big day. Wow, what a great feeling to be around there.
The next morning, Jay (guy in the pic) and myself decided to go for a short swim, maybe 30 minutes. It was probably high 40’s out, water temp mid 60’s- you know how much I love the cold. Well, the cold wasn’t the problem; I didn’t know a lake in the middle of Wisconsin could have white caps. So, I got in and swam out and just kept my mind into getting to the turnaround point; I started to get a little seasick. I thought I should turn around. As soon as I did, I saw a fire truck coming. A swimmer was hanging onto the wall for his life. Not a great way to start out Ironman Week for him. So, I headed back, realizing the current was totally against me. I think I was probably moving backwards. Then all of the sudden, I bumped into another swimmer. Wow, I couldn’t believe I just hit someone headfirst. I soon realized, it was Jay! What are the chances? We continued back to finish the swim; well Jay waited for me and then went back to my hotel and ate breakfast.
Later in the day, I headed over to Ironman Village to check myself in. There was a long line, but what else did I have to do. So I waited and waited and finally got my gear bag and was officially checked in.
Athlete dinner and course talk was held later that evening. I met up with other friends who I have been training with. The talk was great and the food, well, lets just say it was not PhysioClean!
After dinner, I walked back with Susie, my Iron Training partner.
Woke-up on Saturday, tried to sleep in, but my body can’t sleep pass 6 anymore. Went out for a very cold spin before I had to check my bike. After my ride, I was excited to see my family arrive. This will be their first Ironman!
Got my bike and my transition bags all packed up and headed off to bike check.
All ready for bike check!
Lots of packing and figuring what I will need to wear. The weather forecast is calling for a cold start. Hmm… (Should I wear my Lululemons or shorts- Kim, J)
My family before checking my bike.
The sea of bike transition bags.
After the bike check and lunch we decided to drive the bike course. Bad idea, driving all those miles with 4 kids in the car, not recommended. Dinner of carb loading of pasta and chicken was ordered in, we were too tired after driving the bike course to eat out. I started to think, if I was tired of driving it, then riding 112 miles sounds like real fun and that is after swimming and then needing to run a marathon. Second thoughts set in, and started to question my sanity for paying good money for this pain. After dinner, the kids and family were kicked out and I finished my last minute packing and tried to relax. Not really sure what that means.??
Set my clock for 5 am and then off to bed. Sleeping was not great, woke up every hour and by 4 am, I heard some athletes in the hallway. So, I decided I should get up and eat breakfast; gluten free bread with almond butter and a banana with some water and waited to go to the check-in area. I headed down around 5:30 am and put the finishing touches on my bike.
The nerves started setting in. I waited around and then put my wetsuit on and headed towards the mass water start.
I was really nervous about the mass water start, treading water and waiting with 2600 of your closest friends was a very scary idea. Well, the gun went off for the pros, that was my time to get in the water and start treading. The swim was a counter-clockwise, two loop course. Right before the gun went off, U2′s “Beautiful Day” is playing. The crowds went crazy at Monona Terrace and the sunrise was perfect. It was a beautiful day to race an Ironman. Thank-you weather Gods! (and Al and Steph, too). I think I remember the national anthem, the gun going off, it was all a blur. I waited about 30 seconds to let the great swimmers go by. This was my strategy this year; in Florida I got beat up and panicked.
It was mayhem! I felt like I was in the spin cycle of a washing machine of people trying to kill me. I understand that you can get hit, but this was crazy. I couldn’t get into a decent groove. I know you are probably thinking I am whining, but there was one time that someone held me under so long that I thought I wouldn’t be able to come up for air. Another person (red cap=boy) grabbed my feet and pulled them down. My goal for the swim was 1 hour 30 minutes, my secret goal, 1 hour 22 min. Swim time= 1 hour 26 minutes. Oh well, at least I didn’t drown.
The transition area at the Monona Terrace, otherwise known as the Helix is just an event in itself. The transition area is positioned at the top of the parking garage, so you have to run all the way up to the top to get to your transition bag and bike.
I was pretty cold getting out of the water, so wasn’t sure if I should stop at the wetsuit strippers. Well I did anyway. Wow, these volunteers are great and fast, but I don’t think I would want their job- pulling wetsuits off of athletes after they probably used the lake as a potty. I quickly started to run up the helix and started to get a calf cramp and a cramp in my stomach. My run up the Helix quickly turn into a walk as the side-stitches intensified. I ran into the T1 bag holding area, got my bag and went to change. Okay, now if anyone knows me, then you probably guessed, I couldn’t decide how many layers to put on. I decided to dress warm, it was still in the lower 50’s. Got my stuff and held my bike shoes and ran out to my bike. My bike handler, thank God for him, told me I would roast in my jacket. So I decided to take my jacket off, well my zipper didn’t corporate, finally got it off and then changed my gloves to fingerless gloves. Took my bike and ran with my shoes in my hand and then got to the end of the transition area and put my shoes on and got on my bike and rode down the crazy helix. I also saw a familiar face at the beginning of the bike start, which was nice. Thanks Marshall.
The bike course is a lollipop type set-up where you bike straight out of town, bike two loops and then bike back to town. My plan was simple, break the bike up into segments, take the first loop slower then the second and get back to town. My nutrition was planned to the minute, ½ bar at the top of the hour, my sport drink at 15 and 45 passed the hour and Clif Bloks at the bottom of the hour. Salt tabs and water were added when needed to meet my fluid and electrolyte needs throughout the ride.
IM Wisconsin has one of the most challenging bike courses too, which includes crazy hills that start at mile 44 of the first loop and mile 88 of the second loop. (About 4800 feet of climbing during the entire 112 miles) There are people lining the stretch of hills Tour de France style. See crazy picture below!!!!
With music playing, drums and people running with you up the hill screaming in your face to get up the hill, (thanks Jim, Kim, Jared, Agnes, Kris, John and my children and the other 1000 people that were there.)
A little past the halfway point, I was feeling good, 3 hours 15 minutes into the bike. I stopped and picked up some fuel from my special needs bag and went off to complete that crazy loop again. My legs were okay. Everything was going to plan, then mile 70 came and my chain dropped on a big descent. Ugh- I am really bad with fixing bike parts, so I panicked, but managed to get the chain on. I was good until I realized that I was dead stopped and there was a huge hill ahead. I couldn’t get going, so I had to walk up the hill.
Okay, back on track and then out of nowhere, a bee hit me in the chest and the stinger was imbedded. So, once again, I had to stop and get that sucker out of me. All is cool and went on. Well, I dropped my chain 2 more times. The 3rd time, I found a bike tech and had him check out my bike. I lost about 15 minutes with all that, but I was on my way. The last hill was really hard and thanks to Jim, he got me up it by screaming at me. The ride back to town was hard, I was ready to be done. Bike goal- 7 hours, secret goal 6:45, actual bike time- 6:52, not bad since 15 minutes was not moving time. Next time, learn how to shift better and don’t have anyone work on my bike the day before the race!
T2 was uneventful. I changed and looked at the volunteer and told her I didn’t really feel like running a marathon. She told me I would be fine and to get on my way and stop at the porta potty. So I did and was on my way. The run course is a two-loop course that winds around the University of Wisconsin campus, the trail that hugs Mendota Lake, the famous State Street and Capitol Square.
The run was great. There were people everywhere and all my crazy friends and family were cheering and running along the course. My goal was to keep my nutrition down (Gu, water and salt tabs) and to run the entire marathon. I felt pretty good, knees hurting, but wasn’t going to let them stop me. By the turnaround, I was happy that I was halfway. By mile 15, my stomach started to shut down and I began to have some really bad heartburn. I knew I needed to get the calories in, so I switched to bananas and yes, potato chips! Each aid station, I would grab a few chips and try to get them down.
The people in Madison were so proud to have an Ironman here and so supportive. My family, friends, the crowd and the scenery around Madison truly pulled me through that last part of the race. Then the Capitol building, wow- I knew I was coming close to the finish line and heard Jared say “13 hours 30 minutes”, I was happy and had a few more minutes in me. So I picked up my pace, raced through the last turn and ran down the shoot. I crossed the finish line in 13:34. (Still didn’t hear, “Melissa Li, you are an Ironman”)
At first, to be honest, I felt disappointed, my secret goal was to break 13 hours 30 minutes. (My published goal was 14 hours) But in retrospect, I have realized that it was completely naïve of me to set a time goal based upon a completely different Ironman and other athletes. It is like comparing apples to oranges. I am proud and happy to have earned my second Ironman finish the way I did. Another one in the books for Melissa. I guess I have to do it again, maybe this time I will hear, “Melissa Bowman, you are an Ironman” from the famous Mike Reilly.
I just wanted to thank everyone again for making this season great and putting up with my crazy training, eating and sleeping schedules. I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Thanks to John and my kids for helping me work towards my ultimate goal. Thanks Hong for everything. See ya’ all next year, IM 2011??
Final Totals for Training:
Running: 745 miles
Bike: 1874 miles
Swim: 62 miles
= lots of calories burned!