Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report; THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

Last Friday morning Ann, Heidi, and I packed Ann's minivan to the max and returned to Madison for IM Wisconsin where it all began two years ago. In some ways it felt like it had been way more then 2 years and in some ways it felt like a lot less. We also had our friend John riding with us this year who I don't think realized that he was subjecting himself to 4.5 hours of nonstop girl talk but he was a trooper and we had a lot of fun. I was ecstatic that Ann and Heidi signed up with me again for this year bc there is nobody else I would rather take this journey with a second time, the training, the travel, the lodging, the whole adventure, these are my girls. My parents made the 8 hour drive from South Dakota and arrived on Friday as well, they have been to every IM I have done in the US. I was so grateful to see them all over the course, to have them stay in the same hotel as me just like in 2012 and to spend a lot of time with them over the weekend. 

On Saturday at 4pm my good luck charm (5 month old nephew Hoyt) and my sister arrived. This was the first time my sister has been able to make it to one of my Ironmans so it was a really special treat to have both her and my nephew there!

I actually fell asleep pretty fast on Sat night which is very strange for me on any night especially the night before an IM. Unfortunately I woke up at 10:45pm and couldn't go back to sleep so I started watching movies in bed on Netflix with my headphones so I didn't wake the others and eventually fell back asleep. I had my alarm set for 4:13am Sunday morning with instructions to wake the girls at 4:15 bc they refused to wake up with 13 on the clock (my lucky #) but I was wide awake at 3:20am and could never go back to sleep. 

My friend Marta was the last person that I saw before entering the water Sunday and she gave me a huge hug and whispered something in my ear. The way she said it and what she said made me start crying as soon as I walked away into the lake. I did a light swim warm up to test my goggles and then went over to tread water as close as I could get to the pro start so I could watch them go off. After the majority of the age groupers got into the water, announcer Mike Reilly always says, "Who's going to be an Ironman today?" He says that at every Ironman but it only makes me cry at IMOO. I thought maybe I teared up in 2012 when he said it because it was my first IM but nope, my goggles filled with tears again, it only happens in Madison!

About 5 mins before the AG start I saw my friend Suzann and was really excited to begin my swim next to her. She has done more IMs then any woman I know and her personality exudes calmness and confidence and I felt that rub off on me. She also counted down the swim start by the min for me and then with less then a min by every 10 seconds, it was great! 

The brutal starts of Kona and Cabo prepared me to be relaxed in Madison and contributed to a PR swim at IMOO for me. I also felt slightly more protected wearing my new Garmin 910XT, that thing is massive and anyone who messed with me on purpose and wasn't just trying to move forward in the swim was going to get a 910XT backhand! Luckily I didn't have to use it as a weapon but it made me feel safer. My goal was any time under 1:10, so when I got out and saw 1:06 on my Garmin my first thought was - shoot I messed up my watch and it isn't working correctly! It was my first time ever using this watch in training or a race, I just bought it the Thursday before and was reading the manual in the car on the way to Wisconsin. I've had my eye on this watch for almost a year now and after having my splits all messed up at Superiorman and getting an undeserved 12:18 T1 when I blew through it at top speed and not knowing any of my splits or finish time I splurged on the new watch for IMOO. I am going to keep my own times at every race from now on including transitions, no more mystery splits or finish times! 

My official swim time ended up being 1:05, not 1:06, I started my watch a little early, I couldn't be happier with my swim and I hope I can match that time next year. The only place I have ever swam 2.4 miles faster was Cabo thanks to the aid of salt water AND wetsuits! A 1:05 might be as good as it ever gets for me in a lake but I will work my tail off to get faster if I can.

T1 at IMOO is one of my favorite moments in any Ironman. The crowd is AMAZING! My face hurts from smiling so big all the way up and it is so much fun! I have been looking forward to running up the helix again for two years and was so pumped that I forgot to have my wetsuit stripped off. Last year I watched the swim from the helix and had just as much fun screaming at everyone, whether you are spectating or racing it is the best T1 ever!

                                                              Packed helix

                                                           Best crowd, best T1

I love the IMOO bike course and all the hills, spectators, and fun that comes with it! It is a challenging and honest course. I read every single sign along the way and check out every costume as I go and I laugh and laugh, it's great, if you aren't having fun during the 112 mile IM bike you should probably pick a different sport, a different distance, or try IMOO because it is a blast. Cows ran with me as I biked on both loops on the stretch before the left turn on Stagecoach Road. At mile 80 - 85 I heard, "Suzie!!!" from behind in a women's voice. I thought Nicole was ahead of me so my first thought was that it was supercyclist Julie Hull who descends hills like the biggest badass and far more aggressive then any dude I've ever rode with. But it was my training partner Ann going in for the pass! Yeah!!! I couldn't believe it! I wanted to match my bike split from 2012 and I was forcing myself to sit right at my 2012 avg pace and there she went cruising by and leaving me in the dust! That was awesome and a huge IM bike PR for her! She passed me over 10 times! I couldn't keep up with her! It was so fun to spend the last 35ish miles of an IM bike going back and forth with one of my best friends! It felt like a training ride with my buddy complete with a little chit chat and encouragement at every pass. I'm so proud of Ann, she biked sooooooo well! I'm calling her Annimal from now on, look out MN Masters, you've been warned, this girl can hang! Word on the Verona streets from Devon, Ross, both Cathys, Terry, Steve, Helen, Kyle and others was that Heidi was only a minute up the road! I wanted so badly reel her in so the Chaska blondes could all roll into Madison together but she swims way too damn fast to have anything to do with me until the run. We're talking a 55 min swim split!

I hate having a black bike bc I don't like to look like everyone else, it's a long story but I ended up racing Punky Brewster style with 2 different wheels instead of 2 different shoes. At least it was something to separate myself from the hundreds of other black bikes with 2 matching wheels. One Zipp, one HED, one clincher, one tubular haha!

My family was very entertained by the men dressed as women with wigs and tutus on the bike course and the guy with the fake butt that is there every year, I love him! Everyone who cheered for me on the bike course, rang cow bells, and ran hills with me, THANK YOU!!! You all were awesome and the reason this is my favorite bike course! The overall highlight of the bike was at mile 90 when my dad and my sister (pushing my nephew in his stroller) ran up Old Sauk Pass with me! That was not only the highlight of the day but probably my favorite moment in 6 years of racing, tears were flowing! Ann and I finished out the ride climbing the helix one right behind the other, dismounting together, and racing through T2 together on a mission to cut time off our transitions. 

                                  Hoyt after going up Old Sauk Pass with me in the stroller

                                                              He laughed at me

                                                                 And fist pumped!

I live for the Ironman run, it's gut check time! I think about it on all my long runs. I daydream about breaking 3:30 ALL THE TIME! The Ironman run just makes me happy! I've been lucky enough to move up the overall AG women's field in 3 of 4 Ironman marathons and that is the best feeling. IM #2 at Kona I felt horrible from mile 3 of the bike on and that marathon was a long 26.2 mile bonk where I had to constantly dig so deep inside myself to pull my mind out a dark place and it took every ounce of strength to get through it. Those miserable IM marathons are even more memorable because it requires so much more mental strength and discipline, whether it is going well or not you can't fake the IM run. It all comes down to the run, your run fitness, your run training, your bike execution shows up on the run, your bike nutrition will make or break your run, and most importantly you character is revealed on the run. Fast or slow, good day or bad, I most look forward to the IM run.

"Quadzilla" & "No Socks Fox" No socks and NO blisters this time! So comfy running belly out and thunder thighs out in my fave running outfit from Run N Fun of course

In the 52.4 miles I have run at IMOO there has never been a dull moment and rarely a time where I could stop smiling! I never felt bad during the marathon but I never felt great. I knew by mile 17 that I didn't have a sub 3:30 in me and I had to make peace with that. The goal shifted to moving up as far as I could in the OA AG women's race and my AG and keeping the margin I would be over 3:30 and 10:30 as minimal as possible. THE CROWD, THE CROWD, THE CROWD on the run! I love you guys! Huge THANK YOU to everyone who cheered for me! Hearing your name in an IM marathon is the most beautiful word in the English language! People were even yelling sub 3:30 and sub 10:30 at me long after that ship had sailed but it really helped me to keep going having that kind of personal support.

My favorite sign of the day was on the run was and held up by a cute young gal at about mile 8/16, it read, "I bet you wish you had your bike back now!" Loved it! I always tear up when I see cute little kids with signs that say Go Mom! and the like, I can't wait to have my own kids and I always tear up when Ann & Heidi's kids give me high fives on the run. On the second loop of the marathon the aid stations get really crowded and people tend to go through them very slowly or just walk up and stop right in front of the volunteers and I often get boxed out. Just after descending Observatory Hill the second time, there is a water stop right after you turn right. I called out for coke and slowed to a jog but I couldn't get near the coke there were too many athletes just standing there and I wasn't willing to stop so I kept on trucking. About 2 or 3 mins later I heard a girl screaming, "Do you want this coke? I'm sorry I couldn't get this to you at the water stop!" A volunteer sprinted nearly a quarter mile after me with a cup of coke! Wow! I told her she was a doll and was in disbelief that she chased me so far. As soon as I turned away to continue on I started crying again. Yep I'm a PATHETIC SAP at this venue, Madison just tugs at my heartstrings for some reason.  Special special course, special crowd, special place!

I love running the streets of Madison smiling, laughing, guzzling coke and burping. Even with the coke flat I can't help burping. I passed a pack of 5 guys on the second loop and let out a huge belch I couldn't control and I heard them say, "Was that her?" 

                                                               My happy place

I was pleased to finish as 3rd amateur female overall even if I didn't meet my goals, I still raced well enough to place in the overall women's top 10. I don't like to set place goals as you can't control who shows up or what anybody else is doing but it was something to be proud of since I fell short of my own personal time goals.

                                          BEST RACE & BEST FINISH LINE EVER

Thanks again a million times over to all who cheered for me on Sunday and everyone who supported me from places other then Madison! Thank you for all the pictures and videos I have received from the race, especially Kerry, Terry, and the Cathys, such incredible photos! Thank you Gear West for getting my bike all ready to go and helping me with so many last minute requests. Thank you Chuck at My Serenity for keeping my body in working order since 2010 & Crystal at Orthology for treating my injuries since 2011 and helping me get to the start line in one piece. 

I will be back next year and probably ever year after that isn't a baby year. This is just where I want to be every September, nowhere else!


                               Watching the midnight finishers with family & friends

                                  A stroller is the best way to haul 12 gear bags post race!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chasing Sub 10:30...STILL

Ironman Wisconsin you do not disappoint! I love this city! I love this race! I love my family! No other triathlon has ever made me emotional, I cried 3 times in 2012 and 7 times yesterday, I am a total sap at this venue, this race moves me! I can't begin to thank everyone who cheered for me out there and supported me from afar! The amazing MN tri community that was out racing, volunteering, and spectating at IMOO made it once again feel like way more of a hometown race then any race back home, thanks for making Madison such special place for me! Wisconsin is the only IM that has ever given me an Ironman high & a 3 day post race pera-smile. I know now that it has nothing to do with my finish time, setting a PR or reaching my goals, this was actually my 2nd slowest Ironman ever and I was 0 - 2 on my goals but still it was my most favorite Ironman of the 4 I've done. The high comes from all the Minnesotans scattered over the course, the amazing crowds, costumes, signs, and volunteers, the best T1 in the world (I LOVE the running up the helix, I wish it was longer, I would run another 4 levels to soak up the energy from the deafening roar of the crowd), the challenging hills on the bike and run, and the finish line at the capital. I was reading a blog post by Hillary Biscay who has done over 65 Ironmans and she says IMOO is her all-time favorite venue in front of her all-time favorite crowd. I certainly won't be doing 65 Ironmans, I will take her word for it, but it only took me racing at 2 other venues including the Ironman World Championships to realize there is nothing else like Ironman Wisconsin! Not even close!

I met the sweetest girl on the run at mile 11 - 13 on the marathon on Sunday. We started chatting and I found out she is also a triathlon coach, we both did Kona last year, she has a Chihuahua too and we ended up finishing only 3 mins apart. I got to give her my Kona slot so she could go race in Hawaii with her husband next year. He qualified in his AG and she was third in my AG and they only took two so I was beyond thrilled for my spot to roll down to her. She totally deserved it, her time would have WON our AG last year, I am shocked they only had two slots. I'm so excited for them to have that experience together, they are the nicest couple and so happy about the opportunity! It's been their dream to race together in Hawaii for 2 years. Marni may all your dreams come true in Oct 2015, good luck at Kona, I will be cheering you both on from MN, you will remember racing on the Big Island with your husband for the rest of your life!

I have a two year old dream as well and that is to break 10:30 in the Ironman and run sub 3:30 in the Ironman marathon in that same race. I'm only interested in doing it at IMOO at "home" on a tough course and I also want to do it coaching myself. After having both those goals this year and failing, it made me curious how many MN women have dipped under 10:30 at IMOO so I got in touch with the king of all tri data, Jerry MacNeil who had all the IMOO info a girl could ever want at the ready. He sent me the top 5 overall amatuer times for IMOO for every year since it started in 2002, the Top 12 MN Female times at IMOO, and every MN Woman who has gone sub 10:50, the year they did it, and their time. Jerry you do not disappoint either :-) It turns out only 3 MN women have been able to break 10:30 at this beast called Ironman Wisconsin, Jan has done it twice, Michelle once, and Tina did it once as a pro. 

These are the Top 12 MN Female times at IMOO and the only women to break 10:50 there...

2012 - Michelle Andres (MN) - 10:05:30
2002 - Tina Paulson (MN as a pro) - 10:22
2002 - Jan Guenther (MN) - 10:24:42
2009 -  Jan Guenther (MN) - 10:28:19
2012 - Emily Kratz (MN) - 10:35:34
2007 - Sarah Mercer (MN) - 10:35:59
2010 - Cathy Yndestad (MN as a pro) - 10:36:25
2012 - Suzie Fox (MN) - 10:38:43  
2014 - Suzie Fox (MN) -10:41:40
2011 - Jan Guenther (MN) - 10:42:04
2013 - Kortney Haag (MN) - 10:47:14
2012 - Kortney Haag (MN) - 10:49:59

I will be back in Wisconsin next year at my favorite IM chasing sub 10:30 AGAIN. I planned on taking a minimum 2 year break from this distance but after messaging back and forth on Monday morning with Michelle Andres & Nicole Heninger and my sub 10:30 goal unaccomplished I knew I wanted to race again in 2015. So at 12pm sharp Monday when online sign up opened, Ann & Heidi pulled the minivan off the highway at some exit in the middle of nowhere between Madison and the Dells and I sprinted into the only place we could find with wifi and I registered in a McDonald's with a Brett Michaels song playing. I won't forget that sign up anytime soon! I have my work cut out for me to reach my goals but I am going to set up my entire season around it and plan things out very carefully. For the first time since starting this sport I am going to cut down my race volume, not a ton because I love to race but I am going to be very calculated. I am going to train with Nicole as much as possible, start going to some run team group workouts to push my running and talk to Michelle a lot more about how the heck she dropped nearly an hour off her IMOO PR! Lots of planning to do and eventually lots of training after a bit of a recovery break.

Hope to write a full race report soon about the day! Congrats to all who finished!


Monday, September 1, 2014

Nothing Scares Me Anymore

About a week before an Ironman I start to get a little anxiety about the mass swim start, it is very violent and crowded to say the least. However after Kona and IM Cabo I am not nervous about the Wisconsin start this year. My heart rate will still be higher in the first 5 to 10 mins of the swim then it will be the entire day and I will still have to be attentive and swim defensively with my arms protecting my head. Two years ago before IM WI I was absolutely terrified of the swim start but after 3 IMs in the bank and the chaos of my last two starts I feel like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone running out his front door shouting, "Hey! I'm not afraid anymore!"


I was trying to find footage of the mass swim start at the 2014 IM Los Cabo and I ended up finding coverage of the entire event and it makes me want to go back and race there so bad! Anyway the mass beach swim start is at 7:15 and it still gives me chills. It is beautiful and horrifying at the same time and was 5 times more frightening than a waist deep mass IM start.

Kona was the worst of the worst! Everyone there is totally nuts and ridiculously competitive so the start is a brutal washing machine of kicks and punches. The Kona swim never seemed to eventually break up like the other qualifying IMs I've done because everyone there is the best of the best in their own little corner of the world and the competitors are all much closer to the same pace then the other IMs. I took just as many blows at the turn around and at random points throughout the swim then I did at the beginning. You hold your place and pace at Kona out of fear because if you slack or slow for a just a second you will get trampled by every person still left in the water behind you.

Sunday will be my 2nd time racing in Wisconsin and my 4th Ironman. Madison is hands down my favorite of the 3 I've done with Cabo a close second. The spectator support at Madison is like no other IM and after my last two races having closed bike courses I can't wait to get back to WI and feed off the crowd. I love the costumes, the funny signs, the loud cheers, and the hills!

Here are few fun facts I just looked up about my race in 2012:

- I won my age group by a nail biting :16 BUT coughed up over 6 mins to the 2nd place woman in transitions! I was 4:14 slower in T1 & 1:51 slower in T2 to total her transitioning 6:05 faster then me! Yikes! I almost lost the race in transition! I think I can still hear her laughing at me all the way from Boulder! I was 6th amateur woman overall and there were quite a few girls who finished in front of me in the 10:33 - 10:37 range, I am not going to torture myself by looking back at how much faster they transitioned then me. Lesson learned! I won't be giving away any free time this year!

-My finish time was 10:38 at my first IMOO which gave me a goal to break 10:30 in the IM on any course. It sounds so easy, just cut off 8 mins, right? Wrong! I have raced two more times, although on different courses, and have yet to get it done! It has been a 2 year goal that I am still fighting hard for! I can't begin to explain how frustrating it is not to be able to beat my time from my very first IM!!! But I will never give up until I get it done!

-My marathon at IMOO was 3:30:35 which gave me the goal to break 3:30 in the IM marathon on any course. That hasn't happened yet either! 

So my goals are break 10:30 overall (or a PR of any amount) and break 3:30 in the marathon. Those have been my only triathlon goals for the past two years and it's about time to make it happen!

Good luck to all Minnesotans racing IMOO on Sunday, I will see you out there and will be rooting for you!