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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Race Day...Ironman Wisconsin 2011

The alarm clock went off at 4 am and I popped out of bed to make oatmeal for both of us.  After dressing for the swim, eating breakfast and gathering up our special needs bags and any last minute items we may need before the start of the event, we headed out the hotel door and down to the start area.  We had to drop off our run and bike special needs bags at the capital before heading to Monona Terrace for the official start to what would become a VERY LONG day.

At the terrace, we got body marked (I was #458) and then headed to transition to put nutrition and water on our bikes as well as pump up the tubes.  We found our sherpas, coach and friends inside the terrace, where we gathered while waiting for the start of the race.  Lots of laughs, but very few nerves ;)  That was the first race I haven't been nervous before the start...what a refreshing feeling.  I was ready to go!!

At about 6:30 am we began putting on our wetsuits and then headed down to the swim start.  What a beautiful morning.  The water was as smooth as glass and the red/orange sun was reflecting off its surface.  No wind and not a cloud in the sky.  We finished pulling up our wetsuits, donned our swim caps and pressed our goggles onto our faces before entering the water.

It was nice to get the opportunity to just float for a while in the water and listen to the sounds of other athletes before the cannon went off.  There were lots of athletes frantically getting into the water last minute and trying to get in position.  I was so thankful we had gotten into the water about 15 minutes before the start of the race to just acclimate and float!!

At 7:00 am, the cannon was fired and 2800 swimmers all started the same 2.4 mile swimming adventure.  There was a mass of flailing arms, legs and bodies all fighting for their spot in the water.  As I fought for my place in the water, I got kicked in the jaw, kicked in the eye (good thing for goggles!!!) and my hand came down on someone hard enough that I thought I may have cracked a bone.  It was just like I had imagined it would be...a rugby match in the water.  I swam out to the first turn buoy where I mooed in true Ironman Wisconsin fashion (after all, it is tradition for every athlete to "moo" as they breathe and turn around the first buoy).  At one point, I remember hearing the fly over while swimming.  With it being the 10th year anniversary of 9/11 there were a lot of special events going on in Madison other than Ironman.  After finishing the first loop, I was pleasantly surprised to see my time of 44 minutes and was excited to go back out for loop number 2!!  I exited the water in 1:30:45.  This was about 22 minutes faster than my 2.4 mile swim done in Saylorville Lake.  I was off to a great start and was stoked!!

After having my wetsuit stripped from me at the swim exit, I ran up the helix into transition.  Along the way I saw my parents and friends...it was so much fun to see them, but I was focused on getting in and out of transition as quickly as I could.  I ran into the terrace, grabbed my bag and had a WONDERFUL volunteer help me do a complete change into my bike gear.  I thanked her and ran out of transition to my bike.  The volunteers in Madison are AMAZING!!

I grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line, climbed on my saddle and headed out onto the 112 mile bike course.  After having ridden this course 4 times before, I knew what to expect and knew to start off easy.  It was hard to go out easy with everyone trying to hurry to get out of town, but I knew this is what I would have to do to save my legs for the run.  Getting to Verona was fun and the time went by pretty quickly.  I always seem to struggle (more mentally than physically I think) with the stretch from Verona to Mt. Horeb, but once I got to Mt. Horeb, it seemed like time flew by until I was on the three big hills.  It was so much fun to see Coach Julie, our sherpas and some friends on Cell Tower Hill (the second of the three big hills).  Julie ran up with me and asked how I was doing.  I told her, "GREAT!!"  She told me to pick up the pace a little on the second loop then.  I took off and made it back into Verona (mile 54) where I saw my parents in the cheer zone having what appeared to be a great time!!  As I got through Verona, I approached my special needs bag and Tim (husband) caught up to me (I did beat him out of the water by nearly 15 minutes, so I had the head start on the bike).  It was fun to see him and chat with him momentarily as I got some extra nutrition.  Tim and I yo-yoed for a while to chat and I told him to go have a strong race.  Oh how I should have tried to stay with him until Mt. Horeb.  What a tough stretch.  The headwinds had picked up this time, so I was not only mentally challenged during this segment of the bike, but also more physically challenged than the first loop.  Oh well, I made it to Mt. Horeb and forged ahead.  At about mile 80 I started to feel a little dizzy and light headed.  When I saw Coach Julie on Cell Tower Hill, she told me to drink more water since I appeared to be dehydrated.  I continued to drink and get myself back into Verona.  Only 16 miles back to Madison!!  I WILL DO THIS!!  :)

I remember climbing the helix on my bike thinking this was not as challenging as I thought it would be.  Another wonderful volunteer took my bike from me and I ran into transition where some of my fabulous friends helped me change into my running gear and sent me on my way.  My bike split was 7:56:58...not my best, but the last 32 miles were not the clearest.

As I ran out of transition, I saw another friend who told me Tim was only about 10 minutes ahead of me and he was walking because of cramping.  I was hopeful that I could catch him, but I was still VERY dizzy and the world was starting to spin around me.  This is where everything started to go downhill for me.  It didn't take me long to figure out that I wasn't dehydrated, I had hyponatremia...too much water diluting out all of my salts...UGH!!  I was peeing at EVERY kybo I could find!!  Have you ever tried peeing in a dark kybo while feeling like you have the drunk bed spins standing upright?  This is exactly how I felt, but the worst part was...I was sober!!  I began the run/walk strategy and caught up with Tim at about mile 3.  From this point on, we walked the rest of the marathon.  I don't remember the rest.  I do know from others that I did run a little and talked with friends and family along the way.  I do remember constantly thinking to myself, "Don't let the volunteers, friends or family know I am unable to walk a straight line.  Just FOCUS!!"  I know I wouldn't have finished had it not been for Tim's coaxing, willingness and dedication to stick with me and get me to the end.  I felt AWFUL!!  I don't remember crossing the finish line, but we did finish with an overall finish time of 16:15:00.  I have a medal, pictures and video footage to prove it!!

Looking back, I should have taken more salt tablets on the bike and had salt tablets along the run course to take.  I definitely need to work on nutrition before the next big one ;)

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