Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Race Report: IMWI 2014

(apologies for the following novel...writing mostly for myself so I can review later and because it's my blog and you're not the boss of me). 

Ironman Wisconsin 2014: Schmitty Strikes Back

Ironman Wisconsin 2012 will forever be my Favorite. Race. Ever. It my first Ironman and I crossed the line hand in hand with Jen. Epic Team Schmitty goodness all around. "Ironcouple" indeed. But last year when I decided to do Ironman Wisconsin again, I did so with a bit of vengeance in mind.

With Jen taking another year off from Ironman,  I was free to train how I decide when I needed to go up to Madison to ride the course....when to go downtown to swim....when I needed to spend a few more minutes (or 10 or 20 or 30) at the pool in the morning (Jen waiting patiently in the gym lobby on so many early mornings). To her unconditional Ironspouse loving credit, Jen pretty much gave me a hall pass to train the way I felt I needed.

So this was to be my year of see what the wee man could do with the glacier carved hilly farmland of central Wisconsin.

Pre-Race: Thursday
Left mid afternoon arriving in time for dinner. The Great Dane for cow meat (when in Wisconsin...). And just like 2012, the Packers were playing the NFL Thursday night season kick off game. Oh and we stayed again at the Best Western Inn On The Park. Sure the four night minimum is a lot of Benjamins but it's walking minutes from everything all weekend. Put the money on the barrelhead, walk away and don't think about it. Paying for the peace of mind.

Pre-Race: Friday
Up early...keeping my body used to early wake sleeping in. Jen went out for her run and I ate in the room and walked myself to registration around 8:15am. First in line (winning!). Part of registration is the weigh in...weird but I realize this is the baseline used in case you rock the med tent come Sunday. Not going to tell ya'll what the scale read but got a judgmental gasp from dude writing it down. Well buddy I have chunks of guys like you in my stool after spinning up Old Sauk Pass, Timber, and Mid Town. Punk. Oh and props to the IM peoples on the race goodies this year. The back pack is very swagadelic.

We went shopping for clutch bags on State Street. I'm looking right at you. Team Schmitty needed a clutch bag so Team Schmitty is getting a clutch bag. Team Schmitty got a clutch bag. Plus we found a new place for Saturday morning's pre-ironman carb load. Win, win.

No athlete dinner this year. Schmitty made certain efforts to minimize time dealing with all pre Iron craziness. So the Ironspouse of Awesome found us a place to dine out like one of the locals -- "Jacs Dining and Taphouse" Just a couple miles away from Camp Randall. Location, food, bar? Outstanding. Service? Terrible. But this is The Triathlife not Yelp so I'll leave it at that.

Pre-race: Saturday
Early morning workout with a 20 minute swim and a 25 minute bike. With everything sorted and working properly, I packed my transition bags and we headed over to Short Stack Eats on State Street. A steady stream of patronage (game day, and hungover tired from studying all night students) but they turn tables over quickly. Short Stack is open Thursday starting at 7am until Sunday at 11pm...yes the ENTIRE time. And all they serve is breakfast - brilliant. Next time Schmitty is in Madison I want to go to there.

Bike and bags to transition. Really nothing to it. Just like 2012 I was fortunate to be given the end spot on the rack. Not a huge deal since the volunteers get your bike for you but it sure makes it easy to pump tires and sort your nutrition in the dark at 5am on Sunday morning.

To Chipotle! Where we met up with the Ironman Party Patrol (Anne/Matt Baker, Megan/Kevin Chandler, Jeff Holmquist). Made our way back up State Street to a bar to make merry and watch some football. Schmitty had half a glass of some bavarian elixir to calm his nerves then politely excused himself for early wrapper time. I settled in with The Grand Budapest Hotel on my iPad (Bravo! Wes Anderson). Despite the terrible band playing at the bar across the street I was able to get a pretty solid 5 hours of sleep ;)

Sunday: Game On!
Up at 3:40am for a quick shake out run around the Capitol Square then coffee, oatmeal and saltsticks back up in the room. Out the door at 5:15am to drop off the one bike special needs bag and then to body marking, tire pumping and port-a-potty line standing. I met Jen down on the helix where she had secured a spot waiting for the Party Patrol to arrive. She was stalling me a bit but I wasn't in that much of a hurry to get down to the water. Then round the corner they came...a pack of North Carolina blue shirts -- "Schmitty Strikes Back" over a picture of the Millennium Falcon. Ironman meets geek couture! Lots of hugs, high fives and pictures. Waited a bit longer for my brother Joe to arrive but it was getting close to game time so I had to leave to go down to the water where I ran into Dave Clough...nice to have someone to hang out with while they cattle corralled us into the water. IMoo indeed.
Party Patrol
SWIM -- 1:14:08 | 3862 meters | 1:55/100 meters
  • Positioned myself right along the buoy line but back off the start line...ended up floating to the front after jockeying for position. Not really the place where I wanted to be. I started fast due to the pack I was in and held feet for the first 150-200 meters. 
  • Slowed to get into my rhythm but was completely over taken and quickly received a couple of kicks to the head and got rolled over twice...which set into motion a full blown panic attack.
  • Too many bodies and I was in full freak out - total spaz attack. 8 years in this sport and I have never gone for a kayak or a lifeguard. 
  • Spotted a raft about 20 meters to my left inside the buoy line. In full blown survival mode I did whatever it took to get me there -- mowing over more than a handful of swimmers in the process.  Lifeguard assured me I was good and that he was anchored. 
  • Not sure how long I hung out but seriously thought my day was over. Thankful for the Jedi Obi Wan voice in my head..."you have to let go and get your face in the water" I closed my eyes, took some long slow breaths, hit the reset and off I went. 
  • Inside the buoy line at this point and remained there since it was the cleanest water. I was able to "get normal" over the next 200-250 meters. 
  • At the first turn some dude shouted "it looks like we're swimming to heaven" and it did. Sighting was impossible heading right into the sun but he perfectly described the scene. 
  • The back side of the course feels so long....especially because you swim past the finish the make a sharp left and angle back to shore. And you can hear Mike Reilly announcing the pros and first wave of age group finishers as you pass and well before you're finished. But once you round that last turn it's a drag race. 
  • Even with my freak out I still finished a full minute and forty-five seconds faster than in 2012. Wonder what might have been.  
T1 -- 13:26
Nothing to say. This is a long transition (including the run out of the water and up the helix) and I was a minute faster than last time. Included a trip to the bathroom and a turn back to retrieve forgotten gloves under my chair. Other than my tri-shorts (which I wore on the swim under my wetsuit) I opted for a full cycling kit...just like in training. Seeing if being in more of a cyclist frame of mind translated to a better bike split.

BIKE -- 6:19:51 | 112 miles | 17.7 Mi/hr
  • Beautiful day to be on the bike. Cool in the AM and in the 70s by the afternoon with a WSW wind at 4-5mph. Fresh legs. Optimal Schmitty conditions. 
  • The first loop - text book as far as plan execution. Almost party like. I made quick work of the three dreaded sisters (hills at Old Sauk, Timber and Mid-Town). Doing a lot of passing up the hills (excuse me, excuse me, pardon me, coming through...). 
  • Saw the Party Patrol out on Timber :)
  • Second loop was all business. Stomach started rejecting nutrition around hour 5 but I kept on my saltsticks and continued to down a lot of fluid and really didn't lose any power. 
  • The parties and spectating seems to have grown in volume and has spread out more along the course as opposed to being isolated to the areas around Verona. Seeing more locals too. Maybe it was the weather. 
  • The creepy-ass field clown was out again before Mid-Town. Literally - a dude dresses up in a clown suit and honks at you from the corn field. 
  • My bike computer actually read 6:14:50. I refuse to pee on the bike so two potty stops (one stop included refilling bottles) and a short pause at bike special needs. 
  • It was a solid effort and I felt I left myself with fresh enough legs for the run. 
T1 -- 13:27
Um. Wow. Not sure what I was doing. I stopped at the water table, I changed out of everything but my shorts. I stopped to load my Fuel Belt bottles on the way out. I stopped at the portapotty. I didn't think I was waisting time. I guess I just need to do what I did faster. This should really be like 5 minutes tops.

RUN -- 4:53:35 | 26.2 miles | 11:12/Mi
  • Got a full blown Party Patrol welcome on the exit from transition. I saw that I was at exactly 8:00:00 into the race. I was pumped to see everyone and my stretch goal of a sub 12 was in reach. 
  • Policeman just outside the capitol square around Mile 1 was posting and updating NFL scores on a whiteboard next to his squad car. Nice. 
  • First couple hours went pretty well but hit the half way point 10 minutes slower than expected and my stomach started a slow decent into the uneasy queazies. 
  • The Party Patrol was all over the course. Total rock stars. But Jen wouldn't let me stop -- not for even a second. I have video evidence posted to my FB page from late in the first loop on west State Street. Everyone is all "yay!" and Jen is all "get going!" But she knew I wanted that sub 12 and she was trying to keep me on task. That's why she's Ironspouse of Awesomeness.
  • After the second hour I totally bailed on my on-board nutrition. It wasn't going down. The iron foggies (head) started coming on and my stomach had just about had it....I was continuing to take on fluids while at the same time trying to settle my gut...all on the fly. Instituted the old walk/run strategy so my splits were all over the place. When I was running I was about an 8:30 pace without feeling anywhere near the limit -- so my legs were really good but my insides were just having none of it. 
  • Pepsi seemed to work ok for me along the way and I was still drinking a lot of water and pumping the salt sticks. Nothing else I tried worked. At every aid station it was some combination of Pepsi water, ice and salt sticks....that was it. 
  • When I finally got to Jen on the second loop on west State Street I needed to stop for a second and I needed her permission to take it easy. I needed her to tell me it was ok if I shut it down. I can't remember what she said or what anyone else said for that matter. She let me pause and made sure I was ok and then sent me on again. But as soon as I walked away I was attacked on course by "The Schmizer" -- dude pounced on me like an over caffeinated Tony Robbins. Scott "ran" with me up to the turn and back down the street. It got me out of my head for a bit. Still laughing about it now. Don't ever change Scott :) Glad someone caught it on camera.
FINISH -- 12:54:27An hour and forty-two minute improvement over 2012. 
  • A minute and forty-five second swim PR
  • 50 minute bike PR
  • 43 minute run PR. 
  • I even PR'd the transitions -- slow as they were if you can believe that. 
Schmitty Strikes Back? Maybe. My good, better, best goals were in reverse order -- sub-12 hrs, 12:30:00 and then anything that started with a 12 in it. So I achieved my baseline goal. And I did it by ticking off all the little goals I set for myself during the day. Building blocks for the future I suppose.  

Looking back I shut the run down too soon. I got nervous with everything happening to my gut and my head I went into hyper preservation mode -- especially the last 10k. In the days that have followed I have gotten infected with a bad case of the coulda, woulda, shouldas -- I really think I still could've preserved a 12:30:00. Bugger. 

While watching the live feed online my Dad said I looked upset when I finished. I told him that I didn't recall feeling was more a feeling of relief. In the finishing straight when my name was called I remember giving a double fist pump and I looked down at the carpet and I could see the IRONMAN logo across the finish. I remember gesturing down to that with a singular thought -- "finally." And not the kind of finally with regards to the day....the kind of absolute "finally" like hitting a release valve after 10 months of built up pressure. And all I wanted in that moment was a slice of pizza and a sprite.
To bottom line the day -- I had fun. I smiled a lot. I thanked and talked with volunteers. I had the Party Patrol (Jen, Anne, Matt, Megan, Kevin, Jeff and my brother Joe - you guys are the best!!!). I got cheered on by Chris and Laura. I was attacked by Scott Schmieser. I saw Coach Keith and I heard Coach Liz. I passed and was passed by Dave Clough. I caught a glimpse of Jeremy Topin.

That, my friends, was a great game.
Attack of The Schmize (l) and with my brother Joe afterward (r)
Finally to my Ironspouse of know that I am absolutely bat-shit crazy for you and not to sound trite but -- thanks. You stepped aside and let me do what I needed to do and stepped in when I needed you most. We are, Team Schmitty. 

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