O.K., now that I've started with the end let's rewind many, many, many, many hours and work forward from there.
Before I get into all that I have to give credit where credit is due. The incredible sunrise photo before the swim start was taken by the hot chick in the photo above, as were all the pics included in this posting. The cool thing is I get to kiss her, just because I can!
I set three alarms race morning. My watch has three alarm settings and I used two. I set the first one for 4AM and the second for 4:10. I then set the alarm on my phone to 4:15. Not a one went off because I was up before all of them. Actually, my buddy and fellow Ironman, Kevin, put it best saying you just take short naps all night the night before the race. This was his second Ironman and he knows from experience....now, so do I.
Anyway, I woke at 3:50. I got up and headed for the bathroom where I had everything meticulously laid out. I showered and put my race clothes on underneath a pair of warm-up pants and a long sleeve t-shirt. It was probably in the low to mid-60's race morning. The Lord blessed us all with perfect weather all day!
As I was walking down the hall of the hotel towards the elevator to grab a bagel and meet the guys, I turned around and looked because I could've sworn I heard someone say "dead man walkin'"! Anyway, no one was there.
Not that I was the least bit hungry I nevertheless downed a bagel with peanut butter just to have something on the stomach. Trey, Kevin and I then headed to the car for the ride over to the Monona Terrace. I had to turn on the radio in the car otherwise it would've been one of the most silent rides in a car I've ever experienced....well, there was that one time I got in trouble as a teenager and had to ride home with my dad in the car....uh...I'll save that for another post!
I pulled into a space in a parking deck about a block away from the swim start. With a couple of race bags each in tow we all headed to a coffee shop near the finish line to meet up with Dyron and drop off our "special needs" bags (you can put anything you might need into those bags and pick them up on the bike and run). After grabbing some java (we would've taken it through an I.V. had they allowed it) we headed to the bikes to make some last minute adjustments, air the tires and just generally pet our bikes and tell them how much we loved them. That's where I lost track of the others and began flying solo from there....scary, very scary. I didn't see Dyron the rest of the day and didn't see Kevin or Trey again until some point during the bike.
After saying "hello" to the portajohn and lathering "Glide" over every part of my body where I didn't want friction to become an issue (you can imagine...um...6-1/2 hours on a bike!?) I squeezed into my wetsuit and made my way to the waters edge.
The cannon goes off and then it looks like a bunch of piranha on a feeding frenzy. Some call it the human washing machine. Call it what you want, but it's like nothing I've ever experienced. I've done triathlons before. I've done two half Ironman distance races. But I've never done a mass start with 2200+ other competitors starting a swim at the same time. The crazy thing about it (well, one of the many crazy things about it) is there's chaos for nearly the entire 2.4 miles! Now, it does spread out somewhat but there were swimmers around me the entire journey. Just to give you an illustration of how chaotic this thing is I had two watches on at the start of the race. I had a watch I timed the entire race with on my right arm and I had my heart rate monitor on my left. When I got out of the water the watch on my right arm was the only survivor. The heart rate monitor on my left arm got kicked off by another swimmer and is, right this very second, at the bottom of Lake Monona!
I am, admittedly, a slow swimmer. It's O.K., I've already come to grips with that fact. Knowing that I set an extremely slow goal of finishing the swim in under 2-hours. Just so you'll know, that's extremely slow....and as I mentioned, I'm extremely slow. However, having said that, I knew when I set the goal that I was going to beat that easily. I really set that goal for overall time purposes in a kind of worst-case scenario situation. My swim time was 1:28:07. Hey, sub-1:30! I'll take it.
I entered the water and got as far to the right as I could. I was basically on the shore. I did that for two reasons; 1) I didn't want to tread water for very long before the start, and 2) I didn't want to be down the line of buoys where all the excellent swimmers were because, well, as I mentioned above, I'm slow. The more you're in the mix of the excellent swimmers, the more trampled you'll get.
My true goal for the swim was to be relaxed and get out of the water. I accomplished both because I was relaxed for the majority of the swim. I did get off course a couple of times which causes you to swim a little farther then you need to and it sends you into a bit of a panic, but I quickly corrected my direction and kept moving forward. Keep moving forward! Isn't that what Rocky Balboa says? It's not about how hard you get hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward!
One final note about the chaos in the water. I got elbowed so hard in the gut at one point that had I been standing on dry land I would've doubled over. KEEP MOVING FORWARD!
One lap down...
Two laps down...
... and out of the water! YES
Immediately coming out of the water you begin stripping. First it's the goggles and swim cap. Then you reach back and pull the rip cord attached to the zipper on your wetsuit and yank it. After that you pull your wet suit over your shoulders and down to your waist and then you begin searching. You're searching for the the first available "wetsuit stripper". Some call them pullers. They are volunteers who will yank the wetsuit right off your body. It works like this. After you've pulled the suit to your waist you find the first available person, sit down on your rear with your feet in the air at a 45-degree angle and they grab the top half of your suit and yank until it comes all the way off. There's one Ironman myth that goes around at every Ironman race that at one race a puller yanked off a simmers' wetsuit revealing he was going commando underneath! Not a pretty site. I wasn't going commando.
Off with the wetsuit for me and then a run up a helix of the parking deck which led to the first transition area. It's kind of hard to know what you're feeling at that point. You're kind of tired yet you're adrenaline is kicking in at the same time. There's thousands of people there cheering, clapping and whistling. You see the faces but you don't lock in on any of them...one foot in front of the other. After laying for an hour-and-a-half it takes a little time for the blood in your body to redistribute to the parts of your legs that are calling for a little more oxygen.
To the top of the helix I go and then I hear it..."Scott!" It's Kasie. She's positioned herself right before the doors to the first transition area. I did lock in on her face if only for a second. I raised my fist in acknowledgment and definite appreciation for the encouragement...more on that later.
In through the double-doors of the Monona Terrace Convention Center and down the hall to first room where the transition bags were. We dropped them off there the day before. After grabbing the bag it's off to another room where you can change into your bike gear and then out the double-doors at the back end where more volunteers are waiting with surgical gloves on ready to rub you down with sunscreen.
The time for my first transition was 8:13. I didn't care how long it took. Well, I say that. I guess if I'd been in there for 20 minutes I would've been a little disturbed.
2 WHEELS AND 112 MILES...HERE I COME
Once out of the first transition area it's down the long, narrow parking deck to find your bike. The picture above represents half of that long, narrow parking deck where the bikes were kept. After grabbing the bike you have to run to the complete opposite end of the deck before you can get on your bike. That's where I saw another familiar face...my sister-in-law Bonnie...yes, more energy and another adrenaline surge.
As we ran up the helix after the swim, we rode down the helix at the opposite end of the deck on our bikes to start the 112 mile journey. That's when I received another adrenaline surge...my family was waiting, Ashley, Lilly Kate and Will ready to give it up for dear old dad. That's where Ashley snapped this shot....
The bike course worked like this: a 16-mile ride out to a crazy town called Verona (more on that place later....just FYI, it was awesome!), then two 40-mile loops before riding back to Madison on the same 16-mile stretch we rode out on. 112 miles total.
My Bento Box was packed, my water bottles were full, my strategy was in place and I was out of the water.....LET'S GO!
Much like my strategy in the water my plan for the bike was to stay relaxed and enjoy the journey. Along with 6 GU gel packs I had 2 Cliff bars, 20 Endurolyte capsules and 5 bottles full of GU2O. By the time I rode 112 miles everything was gone with the exception of 2 GUs and a couple of Endurolyte capsules. My hydration plan work to perfection because I felt the best coming off the bike over any race I've done in the past.
My original goal for the bike was 6-hours. I finished in 6:31:54 for an average of 17.1 miles per hour.
A word about the course. Wisconsin is considered to be a hilly course. Central Arkansas is a hilly place. I was ready for the hills of Wisconsin! There were three pretty tough hills in a row towards the end of each 40-mile loop around the town of Verona. The first time through the hills weren't that tough and actually made me feel good and confident as I powered up each one. What also gave me energy was the crowd lining both sides of the streets going up each hill.
It felt like we were riding in the Tour de France. Some people ran along side of you shouting encouragement, others banged on a drum to help you keep your cadence up and all cheered the bikers on. It was truly overwhelming! The streets were also lined with people in the actual town of Verona shouting encouragement as well. It was fun going through that area, even the second time through the hills which were even tougher at that point.
I've never been so ready to run a marathon in my entire life. After 112 miles in the saddle there's not enough Glide in the world to not make you ready to stop wearing that bike seat! Pedaling up the helix I rode down 6-1/2 hours before wasn't as bad as I anticipated. One of the 3500+ incredible volunteers was waiting there ready to take my bike from me and put it back on it's rack.
I grabbed my Endurolyte bottle out of my Bento Box to carry with me on the run. I had more capsules in my transition bag to replace the ones I used on the bike. In through the double-doors I ran to T2 to grab my second transition bag that was filled with all of my running gear.
In a shorter race I would more than likely just run in the same clothes. I'd take my helmet off, slip on my shoes and hit the road. This was no ordinary race and it wasn't shorter. My plan was to completely change into some dry running clothes. I was happy I did.
More Glide, shoes on, full Endurolyte bottle, more GU packets and out the door for more sunscreen and to revisit the portajohn. 12:37 was my T2 time. A little longer than I'd like, but then again, as in T1, I really didn't care unless it got to be 20+ or something.
The above photo was taken as I was seeing my peeps for the first time on the run. It was joyful.
I felt better going into this run than any race I've done before. It's sounds crazy, I know. But, my legs felt fresh and I was not cramping anywhere! I was 2/3 through this thing and I think it was at this point that I realized that I was going to actually make it.
A little about my strategy going into the run. Realistically I thought I might run a 5-1/2 to 6 hour marathon. I allotted 6 hours when I was setting goals. Much like the bike I wanted to stay hydrated and nourished taking advantage of nearly every aid station along the way. Part of my strategy was to walk through every aid station. My other strategy was to run 4 miles and walk one at least through the first loop. I did just that and I think that helped me stay fresh.
One of the cool things about the run is there are more people there encouraging you and you get to see your buddies running as well. I crossed paths with both Trey and Kevin twice during my run.
The aid stations were well stocked: water, gatorade (which I don't mind saying It'll be awhile before I down any of that liquid again), Coke, chicken broth (and it was warm, too), cookies, pretzels, oranges, grapes and gels. These aid stations were like an oasis every mile. Kinda sounds weird to have Coke and chicken broth at an aid station! They are both heaven sent. The Coke gave a quick sugar, caffeine fix and the broth loaded you down with some sodium, plus it was warm which felt good.
While I didn't use my "special needs" bag on the bike, I did utilize it on the run. The temperature started dropping and I got a few chills so I slipped on my long sleeve shirt for the second loop plus munched down another Cliff bar for more energy.
At mile 16 I realized that I had 3-hours and 15 minutes to run 10 miles to achieve my goal of a sub-14 time! That gave me a little pep in my step I dropped my strategy of running 4 and walking one at that point because I felt good. I did keep the strategy of walking the aid stations. After running miles 16 to 22 I looked at my watch and it was 7:28PM. 32-minutes until 8:00 and only 4 miles to go! What were the chances of actually reaching my stretch goal of a sub-13 Ironman? I decided to push it a little and find out. I paced myself from mile 22 to 23 to see how long it took. 4-minutes passed, still not there. 8-minutes gone by and no mile 23 marker. Finally at 10:23 there was mile marker 23. That didn't add up to a sub-13 Ironman. It was kind of a relief though because it would've been tough to push it the rest of the way. Once I realized that the sub-13 wasn't going to happen I relaxed, took in the aid stations, walked a little and began to thoroughly enjoy the last 3 miles!
THE NEXT DAY
Ashley probably put it best. It really wasn't the next day but it's better described as one 48-hour period. It all ran together.
We got back to the hotel about 12:30A - 1A. Wound down a little and hit the sack for what turned out to be another night of short naps for me. I didn't sleep very well and got up about 6:30a went down and ate a little breakfast.
Kevin and Kasie were making their way back to Arkansas later in the day on Monday. We drove all the way back on Tuesday. But before they left on Monday we all went out to lunch and I had the biggest bacon-cheeseburger I could order....it was awesome!
I don't know if you've seen any of the Bourne movies, but I recently watched the third in the trilogy the "Bourne Ultimatum". Great flick, by the way. If you haven't seen it yet I apologize and you might want to look away...er...not read the last little bit.
In the last scene of the movie the main character, Jason Bourne, is jumping off a large building into the waters below as someone is shooting at him. You don't know if he was hit or not because the next picture is him just laying in the water motionless for what seems like an eternity.....and then he kicks his legs, moves his arms and begins swimming away leaving the door wide open for a 4th "Bourne" movie.
Will I do another "Ironman"? I'm not sure, yet, but my arms and legs are moving and I'm swimming away!