We set off from Winnipeg, MB to head down to Racine WI early (8 AM) in the morning of July 12th, 2012. By the time we got up it was a small matter of throwing a few additional items into the SUV, loading up the bikes and kids and we were off on our first Ironman race.
The plan was to drive somewhere past Minneapolis, MN and stop for the night, doing a short run into Racine on the Friday morning. With 3 kids in the car a long days drive wasn’t going to be good for ANYONE.
After passing the border into the US, it was clear and quick sailing all the way. We were going around Minneapolis about 4pm, way ahead of schedule. Stopping in Hudson, WI we had dinner in a truck stop I used to go to way back in a different life.
Looking at the map we figured we would stop an hour or two outside of Racine for the night. By the time we go to Madison, it only made sense to keep going and get to the motel in Racine that night. The kids were being good, entertained by various electronic devices and under the thread of terrible things happening to them should they decided to be ‘not good’.
Arriving in Racine about 11:30 PM we were here. We checked into the two rooms we had reserved and unpacked.
This trip had always (for us), been about doing the RACE, it wasn’t supposed to be a family vacation and we had explained this to the kids. Although not a vacation, we did manage to go to the Racine Zoo on Friday morning.
The zoo was small compared to ours at home, but it did have some really cool exhibits. Things like lions, Black Rhinos, Giraffes and Camels. We toured the zoo, took the kids on a Camel ride which was pretty cool. (Ever ridden a Camel?). The last thing we did at the zoo was take part in feeding the Giraffes. You need to know here that Kris is crazy about Giraffes. I don’t know why and I don’t question it. It’s just one of those things that is and I accept it, quietly, really really quietly
Kris feeding the Giraffe
‘Mac’ the Giraffe
After the zoo, we headed to the Expo at the Racine Civic Center. The Expo was good, it had a lot of Ironman branded clothing etc, just what you’re looking for at an Ironman race! We shopped more than we had agreed to, me more than Kris, and THAT’S a first!.
On the way out we entered our names to win a new TREK Speed Concept 9.9 time trial bike. This bike retails at $16,000.00 US. It has electronic shifters, hydraulic brakes and it’s really really pretty.It would make me go fast, really fast. Okay, maybe not that much faster but I’d LOOK fast and that’s half the battle. Crush the competition using mind techniques.
During our visit to the Expo, the rain started. Racine is in the heat wave that’s affecting them so hard down there. It hasn’t rained very much this year and it’s starting to show. Well that day it rained, and rained and rained, pouring out of the sky. The first thing I thought was it would reduce the temp outside and get rid of some of the humidity in the air. Yeah, not really.
Saturday we go up early and headed out to the beach with the kids. We dropped our bikes off in transition, then we planned on spending some time getting used to swimming in lake Michigan which is a whole lot bigger than our practice swims at Birds Hill Park. Because the weather was so warm again, we didn’t take the wetsuits with us. Mistake 1.
We splashed around in the water, swam a bit, not enough and watch a lot of the other triathletes doing the same thing. The lake is beautiful and clear, in 10-12 feet of water you can still see the bottom with no problem.
Saturday night we went to bed at 9:30 PM. With the kids in the adjoining room this allowed us to get a good nights sleep and not disturb them when we got up the next morning. We woke up on time and began preparing for the race. A bit apprehensive maybe, but more excited than anything.
We loaded our transition bags into the SUV and head out to the race. First thing we did was get our race numbers inked on, this went really quickly with lots of volunteers helping. Next, we set up our transition areas making sure we had all the bike gear ready for T1 and all the run gear ready for T2. So far, so good, distance covered 0 miles, but feeling strong.
The swim course in Racine is a point to point, 1.2 mile swim. This means you have to walk 1.2 miles down the beach to the start point, then swim the 1.2 miles back to transition. I suppose there are reasons for doing this, but I like the single loop with the start/finish in the same location. Just my preference.
For my age group 55-59, the start time was 7:08 AM. At 7:00 AM the Pro men started. It was, well, intimidating to watch them start. By the time the Pro women started at 7:03, the leader of the mens wave was 200+ meters into the swim. That’s FAST by any standard, especially when it takes me 2:30 to do 100 meters.
My wave finally was ready to go and we lined up in the water. There was about 60 of us starting in this wave. Funny how in the final 10 seconds before the start it all seems to get really quiet and you get really focused.
The horn went off and us 60 penguin looking old guys started splashing around in the water trying to get going and not drown each other. I HATE the swim start, I don’t like the pushing and shoving that goes on for the first few minutes so much it starts to bring on a panic attack for me. (This happened in 2011 at Riding Mountain when at the swim start I couldn’t breathe right, couldn’t swim and felt like I was sinking.) This time I was ready for that feeling and right from the start I went out slower. There was still all the bumping that I expected and I did start to feel that tight feeling in my chest that I get, but I just kept talking myself through it. By the time I got to the 200 meter buoy I had settled down and got into a nice even swim pace.
The nice part of the swim was the clear water, almost no waves and the marker buoys being spaced every 100 meters. For the first 1/2 of the swim the buoys are yellow, for the last half they’re orange, it helps let you know where you are. Great idea. I kept swimming and counting the buoys as I passed them. 200 meters, 1/10 done. 400 meters, 20% done, 600 meters 1/3 done…. it helped pace me and kept me from concentrating on the other swimmers around me.
I left the water at the swim exit in 46:47. This is a great time for me for this distance and that time includes almost a minute from the time you stop swimming to the time you cross the timing mat. In fact, this turns out to be my best pace for any swim I’ve done. WIN!
The swim exit to the transition area was about 200 meters of asphalt. Not too hard to run on, but I have TENDER feet. Even so, it didn’t take long to get into my bike gear and out onto the bike course. 1.2 miles down, feeling good.
I like the bike portion of a race. I find the bike comfortable and can push it at a pretty good pace. I thought. I had expected to be passed by a lot of the faster, younger athletes who were in waves starting after me. Wow, was I right. I get on the bike, get up to about 18 mph, right where I wanted to be, and succeeded in being passed by a PILE of bikes that make me think I was standing still. They didn’t cruise by, they ZOOMED by. If I was doing 18, they were up around 26+. Okay I’d expected this, just not to this level. (Note to self: get faster).
The day was starting off good, my swim time was less than I had expected, transition went well and I was on the bike looking for a 3:15 ride for the 56 mile course. Training has shown me I can do that time for that distance. It wasn’t too long before I realized that 3:15 was NOT going to happen. The bike course was a lot hillier than we had expected which was bad but not terrible, but the road surface was just awful! Most of the 56 miles was jaw jarring bumps over and over and over again.
The sun had started to climb and it was well on it’s way to a 91F humid day. The first 16 miles went well, the hills slowed me down, but not too bad. It was hard to drink on the ride with the road so bumpy. After the 16 mile point it started getting harder, hillier and hotter out which just meant I was starting to go slower. At the half-way point we turned a corner and was faced with a long steep hill. This hill, more than the others was demoralizing for some reason, but I ground down and got up it and kept going. By the second aide station at mile 32 it was pretty tough going. I stopped for a few minutes and tried to take some nutrition down but with all the bumps my stomach was upset and trying to get anything down made me want to throw up. I was taking water okay, but not the GUs or Gatorade that you need on the bike for the run portion.
Finally I got to mile 46, only 10 to go. Hell, anyone can do 10 miles. Started counting them down, more miles, more hills, more bumps, losing speed. 5 miles to go, 20 minutes, but over the worst of the bumps. I turned into the dismount lane beat, just exhausted. Getting off the bike my legs started to cramp pretty bad and I had to stand there a few minutes until the cramps went away. I tend to cramp a lot in my legs to this wasn’t a surprise and was manageable so that was a bonus. 57.2 miles down, not looking so good.
I racked the bike and put my run gear on, then stood in transition for close to 5 minutes while I told myself there was no way I could do the run. I was exhausted, I’d had little nutrition, I had forgotten to put sunscreen on before the bike and my shoulders were burning. No way was I in shape for a 13.1 mile run. I talked down the evil voices in my head and started out the run chute. I ran for a few feet and my calves started to cramp again so I walked it off. I knew there was a small hill on the run course and I decided I’d walk that far and up the hill then run. After the hill, I started to run and got about 50 paces when the legs went again. I walked that off. Then I’d run 40 or 50 paces easy and when I felt my legs start to cramp I’d walk. By the mile 1 aide station it was clear to me I wasn’t going to be running this portion of the race.
Now, time for decisions. Quit? DNF? Give up? They were all very real options walking along that very hot road. Nope, can’t do it, Kris is coming up behind me. She’s going to do it, and so am I. We came here to complete, we came here to finish, we came here to get the metal, we came here to prove we could do it.
I spent the next 3 hours walking the whole 13.1 mile course. What made it easier was all the other people out there walking along with me. Some could run slowly, a few could run quickly, but nobody was running very long or very far.
I made it to the turn around point on the run and thought, “okay, just walk back and you’re half way”. Forty-five minutes later I was starting the second loop. On this one, there was even more people walking with short runs. By this time my legs were feeling okay, but any time I started to run they would cramp. I made a conscious decision to not try to run on the last loop. If I walked it all it was only 6.5 miles and I could finish. If I started to run, cramped up and couldn’t get rid of the cramps I was done. I wouldn’t be able to make it to the finish.
The next hour and half I walked and walked. Talked to the volunteers and had a good time chatting with other (non) runners. I had made a decision and was content to just walk it so I wasn’t worried about finish time or anything else. It was a relief.
After eight hours and 12 minutes, I walked across the finish line and heard the announcer say my name. I’d done it. I’d finished. I DID IT.
Yes, it’s not a pretty recap, it wasn’t an easy race by any means. It was pretty brutal to be honest, but in the end. It was a GREAT race and I had a wonderful time doing it. We’re looking forward to our Olympic distance race in Riding Mountain in August and we’re planning our next 70.3 Ironman race.
Oh yes, we’re working on a new training plan for next time too.
My original goals
Swim + T1: 1 hour
Bike + T2: 3:30
Here’s the stats
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 6:46
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 8:24
No matter what, here’s what you get for pushing through the pain.
The hardware for finishing
Crossing the FINISH line after 8 hours and 12 minutes.