Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin 2016 {Race Recap}

I did it. After 20 weeks of dedicated training and nearly 11 months after I registered, and 10+ years of day dreaming, I am an Ironman!


Woke up at 3:30am to stuff my face full of my trusty Belvita biscuits and applesauce. I braided my hair and got changed into my tri shorts and top and went back to bed for an hour.

We took the hotel shuttle over to Monona terrace and once there, I went straight to Mortadella. I put my hydration (bottle of Osmo and bottle of Glukos) on my bike and also stuffed the bento box (which Lauren so kindly let me borrow) full of gummy bears, salt pills, and other random food. I borrowed a pump and got Mortadella up to 110psi and went to get body marked.

I was calm. Like too calm. I thought I'd be nervous, or emotional, but instead I was going though my checklists like this was no big deal. It was weird and almost felt like an out of body experience. After body marking, I found L and my Daad and we hung out inside the terrace for a bit. I decided to get in line to get into the water about 20 min before the race- it was super slow moving as if people were scared to get in the warm, flat as glass water of lake Monona.
I got to my desired position in the water about 5 min before the canon went off. I started about 35 yards back from the start because I knew I wouldn't be the fastest and surely didn't want to get caught up in the craziness of a mass start. I heard Macklemore's "Can't Hold Me" playing on the shore and as I floated in the water I sang along to the lyrics- "Ive got my city right behind me, if I fall, they've got me..." and marveled at all the folks in the water as well as the mass of spectators on shore as well as on the terrace. I was minutes away from my goal race, I was ready to become an Ironman.

The canon went off and it was chaos. While i had positioned myself well behind the start line thinking no one would really be behind me, there were still loads of people coming into the water now acting like fools trying to swim over folks to make up time. It was very scary to be in deep water surrounded by folks who didn't seem to know or care how to be around others in a mass swim start. I tried to stay calm by doggy paddling because it was too crowded to actually swim. I kept telling myself- as long as I was moving forward I would be fine- but it was a jarring experience for at least 5 minutes. I had doubts that I would finish the swim during that time because it was so bad.
After those hellish 5 minutes went by, spaces opened up and I was finally able to swim. I felt so good cruising though the water. At the first turn, everyone was mooing (tradition at IMWI) and I felt so much better. Whenever I saw someone's feet I would readjust my position and sighting to avoid getting kicked- the water had a couple feet of visibility, no reason to swim up on someone. The turns would be a little crowded but nothing like the start. I kept imagining myself as a manatee gliding through the water rather slowly. Eventually I was on the final stretch of my first Ironman swim and was elated to be nearly done. I kept swimming until I touched the bottom for a couple of strokes and triumphantly exited the water with a huge grin on my face.

Swim: 1:33:08  101 ag/573 women/ 1918 OA

Transition 1- 12:55

I unzipped my wetsuit and let the wetsuit strippers do their thing and then ran up the helix where I gave L, my Daad and Lauren all stinky lake hugs. I got my T1 bag and headed into the changing room. A volunteer came right to my side and helped me put on my shoes, jersey and gather my things. (She was awesome and I thanked her for helping me) I took a few steps with Mortadella and stopped to put my watch on my handlebars and another volunteer came over and held my bike and asked if everything was ok. The enthusiasm of the volunteers carried me through many dark times during the day. I walked to the bike out, clipped in and rode down the helix to start my 112 mile bike ride.

I was pretty pumped to start the bike portion, especially after nailing my swim. I cruised out of town and by mile 10 I had seen the aftermath of a bad crash with multiple cyclists laying on the ground and no less than 8 people changing flats at random places along the road. What the hell was going on!? Seeing all of this craziness got me feeling nervous for a while. The last thing I wanted to do was change a flat during the race or crash.

Luckily the remainder of my 112 mile journey was uneventful. I rode up and down hills, I walked up Barlow hill because there was no way I could ride up it. During that walk during the cycle portion, I talked about beer and Hop Cat with a guy from Illinois and marveled at the 2 people (both women) who rode up this monster hill while we all walked. I broke 40mph on a large hill and decided on the second loop that I would try to break 45mph- I only got to 42.5 (Garmin) and 43.x on Strava. I felt so good during the first loop. But then when I started the second loop, the reality set in. I would be on my bike for another 4 hours.

I saw L and my Daad in Verona. They had taken the shuttle provided by Ironman out to the Loop Festival to come cheer for me. They hung out another 3.5 hours to see me pass a second time. IronSpectators for sure! It was so nice to see them out there and gave me a boost of energy to zoom back into town.

Bike Highlights:
•Zooming past the cows in the early miles with the smell of manure in the air thinking "holy shit! I'm actually doing this. I'm going to be an Ironman!"

•How amazing the volunteers were at each aid station. They would come over and tell me they would hold my bike if I was going to the portalet, or just ask if I needed anything while I stopped to put my hydration in the water.

•Nearly busting my ass in a portalet. I got in the handicapped stall which was on a slight incline. Plastic bike shoes + plastic floor + incline don't mix. Nice little jolt of adrenaline.

•Saying hi to the cows. I saw a CB colored cow laying in the grass eating while all the others were standing. It reminded me of CB and how weird he is. It made me laugh.

•How the other cyclists would ask if someone was ok when they saw someone stopped on the side of the road.

•How it got unexpectedly windy AF for the second loop.

•Seeing Lauren during the second loop and chatting for a second. I think I muttered something like "im so ready to be done with this" and it was only around mile 60.

•Making games like - pedal as hard as possible on the downhill to see how far up the next hill I could get, or try to break 45mph on a hill. Didn't achieve that one, but came close.

•Seeing my L and Daad again in Verona before heading back into town. Family is the best.

I started singing to myself "I want to be done done done done done" and kept it up for way too long. As I approached the last set of large hills there was a creepy ass clown standing on the side of the road. I yelled at him (while huffing and puffing all out of breath up a hill) that he was going to give me nightmares. He said "good!" I zoomed into town and rode up the helix and saw L and my Daad again. I stopped my bike at the line and a volunteer steadied my bike as I unclipped and then they  whisked Mortadella back to transition while I hobbled off to T2. I just completed my longest ride ever and was more than half way to becoming an Ironman.

BIKE- 7:58.41 100 ag/ 616 women/ 2094 OA

In T2 I changed into my running clothes- I was so happy to have fresh shorts and my MRC tank on. The volunteers were amazing in T2- constantly asking how they could help- could they help put my shoes on, do I need this item or not? Or would I wear my arm warmers? I couldn't thank them enough. I hobbled out of the room towards the run out and stopped for a second to give the "Mikkeller Salute" to L. I was now just 26.2 miles away from becoming an Ironman.

Before heading out for the run I stopped for sunscreen. The volunteer told me my neck would sting, and I yelped when the sunscreen hit my skin. My wetsuit must have chaffed my neck a bit. Whoa.

I took off running and felt surprisingly good. I was clocking mid 8's and was in complete disbelief at how easy it felt running after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on the bike. I decided to go with it for as long as my body would allow.  The course was packed with spectators in downtown and the energy was unbelievable.
I knew my time was limited on how well I felt. After mile 13 I smashed into the wall hard. I wasnt too surprised after nearly 11.5 hours of exercise that I wasn't feeling fresh as a daisy. BUT I wasn't prepared for how weird I felt. Every muscle was so sore and very tender to the touch. To top things off, I was convinced I had bad chaffing which my usually comfy running shorts seemed to be making worse. It was a really tough decision whether running or walking hurt worse, so I kept trying to run as much as possible because running would equal getting done faster.
Mentally and physically I was cooked. I was getting delirious at times past mile 20 so I forced myself to eat more potato chips and drink chicken broth and coke. Parts of the course were very dark and on a limestone path and decided running there would result in a fall so I walked until I got to an area with more light. I was freezing cold when I would start walking. It was fun chatting with other folks on the course despite feeling like complete shit because I was getting closer to finishing a goal I had long dreamed of.

I savored the final miles in downtown until I saw the creepy ass clown again waiting with his arm outstretched for a high 5. I gestured "NO WAY" and everyone laughed. But then the clown started running after me honking is horn. I couldnt stop laughing. 14.5 hours into the day I still had a huge smile on my face.
I finally started my final descent into the finish area and could hear the crowds roaring and the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly saying "you are an IRONMAN." I was so close.
I made my final turn of the day and ahead of me was the finish line. It was surreal to be steps away from completing a goal I had worked on for 11 months and dreamed about for over 10 years.
Unfortunately, I honestly don't remember hearing Mike Reilly say "CHARLYN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" or remember even crossing the finish line but I did see it on video so I know it happened. The next thing I remember after turning towards the finish is the volunteer "catchers" holding my arms (standard protocol) asking if I was ok and talking to me to make sure I was really ok. One of them left me a few minutes later to go catch more finishers and the other stayed with me for a good 5+ minutes to really really make sure I was ok. Thankfully eating more chips, coke and broth a few miles back made me feel so much better.

RUN- 4:47.10  77ag/464 women/ 1578 OA

TOTAL- 14:39.27
I got my finisher photo taken after receiving my medal, finisher hat and finisher shirt. I look too fresh for working out over 14 and a half hours. I was in a daze. Full of adrenaline and caffeine and sore from 140.6 miles and being awake for 20+ hours.
Post Race Thoughts:

I was surprised at how numb I felt towards the whole race. I was surprised at how apathetic I felt once I finished since I usually get weepy or feel something a the end of most races I complete. This was my freaking "A" goal, bucket list, life long goal and I was so incredibly calm. The whole day felt like an out of body experience. I also think I was just done. Emotionally and physically done with nothing left to give.
There's not much I would have changed about how I executed the race- I felt my hydration and nutrition were good, perhaps I could have eaten more on the bike but pacing for the run and bike were fine too. I knew the bike would be difficult since I didnt train on hills. With 5200'+ of elevation gain on the bike, hill training is needed to be successful. I knew I would smash into a wall on the run since the furthest I ran in training was around 13-14 miles.
I was very fortunate to have the support of my L and Daad on race day. It was awesome seeing them on the course multiple times. I also cannot imagine how long their day was tracking me and going to Verona and back to Madison. I cannot thank L enough for supporting me during this process. Without him on my team, I would have never finished this. I cannot say thank you enough to all my friends and family who gave me encouragement along the way.

The volunteers were nothing short of amazing. I am still blown away by how enthusiastic and encouraging they were to us. They definitely helped put a huge smile on my face in some dark times. I said "thank you" 800 times to volunteers and spectators, and I meant it every single time. 
After I checked in and got my bib on Friday I was asked if I wanted to say a few words for a volunteer appreciation video- of course I said I would. I wish they would have asked me post race because I seriously had no idea how truly awesome the volunteers were. I'm always appreciative, but these Madison volunteers were like nothing i've ever experienced before. I still get choked up thinking about how these folks came out to help us achieve our goals. 

Sunday September 11, 2016 is a day I'l never forget. It was the day that I achieved my ultimate goal with my family close by. It was the moment that I played over and over in my day dreams for the past 10+ years and never thought I would actually accomplish. It was the celebration of more than just "finish an Ironman", it was a celebration of seeing a seemingly impossible goal through even when I wanted to quit due to fatigue and due to stress from a new job and life. It was about overcoming so many of the demons in my life that have held me back in the past. I put in a ton of work and experienced the greatest day ever.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin: Week 20 {race week!}

Race week! Wow. 20 weeks of training and poof! Gone in an instant. It felt like it took forever to get to this point, but then once I arrived at week 20, time flew by at warp speed.

I had one last confidence building swim on Thursday. The lake was calm and I felt great swimming 2700 yards- it was one of the best swims I've had since I started training for the Ironman. I worked out just over 4 hours total during the week pre-race and felt good.

On Friday I checked in and got my wristband, transition bags and other stuff for the race. It was very well organized moving from one line to the next for each set of items. The volunteers took their time explaining race logistics which I appreciated.

On Saturday I racked Mortadella. I was excited to be finally here in Madison for the race. I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing and just checked off the boxes of stuff I needed to get done pre race.

I packed my T1 (bike) and T2 (run) bags on Friday night and dropped them at the convention center on Saturday. It was difficult for my "OCD must check the bag 100x" personality to just leave them behind, but I knew everything I needed was in them. I just had to trust myself.

After checking in all of my stuff, we went to the finish area to listen to the athlete briefing. They went over the rules and other race logistics. The one thing that stuck with me was to treat the race as a training day. I wasn't going for a specific time so why stress about anything? My only goals were to finish upright and avoid the med tent. (Spoiler alert: both goals were achieved)

I was thankful to have an amazing support crew of my Daad and my L with me throughout this weekend. They certainly earned the status of "IronSupporters" after this weekend.

We ate at hopcat for lunch and had dinner with my coworker and her 30 triathlon friends which helped calm my nerves a bit after talking to them about their training and prior IM race experiences. Soon it was time for bed, because in the morning I would experience the greatest day ever!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin: Week 19

Full on taper mode. Only worked out 9 hours and 42 min this past week (including 28 running miles for a total of 4:05). In contrast, the week before the Carmel Marathon I ran 24 miles and cycled 12, for a total of 4:08. I felt pretty good last week- 10 hours of training is a very manageable amount for me even when work gets nutso. The only lowlight of my workouts was my swim. I got very nauseous and cut my swim at 1.2 miles. It was super choppy so I'm hoping that was the cause.

Monday I finally used the voucher I won to go SUP. It was a gorgeous evening and Vicky and I had fun zooming around the harbor. But why on earth did we wait until the end of the season!?! I really want to go again if the weather permits post IM.

Garmin released the "Face It" app and I squealed with delight when I discovered it. I now have my CB on my watch.

Saturday was our 20th Mikkeller Running Club run. As always, we had a ton of fun running and drinking with good people. You should really join us for our next run on October 1. Info: {HERE}

CB is my super dedicated coach. He always wakes up at 4am to supervise me while I'm on the trainer.

Looking forward:

• need to make a list, round up and pack all of my Ironman stuff.

•continue going over my nutrition plan for the bike and morning of the IM

•stop freaking out. I'm equal parts scared, anxious and excited.

4 Days until I become an Ironman!

9 days until I register for the Boston Marathon.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin: Week 18

Omg omg omg 2 weeks to go!

I'm in taper now, so I'm *only* working out 10.5 hours a week. It doesn't feel like taper yet since I've been ridiculously busy with work and home life. But to not have to run and cycle all damn day on the weekend is nice. I took an unscheduled rest day due to being tired and enjoyed the extra sleep and dinner at Villains that night (but was in meetings every second of that day, which was very tiring by itself)

Workouts are going well and I feel great. I have good days where I'm so pumped about the race and then the wind changes and suddenly I'm doubting everything. I'll be really happy when I cross the finish line and I can cross "finish an Ironman" off of my bucket list and move on with my life. I've enjoyed this journey for the most part, but sacrificing my summer for a race is not something I want to do again in the near future. I don't get paid to do this, so putting so much effort, money and time into a hobby is a bit much.

CB wanted to be included for the "take a picture of a kid in a backpack and post on social media" photos.

The weather has been so nice lately.

Saturday morning it was super foggy-contrast that with the sunrise earlier in the week.

Saturday we went to 5 Rabbits for the "Summer Crushers" beer festival. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon. All of the beers had fruit in them- and there was also delicious food.

Sunday we relaxed and I made a mint julep for the first time ever- and used the pineapple mint from my garden. I didn't smash the mint enough so there wasn't an overly strong flavor of mint in the drink, but it was still super refreshing.

Looking forward:

•Write out a nutrition plan for race day.

•Swim and make a warmup routine. also figure out which goggles will be my #1 for race day.

•Bring Mortadella in for a tuneup

•Fix my mountain bike. (New tires, brake pads)

•Try to stay positive about the race. A huge component of endurance events is the mental aspect- I need to remain in a good mindset.

13 Days until I become an Ironman.

18 days until I register for Boston.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin: Week 17

Peak week or something like that. Oops sorry DailyMile, didn't log my workouts this week with you. I'm not sure why I bother anymore with DM, Strava or Nike app when I log everything in Sporttracks now.

I swam in the lake again. I did an almost mile warmup by myself and then swam a timed mile with Chicago Tri Club for "Stroke and Stride." I only swam since I had run earlier in the day. I felt great cruising through the water, but ended up feeling super nauseous midway through the mile. I'm convinced it's because I didn't have enough food in my belly. Counterintuitive to everything you hear as a child growing up in Florida- "don't go in the pool within 30 min of eating otherwise you'll drown." BS. The times I've had a big lunch or decent snack pre swim, I haven't gotten nauseous. Lesson learned.

Friday evening we drove to Madison so I could ride the Ironman bike course. The open water swim I had registered for got cancelled due to high water and impending storms. I'm now 2 for 2 with registered swim events being cancelled. (Ironman Racine 70.3 being the other). But it is the summer and storms are plentiful and strong here. That's just the chance you take registering for races in the Midwest during the summer.

Saturday morning we went out to ride the bike course. It was beautiful and insanely hilly- not a surprise. I knew it was a beast- it's got the distinction of being the toughest bike course of an Ironman in the USA. L was kind enough to come along with me and slog up and down hills all day. He got a new PDR riding over a metric century that day! Can't say enough how proud of him I am.

We rode the loop that contained infamous Barlow hill. I got to the top of what I thought was the "bad hill" and was out of breath but felt great that I conquered it only to realize the actual beast of a hill was around the corner. I took one look and walked my bike up it. There's no way I could ride my bike up it without falling over. I plan to walk my bike up Barlow in the race as well. No sense burning my legs out on it.

What goes up, must come down- and while the hills were steep and plentiful, the downhills were amazing. I clocked over 35mph not even trying to go fast down one of them! And it seemed If you pedaled enough on the downhill, you could make it 3/4 the way up the next hill without too much effort. Yay.

I have mixed feelings about the recon I did of the course- on one hand I'm glad I rode the course and found it to be way less technical than most recaps of the race made it out to be. On the other hand, I never have ridden or ran a course before a race because I like the surprise element. It keeps me engaged more if it's a surprise on race day. Plus going out 3 weeks before wasn't cheap- hotel, food and dog boarding all add up for this event which has already cost me thousands of dollars so far.

Sunday morning I ran for 2 hours along Lake Monona. It was a nice run in 58 degrees! I passed the area where I'll swim and have transition set up and got a little emotional. 3 weeks from that moment I will be on my way to completing my first Ironman. I'm so excited that this journey is almost over and that I can focus on other aspects of my life that I've neglected during the past 20 weeks.

I can't believe I'm starting a cutback towards the Ironman. I registered for this race in October and feel as if it's dragged on forever without an end in sight. Being able to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel is making me more and more excited for race day. I also cannot thank my friends and colleagues enough who have given me valuable tips and encouragement along the way. Props to my family as well because without their support I wouldn't be doing this. I can't thank them enough for putting up with me during this training cycle.

Fortune cookie from Sunday evening. All the feels. Yes. There is a thrilling time ahead of me.

Looking forward:

•continue to nail down race day nutrition

•be mindful of my food intake the next few weeks.

•make sure Mortadella is in tip top shape for race day.

•swim long a few more times to feel comfortable. Get a warmup routine down.

19 days until I become an Ironman

24 days until I register for Boston