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!

PRE RACE:

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.

TRANSITION 2- 7:33
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.

28 comments:

  1. Gahhhhh! Congratulations. So awesome. And creepy ass clown, ugh, and almost biting it in the porta-potty...I'd say you lucked out from any horrendous race day catastrophes! xo So proud of you. What an inspiration you are.

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    1. Thank you so much :) that clown still gives me the willies!

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  2. Congrats!! What an amazing feat!

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  3. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!! Enormous congratulations on crossing off this lifelong goal with GUSTO. I got a little teary-eyed reading this recap. You aren't just crazy physically strong, you are incredibly mentally strong, too! WAY TO GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thank you so much lady! You're so right- you have to be mentally tough to do these things. I hit some very dark places, but it's amazing how 10 minutes goes by and all of a sudden you feel much better :)

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  4. Congrats, Ironman!!!! I'm so proud of you! You worked so hard for this and I hope you're super proud of yourself! It makes sense you were numb when you were done - you left everything out there!!!

    What is with the moo at the first turn tradition at the swim? Too funny!!! I am so happy the water was calm! It would have been even scarier with all the kicking and shoving if the water was nuts.

    I love that Luiz and your Daad were there and able to see you so much, especially out on the bike route! And it seems like a good idea to make a game on the ride to engage your brain - that is such a long time to be out there!!!

    WTF is with that clown?! LOL!!!!!!

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  5. Congrats! I can't even imagine exercising for that long and you look great at the finish!

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    1. Thank you! I was surprised I wasn't sunburnt (thank you amazing volunteers) or puffy from eating random weird stuff all day. It was an amazing end to the training cycle

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  6. So happy to see you out on that course, you looked great! What do you think, will this become a habit?

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    1. Hahahahah no way! Maybe every couple of years, but for now I'm Søren I'll do a 70.3 or 2 next year. I think I'll enjoy the training and distance a bit more ;)

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  7. Don't mind me, just over here tearing up at my desk. You are so amazing!! What a fantastic experience that you can always look back on fondly!!!

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    1. Thank you :) it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. It was mostly fun but overall so rewarding and benefitial for me :)

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  8. Great read. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm so happy for you! I'm hoping to be able to call myself an Ironman next year. I too have waited a very long time for this. Just being able to sign up next month will be so huge for me. Congrats, girl! You killed it!

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    1. Thank you. So glad you enjoyed this long ass post! It was so hard to capture all the moments and feelings- I'll probably write more on it later. I'll be looking forward to following your IM adventure next year- I'll have to live vicariously through you since I'm done with this for a while lol :)

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  9. Congrats x1000! Your accomplishment boggles my mind! It's hard for me sometimes to wrap my mind around running 26.2 alone much less swimming 2 miles and 100+ mile bike beforehand! I love that your AG placement improved dramatically from the end of the bike to the end of the run even though you hit the wall at mile 13. You are super tough, and you are now an Ironman! Greatest. Day. Ever!

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    1. Thank you so much! It was a crazy tough day but it's so weird how you can have 15 second winds. I'd feel super crappy and start having a breakdown and a mile or 2 later I'd find something to make me smile. Interacting with the spectators and volunteers and cows helped too :)

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  10. So so happy for you! You are amazing...CONGRATS!

    (add me to the "wtf with the clown?!?" camp...so creepy!!)

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    1. Thank you so much :) that clown still is on my mind, lurking in shadows. Lol

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  11. #alltheonions What an amazing recap!!!! Congrats, Charlyn!

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    1. Thank you so much lady! It was so incredible to experience and even more difficult to articulate into words :)

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  12. CONGRATS IRONMAN!!!SO SO happy for you! What a freaking huge and amazing accomplishment! You crushed it out there!

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    1. Thank you! I'm so happy I decided to do this whole thing. It was tough, but so worth it for so many reasons :)

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  13. I read this during lunch yesterday and cried into my burrito bowl (making this neither the first nor the last time I've cried at my desk) but just didn't have time to comment.

    I'm so proud of you for sticking with your training, even when it was hard or when you didn't want to do it. I can't even fathom sitting on a bike for 8 hours, much less running an entire marathon after that! This is just so very awesome - what an accomplishment!

    Also, the volunteers sound amazing! I want to do an IM just to have people fussing over me like that!

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    1. Thank you so very much. It was so difficult at times to balance my new job, training and keeping L and CB happy. I never considered giving up- just not in my blood. Although I had many many many come to Jesus moments where I was freaking about the swim or bike beforehand.

      The volunteers were out of this world. If I stopped on my bike they came running over to hold it. If I stopped at a run aid station they would go out of their way to offer me a cup of chips or whatever. The changing room volunteers were saints- helping stinky smelly sweaty folks change. They were so invested in making sure we had a great day. Gah. Now someone is cutting onions next to me ;)

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  14. This is awesome. You did amazing! This recap is so great and I started crying into my coffee this morning reading it. It is so great to have followed your journey with running and now the ironman the last couple years and seeing you accomplish such a huge goal is so inpsiring! Way to go!

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  15. Congrats Xaarlin! You looked so happy to be running when I saw you out there! You must have been passing a ton of people on the first half of the run before you hit that wall! And you probably were still passing people after you hit the wall because if you are running at that point during the race you are doing well!! ;)

    The costumes on the bike course always crack me up! Creepy clown too!

    The volunteers are really second to none at Wisconsin. They would really do anything you asked them to do and with a smile on their face!
    Your finish line picture says more than words can!

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  16. Yay, congratulations!!!! Awesome that you had such a good race!! A clown would definitely keep me moving toward the finish line!

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