Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin 2011

So it is done… Ironman Wisconsin 2011 is history and in the books. I reached the starting line with 2000 others in Madison Wisconsin the 11th of September. This was a special day as we commemorated the 9/11 attack which took many lives. Personally, I wasn’t touched, but it affected me deeply, this race was a commemoration of that horrible day and a celebration of life.

This was a special Ironman event for me as well, because I brought a newbie to do this race with me. Oliver Gutierrez, a friend of mine and member of the San Carlos CrossFit Endurance team.

On Wed afternoon after arriving, getting our car and driving to the hotel, we decided to go and check downtown and get a bite to eat. The temperature was nice and I was hoping that we would have such weather on race day. I have been following the weather for almost a week and it promised to be great. IM Wisconsin is famous for having an unpredictable weather the day of the race, and I was hoping that the weather Gods would be kind to us on race day.

The following day, Oliver arrived and the next day another member of our team also arrived; Jim Maliksi and his lovely wife. He wasn’t racing, but he was instrumental for us being there, and he came to get inspiration as he prepares for his own adventure. I am sure I will be blogging his success in my next Ironman blog. We registered, we toured the expo, we bought things we didn’t need we checked the competition and we rested plenty.

The day before the race, we delivered our transition bags. Swim to bike bag, checked, bike to run bag, checked. Transition bags are key for a successful race, and having what you need when you need it is important. This blog is NOT about race strategy, but if you want to know more about how I do things please drop me an email and I would be happy to share.

The day of the Ironman, we got up early and ate plenty, got dressed and went to the race. Jim drove Oliver and me to the transition site, we delivered our special needs bags and checked on our bikes one more time…. put in our wetsuits… walked to the starting line… got into the water and then the cannon went off…. Ironman Wisconsin had started.

The water was warm, but at that moment, I didn’t feel the temperature. Just looking at 2500 other people whose race is about start with yours was enough to intimidate the hell out of me. I have done several Ironmans, and the thing that is the most exciting and the most nerve wrecking is the start of the race. Imagine you put all of your socks in a washing machine and then you start the washing machine in permanent press, now imagine you are sock. That is how it feels… it is amazing.

I started in the middle of the pack and settled in a nice rhythm, I didn’t do much sighting as I knew that 2500 people will be swimming in the same direction. The first 500 meters I swam as hard as I could in order to get into a good pace and avoid the slow swimmers and hoping to get in with a faster swimming group. I drafted pretty well and when I got out the water I had finished my 2.4 swim in 1:15 minutes, just two minutes short of my best time, I was happy. Got out of the water, stripped my wetsuit, ran to transition, got my transition bag and changed into my biking gear. Went to pick up my bike and I was off for a 112 mile bike ride.

I have mentioned in the past, two things will destroy your race, any race you do. Nutrition and pacing, I had a couple of races gone the toilet because I started a bit faster than I should have so I wanted to keep it steady and real. I had my nutrition brew on my saddle cages; I rely on these to take me through the race. Unfortunately there was a part of the pavement that was rough and also we went through some railroad tracks, somewhere there, my bottles flew and I did not notice until it was time to drink some. Imagine my disbelief when I reached back to get my bottle and I didn’t have it, I was “Fu&*#ed”. I had to rely on whatever they gave me at the aid stations, but I knew that it was NOT going to be enough. And it wasn’t… at about mile 40 I started to cramp, it was pretty bad. I got out of the bike several times to stretch and I could see my muscles twitch, it is pretty funny now, but back then it was pure hell. When I finally reached my special needs bags, I retrieve my extra nutrition and started to drink and eat in earnest, but at that time I had lost so much time and I wasn’t feeling pretty well. I knew my goal time was gone and all I needed now is to keep it steady, real and finish. I made it to the end of the bike leg, 112 miles of hills and turns and extreme heat.

I got out off the bike and a great volunteer took my bike back to transition, I ran to the transition tent, got my gear, changed my shoes, took off my biking shorts, ate a gu and left the changing tent. Now, in an Ironman event you get to have you own helper, this person helps you with transition and as soon as you get out of the changing tent you are greeted by an army of volunteers that will rub sunscreen on you. I tried to get rubbed pretty well so I was not going to get sunburn. I saw Jim there taking pictures; I said my hello and started my run. As soon as I got out into the course I spotted my beautiful wife. I can safely say, that this was the highlight of my race. We said our hellos, exchanged a kiss and just like that I was on my way to run 26.2 miles.

The run course is throughout Madison downtown and through the campus of the University of Wisconsin. We get to run inside of the stadium, along the fraternity/sorority row and other cool places within the university campus. The aid stations had wet sponges, and I used them all the time. It was pretty hot so having a wet sponge in my shoulders was a great treat. I also put ice in hat or inside my shirt to keep cool. I ran the first half, when I got to the special needs bags my feet were already in pain and I just didn’t have it in me to run anymore. I knew I was going to finish, the question was how long would it take me? I changed socks and started to shuffle once again. The shuffle turned into a walk and it remained a walk until about 200 meters off the finish line. I didn’t have anybody behind me so I enjoy running slow through the finish chute. When I crossed the finish line, I turned around and I bowed to show my respect to the race that had defeated me that day. And with that, I finished IM Wisconsin 2011 edition. It was AWESOME!!

After I finished, I went to pick up my bike and my transtions bags and my goal was to wait for Oliver. I sat in the car and I fell asleep, I did not wake up until Oliver came to the car. He finished his race strong, he is truly an Ironman. the conditions were far from optimal and he persevered and FINISH.