Thursday, September 21, 2006

IM WI - Photos

Monona Terrace on a gorgeous Thursday morning.
By the way the lady in the green top on the path is Andrea Fisher.

Bags Bags Bags

Ferrah all ready for a slumber party at the Monona Terrace.
Note to athlete #476, please rack your bike according to instructions.

Some of the bike transition zone. I didn't see another Felt F1C.

Mass swim start. Can you see me amongst the 2400 plus swimmers? I was just to the right of the black buoy to the right of the ski ramp to the right of the other black buoy to the right of the orange start buoy.

Nice view. Excellent product placement Ford.
(From Through th3 wall.)

Coming out of the water.

Enjoying my brunch.

One of the crazy bike spectators.
(from IronmanLive.)

Note to self: get aero.

Give me a helmet and some pads.

Not quite singin' in the rain.

If my race number looked like this, I wonder what I looked like at the finish.

'nuff said.

IM WI - Post Race and Beyond

After crossing the finish line, I was caught by Mickey. I gave him a hug and thanked him for all he had done for me on my journey. I was presented a medal and a mylar blanket was wrapped around me like I was king for a day or something. I saw Josh and we recounted how miserable it felt out there. By the tone in his voice I knew he had a rough day. But anyone who can run a sub 3:10 IM marathon, had to be doing something right. He'll be back.

My next thoughts were focused on getting out of my wet clothes. Since I wasn't running anymore, I was getting cold fast. I waited to get my picture taken and then met my Aunt and cousins. I knew if I finished any later, my cousin from Chicago would have missed my finish.

I dragged myself into the Terrace to grab my gear. I ran into Chris again and was elated to hear he had PRed today. Well done, my friend. We parted ways, but I have a feeling I'll be seeing him again.

I had my cousin take my gear back the the house and then went out to see more of the finishers. I was hoping to grab some brats and beer, but settled for some of cold pizza. I wasn't that hungry and actually felt a little bloated. As I have heard discussed, this probably had something to do with the damaged muscles retaining the water that would normally have been removed as sweat. After seeing Cassie finish, we headed back into the Terrace. I got a pretty long massage, which probably didn't do me any good. I felt bad I didn't have a couple of bucks to tip the masseur. Finally we picked up Cassie and Trina's gear and headed back to my Aunt and Uncle's.

On the drive home, I remember thinking about my finish. As is typical for me, I actually ran faster through the tape. This time maybe I ran too fast. I did not recall hearing the voice of Ironman annouce my name. Maybe I was too close to the guy in front of me. Maybe my race number was just unreadable. But on that evening it did not matter. I knew what I had done to cross that line; no extra validation needed. Grin.

Back at our bivouac, we were greeted by a sign that my Aunt and cousin's made that congratulated our accomplishment. We got online and checked out some of the results and watched some of the Ironman Live feed. I checked on almost everyone I knew that raced and was glad to see the results from everyone. I wished I could have continued watching, but we were all wiped out. For the first time in a long while, that night I slept well.

Race Total: 1:21:40/09:45/6:34:13/05:28/4:24:31 = 12:35:37


Has Ironman taught me anything? I have read some introspectives from some of my fellow racers, (here, here, here, and here) I can't really put my finger on all of it, but I have in some way changed. But this is not like some step function where everything suddenly changes once you cross some line drawn across a street. For some, Ironman was a catalyst for some amazing transformations. For me, change is usually slow and subtle. The effects stemming from Ironman on my life are still revealing themselves to me today. The process of change has been happening since I clicked "submit" last year, since I jumped in to the lake at my first triathlon, since I crossed the stage to recieve my diploma, since I came into this world.

The most striking revelation came during the last two hours of my race. I had "that feeling". The culmination of months and years of training, the positive and negative emotions coming to balance, but it wasn't until I let go of the numbers and all the distractions around me that things seemed to align. The body and mind were almost on another plane where everything felt easy and "anything was possible."

I have already played the numbers game, because that is an old habit. Goal: 11:43. Actual: 12:35. Could I have finished faster? Certainly. Would I have done things differently? Sure little things here and there like not get off my bike to urinate. Am I happy with my time? The answer in my mind is not as simple as a yes or no. For most of my running and triathlon career, numbers have driven me; they are a goal to strive for and to attain. But looking at the big picture, 12:35 is only a number.

I am proud of the fact that on a cold and rainy Sunday, I finished an Ironman; and I can not define myself by numbers. If for some reason I need a number from this race, I should pull this number out of my head: 13. That is the negative split between my first and second halves of the run. And that will hopefully spark my memory of "that feeling." We were standing in line the Monday after a race to claim a little DVD from the race. A gentleman was talking about the race, and he reaffirmed my conclusion that Ironman goes beyond the numbers. Will I attempt Ironman again? I don't know. I probably will, but at this moment I can walk away from Ironman and hold my head high.


So what's next?

Throughout my life, somehow I came up with some pretty random goals. I threw out "catching the game winning TD pass in the Super Bowl" a long time ago. But here are three that have stuck around:
  1. Complete an Ironman with a finish to be proud of.
  2. Qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon
  3. Run a sub 2 half - that is sub 2 minutes for a half mile.
Cross off #1. I know # 2 is within reach. #3, I believe the older I get, the harder it will be to achieve. I'm okay if I don't complete #3.

If you look at #2 and #3 notice that they are associated with numbers. So as I go after goal #2, I am back to chasing numbers like 26.2, 3:10, and 07:14. I know that is unavoidable. But chasing numbers had consumed me. I hope Ironman has taught me enough so that the next time I run, bike, or swim, I can find the balance between the numbers and "that feeling."

One week after an Ironman, I competed in a sprint tri. (Here's the short report.) I wanted to run the 5k under 22 minutes, but finished just seconds slower. The ankle/foot pain I felt during the early part of my Ironman run was a precursor to something more. Something hurt after the Ironman and it hurt when I pushed the pace at the sprint tri. I will take some time off and hope I just have some inflammation, not a stress fracture. Perhaps I will run a marathon in several months, maybe in December or January, but I will only do so when I am ready.

My stop in Madison was AWESOME. I'm glad I had so many people along for the ride.

Next stop Boston. Coming along?

Portage Lakes Tri

One week after an Ironman, I raced. This wasn't the smartest move. But I figured if I was going to wake my butt up to be present at the race, might as well do it. The goal was to see how easy the 5k run would be in preparation for a marathon.

The race was delayed over an hour due to fog. They actually altered the swim route to get it going as soon as possible.


I was surprised to see how many people were wearing wetsuits in a sprint tri. This was not a good sign for me as I am an anchor in the water. Half way through the swim I found myself headed towards a kayak, instead of a buoy. I even got caught between some slow swimmers as we funneled towards the swim exit. Ugh. Not a good swim. This probably cost me an age group medal too.


My T1 was slower than I expected. Once on the bike, it took me a while to get going. Like 9 miles. By the time my legs were ready to push a big gear, it was time to get off the bike. Sigh.


I was slow in T2 as I was almost out of the zone, before I realized I did not have my race number. So I ran back to get it. The first mile was okay as I settled into a pace I felt I could hold for 3 miles. The second mile was a gradual uphill, and I felt like crap. As I came back towards the finish, my foot was starting to bother me. So I just cruised as there was no need for me to sprint home.

The results are here:

Swim Time and overall rank: 11:07.65 - 116/248
T1: 01:09.24
Bike Time and overall rank: 37:09.91 - 34/248
T2: 01:12.23
Run Time and overall rank: 22:16.92 - 23/248

Total Time and overall rank: 1:12:55.94 - 30/248

The run pace was not as fast as I would want for my marathon. When I get back to it, I would want at least two months of consistent speed and tempo work before doing a marathon. So now it is time to rest.

The tri season of 2006 is now closed.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

IM WI Race Day - T2 and Run


Back in the bag room in the Terrace, I was again able to easily spot my bag and trotted through that first room. Once in the get naked room I could tell that folks were struggling in there, but I stayed focused on my own game. I found a clear spot and plopped my bag on the ground. I opted against changing into dry clothes. All I had in my transition bag was loose clothing and I would rather have tight wet clothing than loose wet clothing. I don't bike with socks, so I struggled to dry my numb feet on the carpet. I slipped on a pair of warm, dry socks. AAaaaaahhhhhh. Note for next time: throw a towel into both transition bags. Slipped the running shoes on, threw the helmet and glasses into the bag, popped a gel with some water, shoved some gels into my shorts and jersey pocket, then deposited my bag, and out the door I went.

I went into a port-o-potty and took a really long break in there. Once back in the open air, I was mentally ready to run. The thought of a 3:30 marathon crept into my head.

T2 - 05:28

My energy levels felt pretty high. But I had planned to run the first three miles at an easy effort, ignoring my time, and was going to stick to it. I had also planned to pop a gel every 30 minutes or so, and pass through the aid stations very leisurely, and probably walk them all.

Well, I started moving and my positive attitude was turning negative once again. My legs just were not cooperating as I thought they would. The muscles of my legs were incredibly tight and something that I never expected, my right ankle was throbbing. I reached the Pedestrian Path and was hoping somehow that my legs would cooperate at some point in the day; I knew that if something did not change, I would have a cold, long death march. I watched the lead runners coming back in the other direction and it felt like I was crawling compared to them.

I trudged up into the stadium. As I hit the turf, it felt like a graveyard as there were no fans, no music, and barely any signs of life, just us wannabe Ironmen marching on. I walked through the next aid station. A young volunteer offered a sponge. I grabbed it and asked if this was the first sponge she had given out. I wiped some crap off my body with the sponge then grabbed a drink and pushed on.

I'm not sure why I did not just take splits every mile, but my first three miles were just under 30 minutes. I guess I was ready to pop another gel now. Since I had already tossed my overall time goal out several hours ago, it was much easier for me to drop any run time goal I may have had. I was reduced to jogging, and walking, and walking some more. Somewhere along the Lakeshore Path I saw Chris and Rob heading the other way. I did not want to disappoint them so I tried to pick it up a bit. They offered me encouragement, but I wondered if I would see them again.

Most of the first loop of the "run" was pretty blurry. I was cold, hungry, and tired. I heard cheers of encouragement from the sidelines all along the route, "Good job!!!", "Go Alan!!!", "Keep it up!!!" But my mind was probably trying to conserve its own energy as all the faces and voices faded out like background noise. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Back on the Lakeshore Path, I wanted to stay on the crushed dirt trail to save the pounding on the legs, but it was way too muddy. I hit the tail portion of the course; it was lined with homemade signs offering encouragement. The Ford Inspiration point was there also, and if anyone entered any messages for me, well, sorry I did not look up at the display. Ironically at the "Inspiration Point" my day was quickly deteriorating.

By mile 10, I was now walking a lot. My brain seemed to be shutting itself down and the body with it. I had popped a gel a few minutes earlier, but it seemed to do nothing for me. I was getting light headed and doubts were clouding over. At the next aid station I grabbed a GU (I use Carb-Boom gel), a cup of Coke, and broth - three things I had never tried all season - and washed it down. I kept jogging and walking forward.

As I hit the Pedestrian Path again, I was sinking. The doubts were flooding in from all sides as I questioned myself. Why didn't I eat another Clif bar on the bike? When was the sun going to come out? Had I seen any medical tents along the course? What would happen if I stopped at an aid station? What if I did not finish? Or worse yet, what if I could not finish? My eyelids felt as if I had pulled three straight all-nighters as I struggled to stay awake, mentally and physically. I came off the Pedestrian Path and I walked into the tunnel.

Than at that moment, I no longer wanted to move forward. The desire and will to finish was no longer in me. I wanted it all to disappear: the rain, the cold, the hunger, the aching muscles and bones. I was defeated. The eyes closed shut.

And then...

I stopped...




I don't know how long I was in that tunnel, but the wind howled at me once again. It struck the cross I was carrying on my back and I was urged to take my next step. Standing there was colder than moving forward.

I emerged from the dank tunnel as if I was busting out of my cocoon.

One step, another step...

shuffle, shuffle...

jog, jog, jog...


I rationalized that even if I walked the next 13 miles, I probably built up enough of a time buffer to finish before midnight. But for whatever reason, I was ready to run - after a 126 mile warmup. And in an instant, gone were all the fears and doubts. I was keeping the celebration under control, but I knew I would be an Ironman that day.

On that last stretch back to downtown, I made a promise to myself that regardless of what happened over the next several hours, I would have the time of my life. No longer was I concerned about pace or how many gels I had in my pocket. No longer was I saddled with racing towards a goal time. No longer was I chasing after things beyond my control. I was in a powerful moment and I would live in it. I certainly did not know when or if I would ever be back at a time or place like this again and so I was going to savor the next 13 plus miles.

I hit the special needs bag on a high. I reloaded my pocket with gels and even threw my dry socks into my pocket. I grabbed a plastic bag and tried to slip it over my torso. A kind volunteer helped me with it. I told him I was feeling awesome and that I probably would strip the bag off later. He said no problem and wished me well. I thanked him in turn. As I turned around I saw John coming out for his first loop. I jogged along with him and we chatted a bit. After a few moments I suggested he take the broth at the aid stations, since that provided both nutrition and warmth. I offered some parting words of encouragement and pressed forward. I shed the baggie moments later and remarked to the spectator next to me that Ironmen don't wear plastic, just lycra.

I crossed through the tunnel and remembered what had happened there moments before. I was unfazed this time. As I popped onto the Pedestrian Path, I heard Pharmie yell out at me as she went the other direction. I was hoping to meet up with her again later on the run. Moments later, Mark, a fellow tri club member, caught sight of me and said hello. I ran with him for a little while and hoped to get his spirits up. He mentioned his legs were cramping quite a bit. I tried to encourage him the best I could and wished him well as I went off to try to catch Pharmie.

I knew I was blazing away now. But Pharmie must have been cruising too since it took me awhile before I caught up to her. We chatted a bit about how the day had been going for us. She was moving strong and steadily and I knew that she would be an Ironman by the end of the day. I wished her the best and ran on ahead.

Even though I was feeling awesome, I made it a point to walk through the aid stations. I tried to thank the volunteers as best I could and they deserved more appreciation than I could offer them on the course. Oh and I wasn't about to stop refueling, so I would grab a sip of Coke, some munchies, than a cup of broth at each stop. I also tried to acknowledge the spectators as best I could. I'm pretty sure I saw Zeke out there bundled up on State Street. And how could I not give out high fives to the kids cheering on the side of the street. I heard "Go Allah" several times which made me feel strangely like a god, but made me smile nonetheless. Actually the second time I heard that, I looked at my race number and noticed a few letters were truncated from my name.

Just past another aid station, I spied Dennis cheering from the streets. He mentioned that Trina was just up ahead. He encouraged me to catch her and keep her company on the run. I spotted a free port-o-potty and couldn't pass up that opportunity. I emptied the bowels and came out feeling ten pounds lighter. Aaahhh. I immediately bolted up the hill on Observatory Drive and was running even faster and easier than ever before. I flew down the other side, onto Park Street, and then onto State Street. I saw Trina coming the other way so I picked up my pace, hit the turnaround, and caught her moments later. We ran together for a bit and I knew we were both going to make it to the finish line strong. She pushes me a lot in training and racing and I am better because of her. I am proud of her race day. She had struggled to get past a lot of obstacles this whole season and it was a joy to see her have such an incredible race. Heck she was ahead of me for over 130 miles on this day, having averaged 18.0 mph on the bike.

Once onto Park Street again, I was off and running. Just over a 10k to go. I was really getting excited. I was flying down the Lakeshore Path and wished I could run like this forever. I got back to the point with all the signs and this time I looked for as many names and numbers as I could. I saw a few for my friends and a few for Iron Wil. I had hoped to see Wil on race day and was envious of those who did. She took many of us on an amazing ride this summer and for as much inspiration she has given, I wanted to return the favor. I can't wait to be inspired by her again next year.

I past the Inspiration Point once again and the thoughts I had 13 miles ago were no where to be found. I was flying back towards downtown and near the Stadium I ran into TriSaraTops. We had a pretty goofy conversation, but after 12 hours of racing in the cold and rain, how could you not be a little slap happy? We knew we were both going to be Ironmen today, but she had to point out the fact that I was going to be one just a little sooner. It was a blast for me to be a part of her IM adventure throughout the summer, but to catch her smile on race day was even an bigger thrill.

All along the way I saw many of my friends, racing and battling through the day. I could not wait to hear the stories from them. We were about to enter into a fraternity, each member with a different view, but all forged from that same cold, rainy, September Sunday.

Now I began preparing for the unexpected that waited for me ahead. I adjusted my race number and tried to straighten out my hair. In all honesty, I was on an all time high and did not want what I was feeling for the last two hours to end. But the end of my journey was near. One last turn past the Capitol...a push down toward the finish line...


Run splits: 2:18:42/2:05:49
Run total: 4:24:31

Saturday, September 16, 2006

IM WI Race Day - T1 and Bike


I jogged and walked my way up the helix. It was awesome seeing and hearing the crowds cheering us on. Wow that was fun. I heard Jeff out there telling me I had a good swim. I entered into the first transition room, yelled out my number to the volunteers, but got to my bag before they did. I thanked them anyways and moved to the get naked room.

When I got into the changing room, it was packed full of people. There wasn't as much nakedness as I expected, but that's okay. I wasn't in that room for the scenery. I decided to just plop my stuff down by the water cooler. I pulled out my towel and wiped my torso dry. I slipped on my tri jersey and slid my arm warmers over my wrists. Clipped my race belt and number around my waist. Helmet strapped on, glasses on, stuffed my sandwich, pretzels, and cookies into my jersey pocket, downed a glass of water. I bent over to strap my shoes on. Then I threw the wetsuit and towel back in my bag, and dumped it in a pile next to a volunteer. And out the door I went.

As I exited The Terrace, the misty rain and cold hit me again. I fumbled a bit trying to zip up my jersey and jog at the same time. I opted not to wear a shell nor an Under Armour base layer. So I had to roll up the arm warmers just a little higher. I was anxious to see Ferrah again, but had to run pretty much the length of the transition zone. It was nice to see that the racks were not all empty when I jogged through.

I heard the beep as I crossed the mat exiting T1. I made a quick glance of the watch that flashed something in the 9 minute range. SWEET!!! I was once again right on target. I eased down the helix and onto the streets feeling good, but little did I know that that feeling would soon fade.

T1: 09:46


I tried to ease myself into a good rhythm, but with 2000 other riders out there I couldn't get comfortable. My left foot was driving me nuts and would do so for a few miles. I was getting hungry and wanted to start eating my ham sandwich too. So I stayed out of the aero position for the first few miles while I munched on my lunch. I quickly noticed that Ferrah was not all right.

Shhooo Shhooo it couldn't be. Shhooo, Shhooo, Shhooo....Arrgh. My brake pads were rubbing against my wheel. Noooo...All right just jiggle the calipers and....easy....okay....good it stopped. Let's hope this won't be like this all day.

Once I got past the Alliant Energy Center, things changed quickly. The confidence that I had leaving the Terrace seemed to be washing away. I got frustrated early and often. When I wanted to pass, it seemed like someone was already on my left. When I finally got to the left, I would have to sprint and pass packs of bikers all at once. Damn drafting rules. So if you saw a crazy sprinter out there between downtown and Whalen Road, that was probably me. Boy was I frustrated.

I almost always race with minimal external feedback. No average speed, no heart rate monitors, no power numbers. Just keep it simple and race how you feel. About 5 miles out, I took a quick glance at the numbers from the bike computer and I heard the familiar sound of my brake pads rubbing on the wheel. I looked up at the sky raining down on me, breathed in the cold air lashing at my face, and looked down at the goosebumps on my legs. The discomfort in my foot had not subsided yet either. I knew my body was not accustomed to these kind of conditions. I am a sprinter and I wanted the sun and heat.

I sighed and made what was the toughest decision of the day: I wasn't even ten miles into this race and I threw out my goal time out the window, a goal that I had set more than a year ago.

At that point, it was as if I already been beaten by Ironman. This race was longer than anything I had ever done before. The environmental conditions were very unfavorable to me. My bike was not performing well. I remembered what happened at my first half IM race and knew that this race today would present challenges that I had never encountered before; as a matter of fact, it already had in the swim.

Spirit crushed, I continued to grind on. Over the next few miles, I knew that I could not continue on this way.

Frustrated and resigned I finally reached the loop. I wanted to open things up a little. The bike traffic was driving me insane. As I was pulling out some cookies from my back pocket, a motorcycle drives by and snaps my picture. At this point, I thought, WTF, an official? Did I just get penalized? And for what? There was no effing way I could stay behind anyone for four lengths. Arghh. When it rains it pours, huh?

Now I was totally cursing my decision to ever attempt this race. Not only was my mind betraying me, I was fighting mother nature, fighting my own bike, and now race officials? All I could remember was telling myself to just keep pedaling.

I pushed up the hills with a vengeful spirit. As I passed the second water stop, I pitched my Gatorade bottle. Little did I know that I had just made a bad trade as this stop only had water. Just another drop in on ocean of misery. I pulled up to County Hwy G and saw the penalty tent. I wheeled in and talked to the folks in the tent. They had no clue and sent me on my way. Sigh.....

As I got back on the bike, I had to reexamine my situation right then, right there. County Hwy G was a long stretch with no turns where I was able to search into my soul. I allowed myself the right to complain about the weather, but would never ever let any doubts about my ability to finish this race enter my mind. I reached back to massage my hamstring a bit and realized I had tucked a rosary into my shorts. I remembered that my mom and sister wanted to be here on race day, but I knew that they were thinking and praying for me all day. Today I would have to set a new goal: survive the day.

With the hills still ahead of me, I got back to the grind as the cyclists around me started to frustrate me again. I turned onto Route 92 and sprinted up the short climb to avoid the crowd of amateurs stuck in the wrong gear struggling to stay upright.

I continued to slug through the course, battling the wind and persistent rain. I constantly adjusted my brakes to reduce the rubbing. As much as I tried, I could not resist the urge to power up the hills. Up and out of the saddle, I pushed up the climb to Mt. Horeb as the rain-soaked spectators cheered.

The status quo remained: the hordes of riders, the cold, the rain, the rubbing brake pads. I occasionally popped my feet out of the shoes and wiggled the toes to keep the blood flowing through them. I flew down Garfoot Road and warned the folks of my presence on their left. I had taken this hill on wet roads before in June and despite my issues on the bike today, yes, I trusted my ride. A few minutes past the hill I saw a car coming the other way towards the descent I had just flew down and thought, "thank goodness I wasn't a few minutes slower." Things were still going so so as I got to the Cross Plains aid station. I remember the crowd of hockey fans cheering; this cold probably did not bother them a bit.

Next up was the climb up Old Sauk. Once again I got caught up in the crowd support and powered up the hill. That was awesome blowing by everyone like they were standing still and I hoped the second time around would be just as easy. I was expecting the UW tri team in their skivvies somewhere, but I don't blame them for fearing shrinkage. I do remember the drag queens, especially the one with a sign stating: "First come, first serve." Same thing on the climb up Midtown Road. I made sure that after these uphill sprints I brought my heart rate back in line by taking a bite or two of my Clif bars and taking in some fluids.

Next up was Verona where I flew by the crowds and heard my name shouted out in encouragement. It was hard trying to pick out faces in the crowd while going 20 mph and trying to avoid the other cyclists. I was expecting to get blared at by Dennis and his police-grade bull horn, but a simple cheer was enough as I was ready for another sandwich.

As I turned off Verona Avenue and onto Old County Hwy PB, I cycled through the numbers on my computer and saw that my average speed was 18.5. I thought: "What? No way." My mind was a mess that whole first half and yet here I was just off my goal pace. I hit the special needs stop and was greeted by an awesome volunteer while the rain poured down on us. I reached into my bag, swapped bottles of Accelerade, grabbed my PBJ sandwich, and a few Clif bars, offered the volunteer one of my oatmeal cream pie cookies, thanked him, and went on my way. I was feeling all right.

Ironman was a long day and always ebbed and flowed. Well today things seemed to be flowing more than usual. I knew I had to consume a little more food than I had practiced because my body was burning more to try to stay warm. I also knew that I was right on the edge of hypothermia. My toes were cold and I could see the goosebumps on my quads. "Just survive," I told myself. My initial plan was to take in more fluids than usual, and I succeeded. However, on my second lap I was really struggling with diuresis. I kept thinking WTF? I wanted to stay hydrated, but I didn't want to pee that often. Throughout my training, I would urinate once in three or four hours. Now I needed to pee once every half hour. I hopped off my bike found the bushes and did my business, several times...several times too many.

I knew my average speed had come waaayyy down as I was out there just trying to survive the second loop. The constant dismounting on the bike to pee, the constant frustration with my brake pads, the cold, the wind, and the rain, they all added up to a pretty miserable lap. The chain suck on Marsh View Road really tested my mental stability, but I got back on and just kept pedaling. Just survive. I remembered turning onto County Hwy J and how I almost had a mental breakdown here in June. Knowing that I was stronger today than I was in June lifted my spirits for a while. I was flying down the hills, with a bit of recklessness (my max speed was 42.2 mph), and arrogantly muscled up the hills at the urging of the wonderful crowd support.

After I flew up Midtown Road hill, I once again had to pee. I had wasted too much time off my bike and decided not to dismount anymore. So I slowed down and let it rip. I just made sure my bottle of Accelerade was off the frame at the time. A few minutes later I was finally fed up with the brake pads and directed a very audible "You Bitch" at my bike. I yanked on the brake cable and adjusted the calipers. It is never right to berate a lady, so I quickly apologized to Ferrah and the brakes never seemed to be a problem from then on.

I was relieved as I went through Verona. I had avoided the carnage and flat tires that befell many riders out there, including Cassie, Josh, and Jim, another local triathlete. (It wasn't until later that I found out he completed over 130 miles of this race with a broken clavicle.) But then the wind smacked me right in the face as I headed back to downtown. All I could do was keep pedaling. The long stretch on Whalen Road was torture. But then came the Alliant Energy Center parking lot and I knew I would be off the bike soon. I was counting down the miles, trying to avoid the potholes, and then there it was: Lake Monona, The Capitol and the Terrace. I let out a sigh of relief. I knew I was slow on the bike, but now I had to prepare my mind and body to crush the run.

Finally, I was up out of the saddle, and up the helix. I dismounted with one shoe still on. So I paused to remove my other shoe, passed it to the volunteer, handed Ferrah over to the lovely volunteer, and thanked her as I jogged in to the warmth of the Terrace....

Bike: 6:34:13

IM WI Race Day - Pre Race and Swim

Pre Race and Swim

Sunday morning, 3:30. Again, I did not sleep as much as I would have liked, maybe three and a half hours, but I was awake. I was ready.

I grabbed another sandwich for breakfast. Trina, Cassie, and I were chillin' in the kitchen. We all were getting ourselves ready in our own individual way. I had some more mellow stuff on my mp3 player like some Otis Redding, John Coltrane. Trina was getting herself amped up with some Eminem. Cassie had her quintuple espresso shot coffee. I went through my usually Shit, Shower, Shave routine, grabbed my special needs bags, and we were out the door around 4:45.

Trina's boyfriend, Dennis, was our driver and support for the day. Our first stop was to drop off the special needs bags. The place was crawling with athletes and spectators. We dumped our bags and headed over to The Terrace. I dropped off my food into my transition bags and then went to check on Ferrah. I grabbed the grocery bags off of her and got her ready to ride. I walked a bit through transition to familiarize myself with the whole zone. Ferrah would be on the far right by the last light pole.

I finally met Chris. He had been a source of inspiration for me all summer long and I knew I would be following his lead all day. We chatted a bit as we walked back towards the warmth of the Terrace. We wished each other well and parted ways for the day.

I took the two grocery bags from the bike stuffed them so they hung out of my transition bags so I would spot them immediately upon entering the room. I now realized I had forgotten a few things this morning: taking my multivitamin, taking my allergy medication, and my body glide. The first two omissions did not bother me. But no body glide...That might be a problem. So now I was separated from Cassie, Trina, and Dennis for quite some time and was hoping to find them to borrow some body glide from them. No luck. So I headed over to body marking and then down towards the water.

As I am squeezing myself into my wetsuit, I notice the guy next to me pulling on his wetsuit as well.

"Excuse me sir, mind if I get a squirt of your Chamois Butt'r?" He obliged. So I guess this sharing of another guy's chamois butt'r is becoming a habit of mine.

I saw Josh as he was preparing for his start. We wished each other well as I moved over to dump off my dry clothing bag and strolled a little bit closer to the water. I was relieved when I finally saw Trina and Cassie again. We BSed for a few moments and inched closer towards the water. Josh and the pros were off and swimming already. Trina moved into the water first while Cassie and I hung back just an extra minute. We shouted over a caught Mickey's attention and got a picture taken just a few feet before the water's edge.

"One minute.....WHO WANTS TO BE AN IRONMAN TODAY?" blared the announcer.

I doggie paddled out into the water, took a breathe, and then....


Clicked the watch, breathed in deep, dove forward, stroked, go...

Okay people, the horror stories about an Ironman swim are mostly true. At over 2400 athletes, the 2006 IM WI was the largest field to ever start a race. It was definitely a contact sport out there.

I started waaayy to the right, but I eventually merged into the mess. I was kicked and groped pretty much the entire first half mile. As I approached the first buoy, I was about 10 meters away from the buoy and came to a complete stand still. I pretty much treaded water towards the next buoy while trying to navigate through the masses.

As we made the turn at the next buoy, we were greeted by the wind and chop.

Holy Crap!!! Where's my dramamine...

So now most of my thoughts turned to survival. My plans had to be changed from swimming strong and trying to race to avoid getting the snot beat out of me or drowning under the waves.

After a few strokes I was able to synchronize my stroke and breathing to the waves. That lasted, oh, all of five seconds as I had to slow up yet again as the mass of bodies collected in front of me. About 3/4 of a mile into the swim...thump. I had gotten kicked in the face and my goggles came sliding down. Ugh. So I breaststroke kick a bit while trying to secure the goggles back on my face. Meanwhile waves kept crashing over me and the sharks were still thrashing around. Fun...

Folks just remember these two simple pieces of advice: Don't freak out in the water and breathe, normally.

So I encountered more kicking, more groping, and not enough open swimming lanes. I tried several times to "follow my lead blocker" and draft behind someone, but they seemed to want to swim in a direction that I did not want to go.

For most of the swim, I swam passively. I would take a few strokes then let up. I allowed the aggressive swimmers to pass by me while I let the blind swimmers cut in front of me. Only once did I get upset. That happened when my ankle was physically grabbed. I switched from my weak flutter kick to my mortal-kombat-fatality breaststroke kick. I grazed him with my foot as a warning shot, but then slowed up to let him go by. Have a nice day buddy!!!

The second loop was not as bad. To keep my mind from getting too frustrated about the swimming conditions, I tried to calculate the amount of extra distance I covered. Let me tell you the square root of 68 was not easy to calculate during that swim. So by the end of the swim I estimated I swam an extra 90 meters or so. That would equate to roughly an extra 2 minutes. So as I exited the water I glanced at my watch which read just over 1:21. AWESOME!!! I was pretty much right on target.

The wetsuit peeling zone was a bit slippery as I almost wiped out. Luckily I landed safely on my butt, let the strippers do their job, thanked them, asked if I could tip them, then went on my way, full of confidence...

Swim: 1:21:40

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pre IM WI - Friday/Saturday

Friday morning rolls around and we are all ready for some more fun. Josh headed out to ride the loop, while Cassie, Trina, and I headed downtown. Trina got another ART massage while Cassie and I headed over to Machinery Row to get a few minor bike adjustments - new brake pads for me and shift cable adjustments for Cassie. Cassie found out there were some bigger issues with her bike, but there was nothing she could do at this point. Afterwards we headed into The Terrace for a little IM mechandise shopping. Next we hustled away from the crowds and grabbed a quick lunch from Jimmy John's before meeting Bruce for a drive on the bike course.

The radio was playing Ironman, by Black Sabbath and it really got us going. After driving the course, Cassie and I rode for about 45 minutes to make sure our bikes were functioning well. A quick shower, another drive back to The Terrace, and we were at the dinner hall buzzing with wannabe IM athletes. A whole crowd of us from C-Town were there trying to soak it all in. I wished I could have met some of the other bloggers at dinner at Stu's abode that night. It sounded like loads of fun. But no biggie, since I would meet many of them on Sunday.

Later that evening, Trina, Cassie, Josh, and I grabbed some ice cream. As we sat outside it became apparent that we were in for some nasty weather. The wind picked up and the air started to bite. We knew that this was the inclement weather that was in the forecast. We all hoped it would blow over before Sunday, but I knew better.

When we finally got back to my aunt and uncle's, I went out to the garage to spend some quality time with Ferrah, my bike. (By the way, my Felt F1C has been named Ferrah. If anyone wants an explanation leave me a comment and I'll tell you the inspiration of that name.) I pre-glued my spares and gave my bike a good cleaning. I had a bit too much energy and did not sleep much again; I was ready for Sunday but would have one more day to wait.

Saturday morning I got up again with less sleep than I had hoped. After some breakfast, I went out to the garage to get my spare tires ready. And for the first time all week, I become frustrated. I could not find a good way to secure my two spare tires. Holy crap was I getting pissed off. And I wanted to get in a quick run in the morning as well too. Well Cassie finally told me to get a hold of myself. Breathe...okay so I decided to shove a spare with some tools into a bike bag and throw the other tire into the special needs bag. I was rolling the dice that I would not need that second tire before mile 58. But crap that did episode take me out of my game.

The damage was done as I had lost my cool; it threw me off all day. But things were about to get a bit more interesting. We rolled downtown to drop off our bikes. When we got there we felt something was just not right. I racked my bike, covered up the saddle and aerobars with some bags (forgot about TriEric's tip to bring extra swimming caps) and then regrouped with my IM sisters. We ran into a few other C-Town athletes and then we realized we had messed up - our transition bags had yet to be packed.

Oh my...shit... shit... All right, all right. Breathe...BREATHE!!!! Okay, no time for lunch. The plan...Let's get those bags packed and hustle back here. We'll be fine...Calm down....Breathe...

Luckily the three of us knew what we were doing and what we needed. We threw all our gear into the bags, double checked with each other and hopped back into the car. I was still a bit frazzled as my driving certainly wasn't the safest at that time.

I hadn't worn my racing flats in a month so I slipped my orthotics into those shoes and wore those on my way back downtown. We got back into The Terrace and scoped out the scene. We walked through the hordes of people and dropped off our bags. We also tried to figure out our route through the maze of rooms that we would need to go through during transition. Swim to bike bags here, the get naked room, enter bike to run room over there, back into the get naked room, out to the bikes. Check. I ran into Iron Wil again and we exchanged pleasantries; she was floating on air and seemed ready to go.

We headed back to the Great Dane for a really late lunch or really early dinner. Either way we were fortunate that it worked out quite well, timing wise. We wrapped up our hearty meal around 16:00. I attended Mass that evening and all the misadventures from the day seemed to ease away.

Now back at the house, it was time to get my picnic lunch ready for Sunday. Ham sandwich...check. Peanut butter jelly...check. Pretzels...check. Cookies...check. Three bottles of Accelerade...check. A couple of Clif bars...check. Eight Carb Boom gels...check. Everything else I would want would be grabbed at the aid stations. I threw a few things into my special needs bags -spare tire for the bike and socks in a Ziploc for the run - and let out a sigh of relief. Everything was pretty much prepared and ready to go.

I had never been out on the run course, so Cassie and I watched some of the podcasts from Stu. Now time to kick back and watch some football. OSU v Texas. What a game for the Buckeyes!!! I stayed up until it was over. My relatives were just getting back from dinner and so I said goodnight to them. I turned the lights out, laid my head back, and waited for the next morning to arrive...

Pre IM WI - Wednesday/Thursday

I started this blog to track my Ironman journey. I hope someday years from now I can reread what I wrote and realize what an incredible journey I had in the summer of 2006. This recap will be long and filled with perhaps too much detail as I try to recount as much as I can, for my own sake. So grab a pumpkin spice latte or two and read away.

In actuality, this Ironman story started in September 2005. I knew that if I was ever going to do an Ironman, it would be IM WI and it would have to be 2006. After a race in September 2005, Trina and Cassie, my IM WI sisters, and I decided to sign up. A quick call to my aunt and uncle to ask for some lodging at their house and it was a go. Monday morning the "submit" button was clicked, the credit card was billed, and the journey was on.

Fast forward to IM race week. Tuesday night before the race, I did not sleep much. I was trying to finish some laundry and pack it for the trip. The weather forecast was calling for a high in the 60s and rain in Madison on Sunday and I wanted to be prepared for everything from 95 degrees and scorching sun to 40 degrees and snow. In addition, I was preparing for a tough decision that I would have to make in the morning.

Wednesday morning rolled around and at 8:00 I got a call from Trina. She had gotten sick from a virus over the weekend and sounded dreadful during our phone conversations on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday morning she sounded great, 100% miraculously better, and was ready to go. We had planned to take two cars between four people (My two IM WI sisters, Josh - the favorite local pro, and me) but I had to make the tough call of "quarantining" Trina and asked her to drive in her own car. Believe me, it was not an easy decision, but I did what I thought was best for all of us. In hindsight it was probably a good decision as my car was jam packed with just Cassie's and my gear. We left about an hour and a half later than expected, but we were not in too much of a hurry. It was all good.

Nothing real noteworthy occurred during our drive, which was a good thing. We did see a pet shop that had a sign for "Exotic Monkeys" for sale. The store was closed though. We rolled into my aunt and uncle's place in the evening, unpacked and unwound. Bruce, another CTC member, had already arrived in WI and he came over to talk about the next few days. After chatting a bit, we were all ready for some sleep.

We all tried to sleep as much as we could, but we wanted to get down to the Gatorade swim before 10:00. Being the light sleeper that I am, I probably managed about 6 hours of sleep, but woke up feeling pretty good. We grabbed some breakfast and were at Monona Terrace before 10:00. We got marked, gave our gear to the bag check folks, and jumped in the water. Our spirits were high as we swam an easy mile. We all had a sense of calm as everything seemed to be aligning for us. The sun was out, the water was at a perfect wetsuit temperature, no waves, and we all felt strong during our swim. We then eased ourselves back into The Terrace for registration.

Josh had the perks of being a pro and was in and out before we were even into the registration room. The line wasn't too bad, though. When I finally sat down to go over the packet with the registration lady, a chill ran down my spine as I realized months of training were about to end with the race of my life. I received my all-important wristband and timing chip. Wow, I was really here.

After registration, we headed over to The Great Dane restaurant/brewery for lunch. Fish tacos, chicken pot pie, and beer. MMMmmmm. Lunch did not last long as we had a mission for the afternoon. Cassie decided to use one of my wheelsets, but she needed to find a 12-25 cassette with Campy spacing that would fit on Shimano splines. Who in the world would have one of these in stock? Well back at The Terrace, we met up with Mickey, who is absolutely The Man. One of his Madison buddies made a few calls and found one at the Yellow Jersey Bike Shop a few blocks away. Mickey decided to make the walk with us. All day he had been pointing out and introducing us to different folks.

Hey, that guy there is the president of Ironman... there's Paul Huddle and Paula Newby Fraser... I want you to meet the guy who owns Inside Out Sports... This guy runs Ironman live; can you take a picture of us... Oh, we have to stop by and talk to the Baker's cookie guy. It was like that all day and all weekend and was that fun. I can honestly say that without Mickey in Madison, my race weekend would not have been as awesome as it was.

The bike shop was trippy. The owner wore a light purple shirt with black slacks, had a black tie tucked into his shirt, and his hair clipped back with a women's clip. He was probably in the middle of a case of the munchies, but he certainly knew his stuff regarding bicycles; we got what we needed too.

Trina, Cassie, and Josh then headed back, but I stayed downtown to meet up with some more celebrities. I met RunBubbaRun, IronWil, Mr. Wil, and TriSaraTops before we headed over to a power presentation hosted by Stu. There I met Thomps and RobbyB as well. So after the presentation, TriSaraTops and I head back across town and we munched on some pizza with Trina, Cassie, and Josh. Soon it was lights out in preparation for another fine day.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I have finally returned home. And after twelve and a half hours of racing on Sunday, I have returned home an Ironman. Sit tight as I will begin the recap soon.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Wish You Were Here

Cleveland Triathlon Club Members at the IM WI athlete dinner.

Thanks everyone for their support.

From: IM WI 2006 #477.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


So yes it is almost 2:30 in the morning and I am still awake. I depart for Wisconsin in seven hours. Just a reminder that if you are going to pack for a trip to a race, make sure the socks you want are clean. Oh, I think the dryer just stopped. Safe travels.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Ironman Wisconsin 2006 is almost here. Along the way, I have been fortunate to hear about the experiences of some folks making the same journey to Madison. I've thrown together a few songs here in their honor.


Unwritten, by Natasha Bedingfield.
He's upgrading his Man Card to an IronMan Card.


Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen.
Anyone who likes mile repeats was born to run.


Right Now, by Van Halen.
He has broken down and analyzed this race so thoroughly. He's more than ready for the things he can't control that Ironman will be throwing at him.


Seven Nation Army, by The White Stripes.
She's listed The White Stripes as one of her favorite musical artists. Nothing's going to hold her back on race day.


Mama Said Knock You Out, by LL Cool J.
He's an Ironman veteran who had a rough day at IMCdA in June, but is coming back this year to race at IM WI. He's going to TKO that race in a few days.


Beautiful Day, by U2.
The past two years he has braved the elements to finish strong at IM WI. This year, I have no doubt he's got a PR.

Iron Wil:

Time of Your Life, by Greenday.
Wil has been a source of inspiration for me all year long. I don't know how she does the things she does.


The Adventure, by Angels and Airwaves.
I've enjoyed following her amazing adventure. It has been a privilege for me to be a part of it.

Me (aka qcmier):

Crazy Train, by Ozzy Osbourne
I've been riding a crazy train.

I know there will be more than 2000 other folks who will be making the journey to IM WI. Everyone has a story to tell. They're all heroes.

And for all those who have been walking with me.

Thank You.