OK, so its now Tuesday so I have had a few days to let things calm down and soak in. I am still in a little pain (read, lots of pain, legs are killing me !!) This is a long report as usual with a few pictures. At least you don’t need the build up this time as the blog has been continuous.
Can I also just say this is an AMAZING event to do, they had 3500 volunteers and the day couldn’t have been organised better in my eyes, I loved the day, the course was tough but fair, the spectators superb and at the right locations at the right time. Wisconsin is beautiful and the race exploits the chance to show outsiders what else there is outside of the town of Madison.
Kelly loved the US for a race and we will be back to do others, I only wished I had others to race with as thats what makes it special for me on race day.
The hotel wasn’t doing breakfast early enough so I had my pre bought Subway ham sandwich and banana washed down with Gatorade Extreme and a chocolate Hi5 sports bar. Tried to do this by 4.30 so I could settle down and get my swim clothing ready and hopefully go to the toilet at the hotel rather than queue up for ages at the race venue.
We had sneakily left our car at the Monona terrace the night before as there was no parking allowed on the day, as long as it didn’t get towed it would give Kelly somewhere to sleep and rest during the long day instead of having to come back to the hotel each time. This worked a treat as she could uses it to drop gear as well and after the race I got to load everything including bike into it.
So we got on the bus laid on for the athletes and I was setting up my bike within 30 mins, very well organised and painless. It was very busy at 5.30am, so we made sure we got some scenery in as well.
Got myself changed and down to the swim start, due to the small entrance into the water they try to get you in really early, the pro’s were going off at 6.50am but I was in the water from 6.40am, the bonus was I went straight to the ski ramp and hung on for 19 mins otherwise I would have been knackered.
The swim start plan was to swim from the water-ski ramp and try and get a free spot as soon as we swam past it, I was kicked in my right ankle 3 secs after we started which I felt the whole day, it didn’t affect the race at all but gave me something to think about for the next hour. The unusual feature of this IM swim is the continuous swim too, no rest after the first lap and no beach run.
My breathing was pretty steady even though I got beat about for the first 1000m, nothing untoward, I was trying to just swim long which isn’t easy when you are being swum over but after the first 1000m I found a bit of space and the rest of the swim was pretty lightweight to be honest, it got a little bit more physical in the last 600m but that was because by that time I had got to the inside line and was protecting my drafts. I forgot to check the clock as I exited as I wanted to get my wetsuit off before I got to the suit strippers but I was out in 1.01, I don’t think I will ever be happy until I get a 58min swim but I will take it here. From looking at the pro and fast AG’s times it looks a pretty accurate course.
What can you say about the transition area, except its, well large. You get to the strippers after about 100m, then you run up 3 stories of this
which is a 3 storey car park ramp with lots of support on it, spectators pack this out like a TdeF styley hill which is quite cool as your heart rate is sky rocketing and you are wondering why the run started so early ! This takes forever, then in through the doors of the convention centre to Room 1, pick up bag, run out to room 2, helper shouts at me, I sit down, dump my stuff and put everything on, grab water on the way out, exit the convention centre and towards the long bike park, Kelly is shouting at me so I give a wave and continue. The actual bike area is massive so its a bit bambi like in the shoes but by the time I get to my bike, its already waiting and then handed to me.
Time in transition is 6 mins, over the moon, my target was 7, which means I am now back on track for being out on the bike in 1.07 😉
I thought the weather today was going to be pretty much perfect for the bike, its not too hot, can’t feel too much breeze and I feel good, haha, shame I didn’t have a crystal ball.
After exiting the helix you go about a mile before you hit the ‘no pass’ zone which lasts about 3/4 mile and gives you a chance to get the hear rate down, this didn’t really happen and that pretty much set the tone for the first lap. I should have been down to around 140-145 but was still at 155+ after 10 miles, I knew the course was tough and the hard parts were still to come. The course layout is a 14 mile ride out to a 42 mile loop that you do twice and then return. Its described as tough, rolling with 3 main climbs on each of the 42 mile loops. To be honest the climbs aren’t really the issue, its the fact that there are continuous hills in between the climbs ! This is the elevation from my Garmin.
The first lap I was constantly looking at my speed, the plan was to get above 20.6 mph, that gives me a 5.25 split and then I could hit the run aiming at a sub 3.30. Problem was I was feeling good and after the first lap I was still averaging 21.7 which is more like 5.08. The climbs were slow and steady but not tough and the down hills were great, the undulating in between bits were OK, I started to think why did I even consider this course as a beast, this was easy. I got to the second main climb on the first lap and some guy shouted that I was 60th, that lifted me, I was feeling OK but cos I was pushing so hard I at least wanted to know it was worth it, and now it was.
Coming through Verona for the next lap I was hoping Kelly had managed to get the free shuttle bus put on the for the supporters, as I cruised down the main street I saw her in her pirate top shouting, I felt good to know she was OK and out on the course, right, next lap.
At this point the wind was starting to pick up and as I left Verona the first signs of going out too hard were starting to show, slight head wind and slight uphill and the speed was coming down to 18mph, I suppose if I had used power I would have realised that this wasn’t an issue as the course conditions were getting worse. I was still fuelling well but coming to the end of my own gels I grabbed a couple off one of the feed stations and used one straight off, chocolate, lol, I nearly puked there and then, I forgot Powerbar made chocolate and latte gels and I hadn’t used them before, I just rinsed my mouth with water and carried on, must remember to grab more than 2 and hope I get a plain one next time.
After about another 5 or so miles I started feeling a pain in my right knee, its the ‘no ACL’ knee so it sometimes gives me jip, just not in a race, its wierd, all I have to do it twist the knee so it clicks and releases the pain but it took me 10 miles to decide to get off and waste a minute with my feet on the floor, this also gave me a chance to get my heart rate down as well, in fact it was then that I realised that my HR was already down, I felt like I was pushing hard and my legs were in pain in the quads but my heart rate was around the 135 mark, the only way I could get it to the right level on the final stretch was going up hill and even then it wasn’t high enough, I still don’t know what was wrong, but I knew I just wanted to get off and the end couldn’t come soon enough, the average was dropping as the wind was increasing, downhills were becoming hairier, riding a disc and 808 made some of the descents uncomfortable but the speed was needed to get up the other sides so I couldn’t really back off.
The second loop completed , it was the final 14 miles home, this was a blessing as most of it was with the wind and I needed the help, I started to think of the run, I knew my legs were hurting but I also knew that different muscles were gonna come into play now so I was still positive. As we hit the ‘no pass’ zone again on the way home I passed a guy running with his bike, shoes off and a flat front tyre, we must have had 2 miles still to go, he was either not thinking straight or had run out of tubes, I felt for him but couldn’t help so just kept on. I must pray to the Tri Gods a number of times a race not to have punctures and got back to T2 this time in one piece.
My time was 5.15, which I was over the moon with, I had averaged 21.6 at Roth which is a lightening fast course supposedly but I made it 3 miles short so this was way better as the course was 112.5, just needed to bang out a sub 3.30 now.
The second transition isn’t as bad as the first as we get to cycle up the helix on the way, in, the bike was taken off me and I was sent into the convention centre, pick up bag in one room and then to the next room, dump my stuff, the guy says I am in the top 40-50 which makes me feel good, glasses, hat, trainers, socks and out. As you exit the centre I was jumped on by about 8 girls who covered me in suntan cream, fantastic and then into the toilet. time was just over 3 mins, again, happy.
Starting out at whatever pace comes means that if I start quick I can bank a few minutes, the pace is about 7.15’s but I know I need to stop to stretch out my back as I did in Roth so I did this early. The pain in my back lasted about 3-4 miles but didn’t really slow me. The course is fairly flat except for a significant climb each lap, it takes in the best of Madison town and we even get to run around the pitch at the famous Camp Randall college ground twice, this was orsum !!
obviously it wasn’t full but it is HUGE !!
At mile 5 and 18 we got to run up Observatory Hill, this was steep and was going to hurt so I power walked up it both times, this was my plan before I started and I didn’t feel like it made a huge difference in time and I don’t run uphills too well anyway so worked for me. I was trying to stay under the 8 mins per mile pace which before the end of the first lap started to slip away from me around mile 11, it heads uphill in the last 2 miles per lap and I felt if I could just get to the halfway mark in 1.45 I would still be there or thereabouts. I think it was also about mile 12 I noticed I was overheating, it felt hot but I knew I had run better in hotter weather, this was the bike leg coming back to bite me on the ass, I was feeling dizzy and couldn’t push any harder.
So I changed my targets, make them more short term, first one, get to the turnaround.
The second lap wasn’t something I was looking forward to, I knew I was tired and getting hot, I kept thinking about the ‘kick from 8 miles’ speech I had given myself the day before, this was NOT going to happen, I had to get to that point first without walking, I was determined to do 18 miles before I walked, I had to push so hard to keep the momentum, I was now taking 4 cups of water at each aid station, 2 in me and 2 on me, I had to cool down, light headed and tired I had to think straight. Lack of concentration could really cost me the place I wanted for Hawaii. I still didn’t know where I was in my AG.
I got to the Observatory Hill again and power walked it, while climbing here I decided that I had enough in me to kick from 5 miles out and it was a good target as it was the final far point turnaround, I would reward myself by walking through each aid station between now and then, that gave me 3 stations and I knew it would result in a loss of another 3-5 minutes, I now knew the sub 10 had gone, I had done the first lap in 1.45 and at the turnaround I saw the clock, I worked out I had to do a 1.46 return to get under 10, so the new target was do not let anyone in my AG overtake me. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that you have your age marked on your calf so as I got to people or they overtook me you knew whether they were in your AG. Problem was on the second lap I didn’t know if they were on their first or second so I just decided to overtake as many as possible.
At mile 21 I mentally put myself on my favourite 5 miler at home and promised that I wouldn’t walk, the pain in my quads made me laugh, I knew for the next week I wouldn’t be able to walk properly but I didn’t care, once over the line it was over. the mantra was, ‘How much do you want this slot ?’ repeated over and over, in my head I possibly thought it was gone but last year was 10.13 and I was under that.
On a positive note I was passing loads of M35 age groupers and overtook a couple of female pro’s, maybe I wasn’t doing that bad, it was a hot day afterall, possibly the times would be slower, at one point I even talked myself into being as high as 3rd in my AG, lol ! anything to keep it going. Last 2 miles, I turned my number to the front, I was getting irked at being called ‘skull man’ so I decided I needed some encouragement by people calling my name, that worked, 8 min miles were back, still overtaking M35’s, I counted at least 8 in the last 5 miles, it turns out only 1 of them was on the second lap as he came in 50 secs behind me, thing is, that could have been the one I needed.
The last mile was the hardest and easiest, there was no way I was going to stop and walk but the pain was excruciating in my quads, I knew a collapse was inevitable over the line, just don’t ruin the photo haha. I was searching for Kelly at the end, she had the Union Flag, blew her a kiss and grabbed the flag and sprinted down the chute in case I was being chased, I could see the time and didn’t know if it had been adjusted for the pro’s yet, 10.05, I hoped it hadn’t but I really knew it had.
I crossed the line and was rescued by 2 helpers, in a very short space of time I had been handed a t-shirt, a hat, my finish times/splits and placings on a sticker attached to my hat, a space blanket, a stationary finisher photo and then deposited in the athlete village, this was EXCELLENT organisation. I met up with Stephen Lord in the food area who had come 3rd in our AG and was happy with his race. I also spoke to one of the female pro’s who had had a hard race and wasn’t feeling too cool, it wasn’t just me then.
By now I knew I was 12th in my AG which gave me a positive outlook as there had been 11 places last year and it had rolled to 13th.
This was possibly one of the hardest IM’s I have done due to the combination of the bike and run elevations and the aim of trying to qualify, I went out too hard on the bike and suffered for it on the run, lessons learned again, I seem to learn something new every time, one of the biggest things is I have to stop telling myself when I miss a training session I am getting a good recovery, I have to find the middle ground.
Qualifying for Hawaii.
The search continues, because of the extra entrants in other age groups our slots were reduced to 8 and rolled to 10. But this isn’t the point, if I want to get there I have to get into the slots, roll down isn’t the place to be, it would be a bonus at best. I have already made noises about doing Switzerland next year, Chester Tri and the pirates will both be there so lots of support and good banter but a tough track to qualify from, aren’t they all !! I am not so upset as last year at Lanza, I didn’t deserve this one, I got it wrong, I needed the same split on the bike but to be in better shape to run off the back. I will be back.
Finally, the support once again was orsum ! from Chester to friends, pirate to family it was great to see all the texts, threads and emails afterwards wishing me luck, watching with baited breath to see if I made the slots, I really appreciate it and love the thought of people watching while I am racing, it really does make a difference, even if you can’t push any harder it stops the slow down.