While it may not seem like it at first, this is truly a race report for Ironman Wisconsin. As the œstory develops “ hopefully the need for all the details and background will be apparent and perhaps a bit humorous.
Last December when I signed up for a community fund slot for IMWI in a Percocet Haze “ I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. I figured some little bump in the road like foot surgery would only side line my training for a few weeks at most. That œfact coupled with the tax write off, and very bad, but motivating memories of IMWI and IMFL “ made Ironman Wisconsin the perfect opportunity for redemption.
When reality slammed in: 190 pounds (10 pounds over normal race weight), 1st run 3/27/2010 (3 and a half minutes), 1st swim 2/23/2010 (Pull only, no right foot push offs. I was regretting the choice to sign up (Drugs are bad mmmmkay). The only redeeming quality of my layoff was that I had been allowed to start biking on 1/27 “ a whooping 30 minutes @ 100 watts.
In mid-April as I watched my fitness slowly return, and experienced the joy of running with one’s wife getting destroyed by my wife while running with her, I decided that any time, power, or place goal for Ironman would simply be stupid. I settled on one goal that would satisfy my ego driven need for redemption over 2009 “ and would prove to be something fairly heroic when examined with consideration for my first major injury ever.
Run the entire marathon. 4 hours, 4:15, 3:45 “ as long as I did not resort to walking to finish the race, I would be happy.
Fast forward to 8/21/2010 “ 4 months have passed. Many miles of training have been logged, a new bike has been purchased, nearly 20 pounds have been lost, a new HIM PR is in the books “ things are going well. Forward one day “ Pigman is a disaster, while I finished “ it is essentially a DNF. I quit at mile 5, and only finished because the opportunity to support my wife also meant an opportunity to delay the breakdown.
The next 2 weeks are spent as an emotional basket case “ I’m sure I was intolerable. Memories of 2009 haunt my waking moments and even my dreams. Even after a few common sense adjustments to my final weeks of training “ my emotions continue to spiral out of control as workout after workout is œBleh and feels flat “ power and pace (running/swimming) are not bad, but I feel terrible. After every workout I scour my training logs searching for some morsel of reassurance that I’ve felt like this before “ but all I can find are things like œPut that workout in a bottle. œIM Effort “ 5 hours @ 230 watts “ but never œFelt like day old diarrhea smells. I find myself with no choice but to keep following the plan that worked in 2006 to 2008 “ this plan includes excluding caffeine from my diet 2 weeks out.
September 4, 2010 “ I buckle. As I’m driving home from a swim that felt like total ass “ I find tears streaming down my face and I blurt out to Mary: œI can’t take another race like last year, this is so retarded. I can’t handle it. I can’t believe I’ve done so much shit right this year to fall on my face for the third taper in a row. This isn’t fun, I’m drinking a pot of coffee when I get home “ screw this. I rate my chances of finishing Ironman Wisconsin at about 15%. I arrive home and drink only two cups of coffee.
2 cups before this bike ride. Felt really good. Not rockstar good, but good!!!
Never again will I give up coffee.
Every day gets better. My thoughts drift towards positive thinking œSo what do I need to do on Sunday to hit a home run? A plan is established that will put me in a position to accomplish my goal of running the marathon. Essentially: Swim easy, bike easy until Mt Horeb, build to IM effort, and hold until T2. Let the terrain carry me through the first two miles of the run, than settle into E-Pace (7:45). Under no circumstances allow myself to enter race mode until the second loop of the run.
After a swim on Friday morning, I rate it 50% chance of Rock Star. Saturday morning 95%.
Race day started out uneventfully “ the alarms in the hotel went off at 4, 4:05 and 4:10 AM to make sure I was up. Started the day out with two cups of freshly ground coffee “ yes I was totally anal and brought MY coffee and coffee machine from home. Foodwise “ just 3 pieces of Breads for Life Soya Sunflower bread toast with Kallas Honey + Maranatha PB.
I met my friend Tbone in the hotel lobby @ 4:50 and walked from the hotel to the shuttle buses.
Did the usual race site stuff: Body marking, pumped tires (115 F/120 R), zero’d power meter “ allowed OCD to kick in and checked everything like 4 times.
After that I found Mary inside Monona Terrace and chilled out for a bit before changing into my Kiwami Konami. We strolled down to water level and hung out with friends who were doing the race, changed into our wetsuits, visited the porta potties, etc. During this time I downed 2 PowerGel’s and about a bottle of plain water.
In every Ironman prior to this one, I have always searched out other swimmers. I look for a cluster of guys with Swedish goggles and get in with them. When the cannon goes off, I accelerate with them and get out of the scrum. This year the plan was to avoid those folks. Start 10 yards or so off the line and veer in.
I figured this would let me take my time in getting started and settle into my swim. I thought this would probably cost me 10 seconds or so + the draft. Since I don’t find much value in drafting on the swim “ this seemed like nice idea.
Unfortunately all the other swimmers seem to have had the exact same though. By the first turn buoy I found myself in the midst of a group of folks. œEither I’m swimming REALLY slow, or everybody is taking their time. At first I was tempted to surge for a few minutes and get away from the crowd “ fortunately I quickly played through my game plan and thought about my goals for the day “ and just focused on staying clear of the crowd and plodding along.
I stayed just wide of the group for most of the swim, occasionally pulling even with the lead swimmer of the pack and occasionally nearly falling down behind the last guy “ but always 5 to 10 feet wide in clear water “ doing my own thing.
At about 26 minutes I finished the first lap, and the group I was swimming œwith caught the œfirst pro. The math on the stagger start suggested to me that this could be Justin Henkel. The next thought was “ œI wonder if he’d trade swim lessons for bike lessons.
The rest of the swim was uneventful “ I spent about 10 minutes trying to pee, and another 10 minutes fighting off the usual IM swim cramp in my right calf (8/8 baby!).
I hit shore and went right to the wetsuit strippers. They peeled my suit off, and I proceeded up the helix. I was thrilled to be heading to the changing area with my head and mind fully engaged with no disorientation “ unlike both Ironmans last year and Pigman this year. The mantra was œDon’t rush “ just move with purpose
I was rolling down the helix in what seemed like record time. The plan for me to œcoast the first 10 to 15 minutes, and then roll easy until Mount Horeb “ trying to keep the real time watts under 220. It was disheartening to watch as people rolled by one after the other. At some point Craig Lanza (who beat me out of the water, but I passed during transition) “ rolled up and didn’t blow by me. We exchanged some encouragement and proceeded to swap back and forth for several miles. A little before Verona Matt and another guy caught us. The four of us fell into a line that stretched about 40 to 50 meters long, with me at the end.
I figured as long as it didn’t force me outside of my plan this was a good situation. That œsituation last for about a whole 5 minutes “ shortly after we turned on to Paoli road a draft marshal rolled up and gave me a red card. When I asked incredulously œAre you dinging me for during the turn, or what? His response was simply œYou were drafting somewhere back there. And he gestured back towards Fireman’s park. No “ œWell you entered the draft zone and failed to pass, or you are closer than 7 meters “ just œBack there somewhere. Never mind “ the 40 odd meters of evenly spaced road we were consuming as he rolled up to Craig, I passed Craig and put in a stupid surge to pass Matt and the other guy. As I passed Matt I let spill a string of obscenities that accurately described my feelings, but were rather inappropriate “ and told him, he was probably going to get dinged too. The words horse, call, and a four letter word that described how I felt during most of my taper were combined in several interesting phrases.
My surge carried me past the 4th guy “ and my emotions told me to get out of the situation. Guy #4 passed me back “ and motored ahead towards Sugar River road “ where Mr. Marshall caught him and dinged him as well “ which was actually a totally unsafe situation and nearly took me out as I over took them sharing words. The Ironic part of the whole situation is “ that Guy #4 was basically at the front “ the entire time except when I stormed by in an emotional temper tantrum.
Fortunately my brain kicked in and got me back on the plan. Matt and Guy #4 quickly rolled away. I powered along towards Mount Horeb – Getting caught by Craig on most uphills, and catching and passing him on the flats “ as I slaved myself to my power meter.
Shortly after I turned onto Highway 92 “ I was passed by Joe Kurian. The only thing I could muster was œHey Joe “ as my brain kept wrestling with my emotions and keeping them in check as I kept moving backwards through the field and the added weight of a four minute penalty.
I climbed into Mount Horeb and decided that even though I felt OK “ and it was OK to move to the next phase of the bike plan (220 to 230 real time watts as a target, not a cap) “ I decided that since Cross plains and the penalty tent were only 30 minutes away at most, with some good rollers in-between “ I’d keep riding easy until after Garfoot.
After Garfoot “ I decided it was time to Shake and Bake. As I let my legs unwind, I discovered that I felt surprisingly good. I brought the power up and started riding “ working to keep the real time watts up, but safe.
Here is probably a good time to interject with my nutrition plan for the race. I mixed two 20 ounce bottles with 10 PowerGels and 7 Saltstick tablets, topped off with water. I started the race with one on my bike, and intended to switch at special needs. I also had a baggie with a few extra salt tabs and Ibuprofen in a pocket. My plan was to take a hit off the gel bottle every 20 minutes, chase it with water; and than a sip of plain water on the œoff 10 minute mark. The other key point of the nutrition plan was to make sure to drink enough water, but not drain the water bottle between aid stations “ as that would creep up to nearly double the fluid intake I’ve trained with. My plan was to hit each aid station with about a 1/3 left of water “ empty it on my back, chest, and legs and replace the bottle with a fresh one. At some point as I was cycling through the screens on my bike computer I realized that my kJ energy expenditure was higher than I expected, and that with 2000 calories I was probably going to be at less than 50% input vs. output “ which from training I know that I run better when I stay at or just above 50%. The next aid station I grabbed another gel and put that in my stomach.
Back to the race¦
I pulled into the penalty tent in cross plains, got my mark of shame and spent a few minutes commiserating with Matt, Craig and guy #4. I was a bit disheartened to see that Matt left the tent two and a half minutes ahead of me “ two plus minutes in like 10 miles “ holy crap.
The tent volunteer counted my penalty down and sent me on my way. I rode the back stretch of the course to plan. The feedback from the power meter combined with my perceived exertion, and the fact that I was actually passing people buoyed my spirits. My emotions went from being a caged cougar ready to kill someone, to being a bad ass co-pilot.
I cruised through the remainder of the ride without much highlight. I focused on keeping the watts up, the nutrition coming in, and having fun. I spent pretty much the last 60 miles of the bike with a huge grin “ I was having fun. I gave encouragement to everyone that I passed. The only exceptions was that my seat was getting REALLY uncomfortable “ I noticed that one prong of my Adamo saddle had drooped, so my saddle surface was not even. I had this happen once before on a training ride “ it’s the result of being a bit over eager on tightening the seat clamp “ Opps.
The other exception was that I received a few choice words about my tendency to be cautious going into turns from teammate Clay Chase. He’s right; my only defense is that doing a human rag doll at 40 some miles per hour tends to leave some emotional baggage. Something to work on; I’ve carried those bags since May of 2009 “ they aren’t cool anymore.
At the close of the second loop coming back into Madison, the tailwind made it hard to keep my wattage up “ just like 2008. I didn’t care too much because the run was hanging out there, but at this point I *needed* to get off my bike “ the saddle was just starting to get unbearable.
I rolled into transition and hit the ground running. The first thought in my mind was œDamn “ it’s actually happening “ I feel good. I focused on getting through transition quick, but not rushing or doing anything stupid. I stopped for sunscreen
I started the run in no particular rush. I wanted my Garmin to pick up a signal, and I knew the landscape of the first couple miles would carry me through them without much effort. Not long after the run started, Mike Goetzler passed me, along with another guy.
At this point I made a decision that on paper was dumb, but in the real world was the right choice. I let Mike get about 10 yards in front of me and then matched his pace. I totally ignored the fact that I was running faster than I ran at Door County, and a minute per mile faster than any run in the last 12 months. My mind said this was the right choice because I had biked perfectly and I had done all the right things this year. The fireroom radioed up that the bunkers were full and all boilers were at pressure.
Convinced that the worst thing that would happen is that I would stagger in at 9 minute miles, but I would not have to resort to walking “ I ran.
The nutrition plan for the run was simple. Coke and water at every aid station, a powergel every 30 minutes or so. Toss in a few ibeuprofens for good measure, and pound the salt tabs “ probably 12 over the course of the run “ maybe a few more I didn’t count. I also planned to put sponges inside my top on my core, and dump ice down the shorts at nearly every aid station. I knew I’d end up with wet shoes, but I knew the cooling effect would be huge for me.
Around mile 5, the top age groupers started going by in the other direction. Joe, than Brunhold, and Jeff Tarkowski. I was pretty happy to see they were only about 3 miles in front of me, buoyed by this I kept the pace high. Despite the fact that my shoes were already sopping wet, I kept up the sponge and ice routine at every aid station.
The next 8 miles passed in the monotony of squishy foot falls, water, coke, ice, etc. As I neared the square I realized that I felt great and was going to split 13.1 only a few seconds slower than my HIM run at Door County. Jeff May called out to me, and I asked him if he could find out what place I was in on the way back. I had no idea where I was in terms of place, or who was where. The only certainties were that Joe was WAY out there, and I was feeling great. My goals for the race shifted from just running the run, to either getting my spot for Kona or defending it. I crossed half way @ 1:33 and change and charged into the second half with reckless abandon.
Jeff told me that I was in 5th place, and that 4th was just up the road. Buoyed with the knowledge that I was safely in the pre-race slot breakdown, I continued my charge. I wasn’t sure what I was charging towards, but it didn’t make sense to stop.
As I ran back towards State Street things were pretty uneventful: although I did see one guy pull out his iPhone in Camp Randall and start taking pictures. WTF? I guess some people are more about taking in the sights “ odd, but if it gets him through the day. By this time the road was pretty crowded with folks and I managed to see a few of the pros on their way in.
When I got to State Street, I passed Mary and her family sitting out on a patio drinking beer and having a good time “ they gave me a good cheer and Mary said she thought I was in 5th. Another block up the road, Jeff told me that Cam Knuth was just up the road a few hundred meters and he was slowing. He made it sound like I had moved up to 3rd.
Since my brain wasn’t processing at full power, my take away was œGuy in age group, up road “ fresh meat. Competitor mode was engaged in my brain and I became intent on catching Cam. As I turned onto the gravel path along Lake Mendota I passed Matt on his way to State Street “ who looked WAY better than he did on the first loop when I saw him “ who said Cam was about 100 meters in front of me. I kept pushing trying to catch him finally doing so around mile 21 and kept the pace high. œPass like you mean it “ is what I remember Rutger Beke saying during his victory speech when he won Ironman Arizona in 2007. I didn’t know what place I was in now, but I didn’t want to give Cam a chance to respond.
I kept up my aid station routine of Coke/Water/Sponges “ at mile 23 I started trying to do the math on my finish time, run split and other meaningless trivia to keep my brain from focusing on the sensations my feet and legs were sending.
At mile 24, I wanted to be done more than anything in the world; I got through those last 15 minutes by remembering how excited I was in April to run three and a half minutes.
As I rounded the corner onto MLK and I saw the finish line, I was so excited “ my whole body went numb and tingly “ I was here. The finish line was just in front of me, and I had run the whole way! With about 10 yards to go I saw the clock tick from 9:35:58 to 9:35:59 to 9:36:00. I looked behind me to make sure I was by myself “ and walked the last few feet and just took it all in.
I met Mary at the end of the finishing area and we had the biggest most emotional hug ever. She was crying. I was nearly in tears. What a day.
After all the bad emotional mojo that Ironman has earned in the Bowe household since shortly after I finished IMWI in 2008 “ I can put the memories and baggage associated with it where it belongs, in the past. They are memories and experiences to make me remember what is important. Nothing more, nothing less.
9:36:09 “ 23rd OA/2nd M30-34
I am an Ironman.
Much thanks goes to everyone who is behind me: my wife Mary, Team Gear Grinder, and Emery’s Tri Shops. There’s more “ but if I start naming names, I’m sure I’d forget somebody. Without their support “ I would not have had so much fun at the race. I’d also like to thank Dr. Pietrocarlo for fixing my foot!