IMWI 2016, 09/11/16

IMWI 2016 Race Recap….the #2016doubledouble finale
Wow….Ironman #5 complete. I love racing in Madison. The course is challenging, the crowds are big and loud and the volunteers are amazing. I love that it’s local for us and it draws so many people we know to come and cheer and support.

One of the best parts of this year’s IMWI for me was enjoying the race thru the eyes of the first-timers. Those of us who have been fortunate to do more than one know there is nothing like your first IM race, especially in Madison. This was my fourth IMWI….not my slowest, not my fastest but somewhere in between. I can honestly say that no two of them have been the same. You train for 6-9 months, try to be wise and get to the start line healthy. You respect the distances and the training. You respect the physical and mental strength it will take to complete this day and even then you enter the water on race morning knowing nothing is “given.” You have to earn every mile of the 140.6 journey…that is what makes the finish line so special.

So awesome to see all of the people you have trained with and family and friends on race morning. We gather on level 2 of the helix facing the beautiful sunrise and Lake Monona. Hugs, pictures, well-wishes and by 6:20 am, we’re making our way down to the water. I was glad to be with Scott, Chris, Kate, Nicole & Nunez and we went under the swim arch to the water. Mike Reilly was standing beside it high fiving and pumping up the crowd. I approached him, arms open and got a good luck hug as he whispered in my ear “finish what you started and you’ll be an ironman today.” As we pulled apart I smiled and said, “yes I will!” Chris, Nunez and I swam out just past the ski jump, front row. We treaded water for about 10 min waiting for the rest of the people to file into the water and 7 am to roll around. Cannon fired and absolute mayhem ensued! This was the roughest, full body contact swim I’ve experienced since my first in 2013. Just crazy! For the entire 2.4 miles if I probably only had a total of ½ mile of open water to swim in coming in patches of a few minutes here and there. After the initial 400m push, I settled into a rhythm as best as I could and swam breathing every 2-2-4. A little chant formed in my head and I felt very smooth….pull, pull, breathe….pull, pull, breathe….swim like Sydney (Block). With about 200m to go, I turned to my left to breathe and saw Chris Roberts tattooed arm swinging thru the air about 10 feet from me. Excited we’d be close coming out of the water. 1:10:35…close to last year's time…I’ll take it.

The volunteer and fan support in T1 are amazing! The wetsuit strippers are fast and you find yourself being pulled up the helix so quickly by the roar of the crowd!! Into the terrace, grab my bag and an awesome volunteer. The last 3 years my transitions for IM have been right around 10 min each and it was one of my goals to improve those times. Shoes on, jersey (pockets already stuffed) on, helmet on, lube the shorts, grab the shoes and out the door….8:51…Yes!

Air temp was perfect, sunny skies and 112 miles to ride. All fans on the bike course are amazing and I knew right where MY fans were going to be. Cruising right along I passed the Hansen family at the start of loop one. The dreadful 3+ mile stretch on Hwy G I rode with John Hessenthaler for a bit on to Hwy 92 and onto the Mt. Horeb climb. So happy to see Jess Philips and her crew. Got choked up at the Mt. Horeb round-about with the ladder truck and the stars and stripes raised high. On the way to Witte Road Gary caught up to me and we chatted for about a mile. 2nd climb on Witte road and I hear “on your right” I’m about to turn around and verbally bust up this clown…..well, except it’s Mark Philips and I’m happy to see him. We ride a similar pace and I knew I’d have company with him here and there the rest of the ride. Big downhill on Garfoot turns into big uphill on Barlow. I was smiling when I saw Kyle, Katie, Karen, Tiffaney, Amber, Olivia and Megan found their way to cheer me up the steepest part of that hill. Your heart says yes and your lungs and legs say no! It’s a super challenging stretch and you hold on by a thread. Karen jumped over to the right shoulder and ran to the top with me and I could hear screams and cheers of “Go Mom!” and “C’mon Andrea! You got this.” Feeling all of that love I couldn’t wait to get thru the new segment of the course and over to Midtown Road. The Strive Club, the Ruby’s, Jeff and Faith….sigh….I know some pretty amazing people! Back into Verona and saw Erin Anderson and her gang hanging out at the festival. On to loop 2…and thank god no Barlow hill this time around. There is a bit of a beastly hill on Mineral Point Road though with a screaming steep downhill on the back side….48mph on a bike! Wheeeeeeee!!! Miles 80-90 were awful….abdominal cramping and despite being spot on with the nutrition I had trained with, I felt like I was bonking. Ate some more pretzels, pushed the Gatorade and welcomed the tail wind on the stick back into town. 6:44:55 is longer than I wanted to be on my bike but a 16.4 average with the course changes was going to have to do.

Happy to see Dotty Johnson to take my bike in T2 and I was moving with purpose. Change the shorts, change the top, socks and shoes on, race belt and visor as I’m on my way out the door. Tummy felt a little yucky so I ate 2 tums, took an Imodium and a quick potty stop. 7:20….sweet! Both transitions under 10:00.

The run course as described by Chris Roberts, “It’s just one big party out here!” Yes, it is….State Street is split into two and you get a segment at the beginning and a segment 6 miles later. So awesome! So many people calling your name, cheering, awesome volunteers at all of the aid stations. It pumps you up and keeps you going. Around mile 8 I pulled up to an aid station to get some Vaseline smeared under my arms for chafing….one of the volunteers said to me “are you sure you have the right race bib on? It should say Mirinda.” I have been told a handful of times in my life that I look like Mirinda Carfrae…..I’ll take that compliment every time! Yucky tummy off and on for the first 13 miles w/a couple of unproductive port-a-potty stops. Back up to the Capitol in about 2:20…the second half of the marathon is where so much of your fate is decided. Heading back toward State Street Chris Roberts finally caught me….we ran together for about 20 steps and I motioned for him to get moving….he said to me, “you don’t want me to run with you?” No, Chris, you’ve trained so hard and this is your first Ironman. You’re feeling great and I want you to show me what you’re made of….so he did.

I always walk up Observatory Hill, and on the second lap I was starting to feel no so great. My left hip was screaming and I was having spells of dizziness and floaters in the periphery of my vision. Scott caught up to me around mile 19 looking strong. I so wanted to go with him, but my body was saying no. I shuffled along the lake shore path and the out and back behind UW Hospital and happily finished that segment just as it was getting dark outside. With 3 miles to go I found Heidi as I was walking through an aid station. I was taking in tons of Gatorade, pretzels and chicken broth—just like I’ve done in the past—but somehow it wasn’t enough. She asked me if I was ok and I don’t even remember what I said. She asked if she could come with me for a while but somehow I convinced her I was okay. I don’t use gels on the run cuz they upset my stomach and the gels I use on the bike have 100mg of caffine each….I battled in my own fuzzy mind whether to take a hit of Coke or not for the sugar. I didn’t want the caffeine to mess with my HR so I skipped it. Well, maybe I should try these Gatorade chews….nothing new on race day. I so wish I had someone I knew right there at that moment to tell me I needed sugar in a bad way and to throw the “plan” out the window. There are parts of the last 2 miles I don’t even remember. As I was rounding the corner onto State Street heading for home I wanted to run so badly but feared if I did I’d fall down and be lights out. I was in rough shape and really struggled feeling that out of control of my own body and mind. The last push and turn onto capitol square and I saw Kate going the other way....Keep pushing Kate! You got this. Finally I made the turn by run special needs and saw Janet…giant hug and push toward home. The finish line is just as amazing whether it’s #1 or #101!!

With people still heading out on their second loop of the run a kind volunteer was standing at the top of the chute directing traffic….left for second loop, right for finish line….I remember telling him over the roar of the crowd and the music and the bright lights….”Make no mistake about it mister, I’m going to the right!!” You can’t high-five everyone down the chute, but I try my best as I slow down and enjoy the moment…swinging from one side of the chute to the other. Passing by fans and family I am in tears and an absolute basket case! I flash my #5 for the camera and am grateful for Erin, Dave and Christine to catch me. I am dizzy and exhausted and now that I’ve stopped, everything hurts. I sip on some sugary bubbles (sprite) and I’m not sure the dizziness is going to stop. 13:22:39….not my slowest, not my fastest, but by far my roughest finish. In hindsight, I could have made better decision on the 2nd half of the run, but I didn’t. I also think it could have had a much worse result and the possibilities are a little scary. Just happy to have finished. #earned

My volunteers help me to see my fans for congratulations and a few pictures, then they help me hobble to medical. 15 minutes later, Scott joins me with his busted up foot and we are quite the pair. I didn’t need IV fluids and felt much better after more sprite. As we’re sitting there, a volunteer comes into the tent paging #329 holding an envelope…Scott looks at me and I’m shaking my head getting a card delivered to me in the medical tent. Within minutes we are both in tears reading a very thoughtful message Nunez wrote to me. You had me at….”if you are reading this you have crossed the finish line of Ironman #5……”

So this hip thing will prevent me from running the Chicago Marathon in October, but I deferred and will take a crack at it next year. Already signed up for IMWI 2017 with a few friends and I’m looking forward to another great year of racing. Right now, though, rest, celebration, and family and friends are on the top of the list.

Special thanks to the most amazing homestay in the entire Madison area! Joe, Maribeth & Casey-you guys are the best!! Thank you to Megan for taking over 1000 pictures on race day and Olivia for manning the GoPro…should make for a fun IMWI video. I am honored to know so many strong athletes and to share this day and this finish line with people I know makes it so memorable. Lastly, the support network…I’d be nothing without “my peeps” keeping all of the parts moving (especially Karen—4 years in a row!). Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart. It would be a totally different race without all of you there!