Ironman Wisconsin 09/10/17

IMWI 2017....started just like the previous 4 despite being undertrained for the marathon which I was okay with an super excited to enjoy the 26.2 mile "sport walk"/run. Very relaxed and comfortable in the best homestay on the ironman circuit - The Fleischmann Inn :) and a solid 6 hours of sleep the night before. Bike set up and moved to the helix to see my people. Wetsuits on at 6:10am and we were walking down to the wave swim start. In the water at about 6:47 and swam out to and "open"spot about 100m off the buoy line with Chris Roberts. Gun went off and we had open water until we approached the first turn. We stayed together to about the middle of the back straight-away and a pack of slower swimmers separated. I took a quick glance around, didn't see Chris and continued on. Water had a little chop and my path was peppered with clumps of swimmers consistently off and on for the second half. Content to be out of the water in roughly the same swim time as last year...tapped my garmin on the waters edge and either I enjoy extra credit on race day or the course was marked long----4500yds??? Whatever - not a fan of the wave start tho. Water temp as a little cool at the start in a sleeveless wetsuit, but I prefer it that way.

Wetsuit peeled off and up the blood pumping, ear popping energy invoking helix. Running barefoot on concrete for that long is easy with the crowd energy. Got my bag passed to me and into the changing area of T1 where volunteer Julie as waiting for me. Struggled to get my wet arms into my bike jersey, but Julie was happy to help. In and out in less than 10 minutes.

After the no-pass zone of the helix and Wingra bike path I was happy to have Chris roll up on me snaking our way thru the back of the Alliant Energy parking lot. He was kind enough to ride with me for about 5 min and when we got out onto Rimrock Rd it was hammer down for him!! Off the stick and onto the loop....happy to see Lisa, Todd & Sue holding down the fort on Whalen & PB. Not long after that Mark Philips and his smarty-pants self comes along shouting "on your right" as he quickly passes after a brief exchange. John Hessenthaler was also riding well and flew past me in his snazzy new kit. Air temp was cool and crisp and perfect...a little breeze to start and bright sunshine. Nutrition was going in well and I was moving at a good pace thru the first 50 miles though at times my HR was higher than it should have been for the effort I was putting out. Even though I don't have any pain in my hip when I ride I have been a little anxious about the hill on Barlow. I always say a prayer "please God don't let this be the time the hill wins." There have been times I've trained on the course and just plain skipped the Garfoot downhill and Observatory/Barlow segment, but every time I have ridden it, I've conquered it. I was actually looking forward to riding up it cuz there are fans on race day, including "those ladies" party of 3 to pump you up and cheer for you as you lay out a monumental effort to get up the damn hill. My HR was close to 170 and I wasn't even to the toughest part of the climb. I steered into the "bail out driveway" where Katie and Karen met me to walk up the rest of the steep hill. I just couldn't catch my breath...a full exhale wouldn't come and I felt very uncomfortable with my ability to finish Barlow. Was good to catch my breath, but my spirit was crushed. I'm gonna throw this out there right now....I like the old bike course better. Barlow, Mineral Point, Mauer...all hard stretches of the new course. Stopped at special needs to refill my pockets and lube my up and under glancing at the athletes going by wondering "where in the world is Tom Herricks?? Happy to have held him off for 63 miles this time, though I did have a 10 min head start in the swim. Small victories.....well except going up the steady climb know as Hwy G the Tom-inator blows past like I'm standing still. "Took me a while to catch you this time"--Ha! The breeze was mostly at our backs for the long false flat stretch of Hwy 92. So happy to see Jess Philips and her crew on the climb to Mt. Horeb High School on both loops! Such a lift to have people you know out on the course cheering!! Shortly after seeing them both of the inner calf muscles started to tingle and not too many miles later it moved into my adductors for any slight incline. I'd give up all of my gears early to spin and stand up hoping to not feel that electricity up and down my legs! Checked my pockets and fuel pouch...I was taking in salt, pretzels & gels right on schedule and taking in plenty of gatorade/water to pee on my bike seat 4x in 112 miles....why oh why do I feel this bad??? Tummy felt ok, though by halfway thru the second loop I was tiring of all the race day nutrition. HR was running high from the get-go so I knew I was burning straight sugar. My attempt to flood my system with a spark of energy failed and by Midtown Rd 2nd loop for the second time I got off my bike and walked up hill. I felt light headed, a little short of breath and kind of out of it. Walking up the hill helped me recover a little (though with all of those spectators you feel like a complete looser) and I got to chat with my ladies. Katie, Karen and Tiffaney pep talked me back on to my bike at the top of Midtown and as I started rolling again I saw Joe & Maribeth for a cheer of support to get me going. For the rest of the ride I lost track of the number of times I asked myself "why are you doing this?? Why do you punish yourself for 140.6 miles? You must be a f-ing idiot to think you could finish this course faster than you did last year......" blah, blah, blah. My friends, the full light of the sun did little to pull me out of my dark, dark place. My body felt bad, obviously my head was a hot mess and from about mile 75 to 105 I wanted to quit so bad. I told myself I had to keep going....the marathon was waiting and I was looking forward to a no pressure walk/run. I could not focus enough to stop the demons. I swore I was going to have to walk up the last hill on Whalen Road on the stick back into Madison. I kept thinking both of my legs were going to seize up and I'd topple off my bike and get carried away in a sag vehicle....hmmmmm....but would that be better than being on my bike?? Good God! Shut up! Shut up! For fucks sake you've done this race 4 times!! I summoned a tiny amount of courage, shifted into granny gear and began the I really doing this? I'm actually getting up this hill! OMG, I'm almost there!! I know there's a nice downhill stretch to follow this AAAANNND as soon as I turn left off Whalen the breeze will be at my back. Holy shit! I made it! I'm not a looser! My bike split will be slower than last year, but I'm doin this! Left turn, right turn, left....I'm on John Nolen Drive!! I can see the state capital and the Monona Terrace! Uggghhhh....the helix. It's okay cuz I'm about to hand this stupid bike off to a volunteer!!! I saw a handful of people I knew on my way into T2. I felt like a bucket of shit but got some power hugs, words of support and fresh clothes. I was happy with another sub 10:00 transition and was excited to start the last leg of the journey.

My plan was to do walk/run intervals and since getting docs approval to "try to run" a month ago I was training with 1/4 mile splits. Walk a 1/4, run a 1/4.....longest I'd gone in training was 8 miles. It was about 330 in the afternoon and I had loads of time to get this thing done. On my own two feet I was going to be a 6x Ironman finisher today!! Saw Christina and Jess's crew as I headed on my way and Sherri Herricks on the square as I headed toward the party on State Street. Again saw my ladies and they were relieved I'd made it off the bike course. I was feeling a million times better and ready to get my "sport walk" on! Around the corner I was so happy to see Erin & Ryan Anderson!!! Erin walked with me for my next .25 (thank you so much! I've missed you tons) and I was off and running again. Kelly Walker ran up behind me on Dayton Street and he introduced himself to me. Always great to meet new people and put faces with names. At the next aid station I gave my red bracelet to Maureen Haske-Palomino, who I've been FB friends with for years and met for the first time in the Monona Terrace ladies room that morning. Got thru camp Randall, down University Ave to the turn at the hospital and onto the lakeshore path. Got to the aid station at the bottom of Observatory and since I've never actually run up the giant hill, I wasn't going to start now. I had my zip bag with ice on my hip, a snack and beverage and started up when suddenly out of the corner of my eye a bright pinky-peachy fairy by the name of Kelly Stone appeared next to me! Wow!!! Is this really happening?? What are the odds?? We chatted up the hill and I told her I was going to walk the whole stretch up and we approched the steep downhill by Helen C. White Library Kelly said she was going to run and I couldn't bear the thought of doing the next 21 miles alone so I ran down with her. For those who have done IM you understand what a true marathon buddy means....sure you meet strangers along the way, you shuffle past one another, encourage others but this was different....we were going step for step and committed to pulling each other along for the rest of the marathon! This really meant a ton to me and I will never be able to thank you enough <3. We plugged away,sharing stories about our day and our lives and the miles kept ticking by and before we knew it we were heading back to the capital to finish our first loop. My hip was getting cranky but I keep the ice on it and started to notice my low back and knees starting to hurt more than my hip...guess that's kind of a no-brainer when you're undertrained. Couple of pitstops at the port-a-potty for me on the second loop, cheers from our fans and high fives from our team mates on the run course. Mile 16...yay! Only 10.2 to go! I knew it would be dark by the time we finished so without a second thought I donned the glow necklace offered to me around mile 17. I think some of our fastest run splits were on the lake shore path near the base salt tent and loud speakers from hell. Its one thing to have spectator support and fans playing music to pump you up, but when it's soooo loud you want to run away from it? I think you get my point. Mile 20! Hoooraaayyy! 6.2 to go. With about 4 miles to go we scooped up Kelly Walker on a really dark, lonely part of the course and bullied him into staying with us for the rest of the race. The last 1.2 I just wanted to be done!! Thru the aid station by the SERF and I started to run. I had planned to walk again near the top of State Street and the rest of the way uphill to the capital....nope...I'm finishing this thing running. 2nd length of the square Kelly Walker passed me and I wished him well and to enjoy his finish line experience. Turned in front of run special needs and saw Janet HaskinsKate Watling and Sharon Alwin for a few more hugs. Turned onto MLK Drive and into the beginning of the finish line chute. I started to cry and felt a wave of emotion come over me. I looked back to see Kelly Stone coming in hot...I waived her thru so she could have the chute to herself. Last hugs from Katie, Karen & Tiff and it was time to start the high five weave from one side of the chute to the other to the finish line arch. I approached, stopped, flashed my "six" and began to cry. Thank god for finish line volunteers. I didn't have anyone special to catch me this year, but it didn't matter. They are all top notch and take great care of the athletes. I was escorted to my people and scooped up in a giant hug.

This day, time went right out the window and it was more about digging deep, grinding it out and getting to the finish line. Even though quitting seemed like a better option when I was bonking on the bike, I'm glad I didn't. Thank you to all of the volunteers on the course!! Without you this would be just like any other training day. Congratulations to all of the IM finishers! I hope you had an amazing experience. Thank you to all of "my people" who I saw before, during or after the race. You too make this day special and possible. Thank you to G'ma for taking good care of B&B while we were out of town. TheFleischmanns for the 5th year in a row opening your home to us for long training weekends and race weekend. Alexis & Kelli for the best post race party a hurting athlete could ask for. Last, but not least, to ScottOlivia &Megan for supporting me on my journey...It's been a year of more downs than ups but with your love and encouragement I am now a 6x Ironman finisher. :)

- Andrea