Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

My first Ironman was Wisconsin in 2007 with a finishing time of 14:27.  Three years later and I finished in 13th place out of 129 women in my division with a 2 hour and 27 minute course PR.  The weather on race day was almost perfect.  Low 50’s and sunny at 7am with a high of 80 degrees.  Winds W from 8-12mph.

Unfortunately, I felt a bit less than perfect before the race.  I ended up with a slight head cold and my period.  I treated the head cold with a half dose of mucinex at the start of the race and another dose at the bike special needs.  I knew I had at least two tampon stops in the race and was hopeful that there would be no additional fatigue or cramps.

Swim: 41/129 (32%) division, 1260/2550 (49%) overall

Bike: 38/129  (29%) division, 1424/2550 (56%) overall

Run: 4/129 (3.1%) division, 177/2550 (7%) overall

Swim: Critical Execution Error #1: I entered the water for the swim right as the cannon fired.  Damn poor planning on my part and I was not alone.  There were people behind me on the pavement still waiting to get in the water when the race started.  I ended up behind the start line AND the slowest swimmers.

The mass start at Wisconsin (a two lap swim course) was complete chaos with over 2500 swimmers.  I was hit, dunked and had my goggles dislodged three times.  I could not find clean water and often had to wait at the outside of the turn buoys to get around.  I even had to wait at the exit to get out.  I kept the effort easy and was able to get some steady but not the swim time I anticipated.  I was frustrated but committed to not letting this experience disrupt my day.

At the end of the swim, I was very pleased that I wasn’t tired and felt like I had a deep well of endurance.  I did chafe the hell out of my back in my sleeveless wetsuit.  I found out this detail as my back burned for 26.2 miles in the marathon from the salt in my sweat.

T1: Took some time as my bike was in the last row of the transition area.  I carried my cycling shoes and put them on near the end.  No, I did not have a Latte on the way.


I stuck to the plan and kept my ride easy for the first two hours.  At the two hour mark, I moved to steady but was careful to save watts and heart beats.  I spun up the big hills, coasted over 24 mph and kept my heart rate in check.  At mile 60 I began to push and the last 22 I kept up the effort and rode the tailwind in to Madison.

Thanks to pro triathlete Blake Becker for the info on how the wind would effect my ride.  Basically he told me to stay small (I was aero for 98% of the ride) as it would be in my face for most of the climbing, and ride it back to Madison.  Blake dug deep and went on to a great finish with 5th overall.

My only emotional low point on the bike was at the beginning.  It is hard to get passed by so many people hammering the first hour.  Despite feeling like I was pedaling backwards, I stuck to the plan of two hours easy.  My nutrition included 275 calories per hour (EFS Grape, EFS Gel and one flat Coke) and water as thirsty.  I peed at least 3-4 times on the bike.

Again, I was amazed and happy the endurance was there.  Looking at the data, I believe I could have put a bit more effort into the bike as I seemed to get stronger in each part of the course and I had no decoupling for the full distance.  My wheel choice was perfect with a disc cover and a deep front SRAM.  I was a bit stunned how many people were on incredibly nice bikes sitting up like they were riding their road bikes.

T2: I hustled but had to make a quick tampon change.  Left my Garmin on the ground near the port-a-potty to find a signal.  Unfortunately, someone kicked it while I was inside.  After a quick search, I found it a few feet away.


When I started the run the temp was 80 degrees.  At every aid station I made sure I had ice in my hat and water dumped on my body.  Everything felt great except for some cramping on both sides of my torso.   I had planned to start my run with 16 ounces of Coke but there was none available at the first aid station.  Ugh.  Found some Coke at a second aid station where they had poured a shot glass worth in each cup.  It took six cups for me to have one full cup.  As I drank it I realized it was not even close to being flat.

The next two hours I consumed 400 calories of EFS gel and liquids.  My side cramps started to pass after 45 minutes and ended up being intermittent in the second hour.  I realized I overdid the calories (and the mix of Perform, Coke and EFS) as nausea replaced the cramps.  Every aid station had run out of coke and I was limited to water and Perform.  Nausea and cramps disappeared at the beginning of the second loop as I lifted my effort.  I loved running faster and felt like there was still some gas in the tank.

What hurt?  About two hours into the race I knew my toes were trashed.   Any sudden turns felt as if I was physically removing a toe.  After the race I looked down to see that I had bled through both shoes.  I am going to be trying new running shoes this off season.  I am heel striking less (my wear zones have changed on the bottom of my shoes) and I am going with a shoe that drains better when I douse myself with water.

I have developed some confidence in my run and I knew half way through that I was passing a lot of people (I ended up passing 600 people).  By the second loop, the course was getting crowded.  The only obstacles in my path were the triathletes walking together in packs.  I would have to interrupt their conversations about their great bike rides to ask them to please move.  Note to self, a bike ride is not great if you end up walking the marathon.

Critical Execution Error 2: There were no running clocks on the run course.  I was shocked.  I had no idea how my splits related to my overall time.  My Garmin 305 did not find the satellite for at least a mile of the run.  I should have had a watch with running time on my other wrist.  With it, I would have finished under 12 hours.

Critical Execution Error #3: The course ran out of Coke early.  This season was the first time I learned about the magical properties of fueling long triathlon runs with Coke.  I love it and I started to depend upon it for the calorie boost and the caffeine.  In the future, I need to have a Coke waiting at T2 and another in special needs in case the course runs out again.

My run ended up being only about six minutes longer than last year’s Boston Qualifying marathon run.  A friend just pointed out to me that I ran fast enough in Wisconsin to qualify for Boston again.  I was very happy with the negative split.  I believe I can run a faster marathon if I can eliminate the torso cramping in the beginning of the run and make my toes a bit more comfortable.

My Overall Performance Grade for this race: C+ due to execution errors.  I was thrilled with how well I was prepared for this race.  The head cold and my period turned out to be non-factors (except for the two bathroom stops).  This was the first Ironman that I did not spend a significant amount of time wondering why I lacked the solid steady endurance.  I had incredible confidence in my race and my training (thank you Gordo).  I finished my day continuing to love the sport and excited to learn from my race experience.

Bobby V, my training partner, rocked his very first IM finishing under 12 hours.  I am very proud of him and so happy we shared the experience.  His wife Kari, also joined “Team Sherpa” and was a wonderful addition.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my family for their love, support and help.  A half hour after the race ended, Coach congratulated me again and then asked, “What are you going to do to improve your bike this winter.”  Some of the coaches she met throughout the day had offered suggestions on what to do!  As you can see, I have an unusual level of support at home.  One day the truth will come out that Coach and Willa are far more interested in an extended trip to Hawaii.

The marathon shuffle has lasted two days and I am very surprised with my energy level.  I feel very good and I am excited about continuing my journey.  Thank you to everyone for your help and support.

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