My Day at Ironman Racine 2012
I had an awesome experience at Ironman Racine 70.3, my first long distance race course. The journey began on Friday when Kevin and I drove up after meeting “Crowie” at Spokes in Wheaton to check in and drive the bike course we’d be riding on Sunday. When we checked in I was like a kid in a candy store because I would finally be able to wear some Ironman gear and I went through there like a whirling dervish grabbing everything I could. After my purchases I still refused to use or wear any of it until I had actually covered the distance and crossed the finish line. On Saturday we met up with other racers from Experience Triathlon, sat through the race talk, checked in our bikes, and retired to our hotel rooms and our favorite pre-race dinner.
Sleep came easier than most pre-race days with the exception of awaking at 1:30 AM with the anticipation of the race. While I lay awake prior to our official wake time I went over my race plans in my head to make sure I had everything down pat, especially the nutrition plan Laurie Schubert, our ET Team Dietitian, had laid out for me. The alarm at last went off at 3:00 AM and we began to get ready for the day. Cheryl and I were out of the hotel and on our way well before transition opened so we could get a prime parking spot right by the ET tent. Setup in transition was made effortless with learning over the years what I must have and what’s just not necessary. Once done in transition it was back to the car to finalize preparations for the race. With my wetsuit swung over my shoulder, I kissed Cheryl goodbye, told her I’d see her after the swim and I started the mile walk to the swim start.
At the swim start I was able to commiserate with Russ, Jada, and Bob while waiting for the pros to start the race. This was the first race where I was in one of the first waves of age groupers to go in the water; this was going to be a good day. As the time to get the race underway came closer, a quiet came over the gathered athletes while the National Anthem was played. Then it was time to get started. The pros went off on schedule with a cannon blast, as did the elites. It was now time for the first age group wave to go as our group lined up to be the 4th group in the water. Last minute preparations made, the cannon went off for our group and most of us just waded into the water – no high stepping in this group. The water was refreshing after the mile walk half-suited in my wetsuit and the swim began with a controlled and steady stroke and very little contact, unlike most wave starts. Once at the turn I stuck close to the buoy line while most of my wave chose to swim out a little farther. Lucky me – there was a ton of open space and with the buoys spaced close together, sighting was easy. I reached the midway point where it got a little more congested and I’m almost sure I kicked someone square in the head because it was a solid hit! Of course as taught I continued to swim with a consistent determined stroke. Soon enough I was at the final buoy and as I turned towards shore my swim cap slipped off my slick head. Not wanting to get a penalty for littering and wanting to keep it as a souvenir, I continued to swim with it in my right hand. As the water became shallow enough to stand up, I was high stepping it to the swim finish across the mat with a 37 minute time and up the sand to transition. There was Coach Joe smiling, taking pictures, and cheering me on. I got a high five, told him everything was great and on I jogged. There again just before transition was the world famous ET Cheer Crew, some more high fives and encouragement, a quick step into the pool to clean off the sand and to the wetsuit strippers I went. In T1 made a quick change to the bike and out I ran.
Coming out of T1 I made a smooth transition on to the bike and up the hill I went to start the bike portion. Still looking for Cheryl – there she was with Sherri and Cathy urging me on at the top of the hill! What a great sight to start the 56 miles on the bike. The strategy on the bike portion was to stay controlled and not push too hard. I also had a well laid out nutrition plan that Laurie had put together for me that I stuck to and I have to say this plan worked to perfection. Thanks, Laurie, for working with me on this. The one area I was not able to complete on the nutrition plan due to operator error was taking my salt tabs, not that I didn’t have them but I lost them. At about mile ten I was taking the prescribed salt tabs when I hit a bump in the road and every one of them went flying out of the container. For one second they were all frozen in the air and then, they were gone. I knew instantly this was not good and that I’d have to make up somehow for the loss of salt in the race so every chance I got I ate chips, pretzels, and more Ironman Perform that originally planned. One part of the bike that I had never done was the hydration pass at the bottle aid stations and I’d have to say I was a little nervous on this; turns out I was nervous for a reason. Coming up on mile 15 and the first hydration pass with both of my bottles empty, I tried discarding the empties at the same time as trying to pick up the full bottles. It was not a good idea. I started to lose control of the bike and almost took out three of the volunteers until one of them yelled, “LOOK OUT!!!” The three volunteers jumped back and I narrowly missed hitting them. WHEW, that was close! About fifteen feet farther down I made a complete stop and made the transfer and I was on my way again without further incident. Thank God I learned from this, as the next two passes went far smoother than the first. As the miles and time clicked by I was on the road going back to transition and time to start thinking about the run. Coming down the hill towards transition I was out of my shoes and executed a perfect flying dismount on my way into T2.
Another quick change in T2 to my run gear and out the chute I went and as always there was the amazing ET Cheer Crew waiting for the ET athletes to come out on the run. I high fived them all and continued down a little bit farther and there was Cheryl as I headed out on to the first loop of a two loop run. Up to this point I had exceeded my time expectations on the swim and bike, now I was heading into my strongest discipline. Other ET athletes that have done this race before have commented on how hard the second loop is because the race brings you within 100 yards of the finish line and then loops you back on the run course. I was about to find out how hard it really was. As time clicked by, the temperature and humidity climbed higher and higher. On the first loop I stayed away from the sprinklers and spectators wanting to spray me down. On the second loop I hit almost all of them, a mistake because my shoes must have weighed two pounds heavier when I was done even though at the time it felt great. Every water stop was used and ice put everywhere it could go and then there was the final downhill on the backside of the zoo and I could hear the announcer calling out the names of the finishers of which mine would soon be one, hallelujah. There was the ET tent on that final few hundred yards to the finish as well as Cheryl standing on my side of the fencing. With a hug and a kiss, she sent me along those last few steps by myself to cross the finish line, half laughing half crying because I’d overcome many obstacles this day but wouldn’t change one thing on how the day had gone.
While triathlon is an individual sport (the rule book says that no outside help can be given to a participant or they could be disqualified), none of us gets to the start line or finish line by ourselves. If it wasn’t for the support I get every day from my wife Cheryl, I could never do what I do. We make a great team and have for 25 years. If I didn’t get support from Coach Joe, the Experience Triathlon athletes or the Cheer Crew, would I get to the finish line? Maybe, but I’d never want to experience that. Every time I line up for a race I know I have a team behind me wanting me to succeed and it’s a fantastic feeling. Thank you all for caring so much. I’m truly humbled by it.
Enjoy all the photos from our amazing day at Ironman Racine on the ET Photo Gallery!