heather runningby Heather G.

It was the Saturday before Ironman Wisconsin and things were starting to get real. The months of early morning swims, six hour bike rides (sometimes with drinks after), followed by brick after brick, were finally coming to a head. This goal of an Ironman, something I couldn’t have imagined a few years back when I did my first sprint triathlon, was finally right in front of me. I have done my fair share of marathons and in 2013 did my first 70.3, but what I was about to embark on was huge! I was definitely ready but definitely very anxious.

Maybe if my knee didn’t start hurting three weeks before the race (giving me no running practice leading up to the race), I would have felt a lot better, but I just had no idea what was about to happen.

Being a planner, I had a game plan for my time for the Ironman. I wanted to finish, first of all, but I would love to finish in under 13:30. In my pre-race talk with Coach Joe, I told him I was consistent in my swim with 1:20, figured my bike time would be 6:15-6:30 and then my run would be 5:00 plus transition times. Now, I know he thought my bike time was aggressive and he said that a five hour marathon is considered great in an IM. But, even knowing this, it was still my first time and with my knee I had no idea what to expect.

After a restless night, it was time to go. I suckered my husband, Bob, into driving us all the way downtown instead of taking the shuttle – first win!

It was low 60’s in the morning and very dark.   I waited in line to get into the transition area – lots of bags to prep and drop off. Then I got body marked, pumped up my rented ZIPP 808 tires (hopefully can sucker my husband to buy those too), and loaded my bike down with all of the extras – water bottles, perform, bonk breakers, salt pills and the list goes on and on.

heather body marking

After this, things started to get hectic quick. Luckily, I had another friend there to drop my stuff off with as Bob had not made it back with the kids to our pre-race meeting spot as there were so many people down there by then.   I was a little rushed to get into the water as people just didn’t seem to be moving very quickly. In fact, I was still standing in the chute when the National Anthem was being sung.

Once into the water, I positioned myself to the left of the ski jump and the water temperature was perfect. Luckily, I didn’t have that much time treading water to become more nervous, especially since swimming is my least favorite part of the race. I knew I could do the swim and that I would finish in plenty of time; however, I didn’t know what swimming with 2500 other people would be like.

SWIM 1:14:17 Pace 1:55/100m Age Group 28th Gender 147 overall 751

heather ironman swim start

At 7:00 am the cannon went off and it was time to go! I certainly wasn’t prepared for the battle that ensued. The whole swim I was fighting people, either to get them out of my way or because I was in their way. I have never been pulled, pushed, kicked or hit this much before, and I have an older brother! There was one point on the swim that I got punched in the face, and I even stopped to yell at the guy at who did it. Surprisingly enough, he actually stopped and apologized too. I had no idea how I was doing on the swim, and felt like I wasted a lot of effort battling people, but my mantra was “just keep swimming” and that is what I did. I exited the water in 1:14- so six minutes faster than I thought I would!

As I was running up the helix, I saw my dad, Bob and the kids for a brief second and then I also saw some of the Experience Triathlon cheer crew! I was running and feeling great, caught up in all of the excitement. Coach Joe told me I would be smiling as I exited the swim and I certainly was.   I saw Lori and Sara as I was running up the helix as well and I was glad that the swim was over!

T1 7:17

Grabbed my gear and with the help of the volunteers I was out of transition pretty quickly and ready to get on my bike! Despite the fact that my spokes were caught in my neighbor’s handle bars, it was pretty uneventful.

Bike 6:03:46 Pace 18.47 mph Age Group 14 Gender 72 Overall 609

I started out slow on the bike, which was great so I could settle in. What was not great was losing my water bottle with my IM Perform in it, and of course this was my aero water bottle which I fill up during the race. Then I ended up losing 4 more bottles over the whole race. My nutrition plan was now off the rails, which gave me something else to worry about, but nothing you can do about it at that point except adjust.

Normally I am pretty aggressive on the bike, but seeing as I had never gone this distance I certainly didn’t want to push it. There are some really fun downhills and S-curves on this course like Witte Road and Garfoot. The fastest I went down the hills was 43.2mph- so much fun! There are also three big hills, known as the three B’s- not as much fun!

I kept my cadence high and just kept pedaling. I wasn’t hammering it and yes, I got passed, but I just kept in my zone and kept going. The hills during IM were much more fun than in training as there are spectators lining the road the whole way. Some are in crazy outfits, some holding odd signs, some ringing cowbells and some playing loud music. All the fanfare certainly made the climbs a lot easier.

On the second hill I saw the ET cheer crew, and they gave me a renewed burst of energy, as did seeing Bob and the kids, my dad, stepdad and Margo about 20 minutes later. There were parts of the course that were not as crowded with spectators, but I just kept going, never once having any of those mental toughness moments. I felt great during the ride and knew I could do this, and enjoyed every minute of the bike. I was in the moment and it was awesome! I saw Bob and kids at mile 55 and 95, and they were cheering me on.

heather on bike

I couldn’t believe it was almost over as I rode up the helix.   I was feeling great and ready for the run ahead. I saw the dismount line and heard someone yelling, “I got her! I got her!” A volunteer (low and behold, it was Richard from ET) grabbed my bike from me and then I was running into T2 on wobbly legs with my bike shoes on.

T2 4:02

I had a great volunteer in T2 who grabbed water for me, helped me get situated and then I was on my way!

RUN 4:25:08 Pace 10:07/mile Age 22 Gender 77 overall 539

Right away I knew I was in trouble as my knee started hurting, which of course put a lot of doubts into my mind. I was in pain but knew I had to keep on going. This was not how I wanted to start out my race.

The course is two loops starting at Monona Terrace and immediately passing the State Capital building. One of the coolest parts is running through Camp Randall stadium where the UW Badgers football team plays. After the stadium you run next to Lake Mendota in a shady limestone gravel pathway. After the path, though, you are on Observatory Drive (miles eight and 18) and that has a couple of rollers and then a short, steep, switchback downhill that rolls onto State Street. The spectators are awesome on these streets, all hanging out at the bars.   I saw the ET cheer crew and Coach Joe and he asked how I was doing. I responded that I was in pain, but I knew I could do this to which he said you are doing great. Note that I even had a smile on my face.

heather and coach joe

A short while later, I saw my cheer crew and stopped to give everyone a kiss and high fives and kept on going. I didn’t know where to expect them on the course, so it was fun to just all of a sudden see them.

With about an hour left in the race, I was walking a lot, I was starving and could only have so many cookies along the course. I really wanted to call my husband and have him order me a pizza for the finish line.   Miles 23-26 were really slow for me- in the 11 minute range.

I saw the ET cheer crew one last time and I was close to the finish- almost done! I finally saw the finish line and started getting a little overwhelmed that I was almost there.   I ran with my arms up in the finisher chute and I heard my name being called by Bob and so instead of heading to the finish line, I turned around to give my family a big kiss.   I heard Mike Reilly yell, “Heather Glynn from Naperville Illinois, you are an IRONMAN!” I crossed the finish line in 11:54:30, while it was still light outside, well under my goal time with a 4:25:08 marathon time.

I received my medal and got a few pictures, then met up with Bob, my dad and the kids. They were all there to support me on my race day, and also throughout the whole journey that led me to this point. While I received the medal, they also deserve one too as I couldn’t have done it without them.

heather and family

heather and dad

heather and coach joe at finish

Bob took the kids and headed back home, but my dad and I stuck around the finish line until almost midnight to see the rest of the ET athletes finish. It was a long day, but a day I will remember forever and an experience I am glad I was able to share with him, my family, friends and ET Family.

A big thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me on my endeavor over the past nine months. I have had many laughs and tears, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. A thank you to all my training partners who make the time go by so much faster and who also pushed me even when I wanted to quit and to Coach Joe who got me both to the start line and across the finish line.   I have realized through my training that I am an endurance junkie and I love going on long runs and bike rides (maybe not so much on the long swims). Triathlons have become a huge part of my life and I am so glad that I found Experience Triathlon.

heather and the ET IM crew

Part of being an athlete is always wanting to improve, so while yes, I was happy with my swim and bike, I know I could have done better on the run, especially if I was pain free. I did let negative thoughts cross my mind and I did walk way more than I wanted to. If I was sprinting at the end I could have at least jogged the last mile. With all of that being said, I know I can do better than I did. I am stubborn, I am determined, and I am an IRONMAN, so yes, I will be doing another one next year- Chattanooga, Louisville, Madison?

Enjoy over 1100 photos from our epic weekend in Madison on the ET Photo Gallery!

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