Third Times a Charm – Ironman 3X
by Steve B.
Before I share my day with you, please allow me to say thank you to several people that were a key part in getting me across the finish line for my third IM. Coach Joe LoPresto, I could not have done this without your help and push to keep me accountable, thanks for the guidance. ET Team Dietitian, Laurie Schubert, don’t ever plan on completing an Ironman without a rock solid nutrition plan, and Laurie is the best…Thanks again. The World Famous ET Cheer Crew: I have watched you guys for several years, but this is the first time from “inside the ropes,” what great motivation you provide. And finally, my wife and partner in life, Jane, has given up her summer so I can pursue another finish… THANK YOU!
I awoke to the alarm at 4:00 AM, actually slept very well. The last couple of days have been eerily calm, not something that I have experienced in the past. Knowing that I have done the work provides a level of security heading into today. Special needs bags have been dropped off at the square, and nutrition placed on the bike along with a last minute tire pump. Now I am sitting in the hotel room changing into my wetsuit and going to meet my family; both Emily and Kate have brought their families to support Grandpa and show up on race day with “Team Steve” T-shirts… very cool. We walk down the helix, meet the rest of the ET group and finally wander down to the swim start. This year is the first time it is not a mass start, but six large waves instead. I am in wave 6, scheduled to start at 7:05AM.
SWIM 2.4 mi
And the cannon goes off! The plan was to swim the first 1000 yards as a warm up and then start to pick up the pace a little. So I am off in the first group in my wave and feeling pretty good, until we swim into the slower people in wave 5, get through them and then catch the slower people in wave 4… not sure I really like this wave start, but it is what it is. I’m out of the water in 1:19, first in my age group, and a ‘First out of the water ROKA’ recipient in my age group. Despite the ROKA award, I am somewhat disappointed with the swim, but the swim is the shortest part of the day, plenty of time to make up a few minutes.
Run past the ET Cheer Crew, as well as Team Steve, and actually run up the helix, adrenaline is wonderful thing! Transition was incredibly crowded, but found a place to change into bike gear, and put a piece of Tyvek into my bike jersey to block the wind for the first hour or so. Thanks, Coach Joe! My bike was off the rack and ready to go when I got there, easy coast down the helix and off to Verona.
BIKE 112 mi
The plan was to try to stay in the small ring and get some blood back to my legs until I at least reach Whalen Rd. That didn’t seem to work, as I struggled to get any kind of a cadence going. I decided to push a little harder than we had planned, but eventually fell into a pretty good rhythm. That little harder than we had planned, might come back to bite me in the end… Because this was a wave start, there did not seem to be as much congestion on the bike as in previous years, was getting passed constantly, but trying to keep my head and not push too many watts. Trying to stay under 200 watts was becoming a real issue, for some reason it was just not coming together, now we are coming out of Verona for the first time and getting into the fun part of the course. The turn down Witte is the first severe downhill, and during our practice runs this was a great place to let the bike run, take a couple of deep breaths and just relax, but we now have lots of new bikes and faces and not sure how everyone is going to react to the speed. Are they going to brake, sit up, stay to the right… The first downhill was not relaxing. The first loop includes the biggest hill on the course, Barlow Rd. This is actually a series of four “bumps,” the first three just get you ready for the final insane ascent. Into the last bump, most people are walking by this time, about halfway up the final climb and I look down at the power meter: 437 watts! That’s insane. I clip out and walk up the last 50 yards. Hey, they don’t give points for climbing Barlow, just for finishing the race. The good news is that I am sticking to my nutrition plan, and actually drinking a little more than we had anticipated. In what seems like a relatively short time we are down Timber Rd and turning left onto Midtown, what used to be called the “third bitch,” and we get to climb it twice! If you have ever watched any of the Tour de France, you see all of the spectators in the road, separating only for the rider and urging them on… this is just like the tour. People everywhere, so crowded in fact that I am struggling to hold a line and not ride into the crowd. This is not as steep as Barlow, but much longer! Over the top, onto the flat and coming to the ET Cheer Crew and Team Steve again… great support. I have asked Brian to track me relative to my age group and let me know where I am as I go by. I’m in 4th, didn’t see anybody pass me, but 4th is not bad. Into Verona, and back out for the second loop, and my power meter has died. I am riding the final loop without any information, doing this all by feel. Starting my second loop I get passed by a couple of guys in the 30 – 34 AG, and they are flying. The only thing that goes through my mind is, “boy, your swim must really suck.” Finally I’m through Verona for the last time and headed back to Madison. Total bike time was 7 ½ hours, about an hour longer than my goal time, and I am not ashamed to tell you that I AM SHOT! Rode too hard, too early and paying the price now…
When you register for this race you are given a red rubber wristband to be given to the volunteer that most impacts your day as a way of saying, “Thank You.” I took it off my wrist and handed it to the volunteer that was going to take my bike, saying, “The nicest thing that anyone has done today is to take this bike from me.” LOL Into T2, not quite as crowded but much later in the day. As soon as I sit down there is a familiar face in front of me. Head Ref Jay Silber is in the changing room helping me get run gear out of my bag and helping me stay organized. It’s great support, and yes it’s legal, that is what the volunteers in T1 and T2 do.
Off to the run and I briefly contemplate calling it a day. OK, very briefly, and knowing that my Grandkids are there, not an option. As I run out of the Terrace, Team Steve is only about 100 yards into the run, stop for a couple of high fives and on my way. Around the square, past ET Cheer Crew on State St, and off to the stadium. Even on the run, the event planners have figured out how to put a monster hill into the run… Observatory Rd, on campus. And again, we get to do it twice, as this is a two loop course. Finish the first loop in just under 3 hours, bringing us to within about 50 yards of the finish line, then back out for number two. At about mile 19 I abandon the run/ walk plan and start a power walk to the finish line, actually passing many others that are jogging at a death march pace, but this IS Ironman. We are not stopping now. Along the way I am joined by another gentlemen that asks if he can walk with me. I just passed him and he is curious to see how I can walk that fast. We finish the next several miles together, averaging between a 14:30 and 15:00 min pace, until we get to the square. Just before we make the final turn to the finish chute, I look at him and say, “Take the chute, get a good picture, I’ll be about 15 seconds behind you.” After all, it IS all about the picture. I finished seventh in my age group…my new best friend beat me by 20 seconds, or I would have finished sixth. I never asked him what AG he was in!! Hysterical…
Becoming an Ironman, again
So, it’s over. I didn’t make my stretch goal time, but I finished my third Ironman! And got to hear Mike Reilly say, “Steve Buschkopf, you’re an Ironman and a three time finisher.” In IRONMAN it is very rarely about a pre-defined race plan, it is usually all about how you adapt to what is going to change that day… it always does!
Another?? Not next year, but ………..