I decided to sign up for Ironman Wisconsin after talking to my friend Mark (from my Nereid rowing days). He had moved out a few weeks before the 2004 race and we ended up goading each other into signing up (“I’ll do it if you do!”). That’s what I tell people anyhow. In retrospect, I think I was looking for an excuse to sign up. I think Mark was just looking for something to kill some time (it is Wisconsin after all).
So, I spent the year “training.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned about ultra-endurance sports, it’s that there’s always somebody else doing a heck of a lot more than you (actually, that’s probably true for pretty much all sports).
For example, my biggest week was 10.5 hours of total training, about five or six weeks out from race day. Most weeks were about six to seven hours. There are a lot of folks that complete my average monthly totals in a week. Those are the people that are commonly referred to as “fast.” Unfortunately for a large group of the “fast” people, that much training doesn’t always equal a decent performance on race day (oooh, foreshadowing).
So, off I went to Wisconsin with my 15.5 average-monthly-hour fitness in the bank, knowing that I hadn’t done anywhere near as much training as I could have done, but knowing that I had done the training that I did do (oooh, philosophical).
I flew out a few days before the race. My parents flew out. Hannah flew out (from San Diego I think). I hung out with my friend Mark. Had a good time. Got exceptionally anxious. And it was time for the race.
Everything about the Ironman is big. You pay a lot of money and you get treated like you paid a lot of money. So that’s pretty cool. The transition area is in the Monona Terrace, quite possibly one of the coolest looking hotels I’ve seen in a city. Here’s the bike corral the day before the race (you drop off your bike a day in advance). Lots of very, very expensive bikes here (and at least one not-so-expensive, but very well-liked bike). Mark and I estimated at least $5 million of equipment. They had it gated. And I assume there was a security guard somewhere.
The swim is the crazy mass start that you’ve seen on TV. I don’t remember much about it, except that you go straight for a while, turn left, turn left, go straight, turn left, turn left and then do it all again. The swim is in the lake parallel to the Terrace, and the hotel is so big that you swim next to it for at least 2.4 miles. It’s a little demoralizing because it feels like you’re not going anywhere.
After that, it was off to transition and the long, slow, hot bike ride (I remember it being 137 degrees that day). A unique (to me) demoralizing factor of my previous swimming background is that more or less the entire field passes me on the bike leg at races. So, I finished 108 in the swim, and then 1113 on the bike. That’s a lot of those “fast” people coming past me (and some not-so-fast -- but definitely faster than me -- people). Actually, it wasn’t so bad. At Tupper Lake the previous year, I was second out of the water in the first wave and had experienced the train of passers, so I was expecting the parade to come by.
It may appear that I'm faster than all of these other folks (I'm the one in front in yellow). However, if a picture was taken 10 seconds later, they'd all be a mile up the road, while I would only be reaching the post with the yellow banner.