Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin 2012: A Guest Post from Angie!


I am SOOOO proud to introduce you to my dear friend, Angie.  She is one serious rock-star mother runner and triathlete, not to mention the first person who suggested to me many years ago that I could run a 5k (and then a 10k and a half marathon and a marathon and a tri...you get the picture).  This year she took on the task of training for and COMPLETING a full Ironman - all while also working full time as a special education preschool physical therapist & taking care of her 8th grade and 10th grade uber busy boys.  So many of you cheered her on via twitter as I posted her progress in Madison and then asked over and over if she was going to write a recap.  Angie doesn't have her own blog or twitter so she was awesome enough to write a post here (and also on her tri-team's page, but I got her pictures! SCORE!) Enjoy!

Ironman Wisconsin 2012

In 2009, I did my first sprint tri (Tri del Sol).  This was no easy task.  I had quite a bit of work to do in order to successfully swim ½ a mile.  I did it, and I was hooked.  The following year I did a couple more sprint triathlons and ended the summer with an Olympic Distance Tri in Chicago.  The next year I was looking for my next challenge and my friend and teammate, Jane G, talked me into doing the Half Ironman at the GR Tri.  I had a great time and signed up for another Half Ironman in Racine 6 weeks later.  Last fall, September of 2011, I did Reed’s Lake Tri and again began to ask myself, what’s next?  I got up early on that Monday morning and had made up my mind, that if I could swim 2.4 miles, then I could do the Ironman at Wisconsin.  That morning I swam at the Y Center before work, and did 4,400 yards.  That day at lunch, I signed up for IMWI 2012.

Once I committed to the feat, I knew that this would be a huge time commitment.  Between September and January I just worked out doing whatever, whenever.  Beginning in January I started following an online free training program.  Everything was going according to plan, but when I started trying to plan summer races, I realized that I needed some help.  I hired Kattie to write my training plan, incorporating the Fisk Knob Time Trial, the GR Tri HIM, Racine 70.3, Tri Allegan, among other events.

I spent many long hours training this summer, but I really did enjoy it.  I was able to do a lot of training with Carol, who was a great training partner and friend.  Marianne kept me company, and gave me great coaching on my swimming.  Jane V escorted me to Grand Haven for a beautiful 100 mile ride.  My teammates were all encouraging along the way.

World's Coolest Race Swag Backpack!
The IMWI was on a Sunday, but athlete check-in was on Thursday and Friday only.  So I left GR around 7 am on Friday, picked up my parents in Holland, and off we went.  We got to Athlete check-in around noon and I got right through.  The highlight was getting the coolest backpack ever.  Also, while shopping in the IM Store, I ran into 3 people from the GR area.  I overheard one guy say that he was from GR.  Another guy I talked to because he had a Reeds Lake Tri t-shirt on and the other guy was wearing a GR Marathon jacket.  Wow- GR was well represented.  They were very thorough and even weighed you in case you ended up in the Med Tent.  After getting all checked in, we headed back to the hotel and got checked in there.  That night, we went to the Welcome Dinner hosted by the Mike Reilly.  The food was average…spaghetti, salad, breadsticks, potatoes.  But, seated at our table, we met 3 more guys all from Holland, MI.  The dinner was very inspirational, and the reality of what I was about to undertake sunk in.  They announced that this IM event had the most women, but I was surprised that it was only 27% of the field.  They said that there were athletes there from all 50 states and the youngest athlete to compete was 18 and the oldest was 73. 

Saturday I had a 10 minute run, 20 minute bike and 10 minute swim on the schedule and I had to check in my bike and transition bags.  I started with a 10 minute jog and then ate a big breakfast.  Joe and I then headed to Monona Terrace for a quick bike ride and then to get the bike and bags checked in.  Next was a quick dip in the lake.  I was feeling very comfortable and just ready to go and get this done.  I was not hungry, but decided that I should eat.  We stopped at Q’dobas for lunch.  We headed back to the hotel for an hour or so, where I got a nice massage from the hubby and then we were off for our pasta dinner.  Took some Ambien and it was off to bed.

Transition area set up on the roof of Monona Terrace
Sunday morning at 4 am, the alarm went off…show time!  My first task of the day, attempting to get in 1,000 calories at 4 am- yuck!  I didn’t quite get all my calories in.  I think I managed to get down a banana, orange juice, bagel with peanut better, and a protein drink.  When we got to the race, I had to stock up my bike with all my water and drinks and check the tire pressure.  I’m glad that I brought my own pump, because there was a long line for Trek to do it.  It was a little chilly out (maybe 50 degrees) so we hung out for a while inside the convention center.  I was able to visit the bathroom, inside, without a wait…in the world of triathlons; it doesn’t get any better than this.  It wasn’t until about 45 minutes before the start of the race, when I started freaking out.  I was so nervous about the swim.  The convention center was crowded with a ton of people, most of whom were significantly bigger than I am.  The thought of 2,800 people all swimming 2.4 miles in a mass start was daunting.  I was not nervous about the distance, I was nervous about the chaos that would ensue.  When I had done the Madison Open Water Swim just 3 weeks earlier, I had to start with about 200 swimmers, and I thought that was bad.  My husband, who is not a swimmer, actually gave me good advice that helped me in the swim.  He told me that I did not need to worry about the thousands of people who were not in my immediate area, that I only needed to worry about the 10-20 people in my personal space.  I also contemplated how/ where to line up for the swim.  Before the race, I heard conflicting advice.  Some said to just wait until most were taking off and then leave from shore and work my way in.  The theory was that although you may have to swim further, you would not get caught in as much traffic.  Others said that I should go out early and start up front.  The idea here was that I am nowhere near the slowest swimmer out there.  I did not want to get stuck behind so many people that I would have to pass and work my way around thousands of them.  I decided on the second, more aggressive option.  I got out there about 15 minutes before the cannon went off and was able to float in my wetsuit and hang on to a kayak, so as to not waste too much energy before the race even started. 

Sea of Swimmers - or are they Piranha?
The cannon went off and the pack of anxious swimmers did too.  I would be lying if I said that it was not a mad house.  People were jockeying for position and there was a lot of contact.  Instead of spotting every 4-6 strokes, I was spotting (polo swimming) almost constantly at the beginning.  It seemed as if every time you thought that you were about to get into a groove you were running into someone.  If people grab my feet, it doesn’t freak me out nearly as much as if they are on my head, arms or back.  For the most part, there was a lot of grabbing and hitting of my feet, which only encouraged me to kick harder.  When we got to the first corner buoy, which required a 90 degree left turn, there was a traffic jam.  The people in front of me were all slowed or stopped and the people behind me were all still trying to swim…over me.  I let out a scream of panic and then took a deep breath and rode it out.  You only need to stay on the outside of the corner buoys, not the markers between, so I did find myself on the inside of some these buoys so that I could find some calm waters.  After about ½ through the swim, I realized that I had this.  The congestion had cleared to a tolerable level and I was able to actually “swim”.  I came out of the water in 1:11 and saw Joe there cheering for me.

To get from the swim to T1 you have a long run, but it was awesome.  First of all, I felt so relieved that the swim was over and that I was still alive.  I thought to myself, the hard and scary part is over, now it’s just for the long part of the day.  I had no doubts that I couldn’t ride 112 miles and at least walk 26.2.  The transition area was inside the convention area, which was cool.  We had to run up the parking structure, several levels, which lead us round and round.  The structure was lined with cheering fans and for the first time I got teary-eyed as I thought, “Holy Crap, I’m really doing this”.  Everyone was running into one room where all the T1 bags are placed.  As you are running down the hall, volunteers are already shouting your number out.  When I got to the room, someone handed me my bag and then I ran to the changing room.  In the changing room, there were even more volunteers to help you.  I felt really well taken care of.  You run out of the building and have quite a long run from one end of the parking structure to the next in order to get to your bike.  Because it was a long run, I carried by bike shoes until I got closer to my bike.  Again, as you were running through, people were calling out your number and they were handing me my bike.

Chicking guys left and right
The bike started off down the opposite side of the ramp, going down and around the helix.  I tired to take it easy on the bike.  I knew it was a hard course and I needed to save some energy for the run.  I had to stop to pee a couple of times while on the bike and this was taking just too much time.  So I decided that it was time to be a real Ironman and just start peeing while riding.  This was a huge time saver as I ended up going about 3 more times during the course of the ride.  My parents drove out and met me at a couple of different spots on the course and Joe took the shuttle bus out to Verona.  It was a 2 loop course, so I got to see my family quite a bit.  I pre-rode the course a few weeks before the race, and I was a little worried about the big hill on Old Sauk Pass.  As it turned out, there were lots and lots of crazy fans in this area, which made it fun!  I was actually looking forward to tackling this for the second loop.  Some of the fans were running up with hill next to the cyclist.  Several had megaphone and awesome signs.  Some of the signs that I read in this area were. “Smile if you’ve peed on yourself today”, “Your bike is your toilet”, “Embrace the Suck”, and my favorite was a bunch of young rowdy teenage-20-something guys that had a sign saying, “Tri girls have the best butts…and this is why”..  The ride was fairly uneventful and I suddenly realized that this was the furthest distance I have ever ridden.  But, it went well.  I did feel like I had enough left for just a little marathon to round out the day. 

Dude is totally agreeing with the sign
"Tri girls have the best butts!"
The bike ended by riding up the parking structure.  When you get to the top, there were volunteers that take your bike for you and re-rack it.  That was so cool.  I felt like a VIP.  Again, there were lots of crowds cheering when you dismount and run into the building to grab your T2 bag.  Again, off to the changing room.  I decided to just stay in my tri clothes.  I took off my helmet and bike shoes, put on my visor, sunglasses and running shoes and off I went…again!  My right hip was a little sore, but it didn’t last long.  My running plan (that I decided upon pre-race) was to take the first 5-6 miles extra slow, like a 10 minute pace.  My first mile was an 8:40, so I really had to reel it in, but I just could not believe how good I was feeling.  I did the next 3 miles around a 9:15 pace and it felt pretty comfortable.  This really was my dayJ.   Unfortunately, things went from good to bad in a hurry.  All of a sudden, around mile 4, I started having stomach cramps and diarrhea.  The cramps and diarrhea continued for the remaining 22 miles- actually getting to the point where I could not take anything in, not even water.  Between visiting the porta-pottys and the woods, I was able to maintain a decent pace.  The course was a double loop again, so I was able to see my mom, my dad, or my husband about every 2 miles.  The course was beautiful, including running through Randall Stadium (where I yelled “Go Blue” at the top of my lungs) and a nice trail along Lake Mendota.  I was surprised that I was still able to run, considering that nothing was staying in and I was surely dehydrated by this time.  About mile 20 I really just wanted to be done.  I had decided that I would not be stubborn and that I would visit to Med Tent as soon as I crossed the finish line.  It was only about 6 pm and I had until midnight to finish.  I was definitely going to make it.  I walked for just a short bit, but noticed that my stomach didn’t really feel any different whether I was walking or running.  And since I really wanted to be done, I ran it in.  I was able to talk to a few people out on the course, and again the fans were great.  Coming into the home stretch, running around the capital building and into the finisher chute was surreal.  I heard what I had been waiting to hear for a whole year, ”Angie O’Brien.  You.  Are.  An.  Ironman!”.  Hell ya!  Now which way to the Med tent? 


I visited the tent and I can’t say enough good things about the staff there as well.  They were all amazing!  After briefly passing out, coming to with the sounds of someone saying “80/40” I knew that we had some more work to do.  They checked my electrolytes and I received 5 bags of IV fluids.  They were not going let me leave until I was able to keep something down.  They had the nerve to ask me if I wanted Gatorade- oh hell no!  I managed to get down a small amount of chicken broth and a couple of pretzels, before having to visit the bathroom yet again.  I left there after about 3 hours.  I really felt okay, except my stomach was still very angry with me.  I guess that was from all the calories and sugary crap that I ingested while on the bike.  Learning Opportunity


It took a couple of days for my stomach to act normal again and about 3 days for my quads to like me again.  Oh, and after about a year of losing toenails after all of my long runs, I will be getting those taken care of later this week.  All things considered, it really was an amazing experience.  I am trying to decide where/ when my next Ironman will be and I’m having my tattoo designed.  


To say I'm in awe of this woman would be an understatement.  Leave her a comment and I promise to forward every single one of them to her.  Let's blow up her phone today :)

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