2015 was my first full season training for triathlon. In 2014 I did an Olympic distance event and was hooked. For 2015 I decided to go for it all and signed up for Ironman Wisconsin.
This past season has been quite the learning experience as my first season in the sport. I struggled to learn how to swim. For anyone familiar with swimming, they will know it is all about technique, technique, and more technique. Running and biking are lots of raw fitness and power, but swimming must be built from technique before fitness can truly develop. Finally after many months of practice in the pool, things clicked and I progressively became a more efficient and therefore faster swimmer.
I ramped up my hill and speed run training too quickly and fought insertional Achilles tendonitis most of the season. I had to take over a month off running on land and supplement with pool running. I then eased back into running and my longest run of the entire season before Ironman was a 13.1 mile run as part of Steelhead Half Ironman in August. Typically in Ironman training, an athlete would do a few long runs of 16+ miles.
Cycling is my strength and I was able to get in multiple rides of 90+ miles throughout the summer. Nick suggested I go with the Cannondale Slice with Ultegra Di2 as my ride. I paired it with a Stages power meter and an ENVE 6.7 wheelset. Nick dialed in the Retul fit and was able to get me into an extremely aerodynamic position. I learned how to use the power meter data to structure and analyze my workouts. The Stages power meter is a great value as it can be moved to different bikes, is very consistent, and doesn’t break the bank.
My season came together nicely through August and into my September taper for Ironman. I was peaking at the right time. Leading up to the race on September 13, I was getting the irritable feeling that comes with tapering. My body was ready and wanted to race!
On race day I woke up at 3:30 AM, ate breakfast and got ready. I got body marked and into transition at 5:00 and put my bottles on my bike, checked my tires, and loaded my Garmin Edge 510. I double checked my transition bags and then found a place to chill before the start.
At 6:20 the wetsuit went on and down the parking structure helix we went to enter the water. There were about 3000 other athletes also attempting to get in the water and I made it in about 5 minutes before 7:00.
At 7:00 the cannon went off and the washing machine started. Although I was a much better swimmer than a year ago, I knew I was going to be in the middle of the pack. Other athletes are swimming up your legs and bumping into your shoulders. A couple of times I used some martial arts moves to create space. After the first turn, I finally got into a rhythm and started lengthening my stroke. The backstretch was free of much congestion and I cruised into T1 with the clock reading 1:16:04. My goal was to swim around 1:15. Considering the congestion and not finding good feet to draft on, I was satisfied with my time.
In T1 you get your wetsuit stripped off by volunteers, run up the helix, get your biking gear, and head out to your bike. I climbed on my bike with a time of 08:16 in transition. It was a little slower than I would have liked, but I also had to put on socks and pack up my own swim gear (no volunteer help).
Once on the bike, it is about 15 miles out to the loop. The loop consists of 42 miles of hills, hills, and more hills. The elevation gain for the course is about 5300 ft over 112 miles. I came out of the water in 914 place and quickly moved through the field with ease. I settled into my power goals and pushed the pace. All I had on my Garmin screen was cadence, heart rate, 3 sec avg power and 30 sec avg power. I also used 5 mile lap splits and recorded avg and normalized power (NP) to monitor my pace. I didn’t care about how fast I was going, just that I was maintaining my power. I knew that if I rode a NP of around 200 watts I would finish the bike sub 5:30. I spun up the hills best I could at a high cadence, but often was pushing 400+ watts as the hills are short and steep. The crowds were great and the course had a Tour de France feel on a few of the famous hills. I took in about 1600 calories on the bike, with 1500 being liquid. The less food you have to put in your stomach, the better off you will be. I cruised back to Madison with a tailwind and continued to pass a few more athletes. My NP for the ride was 204 watts and I moved up from 914 to 134 place. My goal was sub 5:30 and I road 5:24:44 or 20.69 mph.
In T2 I shed my bike gear, grabbed my bib, nutrition belt, hat, and running shoes. I was out on the run course with a time in T2 of 02:54.
Onto the run, only 26.2 miles to go! The course is two loops with lots of crowd support. I settled into a nice pace for the first half and kept drinking. I went through a few dark places at mile 5 and mile 18 til the end, but managed to keep running. My pace fell off a bit the last 8 miles. I took in the crowd support and headed for the home stretch. Much of an Ironman marathon is mental and I had to tell my mind to shut up and keep the legs going. I found a bounce in my step for the last quarter mile and headed for the finishing chute. I crossed the line running a 3:49:36 marathon (08:45/mi pace) with a finishing time of 10:41:34. Mike Reilly shouts the famous words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” My goal was to run a sub 4 hour marathon and to finish sub 11 hours and I more than exceeded that. I finished in 111 place out of around 3000 participants and 24 in my division.
I had a great first Ironman experience and it left me wanting more. I have plans to sign up for Ironman Wisconsin in 2017 and go for a Kona qualifying slot. I will have to trim off at least 40-50 minutes and even that might leave me on the outside looking in. I know I can swim 1:05, bike 5:10-5:15, and run 3:30 if I train hard and stay healthy. For now I’m going to enjoy Fall and rest up!