Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009 Race Report

If you haven’t already seen my Thank You Post, please read that prior to this race report as there is no way I would have had such a successful race without my many supporters. Also, check out the picture post as well.

Readers Digest Version

Overall, I had an amazing racing and feel like it was a dream come true. I can’t even begin to describe my feelings as I finished the race and found out I had won my age group and was going to Kona. I didn’t really believe it until Monday at the awards ceremony.

Swim: 1:12:05 – 1:53/100m –79th AG – 724th OA
T1: 4:56 – 1st AG
Bike: 5:07:58 – 21.82 mph – 1st AG – 32nd OA
T2: 1:55 – 2nd AG
Run: 3:22:36 – 4th AG – 31st OA

Total: 9:49:30 – 1st AG – 29th OA – 14th Amateur OA

Overall, I am very excited with how my race went and couldn't ask for more. However, like every other race there are always things that I can improve on next time around. The most interesting thing about this race for me was that for the first time it was my bike that made my race, not the run.


Before I give the long boring play by play, I always like to focus on what I learned:
- My swim still sucks but I have already started masters to hopefully help with this
- I was so worried about the heat, that I think I ate and drank too much even though I never really got hot
- I learned the value in racing my race and not getting caught up in what others were doing. There were times I watched multiple guys in my AG fly by me up a hill or on the run and I easily could have gone after them but I just stuck to my plan and watched them come back to me later now
- Rick and Patrick know what they are talking about … pretty much everything they said at the 4 keys talk happened exactly as they said it would, starting at the first small hill on Walen all the way to the finsih line
- Having a team and supports at various places all over the course (and watching online) really helps
- Be prepared for the unexpected. I spends months focusing on every detail I could think off, planned and tried everything, but the one thing I didn't think of happened. I have not had a side stitch in years, but I got one in this race and had to throw my plan, that I had obsessed over for month, out the window and run by feel only


I actually had probably my busiest weeks of the year at work for the two weeks prior to the race, with calls starting at 6 AM or earlier and working late most days. In hindsight I think this was actually a good thing as I had very little time to obsess over the race and weather.

This was also the first time I actually followed a plan and really tapered. It was tough, probably the hardest thing I did all year, but it seems to have paid off. I actually think I may have over tapered with a TSB of over 50 and a CTL drop of over 20 the day before the race. I've posted my PMC to the EN forum and we'll see what the Wicked Smart Members think about that.

Race morning I followed my nutrition plan, showed up early and then hung out with the EN crew by the swim start for a while. Josh and I got in about 15 minutes before the start and got all the way up front about 25 feet outside the ski ramp. About 5 minutes later Adam came up by us as well, so we sat and talked and enjoyed the morning. Next thing you know it was time to go, thanks to Josh and Adam, I never had time to get nervous.

Swim – 1:12:05

As usual the start was brutal. I got kicked, hit, swam over, around, everything you can think of. Luckily nothing really hurt and I just kept going. However I did get a goggle full of water and was never able to get rid of it. The beating then continued at pretty much every turn.

I know I was capable of swimming 1:05 as I did it in practice in the pool, but that was swimming as hard as I could. For the race I just swam comfortable and stayed relaxed. I came out of the water feeling like I had just stretched out and was ready to start the day… too bad I was in 724th place and 79th in my age group.

T1 – 4:56

I ran at a pretty good pace throughout the entire transition, the only problem was there were so many people in the way on the helix and changing room. Even with the people in the way I still had the fastest T1 in my AG. I guess if I fix my swim, I might not have to deal with the all the people.

Bike – 5:07:58

Even after a great bike split at Ironman 70.3 Kansas and Spirit of Racine, I still didn’t think of the bike as my strength, but I guess it is now. The bike was actually really uneventful. I pretty much starred at my power meter the entire time and drank every 15 minutes.

The first few hours I went back and forth with the same people for the most part and they slowly dropped off one by one. I hit the 56 mile mark at almost exactly 2:30 and couldn’t believe I quick I was going. It worried me a little but I was still hitting my targets. Things started to thin out pretty quickly then and the majority of the last 56 miles I was just doing my own thing and slowly passing people. About 4 hours in is where I usually pick it up, but because I was so much faster than I expected and I was worried about the heat, I just spun the last hour or so easy and enjoyed the ride back in.

Overall, I came in 5 watts under my goal and therefore my IF was .015 low and my TSS was 30 low.

Entire workout (181 watts):
Duration: 5:08:58
Work: 3358 kJ
TSS: 255.6 (intensity factor 0.705)
Norm Power: 190
VI: 1.05
Pw:HR: 0.96%
Pa:HR: 4.75%
Distance: 112.677 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 521 181 watts
Heart Rate: 131 188 164 bpm
Cadence: 29 244 85 rpm
Speed: 2.7 47.7 21.9 mph
Pace 1:15 22:27 2:44 min/mi
Hub Torque: 0 298 64 lb-in
Crank Torque: 0 867 184 lb-in

Hour by Hour:

Hour TSS IF NP VI Speed HR
1 47.5 0.69 186 1.05 21.9 162
2 48.8 0.7 189 1.04 22.4 163
3 53.6 0.733 198 1.04 22.9 167
4 53.4 0.731 197 1.04 20.9 167
5 45.4 0.674 182 1.05 21.9 162
6 6 0.637 172 1.2 18.9 163

In hindsight, I pushed a little too hard in hours 3 and 4, but because I shut it down and road the last hour each I was able to get away with it. My second race rehearsal was a much better ride and I let the adrenalin of passing a ton of people get the best of me.

I followed my nutrition plan exactly, however I had about 5:30 – 6:00 worth of infinit with me and I took it all down in 4:30…Oopps. Plus I drank a ton of water, one bottle from every single aid station as I was worried it was going to get hot. This caused quite a few pee breaks, but I thought it was worth it. I also took 3 Succeed S Caps to make sure I had enough salt.

On the positive side though, I felt awesome the entire time and pretty much smiled the whole way through as it was my easiest long ride of the year.

At the end of the bike I was in 61st overall and 3rd in AG.

T2 – 1:55

In the last 10 miles of the bike I had passed about 4 or 5 guys and they all pretty much stuck right behind me(legally from what I could tell) all the way in. However, I know they were there, so I dismount the bike and sprinted through T2. There was no one to get bags, so I grabbed my own, started to slip and crashed right into the wall in the bag room. Got to the changing room, slipped again, slid across a few chairs while dumping the back out and took off running again. I did stop for sun block though and because of the stop… I just missed having the fastest T2. I ended up with the 2nd fastest in my AG.

Run – 3:22:36

I was sprinting out of T2 at probably sub 6 minute mile pace and then crossed the mat and came to almost a walk… it was great to see the faces of everyone watching. But my plan was to take the first few miles easy and I was going to do it. The problem was my Garmin wasn’t working, so I just went as slow as I could, but still hit the first mile marker too fast even after walking the first aid station. Mile 2 started fine, but about half way through I felt a side stitch starting. I didn’t know what to do as I haven’t had one of those in years…I never cramp.

First the panic set in. I had no idea what place I was in, but I was pretty sure I was at least in contention for 5th or 6th. All season I had relied on my run to get me through the race, and in every other race of my life, it was always my run that I excelled at and passed people. After about a mile of getting myself worked up, pissed off and the cramp was just getting worse I had a reality check and decided it was time to go into survival mode.

Ironically enough, my Garmin had just started working and I was running about a 7:45 pace, but I changed the screen so I couldn’t see my pace and just ran by feel. I decided that I wanted to run the entire marathon even if it meant I was going to run slower than I have in the last two years.

I tried everything I could think of to shake the cramp, forceful exhaling, different breathing patterns, water, Gatorade, banana, pretzels … you name it I tried it. Nothing worked, so I just counted footsteps and stayed at a pace where the pain was someone manageable. It is a good thing that I had a ton of One Things in my mind or there is no way I would have made it.

It was even more painful to watch guys in my AG passing me, but I knew if I went after them I would blow up, so I just starred at the group 10 feet in front of me, counted steps and breaths.

I had tons of friends, teammates, and family on the course and they yelled all kinds of things to me, but I didn’t hear or don’t remember most of it. However I greatly appreciate every single one of you, as just seeing you keep me moving.

Between miles 7 and 13, I started to see everyone else around me slowing down and started to very slowly pass people that had passed me earlier in the run. This gave me just enough motivation to pick it up on the way back to the turn around. At the turn around I got a huge boost from the fans and also pasted a few male pros that had blown up, and I checked and had ran my fastest mile, and then the cramp got significantly worse. So I slowed back down and took it easy again.

From 13 to the turn at State Street (maybe mile 19ish), I really just focused on getting it done and running through the pain. Each time I passed someone I got a little boost and went faster, then the cramp got worse and the next mile I had to slow down.

I really can’t remember much of the last 10 miles of the marathon, except one thing that I remember clear as day. Coming up to one of the aid stations, I see Coach P and he is telling me slow down, take it easy, just relax, no need to go fast. Less than 200 feet later I see Coach Rich and he is yelling to suck it up and run, push through the pain, and it is my race to lose if I don’t push it.

The cramp finally went away about three steps after the finish line when I landed in the arms of a few volunteers. However, I could actually still feel the exact spot of the cramp for the next two days.

Here is the run data. Although I didn’t hit my run goal, I think the cramp was a good thing as it forced me to take the first half of the marathon really easy and then allowed me to negative split while others were falling apart.

Forerunner305 [Run]:
Duration: 3:22:59
Work: n/a
rTSS: 252.3 (0.814)
NGP: 7:13 (223.2 m/min)
VI: n/a
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: 1.89%
Distance: 25.895 mi
Elevation Gain: 8091 ft
Elevation Loss: 8080 ft
Grade: 0.0 % (11 ft)
Min Max Avg
Heart Rate: 150 180 166 bpm
Speed: 0 51 7.7 mph
Pace 1:11 0:00 7:50 min/mi
Altitude: 803 1117 886 ft
Note: The GPS altitude correction would not work, so my NGP is NOT CORRECT.

FIRST RUN SEGMENT 6.35 mi. (49:46) 7:50/mile
SECOND RUN SEGMENT 13 mi. (51:32) 7:44/mile
THIRD RUN SEGMENT 19.23 mi. (48:04) 7:42/mile
FINAL RUN SEGMENT 26.2 mi. (53:14) 7:38/mile

Post Race

The night after the race and next day were just amazing. I was on cloud 9 the entire time and enjoyed talking to so many athletes and TeamEN members. I had the chance to meet Robert Ferris who was 2nd in my Age Group and was chasing me down. If the marathon was a mile longer he probably would have caught me. Robert also gave me some great advice for the trip to Kona and I look forward to seeing him in a year. I also found out the guy in my age group with the second fastest bike split lives only a few towns away from me. Rick, we should really ride together sometime and push each other so we both get stronger.

As far as receover goes ... I guess the good thing about getting a cramp and having to slow down on the run is I never got sore. I forced myself to do nothing Monday and Tuesday, but I felt like I could have picked up normal training. I’m still easing back into things just to be safe, but my body feels great and I'm really enjoying just working out with no schedule or intervals to do. It's amazing how much more I see on a ride when I'm not aero and starring at a power meter.


As I mentioned I’m thrilled with my performance and how the day worked out and wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my friends and family.

It’s very interesting to me how I fell apart on the run that I have relied on for years, but had a significantly stronger bike than I expected (and stayed under my targets). I mentioned some of my lessons learned and this race gave me a lot to think about and work on for next year.

It’s now time to take a little while off from serious training and have fun with my fitness. Up next ,the New York Marathon (Thanks Katie!) and then the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater...both for fun only and with no goals.

In the mean time I’m going to start documenting my goals for next year and then coming up with a race plan. Lots of ideas floating around in my head now and need some time to sort them out. I definitely did not achieve my run goal for this year and therefore will have to go for it again next year, however I did get within 16 minutes of another goal that I didn’t think would happen for another few years….more to come on that later.

Thanks for reading and feel free to ask as many questions as you like.


  1. Awesome race report, and congratulations once again. Let me know if you want to hit up a ride some time. Best of luck in your races this fall, and with the journey to Kona!

  2. great report and congrats again on a great season culminating with an A+++ execution at IMWI! Have you figured out how many cal/hr you consumed on the bike? I recall you had problems during training when you took in too much. Maybe that caused the stitch? In any case, way to push through the pain!

  3. Great job, Matt.

    As the President of your Iowa Fan club, I'd just like to say Congrats and enjoy the rest of the deserve it.

  4. Great job Matt! This was a great post. I'm looking forward to reading your Kona post in a year!

  5. Congrats Matt! Well done! I enjoyed reading your post. Good luck in Kona!

  6. Morad (Accenture London)October 13, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    Congratulations on a great race and a great result Matt! I don't know what all that data means but it looks cool :)