Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Ironman Wisconsin Race Report aka Post Mortem ;-)

Like usual this is going to get long, so read at your own risk.  The good news is I'm in much better spirits then I was after Kona last year.  In a weird way, I am actually ok with the way my race turned out, it just wasn’t my day.

The executive summary is I was dehydrated. The odd part is I adjusted and took in more salt, more water, and eased up my effort.  My heart rate never decoupled, I was never once thirsty and I even peed during the race, but I just slowly faded and ran into issue after issue (all of which are classic effects of dehydration). 
I raced under my targets all day but my nutrition plan, the conditions, and fighting off a sinus infection just did not work together. First issue was chills and a headache on the bike, I adjusted and thought I recovered by the end of the ride. Then both GI issues and a side stitch hit early in the run. I adjusted again, thought I recovered and was smiling ear to ear as I felt great that I had beat the side stitch that plagued me in 2009. I was still 9th overall amateur with only 13.1 miles to go. Then the final straw was leg cramps that brought me to a dead stop more times than I can count.  These were the cramps and spasams like when you push off the wall in the pool and your entire legsfreezes up and you think you are going to drownd.
Before I get into the details, thank you to everyone for the support.  My wife and daughter continue to be amazing supporters and spectators and once again spent a long weekend at an Ironman.  They not only deal with my training all year, they encourage and support me through all of it and without them I could not do this.  They keep me sane and some what balanced.  I enjoy being with them so much and am glad I have a few weeks off now to spend more time with them. 
Thank you to my all of my sponsors and especially the Zoot team.  Not only do they make awesome gear, Jake always makes sure I have everything I need.  Thank you to my friends and family that were on the course to cheer me on all day.  I appreciate you being there for the highs and the lows of my race, you really kept me going.  I continue to learn more about myself in every race and will use this as one more lesson learned and come back even stronger.
Thank you to Theresa, Ali Engin (, and Jonnie Diederich I at least have some good pictures from the day.

Even though it wasn’t anywhere near the result I was looking for many good things came out of this race:

·         I did not give up.  I told myself after Kona last year I would never quit.  I may have walked, but I finished and at one point I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to take another step much less walk most of the last 13 miles.

·         I finished safely without assistance and actually felt ok at the end, I just couldn’t run without my legs cramping and locking up

·         My training and taper this year both felt perfect

·         I reacted to the first two major issues I experienced during the race and recovered and moved on from both.  Both of which could have ruined my race earlier in the day and in past years have gotten the better of me.

·         I set a PR in the swim by almost 5 minutes and felt the best I ever felt coming out of the water

·         I rode 4% under my target watts and still went 5:05 on the bike.

·         I was 8th overall amateur after T2, compared to 30th in 2009

·         I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m even more fired up now and REALLY want to execute a good ironman.  Sure I may never have a perfect day, but I KNOW I will have a much better race in me then I have been able to show.

·         This race was a wake up call.  I will not just keep showing up to IM races and expecting to get better.  In the next few weeks I will be analyzing every part of my training and racing to re-evaluate everything.

Here comes the boring details...

Swim – Goal 1:05 – Actual 1:04:45

I tried to keep my effort in check and had the cleanest IM swim ever.  I had almost zero contact for the first 800M and then of course the two turns were a mess.  From that point on I just swam comfortably.  I didn’t go out of my way to find feet, but when there were feet close by I got behind them.  I just focused on holding my form the best I could.  Not only did I meet my goal, I came out of the water feeling amazing.

T1 – Goal 5:00 – Actual 4:57

I just moved quickly, never sprinted or rushed.  I stopped for sunblock and also stopped to put on my shoes at the bike rack.  Ended up only 1 second slower than 2009, but my heart rate felt lower as I didn’t sprint.

Bike – Goal 5:05 – Actual 5:05:16

I instantly felt great on the bike and could tell my legs were ready to go.  I had to really focus to hold back, but I did and was right at my target watts for the first 3.5 hours.  I also was very diligent about my nutrition and took everything exactly to plan, except for one launched water bottle.  I grabbed two at the next aid station to make up for it though.  I was passing people that I didn’t expect to see for a while and only one person total went by me on the bike.  Basically, everything was going perfect and I was smiling ear to ear.

Around about mile 65 on the bike (on G/92), I went from perfect to getting goose bumps, chills, and a headache.  I backed my power down, took a salt pill and made sure to get a full bottle of water in at every aid station for the rest of the bike.  Within about 15 minutes I felt ok again, but not right.  The chills and goose bumps went away but a slight headache stuck around.  I felt ok going over the climbs but in the flats I just didn’t feel quite right so I rode easier than planned for the rest of the ride.  I kicked up my water and salt intake to what worked for me in Kona last year.  In the last 30 minutes, I tried to pick it back up but I could tell my legs just didn’t feel right so I decided just to spin easy and get ready for the run.  I actually started to feel significantly better in the last 10-15 minutes but maybe that was just because I knew I was getting off the bike.

Here I am taking my time up the hill into Mt. Horeb and sitting up to finish one of the 8 full bottles of water I took in (in addition to sports drink and salt).

I ended up averaging around 10 watts under my target for the ride and my heart rate was about 10 bpm higher than normal.  Taking that into consideration I'm pretty pleased with a 5:05 split, even though I know I should have gone right about 5 hours and still had a good run.

Here are a few good pictures Ali Engin ( got out on the bike course.
Flying down Timber Lane at close to 50 and starting to brake for the turn.

Getting real close to the motorcycle through the turn.

Congrats to Get A Grip Teammate Ryan Lingor for a great race
and passing me on most of the climbs.

Having some fun with the spectators on the Mid Town Climb.

And back to work.

T2 – Goal 2:00 – Actual 2:17

Again, I didn’t rush or sprint but just moved quickly.  I made decide to put arm coolers on and this took at least the 17seconds I was over my goal, but I thought it was worth it due to the heat.  I also took a bottle of Gatorade with me out of T1 and carried it for the first part of the run, so I would always have something to drink.

Run – Goal 3:10  – Actual 4:36:46

The day was shaping up to be just like 2009 and I could tell it was going to get hotter than expected and people would blow up on the run.  Ironically, this is what I had been wishing for all week.

My plan was to run around 7:10 pace for the majority of the marathon, but because of the issue on the bike and the heat I backed way down.  I left T2 at 8:00 pace, a full 50” slower than my planned pace.  I figured I had plenty of time to pick it up but I was worried about the heat.  My legs felt great leaving T2 but my stomach was uneasy.  I felt like I was walking I was going so slow but still did the first mile in 7:30.  Then a slight uncomfortable feeling required an urgent stop at the next porta pottie and within a minute I was off running again.  I peed a significant amount at this stop as well so I assumed that I wasn’t too severely dehydrated.   I probably only lost a minute and felt so much better.

Less than a minute after the pit stop, the same exact side stitch I got in 2009 started.  I immediately slowed down, started to focus on my breathing and started to take in Cola, Sports Drink , and Water at each aid stations.  I was determined to beat the side stitch this time around and I did.  By mile 6 it was completely gone, my stomach had settled and I felt great.  I was still worried though and really keep my effort in check and made sure not to speed up.

The next 6 miles I was pretty much smiling ear to ear.  I wasn’t making up any ground but I also wasn’t losing any and was just thinking about staying steady and getting ready to push hard on the last 6 miles.  The only problem was I started to notice that on sharp turns or running up hill I my quads and arches were starting to cramp.  Kind of like when I push off the wall to hard swimming in a long workout.  I took another salt pill and ran through them just fine.  As long as I made sure to have a very short stride on the turns and hills I was fine.

Just before mile marker 13 on the capital square a slight cramp in my right arch got really bad and  locked up all the muscles in my leg.  I came to a complete stop as I couldn't move my leg at all.  This was the first time this ever happened to me running.  I quickly put my foot on the curb to get the arch and calf to relax and release.  Then I rubbed the other muscles, stretched a bit and was on my way.  I had a few more small cramps like that in the next few minutes but the excitement near the finish and turn around keep me going.

Around mile 14 my left leg locked up just like the right had before.  I came to a complete stop again, stretched but couldn’t start to run again so I walked for maybe 30 seconds to a minute and then started to do a shuffle.  I was able to get back to running as long as I keep a very short stride and keep my legs as stiff and straight as possible.

I made it about a half mile of running before the next cramp hit.  From that point until mile 18 the pattern continued and the amount of time I could run got shorter and shorter while it took longer and longer to walk off the cramp.

I tried but couldn’t run more than a few steps up the hills on observatory and the downhill hurt even more.  I tried so hard to run through it though and actually fell over and into the wall on the side of observatory when my leg completely locked again.  After picking myself up off the ground I decide to just walk (more like a hobble) for a few minutes.

With the excitement on State Street I was able to pull together some sort of an 11:00 min/mile jog for about a half mile and then I could feel the muscle in my legs starting to lock up again and it was back to walking again.  Rich from EN came by me at that point and offered to walk with me to get me going again.  I really appreciated his willingness to do that during his race but I told him just to go on and finish strong.

Once I had walked to the trail next to the lake I gave running one more shot, this time my leg locked up, I lost my footing, fell off the side of path and into the grass next to the lake.  I got myself up again and decided it was time to just walk for a bit.

I was an emotional and physical mess at this point and it was probably the darkest place I have ever been in a race. With every ironman I do I find higher highs and lower lows. I wanted to just quit as I knew my goal was out the window and I had no interest in just finishing another ironman. Then I thought back to how I felt when I gave up in Kona and I decided there was no way I was quitting and even if it took 17 hours I was finishing. This was at about mile 21 of the race and it was still well under 10 hours, so you can tell my math skills were not quite up to par at that moment. 

It was a good thing that I had set my mind on finishing because literally within a few minutes a golf cart came by.  They said I wasn’t looking so good and asked if I needed help or a ride to the medical tent.  If that cart would have come by 5 minutes earlier I may have had my first DNF.

There isn’t much more to say.  I walked for the vast majority of the remaining 5 miles from that point on.  I did manage to figure out a way to sort of run while swinging my legs and shuffling my feet instead of bending my knees and with that I was able to at least very slowly jog about the last mile to someone keep my dignity in front of the crowd. 

Finish – Goal 9:25 – Actual 10:54:01

I will say that every time I race an ironman I get more and more respect for the people that are out there for 15, 16, 17 hours.  11 hours felt like a lifetime, I am truly impressed by the people that can push their bodies for so long.  I’m spoiled by being fast and not having to suffer for nearly as long.

Post Race

I was actually in ok shape physically as long as I took very short and slow steps.  I went through the finish shoot as quickly as possible and just wanted to be out of there (thanks Beth for helping me, I bet I had the best finish shoot split of the day!).  I drank just one bottle of water, we got my bike and bags and then made the long walk back to the car.  On the way to the hotel we picked up dinner.  I ate without a problem and then felt ok the rest of the night.  I even peed within an hour of the race so I don’t think I was that severely dehydrated, my muscles seemed to think otherwise though.


I felt surprisingly good.  I slept the best I had ever slept.  My legs were tight and I could feel exactly where the worst cramps had been.  In fact it hurt to touch those spots (inside of my quads right above the knees and my calves).  However I was able to walk just fine and was not in any pain at all.  I didn’t feel quite as good as the day after Kona 2010 when I was ready to run, but I didn’t feel like I did much the day before.

Abigail and Theresa were not feeling so good though.  Abigail had been congested all weekend so we took her to the doctor and turns out she had an ear infection and cold.  Theresa also went to the doctor and had a sinus infection, which I was likely fighting off as well as I had a ton of sinus pressure and congestion, which I'm sure did not help my day either.

Up Next
Well, a little bit of down time to let my body and mind heal from this one.  I've got a ton of thoughts on what I want to do next and just need a few weeks to sort through them.  I'll get another post up soon once I have decided what is next.
Finally, one of my favorite pictures from the weekend.  Abigail helping with "Dada bike".