Celebrating 5 years of Ironman participation

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report


Morning Prep:
I woke up at 4:15 am. Threw on my zoot shorts and orca top, and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. I ate a banana, peanut butter sandwich and bowl of maple brown sugar oatmeal. By 5am, mom, dad, Beth and Serendipity the dog were ready to go to the race site with me. I drove us the 6 miles in Washington Ave to the center of Madison. It was a good call to stay on the East side of town – we made it right downtown and into one of the closest garages. I dropped off my special needs bags and stopped at transition to pump up my bike tires. CK made it to Madison safe and sound thanks to Tri Bike Transport. I was lucky to borrow a pump from the woman whose bike was racked next to mine. I caught up with my parents and Beth again, got body marked (race numbers on my arms, age on my calf), and we headed down the parking garage ramp to the swim start.

The Swim:

I had close to an hour before the race start at 6 am!  Amazing how little time you need when you set up your transition items the day before.  So, I hung out with Beth and my Mom for a while – and put up with Beth photographing me getting into my wetsuit.  Dad and Serendipity had staked out a spot on the garage ramp to cheer for me as I ran from the swim to bike.  The morning music mix included Kings of Leon “Use Somebody” and The Samples “Did You Ever Look So Nice” – which was a fun throwback to freshman year at Washington University.  By 6:30 am, the race organizers were encouraging athletes to get into the lake.  Seeing I had my wetsuit on and had finished my gu and gatorade, I figured why not.

I treaded water forever – and tried to remember what on earth my friend Phil had said about being close to or far from the ski jump ramp.  When the gun went off at 7 am, I thought I was in a great place.  About three minutes later, I changed my mind.  Suddenly, I was in the chaotic midst of 2,400 swimmers all trying to make their way around a set of yellow and orange buoys.  I got sandwiched between two guys and pushed under.  Then, I got KICKED in the eye.  And, if that were not bad enough, I got hit in the nose shortly thereafter.  I popped up a few times to yell (no, nobody could hear, but it made me feel a little better).  My eye hurt so badly from having my goggles slammed into the eye socket, that I soon found myself crying and swimming.  Yes, you can cry while you swim, who knew!

Swim in Lake Monona

Swim in Lake Monona

I broke free from the crowd by the second loop.  Later on, I learned from my friends Colin, Eric, Tom and Jim that they also found it to be one of the most brutal swims.  I seriously think the World Triathlon Corporation should consider letting the women start in a separate wave and making breaststroke illeagal during the swim!

Swim Time: 1:13

The Bike:

I was very disappointed in my swim time (7 minutes slower than last year!), but happy not to be seriously injured.  Seeing my parents and Beth on the ramp to transition definitely cheered me up.  I threw on my bike shoes in transition thanks to the help of a volunteer, got slathered in some sunscreen (but not nearly enough I would later find out) and headed out for the 112 mile bike ride.

The course was not as scary as it seemed when I drove it on Friday.  I felt great for the first loop – eating and drinking plenty.  I had to pee, but held off until about mile 50 because I was feeling so good.  There’s one very tough hill on the course and it was lined with spectators cheering.  There were groups of guys singing “put your back into it” and others wearing all sorts of costumes.  Definitely helped me smile.  At mile 58, I stopped for my special needs bag – I traded my peanut butter sandwich for the extra peanut butter crackers.  Another woman yelled “I need COOKIES!” as she stopped for her special needs bag and made everyone laugh.

By the second loop (each loop was about 40 miles and the ride out to the loop was about 16), the heat picked up.  I tried to keep forcing the gatorade and I ate all my food plus some bananas.  My stomach started to feel a little weird, but I didn’t think too much of it – especially since my shoulders ached too.  I was having a hard time keeping a pace with the people around me – thanks to the hills we were always leapfrogging with each other.  I also missed seeing my family on the bike ride, which bummed me out a little.  Mona was keeping them updated, but it was a tough to be a spectator in a new city.

Sara and CK at IM Moo

Sara and CK at IM Moo

I was losing steam until on the very last mile of the ride, I noticed the tall, tan guy riding in front of me was named Matthew and it struck me it might be my friend Mat Coyne from Boston.  I cycled up and said hi – sure enough, it was Mat!  We rode into transition together – how fun!

Bike Time: 7:02

The Run:

Another very nice volunteer helped me change my top in transition and get my running sneaks on.  By 3:30 pm, with the sun fully blazing, I was off to conquer 26.2 miles.  For the first 6 miles, I felt AWFUL!  I had stomach cramps and I was so dehydrated I kept feeling like I had to pee but couldn’t go despite stopping at each porta potty every mile.  To my surprise, my friend Jim R from DC came to the race to cheer.  I saw him around mile 2 and he suggested I walk and breathe out the cramps.  I was a bit bummed to start off so rocky, but I knew I should take it easy earlier and hope to bounce back.  And, bounce back I did!

I finally saw my parents when I came back through town on the first loop!  I also saw the sign they made for me along the run course.  And, when I turned the corner to head to the Capitol, I saw Beth with a half dozen hunky shirtless guys who all started cheering for me.  It made me laugh so hard – I actually picked up the pace in hopes I could catch them again and get a photo.  Ha!  I ran most of the second loop.  I definitely walked Observatory Hill and tossed in a few more walks here and there.  I had no idea what time it was until the last 2 miles when a spectator said, “It’s 8:30, you can definitely finish in under 14 hours.” I tried so hard to pick up the pace.  I had wanted to finish in 13 hours 30 minutes.  I knew I had missed that goal, but I at least wanted to beat last year’s time.  So, I booked it to the end, and found myself heading down the finisher shoot for a final time of 13:49!

Run Time: 5:14

Total Race Time: 13:49

Post Race:

I caught up with my parents and Beth quickly after the race.  We took some photos in our team Ironwoman shirts.  We found my other friends, then decided to head back to the hotel to clean up a little.  I tried to make it back to see my friend Jim cross the finish line, but I just missed him.  So, I cheered for some of the final athletes crossing the finish line before midnight.

The whole gang (Eric, Tom, Jim, Colin, me and our families) headed over to the Great Dane for celebration beers and food.  Mac and cheese has never tasted so good!

Team Strope

Team Strope

Overall, I’m happy with my race.  I took almost 10 minutes off of last year’s time!  I missed my goal though and I know I could have made it.  I am definitely taking next year off from Ironman races.  I’ll do some shorter triathlons next year and help my dad train for his first race.   I wouldn’t be surprised if I sign up for another Ironman race in the future – and I’ll plan to do so when I can have the focus, training plan and determination I need to crack 13 hours.

Thanks again to my parents, Beth, and Mona for all the race day support!  And, thanks to everyone else for all the support from afar!


Author: sarabstro

My name is Sara Strope. I'm hooked on triathlons. I spend my days building a health tech startup, promoting organ donation, and producing events. Oh, and training!

6 thoughts on “Ironman Wisconsin Race Report


  2. Awesome race Sara! Way to persevere through a really rough day, especially getting socked in the eye right at the start.

  3. Great reporting
    Lessons learned too
    Can’t text, watch for your athelete, ring bells and photograph at the same time!
    I did get some photos with my Pentex 35mm which will be sent soon. Oh did I mention other excited supporters who jump right into your planned photo.
    Great job Sara!

  4. That is one fast time for an Ironman, Sara! Unbelievable how much better it can feel when things go well, huh? No mechanicals at all, and except for the kicky swimmers and goofy tummy on the first of the run, it all went well for you. Yay!!

    So proud of ya, -Sunny

  5. Thanks everyone! I know I have 13:30 – maybe even faster in me. I’ll rest a little for now though.

    Mom – You know I’ll be back at IM soon. And, hopefully you and Team Stropedogg will catch me on each loop next time!

  6. My vote goes out for Placid again. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s