Celebrating 5 years of Ironman participation

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IM #2534

Bib numbers were released for IM Canada!  I’ll be number 2534.  Track me on race day at!



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!

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The Full Race Report

Race Morning: I rolled out of bed at 4:45 am and ate my favorite pre-race meal of a peanut butter sandwich and a banana. For the first time all week, I felt nervous. While I told my friends and family that nobody needed to head down to transition with me, I was pretty psyched that they were all up and ready when I left at 5:30 am. I found some friends in transition, pumped up my bike tires, unwrapped my bike (thank for the tip about putting garbage bags over it the night before!), and got my bodymarked. Then I walked down to drop off my special needs bags and get ready on the beach.

Swim: I bumped into my friend Joe on the beach and we wandered over to the water together. I decided to seed myself towards the front and middle. No matter how many times you watch an Ironman swim start on You Tube, nothing will prepare you for the chaos of the mass start! The first two minutes felt like 20 as I struggled to get a spot where I could just stretch out and swim. Finally, I broke free – only to be clobbered in the nose. I was certain for the remainder of the first loop (and even later on the run when I bumped my nose with a cup of gatorade) that my nose was broken. I kept feeling for blood, but decided if I could breathe ok, I should just keep swimming. The second loop cleared out a bit – until we made the turn to head back in…and I got straight out dunked like my head was a basketball. I popped up screaming “What the hell man!” and was ready to fight until I realized nobody was paying attention – just swimming. So, back I went to concentrating on a nice long stroke. I exited the water in 1:06 and was psyched to see my crew of 10 in their yellow Team Stropedogg shirts lining the run from the beach to transition.

Bike: After a little confusion in transition (turns out you need to go through the change tent even if you’re not changing), I was off on the very wet ride. Luckily, I was used to the rain from a training weekend in June. The first loop was pretty uneventful for me. My nutrition plan was solid – I packed plenty of gu, shot blocks, cliff bars – and a delicious peanut butter sandwich in my special needs bag. Coming down the big descent on the second loop, I was freezing thanks to the rain! Forget gatorade and water, I desperately wanted hot chocolate! Joe caught me on the second loop and it was great to have some company for a while. Also, the aid stations were fantastic! My favorite aid station was on Hassleback road – while I used the porta-potties, the volunteers filled up my water bottles and piled up food on my aero bars!

Run: What a fun first marathon – rain, rain, and more rain! I changed into my DC tri top – which made it really easy to be spotted. I saw Kip and Kevin on the way out of town. I ran with my friend Jim for the first three miles and saw Joe, Tom, Heather and a couple other tri club folks on the course. My run to each aid station and walk through the station strategy held up until about mile 19 – when I had to start tossing in a couple more walks. I passed Jim again on my way back into town and he gave me a huge hug, “You’re going to be an Ironwoman today!”  I started my final two mile trudge up the hill into town.  It was so great to see my friends and family as I climbed the final hill back into town. I stopped for photos and high-fives. The best part was hearing my two year old niece say, “what Aunt Sara doing now? Aunt Sara run! Evie too! Evie too!” Oh yeah, and with never-ending rain, I learned that body glide and vaseline just don’t hold up.

Finish: I crossed the finish line in just under 14 hours with a smile on my face! I went home to shower, then returned to the stands to cheer the final participants in – what an amazing experience!  Music was blasting, the stands were shaking, and it almost didn’t matter that I felt like puking every other minute.  I wore my finisher t-shirt from that night all the way through Monday night!

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Confidence and Terror

Besides tapering, eating well, packing, and sleeping this week, I’m spending a fair amount of mental energy on vacillating between fear and excitement over IMLP. As Jim told me, “I waffle between holy **it I have to do an IM race in a week and OMG I’m going to be an IM in a week. Sometimes, I can’t figure out what the difference is between the excitement and the anxiety!”

I guess this feeling is pretty common! I received an email from the Ironman Community Fund that called out this strange bi-polar feeling and how to cope with it:

Congratulations on making it this far! Many times the most challenging aspect of Ironman racing is merely making it through the training and arriving on the starting line in one piece. If you’ve made it this far, the battle is more than half over. As we watch athletes go through the usual waves of confidence and terror that precede an Ironman, we want to remind you of a few things which may or may not help you.

I am Terrified of:

  • The Swim Start (see above – that’s 2,000 people all at once!)
  • Flat tires on the bike ride
  • Stomach problems on the run

I feel Confident knowing:

  • Never in my life have I been this fit
  • I have a nutrition plan
  • Team RA3 will be there with me
  • My family and closest friends will be there cheering (in matching t-shirts, no less)
  • I’ll have support from many, many folks from DC to California to Singapore and Japan

Have you ever had that nervous excitement? How do you deal?


Get Packing!

Looks like I’ll need to start my packing this weekend! Some friends prepped me about the special needs bags for the bike and run. But, I just received an email from the Community Fund about Race Bags – check out everything I’ll need below. It’s definitely a bit more involved than my other races! Good thing there’s an EMS outdoors store in Placid in case I forget anything!

Besides the standard extra bike tubes, CO2 cartridges, reflective tape (for when it gets dark on the run) and a long sleeve shirt, any recommendations on what I should put in my special needs bag? There’s no doubt I’ll have pringles and fritos in there! What else might be a good little treat to keep me going?

Race Bags:

In your race bags you will find the following key items:

  • Dry Clothes Bag – this is used to put any clothes you may wear down to the race start and clothing you may want at the end of the race. You will drop this bag on your way to the swim start and it will be available at the finish.
  • Swim to Bike Bag – this bag is for your bike helmet, shoes, sunglasses, clothing etc and anything else you will be putting on after you exit the swim and make the transition to the bike leg. This bag is checked in the day before the race at bike/gear bag check-in You will have access to this bag race morning should you forget anything.
  • Bike to Run Bag – This is for your running shoes, socks, hat, clothing change etc or anything you may need for the run leg. This bag is also checked the day before at the bike/ gear bag check-in, and you will have access to it on race morning if you forget anything.
  • Special Needs Bike – This is an optional use bag. Special needs for the bike is stationed at approximately 56 miles into the bike leg, right on Mirror Lake Drive, as you are completing the first loop of the bike course. You may use this option if there is anything special that you would like to pick-up at this point of the event. For example if you have a special drink mix that you would like to replenish, extra, back-up salt tablets, a spare tube or any other kind of comfort food/ item that you think-you may need or want and cannot get out on the course. DO NOT PLACE ANY VALUABLES INTO THIS BAG. We do try and return these bags to the transition area after the race BUT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE you will get them back. You will hand in this bag on race morning – you will have to make the walk down Mirror Lake Drive to drop this off. This is the same location as the drop for Run Special Needs. In addition we do have volunteers at this point on the bike course who will try and hand the bag off to you BUT be prepared to stop briefly if you really want to get your bag and it is busy.
  • Special Needs Run – Like the bike this bag is handed in on race morning on Mirror Lake Drive. During the race you will have the opportunity to pick-up these bags as you head to the turnaround on Mirror Lake Drive at 13 miles. It is for anything special you may need as you make the turn to start the second loop of the run. Special foods, drinks, salt tablets or even perhaps a warm shirt for those of you that may be out on the course late into the evening. Once again we will try and return these to you BUT IT IS NOT GURANTEED.

That’s a lot of stuff to prepare!  Any tips or thoughts about what may be good to have?  I think if I learned my lesson from Black Bear, some sunscreen and extra body glide will be a must!