Ironman Wisconsin 2015 Race Report, By I. P. Freely

I have never, ever, ever thought it was a good idea to do two Ironman races in one year. I am astounded by people who sign up for multiples, or who race August Ironmans, qualify, then turn it around in time for Kona. How? Why? …How?

Well, last year I committed to doing Ironman Lake Placid with friends. Then September rolled around, and my “hometown” race of Ironman Wisconsin didn’t sell out in 18 minutes. Unusual.

A week went by, and it was still open.

Obviously, I took this as a sign.

I discussed it with coach Steve…
  
Aaaaaaaand I signed up, of course. It was inevitable. And I signed Dusty up, because I wanted him to experience Madison’s best weekend of the year, too. And I immediately texted Madison friends Lindsey and Claire, and made way-in-advance plans to attend my 15 year college reunion in Minnesota this June, followed by a self-imposed five day training camp based out of Lindsey’s perfect little house in Madison. My brain bounced between having some trepidation about Placid to feeling unmitigated joy in the thought of returning to Madison. All “double Ironman year” worries were forgotten…or denied? Whatever.

Eventually, I was able to throw everything at my physical preparation for Placid, and the mental preparation followed: by July, I felt so ready for Placid that Madison just lived in the back of my brainhole as true contingency plan/afterthought. When I fucked up Placid, I momentarily hesitated to follow through to Ironman Wisconsin. “Redemption” didn’t seem like a good enough reason to put my heath at risk. However, a few good nights sleep and some active recovery later, I turned it around and was (mostly) ready to start training again. I suppose I just wasn’t ready for my season to end.

With Coach Steve’s plan, I actually found it easy to coast my fitness from one Ironman to the next within seven weeks. He spelled it out for me, and it was unscary: the first week after Placid was strictly active recovery (I walked a lot). The next week was building volume again, with no intensity, and a split long run. Following three weeks was a manageable build, with “civilized” run mileage, so as not to ruin my legs or trigger injury. A short, steep taper covered the final two weeks into the race.

I flew into town on Tuesday. Claire and I immediately dropped off my bike with David Kohli (Perfect Circle/Machinery Row) to have it assembled by a professional, (because I’ve given up pretending I can do it myself), and went about sampling east side food and drink.

Mine has beet juice in it so it’s OK.  

I bunked at Lindsey’s house until I could check in to my hotel on Thursday. Lindsey was also hosting three German boys, so we had fun cultural exchanges. I always thought Germans flocked to Ironman Wisconsin, like they do, because the competition was relatively “easy” for them or something. It turns out they love the course and value the fair race: Ironman Frankfurt and others in Europe have a reputation for being dominated by drafting groups of teammates on the bike, apparently.

Anyhoo, I had wee little workouts race week, got them done, checked in to the race ASAP on Thursday, and relaxed. Dusty arrived Friday afternoon, so we got him checked in too: he wasn’t going to race (because the only thing dumber than two Ironmans in a year is your FIRST TWO Ironmans in a year), but considered doing the swim with me. We decided I needed his full support from the sidelines more than feet to follow on the swim. He had an athlete’s wristband, though, so Dusty was able to enter transition with me, get my bike set up on race morning, and walk me all the way down to the swim start. I was pretty calm, I think (?), but it was really nice to have him near to guide me through the inevitable race-morning decision-making tree.

OK Here’s the Race Part

Things had changed slightly since my last time at Ironman Wisconsin (’11). The swim is now one seemingly endless loop crossing lengthwise in front of Monona Terrace. Something about a course parallel to where you want to go is like being stuck on the highway unsure of where to exit. Plus, I got my usual Ironman leg cramp (I never ever cramp, ever, except during Ironman) with about a mile to go, and slowed down while I tried not to kick and exacerbate it. Eventually, I popped out of the water without looking at my watch or any clock. Dusty told me I was the 15th female out, or something. WTF? I must have really messed that one up. I expected to be in the top 10 if not 5 (I was 5th or 6th at Placid). It turns out I swam 58:42, a whole 2 seconds off my PR from Placid, but between the course and the competition (I was 5th in my AG out of the water…I mean WUT) this year, you could have fooled me.

Transition went really smoothly. I jogged past the wetsuit strippers and up the helix in my Helix (HAHAHAHA! Wetsuit joke). The volunteers were on point: I had my bag immediately, and my changing room girl dumped it out for me as I kicked off my wetsuit –still standing— put my helmet on, and carried my shoes. I ran straight out to my bike, which was at the faaaaar end of the transition area, and once again, my volunteer had my bike waiting for me. I headed toward the mount line, super pleased with how smoothly everything went –just as I had visualized— and how many women I left behind in the changing room.

Then a male volunteer tackled me.

“What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?” <–that’s what I said.

He had grabbed my bike from me, forcibly. I was at a standstill, still several yards from the mount line. Did I do something wrong? Am I being pulled off the course for something? Am I disqualified? Am I being mugged right now?!?!

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I was absolutely screaming now, wondering, well, what the fuck was this guy doing, and if he planned on answering me before midnight.

“PUT YOUR SHOES ON!”

Oh. What? That’s not the plan, dude. That is not MY PLAN right now. “WHY? I’m heading to the mount line!” Pointing. Over THERE. THAT’s where I wanted to be.

He basically threw my bike back at me, almost dropping it to the ground and shrugged like “suit yourself.”

“Sorry.” I apologized. Why the fuck did I apologize? I try not to scream at volunteers but SERIOUSLY?

I picked up my bike and continued to the mount line, where I awkwardly put my shoes on, having trouble through the adrenaline and scare-shakes that guy gave me. Monika was nearby, calling my name, so I told her how long the swim felt while I fumbled with my shoes. I mounted my bike, put my foot on the pedal and attempted to shove off, but my crank just spun. I tried again, and again, zero forward movement.

Someone helpfully pointed out that I dropped my chain.

WTF? It was on the crank when I left it on the rack this morning. What happened? Oh yeah. When that guy GRABBED my bike and threw it back at me, the chain must have come off. AWESOME.

Other athletes whizzed by while a volunteer got his hands dirty guiding my (Rappstar-special Teflon-coated) chain back onto my crank. I basically stood there going “Fuck. Fuck. FUCK. GAH FUCK. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck that guy fuck.”

CHAINZ. Pictured is one of the many helpful volunteers, not the one bad apple.

Monika assured me I spent more time putting my shoes on than dealing with Guy & Chain, but …fuck, man.

Anyhoo, spoiler alert, that was the most drama I experienced for several more hours. The bike was gorgeous. It was a crisp morning, and we rode through alternating pockets brisk fall air that gave me goosebumps and warm pockets of sunshine. Some girls passed me, but I knew I had course knowledge and patience on my side. I just did my thing for the next 60-80 miles. It was wonderful to see familiar faces out there. Lindsey, BEN, Summer, and the Madison crew were on Messerschmidt Road, which was a pleasant surprise. Russ and his underpants ran almost all the way up Shady Oak with me, so we had a lovely, looooong, slooow conversation while I just spun up the hill. Tons of friends, as well as Dusty and my parents, were scattered all over the hills, per the yooj. I even caught a glimpse of Melissa in Verona.

Probably peeing.

Randos told me to get the F up the hills, but I was following my plan, chillaxing until the second loop. I did other smart things like eat and drink and scope out exactly where my Bike Special Needs bag would be. And I peed. I peed for miles. I didn’t even have to wait to coast on downhills, I was peeing on flats. I was peeing while climbing. I peed the entire length of Stagecoach Road. I am a pee-on-the-bike master, now.

For a few miles, I got pretty grumpy. Aside from being farther back in the field that I felt I should have been, there was no reason to be so grumpy, so I figured it was a caloric thing: I problem-solved and ate my solids (dates, pitted and salted, stuffed with almonds = nature’s candy).

I had plenty left for the second loop of the bike, and went about passing everyone I could. It was surprisingly easy: people were popping right and left, mostly on the hills. We had a great tailwind on the Stick home, which I just tried to take advantage of as a little bit of fatigue set in.

T2 was awesome: I picked out my own bag, and asked my girl in the changing room for a pedicure (my feet hurt—I guess my tootsies were jammed into my shoes and a little chilly most of the ride). She put my socks on for me instead, so I shoved my shoes on, and ran out the door with my baggie of treats; I don’t waste time stuffing my pockets while sitting still when I can do that perfectly well during the opening miles of the marathon.


I came off the bike second in my age group, and 5th overall, which was familiar, welcome territory. Although I hoped I had some speedy miles in my legs, somewhere, I knew a) miles 1-7 were not the place to test that (I learned that the hard way at Placid), and b) as on the bike, my strategy would be to outlast anyone I could, not to run them down, c) I’m not a runner, as you all know by now. Everyone was telling me that if I ran my way to 4th overall, I’d get a bike escort, and wouldn’t that be cool? Yeah, but….

I just found a pace somewhere around the one I practiced in training, and stuck with it the best I could. I high-fived some friends, and the nonstop peeing continued. Sometimes high-fives and pee were concurrent. Sorry, Dani.

Robot pace.

Long story longer, the run became… dramatic. At the first turnaround somewhere on State Street, I spun around and saw one-two-three-more women, many in my age group, all charging hard right behind me. Two passed me at once, but one would fade soon, I could tell. Just keep going. Another turn around, and more, different women were right behind me…and then in front of me. I was already hurting, with 16 miles to go. Dusty was doing a great job of tracking the women in my age group ahead of me, letting me know the forecast in quick bursts. “Someone is walking.” He was darting around on his bike, meeting me at logical points, shouting my placement. “Stay with it. Run your pace.” I, meanwhile, was watching the calves of the women who passed me.

“You’re in 3rd!” Dusty would whisper.

“Nope, 4th still. I passed HER but SHE just passed me.”

“[Inaudible.]”

Slightly less smiley here.

I was in 3rd again for about 30 seconds somewhere toward the beginning of the second lap. Steve and Dusty were RIGHT THERE saying “that’s your Kona spot. Stay there” …then I was passed by yet another woman. I got pretty grumpy again with all this one step forward, one step backward stuff (cue PowerGel consumption). Eventually, I dipped (back) into 5th, and with 10k to go knew that was that.

Everything ached. I couldn’t seem to drop my pace. My ankle felt like it was going to break (turns out you CAN wear your chip strap too tight. Still have a bruise), and I was REALLY not having it anymore. Something occurred to me after the far turn around, though. I toggled screens on my Garmin but couldn’t read the tiny numbers, so asked Dusty –who was finally within earshot a few miles later—what time it was.

“5:48pm,” with a little over a mile to go.

So much for that idea. “There goes a PR.”

Still, I charged with whatever I had left, up State Street and around the Capitol. It just felt good to wring myself out, and I was bolstered by cheering friends and family. I high-fived Melissa yards down the finisher chute, when the race clock came into focus. 10:59:48-49-50.

Shiiiiiiiiiit. NEW GOAL. ENGAGE.

I crossed at 10:59:58.

REDEMPTION.

Kinda.

2 Ironmans in 7 weeks.

3 of 5 Ironmans sub-11.

0 Kona spot.

That’s OK.

My friends and family, mostly mentioned herein, plus the OGs, are awesome. Love you guys! I have my private team (Blair, Steve), and my public one (Wattie Ink., and our amazing sponsors) who motivate me more than *even I* can express via social media (I’m bad at this), so THANK YOU. And then there’s Dusty, who is all of the above -my rock and main squeeze and significant otter. mMM! =]

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5 thoughts on “Ironman Wisconsin 2015 Race Report, By I. P. Freely

    1. Aw, thanks! This season hasn’t gone entirely to plan, but I’m still racing. I most recently did Coeur d’Alene 70.3 and have been chewing on whether or not to write about it. I love writing but sometimes it’s hard to put myself out there, you know? Thanks for the kick in the pants–maybe I’ll post something next week =)

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