Race Report: 2008 Ironman Wisconsin

Pre-Race: I didn't get much sleep, but I did get a few hours which is all I was really hoping for. I woke up at 3:45, ate some breakfast and had some coffee. Then, yes, number 2. After that I prepared my bottles for the bike, woke up Cheri and made sure we had everything.

We got to transition about 5am and I went straight to the end my bike was on. Security told me I couldn't enter on that end and that I had to go the other end. I complained that my bike was right there (I could practically touch it) and that I would have a marathon in before the race if I had to walk to the other end. They didn't care, but one of the race officials heard me and led me through security - very cool. So I put my bike computer and water bottles on my bike and pumped up my tires. I came out of transition and told Cheri I was surprised there was no one there yet. Then they announced they were opening transition and Cheri and I noticed there was a huge line at the other end. Smooth.

After that I threw my vest in my bike bag and some perpeteum in my run bag and
dropped off my bike special needs bag.

Then we headed down to the water to get ready for the swim.


Here's our friend Johnny about to get in the water..

The Swim

Goal: 1:10

My plan was to line up on the inside and swim inside the buoys. You can go on the inside as long as you swim on the outside of the corner buoys. There were a bunch of us there with the same plan. Right before the start they said all of us had to start on the outside of the first buoy, which really made things crowded. I knew the start was going to be rough, and it was but only for the first 200-300 yards. After that it wasn't too bad, and starting on the inside was shaping up to be a good plan. It's a 2 loop swim, and there was more contact on the first loop than I expected. I knew there would be in the beginning, but I figured things would thin out a lot after rounding the first 2 buoys and heading back down the back stretch but things were still pretty tight. The second loop was much better. Some of the people in our group started to fade so the pack thinned out and there was very little contact on the second loop. Overall, the swim went well although I got a little bored out there.

Official time: 1:09:40

They have wetsuit strippers that pull your wetsuit off for you, which is cool. Then you have to run up the helix - you can see it in the background of that picture - which is fun because it is lined with spectators. Then you grab your transition bag and get ready for the bike.

T1 Official Time: 7:28

The Bike

Goal: 5:45

The bike went well. I started out really conservative and kept an eye on my power the whole time and didn't worry about people passing me, although that gets annoying sometimes. When you ride with power, you get really annoyed by people who do nothing but attack hills and I was surrounded by a group of four of five of those riders all day. They would pass me on every hill like I was tied to a pole - while I'm putting out 250-300 watts. Then on the backside and the flats I would pass them like they were tied to a pole putting out 180-210 watts. It gets old.

But I tried not to be bothered by them and stick to my plan - nutrition and power. My power goal was 190-195, but I averaged about 185. I started a little too conservative and when my average power was 185 after the first loop I knew there was no sense working really hard on the second loop to get my power above 190 and I had an average speed of 19.3 so I was really happy with that. At the start of the second loop black clouds rolled in and the winds picked up quite a bit which slowed us down. The rain held off, but the wind made the first half of the loop pretty slow and my average speed dropped to below 19.

As I came through Verona on the second loop the crowd around the barricades was thick, but really quiet and I was the only cyclist coming through so I pumped my arms a bit to get them going and the crowd lit up. I'm sure they were wondering who I was and why they were cheering for me, but it was really fun. I did this a few more time throughout the day just for fun and motivation. It's a rush.

We got a good tailwind coming back into town and my bike computer said my average speed was 19.4, but I ended the bike with an official average of 19.1. I guess that must be from the 2 bathroom stops, which added a few minutes to my time. I missed my goal by a bit, but I was really close and I stayed on top of my nutrition plan and kept my power under control so I was really happy with the bike.

Official time: 5:51:46 (19.1 mph)

Here I am coming into the Verona aid station on lap 2. I just spotted Cheri and my parents.

Here I am right before T2, not sure what the smirk is about.

T2 Official Time: 2:52


Goal: 4:00

I figured I would be starting the run about 7 hours and 10 minutes into the race, so I was really hoping I could run a 3:50 and finish in 10:59. I knew that was a long shot, so I was hoping for a 4 hour marathon or, better yet, just under 4 hours. The beginning of the run was really tough, but I knew I just needed to give it time. On my long brick a few weeks ago, my legs didn't come around until the 4 mile mark so I figured I just needed to give it 4 miles and then I'll get into a good rhythm.

I wanted to start with an 8:50-8:55 pace, but I accidentally ran the first mile in 8:39. Mile 2 was 8:55. The 9:05, 9:05, 9:01...I was feeling a little better and starting to find a rhythm. I was also fading a bit because I was well off an 8;45 pace and it was clear from mile 2 that a 3:50 marathon was out of the question. I was way too tired to pull that off, and I was realizing that 4 hours was probably not going to happen either. I could feel the fatigue setting in, and I was thinking that I just don't have enough running miles in my legs yet to run a 4 hour IM marathon. At this point, I didn't care. Eleven hours was an aggressive goal and at this point I just wanted to get to the finish line.

About mile 10 things started to get really tough. I drank my perpeteum, which was probably a mistake. My stomach was shutting down, and the perpeteum made me belch...A LOT. For the rest of the marathon I was belching perpeteum and waiting for the vomit. It never came, but I was sure it would.

At the halfway turn around, I was really hurting and starting to wonder if I could run the whole thing...or even finish. I didn't want to eat anything and I was sure I was going to vomit. Cheri said I looked horrible when they saw me heading back in to the turn around point.

The crowd there is great and I saw my family. My brother in law somehow got a spot along the fence and set up his tripod for his camera and snapped some great pictures. The crowd and my family helped and I started feeling a little better. Cheri thought I stopped at special needs because she said I looked a lot better heading back out than I did coming in.

The second half of the run was really tough, and I faded a lot. After running through Camp Randall, Mark biked a long side me for a while which helped. He encouraged me, and if nothing else, it was a distraction from the fatigue. I hadn't eaten anything in a few miles and he reminded me to keep eating and drinking even though I didn't want to so I walked the next aid station to get some Gatorade. After he headed back to the stadium I took another gel and got some more water. My stomach didn't want anything, but I knew I couldn't do a half marathon without more calories.

I walked Observatory hill the second loop, although I probably would've been better off running it because it was really tough to get going again after walking. My legs were getting stiff and sore already and my hip flexors were really sore. I stopped looking at my watch and just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other and keep my legs turning over and moving forward.

Official Time: 4:12:46

Overall Time: 11:24:32

One of my co-workers made fun of my Spirit of Racing finish line picture because it was a picture of me turning off my watch, like the OCD-time-obsessed-triathlete I am. Until then, I had put no thought into my finish line picture, so I thought about it and decided I would ignore my watch, raise my arms and get a good picture. Then I thought, when I raise my arms should I do the #1 signs with my fingers or just do closed fists? I figured since I'll be far from #1 (384 to be exact - tough to do with your fingers), I'll go with closed fists. Makes sense. Check it out, one closed fist, one #1.

A few times I jokingly promised a trip to the medical tent. It was no joke. A few minutes after finishing, I knew a trip to the med tent was in order. I was very light headed and felt like I was going to pass out. My hands and lips were numb.

The first thing they do at the med tent is weigh you. I was only down 3 lbs, so it wasn't dehydration. They took my blood pressure and it was really low. So they sat me down and made me drink some chicken broth. Then I had a soda and started to feel better after about 10 minutes so we grabbed my gear and headed home.

The plan was to go home, take an ice bath and go back to watch the finishers. I came home, took an ice bath and then both Cheri and I didn't feel like going back. We were tired, and my legs had stiffened up and walking was quite a challenge.

Today, we've decided to go to the awards banquet so we're heading out in a few minutes. My legs are really, really sore and I'm having a tough time walking. I couldn't imagine going to work today.

I never thought the Ironman was going to be easy, but I'll admit that it was tougher than I thought it would be. I really thought I was in shape to feel good through the 20 mile mark on the marathon, but I started struggling at mile 2. It was really tough and I have tons of respect for anyone that has done the distance.

People I want to thank for supporting me and cheering for me at the race: Cheri, (Her support was incredible and a big help. Having her with me definitely made my Ironman journey much more enjoyable.) my parents, my sister, my brother in law, my nieces, my nephew, Cheri's family, Mark at Swimfast (it wouldn't have been a 1:10 swim without his help), Dennis, Abby & Toby, Mark & Jessica, Heather & Tad, Stephen & Emily, Jordan, Brent the tank, Jim T., Steve W., Ryan O., Nick & Nicole, Andy, the Wimmers, Bob, Jessica and Pete. I hope I didn't forget anyone. Thanks.


Burrito Eater said...

Wolfgram, you rock! You looked great and trained your ass off. I put a couple photos of you on my blog if you need some more of you running. Did you sign up for 2009 yet?

A house in chaos said...

Mike, GREAT race. I was glad to volunteer and hear stories. Now you can get that 8"x10" m-dot tattoo on your back!

Anonymous said...

I've been learking and reading your posts. Congratulations on an incredible feat.

Anonymous said...

Nice work. I kept missing you on the bike - and Emily would yell at me. I thought you looked pretty good at mile 19 - despite your prediction - and it sounds like you were wrong. Way not to vomit!

Hez said...

Some anonymous person has been learking? I don't know if that is good or not.

Mike, I am very proud of you. You did a GREAT job yesterday. Congratulations!

bigmike600 said...

Mike you looked great on the bike coming up the hill on Timber Lane. I almost missed you because I figured I had already missed you and starting looking for the next person I thought was coming by. Glad things worked out. By the time I got done with my shift bike racking, you were finishing so I missed that part.

It has been great reading you blog and getting the chance to watch you go for your goals. Very cool.

You time was amazing and I hope you can look back and realize what a great accomplishment that was.

Unknown said...

Wish we had been able to find you more throughout the day - you were just going by too damn fast!

You did great and should be extremely proud of yourself.

Brent's Tour de France Picks! said...

Awesome, Awesome, Awesome! Great race Wolfgram!

Anonymous said...

On one hand I'm really very, very pleased for you. You worked yourself hard for a year, set yourself tough goals and finished one of the maddest endurance events around, in an excellent time. But on the other hand I'm slightly disappointed you didn't have to run for 4 hours with sick down your front. The look on Cheri's face as you triumphantly crossed the line and walked over to her with your vest fully 'chunked up' for a congratulatory embrace would have been truly excellent.

I can now sit back in the knowledge that I have a friend who has achieved something so few could. Good work Mike, we're really proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Great race, Mike - reading about it and seeing the pictures makes me want to get off my lazy ass and race again!