Ironman Wisconsin 2009

This week was ironweek so there was a lot going on, It was my highest volume week of the year - 21 hours - and with everything going on with the race I kept myself pretty busy. It was fun, but now it's over and I'm tired and ready for a nap this afternoon.

I knew several people doing the Ironman this year, and they covered the gamut of expected finishing times so I had my work cut out for me if I was going to see all of them on the course at some point. Lots of running around to do.

I got to the race early hoping to run into some friends and wish them luck before the start. I had good timing all morning as I ran into nearly everyone before they got into the water. I even made it in time to zip up wetsuits for Matt and Dave. Both were doing their first Ironman so they were nervous, but looked ready to go. Then I ran into the the Wimmers, also doing their first Ironman.

I stood on the helix this year and had the chance to see most everyone come out of the water. I missed a few people, but everyone I knew in the race came out of the water in good shape. Most were right on their expected times so the day was off to a great start.

I watched a little bit of the bike in Verona, but I had a 10 mile run to do so I headed home to get ready for that. I thought I knew when Dave would be coming through Verona on lap 2 so I decided to run along the course hoping to see him. Again, good timing. He came through right on schedule.

The run was where things got tough for everyone, as it typically does in an Ironman. The high temperatures and lack of cloud cover started to take its toll on the athletes.

Matt struggles in the heat, and the heat slowed him down on the run but he dug deep, kept moving forward and finished his first Ironman in 12:20. Had it been cooler I'm confident he could've broken 12 hours, which he was hoping to do. But 12:20 is a smoking fast first Ironman so I think he's happy with his time (as he should be) and I think he had fun out there.

I missed Dave on the run course, but he finished in 13:51. It's the time he predicted (he predicted 13:55), but not the time he was hoping for. The past few months have been rough for him with illnesses and a serious knee injury that's going to require surgery. He hasn't run in 6 weeks so a 13:51 is a great time, and he finished which is always the #1 goal for a first Ironman.

Brian went 11:21, Ryan went sub 12, Chris finished in about 13:30 and Johnny finished in about 16:40.

Then there are the Wimmers - Mike and Jenny. They went into this event knowing they were going to be fighting the cutoffs. They both swam sub 1:45 so they easily made the swim cutoff. Mike made the bike cutoff with about 45 minutes to spare and Jenny came in about 30 minutes later.

Mike was ahead so he had a little more time than Jenny, but both had to hustle if they were going to cross the finish line by midnight. There's a final cutoff at the halfway point of the marathon, and Jenny squeezed through with 3 minutes to spare.

They kept pushing on, but fatigue slowed their pace. I saw them around the 19 mile mark and they still had a shot but they needed to dig deep and speed up even though the fatigue was getting worse. Both were in a lot of pain, and were fighting cramps and stomach issues.

Despite the rules against pacers, I walked with Jenny from mile 19 to 21 thinking I could get her to pick up the pace enough to cross the finish line before midnight. She was too tired to run, and there wasn't enough time to walk the final 5.2 miles before 12. The race officials told her she wouldn't make it and offered to take her back to the finish line. She refused the ride.

Mike still had a shot at finishing and with all the out and backs on the run course he was coming toward us. Jenny headed on her way with a friend of hers who was waiting for her on the bike path, and I walked with Mike.

He came close, but like Jenny was too fatigued to run and there wasn't enough time to walk the rest of the way. Eventually, the officials told him he didn't have time and offered him a ride. He refused and kept walking toward the finish line.

As Mike and I got close to the finish, a few race officials came back and told Mike he needs to run to the finish line because the crowd is waiting for him. He wasn't going to be an official finisher, but the finish line was still lit up, the music was playing and crowd was cheering. Mike dug deep, ran the last .5 miles and got to cross the finish line in front of a crowd. He finished at 12:15. Jenny finished at 12:45.

Even though they didn't meet their goal of becoming "official" Ironman finishers, they showed up to do 140.6 miles and that's exactly what they did. It was inspiring to see them continue knowing their goal wasn't within reach. I think most people would have quit on that dark, lonely bike path. There were no spectators there to see them quit, so it would've been the easy road, the path of least resistance. Without hesitation, they refused to quit.

They proved they're tough enough to do an Ironman. Now they just need to prove they're fast enough. Both are signed up for next year, and I'm confident they'll find the extra fitness needed to cross the finish line by midnight in 2010.

It was a tough day with the lack of cloud cover, and everyone struggled at some point and had to dig deep to keep moving forward. No one gave up, and everyone crossed the finish line.

As for 2010, I signed up this morning. I'm already looking forward to it. It should be a fun...or at least memorable...day.


Iron Jayhawk said...

I was one of the two catchers who took care of mike when he crossed the finish line after midnight. He was in great spirits and should really be proud of his efforts and mental toughness on what was a challenging day for everyone. I wish I had known that there was one more coming in after Karen (crossed at 17:23)...My husband and I would've happily waited to welcome her to the end of her 140.6 mile journey. The best to all of you in your 2010 training!!

Unknown said...

Thanks again Mike. Your support was a godsend, always at the right moment. I can't thank you enough.

Mike said...

You thanked me by crossing the finish line.