Ironman Wisconsin 2010 Race Report

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know my goal going into this race was to qualify for Kona.  I'll save you the suspense.

Did I qualify?  No.  Am I going to Kona?  Yes.  I finished 9th in my age group and needed 8th.  One person didn't accept his slot so it rolled down to me and I snatched that thing up immediately.  I really wanted to qualify "officially", but I'll take a roll down.

The day had some good and bad and fortunately had more good than bad.  But I will say it was a test of determination and desire for me because I thought Kona was gone one hour and twelve minutes into the race...

The Swim.  1:12:20

The swim was an absolute disaster.  Not sure why exactly, but I think I screwed up right out of the gate.  In 2008 I swam a 1:09:40 and I'm a better swimmer now so I figured I could finish in the 1:05-1:08 range without too much trouble.  Looking back on the race, I don't think I pushed hard enough right away. I was afraid of going anaerobic and burning too much energy early in the swim, and I think I held back too much because I needed to get out in front of that huge 1:10-1:20 group and get in the with 1:05 group.  Instead I got caught up in the 1:10 group and it's ugly.  It was the roughest swim I've ever been in.  I got kicked in the goggles twice (which really hurts).  People were swimming into each other and I don't know why, but we bunched up at every buoy (and I'm not just talking about the corner buoys).  It was crazy.  

Then on loop 2, I got kicked again and my goggles got filled with water.  I thought I got all the water out but I didn't so I swam the rest of the way with water in my left lens and it was screwing with my contacts.  I came out of the water, looked at the clock and saw 1:12 and thought 'there goes Kona.'

All I can say is that it was poor race execution on my part.  I needed to get out of the gate faster and get ahead of that group and I think the swim would have been a different experience. I will do my best from now on to get in front of that group because those people are crazy.

T1.  6:04

Transition was okay, but coming out of the water with so many people I had a hard time getting through T1 quickly.  The helix was packed and people were moving slower than I wanted to go so I had to try to work my way through them.  Volunteers were busy in T1 so I had no help and couldn't find my transition bag.  I don't know if it slowed me down all that much because my time is good, but I was getting very frustrated.  I had trained very hard for this day and it wasn't going according to plan and I was sure my goal was gone.  No one goes to Kona with a 1:12 swim.

The bike.   5:17:07

Again, you pay for coming out of the water with a huge group.  The roads were crowded and I couldn't hold ironman power.  When I passed people I needed to pass 20-30 people at a time so I had to do tempo so my power was fluctuating a lot more than I wanted.  My average power was 10 watts below goal power, which wasn't horrible, but I was getting very concerned about my surges to get around everyone.  I was afraid it was going to take it's toll on my legs and kill my run, but I didn't know what else to do.  The bike is my strength.  If I'm going to have a good race it's going to happen on the bike so I couldn't sit around and wait.  I had to get out there and make my move.

By Mt. Horeb (mile 35, maybe) I'd worked myself into a much better place on the bike and was able to settle in a little more.  At this point, I had begun to accept that Kona was probably out of the cards.  I was disappointed and frustrated, but had decided that I wasn't going to quit.  I would keep pushing for a Kona slot because that's what this race was all about.  I came up my Kona plan 3 years ago.  Why train for 3 years and give up?  Not only did I decide not to give up on Kona, I decided that no matter what I was going to have fun the rest of the day.  That's why I race in the first place. 

Courtney and friends hanging out on Midtown.

 My parents on Timber Lane.

I kept my power 10 watts below my goal for the remainder of the ride because of all the surges I did early on.  I was hoping that would save my legs for the run.  I stayed as aero as possible, keeping my head out of the wind and hit the corners as hard as I could trying to keep my speed up and overall time down.    I stayed on top of my nutrition, made sure not to hammer the hills, stayed within my power limits and kept an eye on my heart rate.  I grabbed water at every aid station and soaked myself down to make sure I didn't overheat at any point during the day. But mostly, I just enjoyed the ride.  It was really fun.  The crowds were huge and very loud (and perhaps a little drunk).  I gave high fives to the spectators on the hills and tried to take everything in. 

The winds picked up on loop 2 so the second half of the bike was a little slower.  But those same winds gave us a tailwind on the way back to town, which made up for most of the time lost due to the headwind.  It was on the way back that I passed the 100 mile marker and realized that my legs still felt great.  Going conservative was a wise move.  

T2. 2:46

Not a whole lot to say.  I got my running shoes on, fuel belt, visor, hit the porta potty (I draw the line at urinating on myself) and started the marathon.  I knew that to break 10 hours I absolutely needed to start the run by 1:30 pm (figuring that a 3:30 marathon was a best case scenario).  I checked my watch and saw it was 1:38 pm.  8 minutes off.  Not too bad, especially after a 1:12 swim.

They pick on me for always running with a visor on so they thought it was 
appropriate to make visors for race day.

The Run.  3:37:05

The run was great.  I really wanted a 3:30 marathon, but I decided to go out conservative and see how my legs felt.  I was afraid of pushing too hard and paying for it later.  I'm not sure if I've blogged about it much, but I do a run/walk.  I run for 9:30 and then walk for 30 seconds.  It was awesome. 

I am completely sold on the run/walk for ironman.  It makes sense.  Nearly everyone walks at some point (aid stations usually), but it's random and unplanned.  My walk breaks were planned and had a purpose - that's when I ate and drank.  The best part was that every time I started running again, I felt great for at least 2-3 minutes.  The fatigue comes back, but then you only need to hold on for a few minutes before the next walk break.  My heart rate always dropped 5-10 beats during the walk break and it took most of the run segment to creep back up so the run/walk really helped keep my heart rate down.  

Katie and Abby

With the run/walk I need to run a 7:50 pace to average 8 minute miles when you throw in the walking.  I started out running an 8:00-8:10 pace so when you add in the walk my average pace was closer to 8:15-8:20 initially.  I held that until mile 5 when my running legs came around.  I felt great so I decided to step it up a bit.  I pushed the pace for a while, then settled back into the pace that I started with.  About mile 20 I really started feeling the fatigue and began to fade.  Going into the race I was hoping to make it to mile 16 before I had to start digging really deep and I made it to mile 20 so I was really happy with how the race was going.  Mainly, I was proud of myself for being patient.  I wasn't patient enough in Florida last year and I had a complete melt down. 

My fade wasn't bad, but it took a lot more effort to go 20 seconds per mile slower.  It was a little weird, actually.  I faded immediately at mile 20 but didn't fade any more after that.  Mile 20 meant I lost 20 seconds per mile, but I held that pace steady for the last 6 miles.  

The finish, as always, was great.  I never looked at the time after starting the run so I thought I was going to finish in about 10:20.  As I turned the corner toward the finish chute I saw a 10:14:xx on the board so I was pretty pumped to see that I was going to finish in around 10:15. 

My official finish time was 10:15:20.  I didn't have a time goal for the race.  My goal was to give myself the best possible shot at Kona.  I figured 10 hours was what I needed to target so that was my target going in, but all I really wanted was Kona.  I didn't think a 10:15 would do it because I didn't think I cracked the top 10 in my age group. Soon after the finish a friend told me I got 9th in my age group.  I had a bad feeling my age group would have 8 slots, but figured that would give me a good shot at a roll down.  And that's exactly how it played out. 

All things considered, I'm very happy with my race.  It didn't go exactly how I wanted, but I didn't give up.  I stuck with my original race plan even when I felt like my goals were out of reach.  I stayed within my capabilities and raced a smart, patient race.  I knew if I didn't stay within my limits I would have a horrible day (I've proven this).  My only chance at salvaging my time after the swim was to be smart and keep executing my original plan.  

I got a little lucky and got my Kona slot.  But most importantly, I had tons of fun and learned a lot.  I know more about racing long course triathlons than I did a year ago, and I plan on taking that knowledge into my training for next year.  

I'm looking forward to Kona.  It's going to be a memorable experience I'm sure.


Gear Grinders:  The Gear Grinders tore it up at Ironman Wisconsin. We had 20 Gear Grinders there and took home 7 Kona slots.  Not a bad percentage.  We took 3 out of 8 slots in my age group and 2 out of 7 slots in the 30-34 age group.  One in men's 40-44 and one in women's 30-34.  We could have had an eighth slot but it looks like one of my teammates didn't accept his slot.


Post race:

My first black toenail.

Not my first blister, but it might be my first blister that was bigger than the toe.

  I would like to point out that a tradition was broken: no medical tent. Instead I went to the food tent 
and ate pizza while a woman vomited in a trash can next to me.  Only at Ironman.

Some signs shouldn't be ignored.  

Stuck and probably very embarrassed.  They did a lot of damage.

10 pm on State Street cheering on the final finishers.




Burrito Eater said...

Excellent write up, excellent tenacity and excellent race. Way to go Wolf!!! Congrats on this major accomplishment and hope you can soak it in for a couple days before you start training again! :)

Brian said...

Wow, like Burrito Eater said, great write up. Congrats on Kona, I feel you've earned it. Keep on blogging!!

NursAdrn said...

Couple of people have said the swim was brutal, may have been that in your pace group as well. One who swam a 1:04 and the other in 1:06. Didn't get to ask Alison how hers went.

Great race! You may not have felt it, but you were looking terrific at mile 21.

TRI714 said...

very nice, and honest recap.
Great heart and way to stay with the game plan even when adversity hit. That's a win in itself.

Mingus Jerry said...

Not to nitpick, but you didn't "luck" into a Kona spot. You worked your a$$ off to put yourself in the position to get the rollover. You didn't come in 10th or 11th and miss out, you nailed 9. That's not luck.

I was one of the people you cheered on (unintentionally) around 10:00 pm so thank you for coming back out. I introduced myself and told you I read the blog. I'm very happy you are going to Kona and look forward to reading about that adventure.


Bicyclesidewalk said...

Amazing! Congrats!
Great race review.

Thanks a million for all the time you have spent writing about your training and race reviews.

Taipei, Taiwan

Bryan H said...

Great report, that swim was brutal, the last turn toward the finish there were three and 4 foot swells. I was talking to a kayaker Monday and he thought a lot of people just didn't do two loops. He surmised they waited to the lead pack came back around and then joined them. He said a lot of people around the 1:10 mark on the finial stretch were calling for kayakers. I don't let that kind of stuff get to me, b/c I wasn't and won't be a Kona qualifier...

I thought the finisher T-Shirts sucked! Yellow writing? Unbelievable.

--End Bitching

Again great report, awesome job! Good luck in Kona 2011 you'll be racing Lance!

Jon said...

Congrats on achieving your goal for Kona! Nice way to rally after the swim. Looking forward to following your journey to Kona. Because you qualified via Wisconsin, does that mean you will be going to Kona in 2011?

abby said...

Huge congratulations! HUGE congratulations. Toby and I are proud to say we know an Ironman.

jenez_world said...

congratulations on the fantastic result ! the adventure is not over yet and i will be looking forward to reading your kona race report. congrats again :)

Josh said...


Great race. You went by me on the bike just when I was was increasing power to my goal and then we rode together a bunch. I think we separated at special needs on the bike. A friend pointed me to this blog and I've been following your preps since...especially since I finished right in front of you at Door.

I'm very happy that you got your spot. I know how much it must mean to you to qualify. What a huge PR. See you around Madison.


A said...

Nice job Mike. You did a great job.

Keep in touch.

ERIC said...

Huge congratulations!Nice job Mike. You did a great job. Great race.Congrats on achieving your goal.

Rocketbone said...

Hey Mike - Didn't know you were training for Kona. Awesome work!! Congrats! I had a slow, but completely wonderful day. I couldn't ask for anything more from my first IM. See you at Master's; I think I'll start going next month...

Coach Joe said...

Excellent story Mike. Enjoyed every minute. You played this perfectly AND you had FUN. It's all about the experience, right? Huge congrats. Look forward to following your journey.