Last weekend I traveled out to Madison to race Ironman Wisconsin for the second time in my career. I raced there in 2009 and it definitely earned my respect as one of the more challenging races I have ever done. This year proved to be no different. On race morning we had favorable weather conditions following a recent cold front. We were going to have some pretty good wind to navigate throughout the day, but the highs were only supposed to be around 70 with low humidity and clear skies.
The race changed their swim course this year, moving from two lops to one. I thought this was a great change, even if the back stretch (1700 meters) seemed to last a long, long time.
At 6:50, the pros started and the swim went along fairly uneventfully for me. I exited 5th out of the water with a large group and proceeded to take on the more difficult challenge of the day: running up the exit ramps of the Terrace to T1. At any race, I usually see the highest heart rates of the day running to T1 without the additional challenge of running uphill for a minute-plus.
The bike course in Wisconsin is the most challenging bike course on the IM circuit in North America (now that STG is gone) in my opinion. You never have any extended climbing, but it is constantly full of hills, turns and can be quite windy in some of the more exposed areas of the course. Having said that, I find it to be a course that keeps your mind engaged and rarely lets you fall into a state of indifference. For that reason, I really enjoy the dynamic nature it provides.
Exiting the water in a large swim group usually leads to a group forming on the bike and this race was no different. During the first half of the ride, I think 6-7 riders stayed together and it wasn't until the 2/3 mark where things eventually started to split up. I felt good for the majority of the ride, but even with that in mind, Ben Hoffman (eventual winner) continued to put time into everyone. In the closing miles, Thomas Gerlach and I eventually caught the 2nd place rider and made our way back to T2 in the 2nd and 3rd positions.
Coming out of T2, I just tried to settle into my own rhythm and hoped to try and see if I could close any portion of the 10:00 gap Ben had on me to start the run. My legs felt pretty good, but I was a bit concerned about how my stomach was feeling. During the ride, my stomach had been feeling a bit off so I ended up taking in less calories than I normally would. That wasn't such a big deal, but I knew I had to be diligent about getting them in on the run.
Unfortunately, my stomach proved to be my biggest challenge for the next few hours. I managed to keep it somewhat together over the first half of the run, but I was having to stop repeatedly and couldn't keep any calories down either. Eventually it proved to be too much. I'll spare the details, but it wasn't pleasant for awhile.
I eventually dropped into 4th place with 6-7 miles to go and I knew I had to try and get some calories in me or I would concede even more positions. Over the next few aid stations I was able to get some coke in me and with about 4 miles to go I finally seemed to come back to life and started to run more steadily again. Fortunately I was able to keep it rolling to the finish line and just barely held onto 4th place.
Tough race, but a good experience.
I really enjoy Madison and the race atmosphere there is fantastic. I heard it sold out in record time for 2013 and I can understand why. Hopefully I can make it back there again some day.
Until the next one,