Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011 Ironman Wisconsin Race Recap

As I sit down to begin writing this race report, it has been over two months since I participated in Ironman Wisconsin.  Some of the delay in getting this report finished ties to a crazy life that leaves me very little spare time.  That being said, I think most of the delay is a result of my brain needing time to process and deal with a not so great day.  There were plenty of reasons why the day was not great but I hold myself accountable to push past obstacles and I did not do a great job at that with this race.  I will recap what I know went wrong but please note that none of these are meant to be excuses.  My time is 13:45:57.  Honestly before sitting down to write this report I could not have told you what my time was (at the point where the day fell apart, I didn’t really keep my eye on the clock……..just gave everything I could to get to the finish line).  I believe I was in much better shape than a 13:45.  I am not talking sub 11….although I think with the right amount of bandwidth in my life I could get there……but I certainly was in a position to break 12 hours.  That very simply is why I struggle with this race.  I was poised to have a great day.  Training was going perfect…..or at least as perfect as my life allows.  Ridiculous events intervened and I didn’t cope with them well.

Ironman Wisconsin according to my kids
I had hoped the weeks subsequent to the race would allow me the time to feel better about my performance but that simply has not happened.  I unfortunately look back on this race as somewhat of a letdown even though I know I should be proud to have pushed through and crossed the finish line.  To me, not crossing really is not an option so that thought never enters my head.  I do these races for very personal reasons.  It would take a serious crash and the inability to walk to keep me from the finish line.  Sometimes it is the very personal reasons that create the letdown.  I look inside myself to rethink what I could have done to get better results.  I remember being on the course talking to Isabella and my Dad and apologizing.  There was also a time I was in excruciating pain on the bike where I told Isabella to hang with me and keep me whole long enough to get to the run but we will get to that later.  Anyway, what follows is my day.  I tried to reason never writing this report but one day I will want to look back and remember the experience.  Some time in the future I will also want my kids to read about this day.  I saw them a few times during the run but ‘Ironman’ for them is something very different.  They spent their day with Mom at a children’s museum having no idea about the details of my day.  My son, Jaden, wants to do an Ironman at some point in the future but he probably could not define exactly what that entails.   Maybe these words will make a difference for him and for my daughter Thalia.

As I stare at the computer, putting words to paper is a struggle but this is what I came up with:

I will begin with a quick recap of the months of training leading up to Sunday August 21st.  In summary, they went much better than I had expected.  When I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin, I wrote a post about it (click here) describing that, for me, the race was not about time.  It was about the journey and many other things.  I lead a very crazy life.  I work a lot.  I put a lot of time into charity.  I put a lot of time into my family.  Ironman training would have to work around all of this which meant a lot of late night runs, late night bike trainer workouts and many early mornings of exactly the same.  Outside of my long rides, I would say that 85% of my workouts took place while the sun was down.  Even those long weekend rides began as the sun was cresting my garage.  I had fellow peeps signed up to compete in Wisconsin but they usually start later in the morning and that would limit time with the family which was not part of my plan.  If it were not for my amazing friend, Emily Conlon, all of my rides would have been solo.  She was brave enough to battle my crazy hours and a friend enough to provide me some company on my journey and for that I will always be grateful.  If I am to say any more about my training season, I would say that my swim workouts suffered, as exected, because of my schedule.  My training schedule included 3 swims per week but not once did reality match the schedule. Many times, I only managed 1 swim during the week.  With about 45 days until race day, I panicked about the swim and tried to cram by using a pool buoy.  To build for the long distance, I made myself pull for 2,000 yards each of my remaining swim workouts.  Not kicking and having to use my upper body was my attempt to make up for lost time.

This takes us up to August 20th.  Emily and I signed up for the Cool Breeze Century.  I love this ride and I certainly love hanging with my friend so this was to be a great day and a great day is exactly what was delivered.  We rode the distance averaging 18mph and I did not even feel winded.  On this day, I would have run a kick ass marathon off the bike.  I ended this day feeling unstoppable.  I had made it through my last long ride completing an injury free 9 months of training. I would have one more 4-2 brick (4 hour ride followed by a 2 hour run in case you made it here without knowledge of triathlon training) the following weekend and then enter my taper to race day.  This 4-2 brick would never come because of a ridiculous fluke accident the following day, August 21st.

August 21st was also to be an amazing and emotional day.  A great friend to many, Laura Maloney, wanted to have a party.  It was called Laura’s Heart Warming Party and it would not be any ordinary get together.  I met Laura through Team in Training where she has been a participant on my marathon team but more importantly has been an honored teammate for as long as I can remember.  You see Laura is a blood cancer survivor and helps keeps participants connected to the cause.  She unfortunately has recently seen cancer come knocking again and it has her very sick.  We had been having some difficult conversations about the future and in one of those conversations, the importance of this party was made clear to me.  As such, I reached out to another friend, Lori Jomsky, and we proceeded to make the party happen.  Laura has a lot of friends that are very loyal so the extent of this party planning was to set up a Facebook event and send it out.  From there, the party took care of itself.  Plenty of food, drink and people showed up at Laura’s house.  It was a tough day for me (and probably most in attendance) because it was obvious cancer was taking its toll on our friend.  Cancer had made our friend physically weak but it certainly had not penetrated her spirit, which remained as strong as ever.  This spirit helped make for an incredible day.  It was amazing to see all of the love and support showed by so many people.  You might be wondering how an amazing party for a cancer fighting friend could possibly interfere with my path to Ironman Wisconsin.  Well, at some point during this party, my friend Javier Rivera decided to throw me in the pool.  This sounds innocent enough but in my attempt to resist, Javier and I fell to the ground on the way to the pool.  When I got out of the water, folks pointed to my bleeding knee and foot.  I was perturbed at what I knew would be an inconvenience but the wound didn’t look too bad.  I figured everything would be fine in a day or two but this all changed when I got home and began to clean the wounds.  I poured Hydrogen Peroxide on my foot and when the foam cleared it was obvious the wounds were far deeper than I had anticipated.  I became very concerned and as hours, days and weeks went by, my concerns were validated because the wounds refused to heal.  In hindsight I should have went straight to the doctor but you live and learn.
From August 21st through race day, I would not be able to train.  I would not……..except for a one hour work meeting……even be able to put on a shoe.  No matter what I did, the wounds would not heal.  I missed my 4-2 brick.  I missed every workout.  With about a week to go, I finally went to see the doctor and he gave me some antibiotic to put on the wounds after telling me my race was at risk.  Those were the words I both feared and knew were coming.  All I could do was use the antibiotics and pray.  To say I was frustrated in the 3 weeks leading up to race day would be an enormous understatement. 

•I was frustrated because I had done everything right for 9 months.  I had remained injury free and with the race in sight I felt it had been stripped from me.
•Training for an Ironman takes a lot of time…..time that I already said is in short supply in my life.  Between my wife, and myself so many things were rearranged to allow me the opportunity to compete.  To go through all of that for so long and then have something obscure intervene was tough to accept.
•I was also frustrated at myself for being upset with Javier.  He is a great friend and an even more amazing person.  I wanted to reach out and make him feel better about everything but I couldn’t and for that I will always be sorry.  Truthfully, much of my desire to heal was so that Javier would not feel bad.  I wanted to have an amazing race day so that Javier would not bear any weight from this stupid accident. 

That didn’t happen though.  My race was not amazing but I would like to go on record to Javier and say I am truly sorry.  I know my friend would never intentionally do anything to harm my race or me.  It was all simply unfortunate circumstances that we can chalk up to a bumpy journey to race weekend.  I really am disappointed in myself for letting all of this get into my head.  As a coach I have shut people down many times during the taper to race day.  When it came to my own experience, I let the lack of training down the stretch cut into all that confidence I had built up for 9 months.  In my defense, some of this lack of confidence came from some intense pain and a complete lack of understanding of how a foot that looked as horrible as mine could hold up for 140.6 miles.

Race Weekend

Before getting to the race, I want to quickly comment on the days leading up to the race.  Most folks know I am very active with Team in Training, which is all tied to my story shared on this blog.  A few years ago, some fellow Team in Training friends created So Cal Collective.  To be a member of So Cal Collective, you have to meet the following criteria:

a)be a Team in Training alumni, and
b)have completed or be training for a Half or Full Ironman.

So Cal Collective Practice Swim
The group has grown significantly over the years which makes sense given the exploding popularity of triathlon in general.  Although a member of So Cal Collective, I have not been very active training with my teammates……….not because I do not want to but because of the scheduling issues I have already documented in this report.  It really is the story of my life.  Even at Team in Training, I am crazy active in the teams I coach but rarely show up to practice for the teams I participate on.  I raise a lot of money so I do not think folks mind except for those that miss my remarkable sense of humor.  Anyway, the days in Wisconsin leading up to the race afforded me the opportunity to meet many of my So Cal teammates for the 1st time.  This really was a highlight for me and, truth be told, it made me a little sad for all the training time I missed with them.  Everyone was very cool.  All were Great people!  They made me feel welcome even though I was an absent team member.

Pre Race Dinner with So Cal Collective
We grabbed meals together for the first few days until Crea, Jaden and Thalia would arrive on Friday night, September 9th.  I even did my first workouts in 3 weeks with these guys.  I had a 20 minute swim in Lake Monona then we all took a very short ride to test bikes followed by a 2 mile run.  Albeit short workouts they were enough to raise some concern for me.  Just 20 minute in the water and my much healed wounds got soft and opened up.  If 20 minutes had an impact, what would a 1.5 hour swim do? (yes……..I am slow in the water).  On the bike, my foot didn’t feel too bad but on the run, the flex in my shoe was hitting right where my foot wounds were.  It did not feel pleasant but at this point I had a better attitude.  I would do what I could do.  I think my teammates helped in this regard.  Many of my new friends were battling their own issues….IT bands, calves, etc, etc.  Several already anticipated walking the entire marathon.  They had a good attitude about it though and that helped to make me stronger.

Saturday, September 10th arrived………..I dropped off my bike and my transition bags and back to the hotel I went.  Usually this process is very stressful for me.  If you haven’t done a full Ironman, you are used to dropping off all of your gear race morning.  At 140.6 events you drop your bike and gear off the day before.  Saying goodbye to your belongings can be a little intense but I wasn’t too concerned this time around.

Saturday night…… to bed.

Race Day 

Race morning, as they always do, started bright and early. I would argue that most race mornings start the night before because your mind is already on the race when your head hits the pillow.  Instead of a sound sleep, your mind is living out the race before it happens or simply making sure you never hit too sound a state out sleep out of fear of oversleeping. I had rented a separate hotel room for my gear…..yes it gets its own room so I don’t stress about my kids disrupting everything I have set out.  I usually would sleep in this room the night before the race but on this race morning I woke up with the rest of the family.  For some reason, I just wanted to be close with them before this day kicked off.  I am not really sure why but one reason is probably that I would not see them until the run on race day.  Ironman starts too early for a 3 and 7 year old and especially a Mom that would have to wake them up, get them ready and fight the crowds alone with them.  That plus the fact that the bike course really does not bring you back to town until your 112 miles are behind you meant I was many hours from seeing any of them again.

I got out of bed well before my alarms went off and made my way to the ‘gear’ hotel room where I ate some of my breakfast and prepared my fluid for the bike.  I went through my Special Needs bags to make sure I had what I needed.  Special Needs, for those unfamiliar with Ironman distance races, is basically the half way point of the bike and the half way point of the run.  You can put things you might need at that point of the race.  For me, my bike Special Needs bag includes hydration/nutrition for the second half of the ride plus CO2 cartridges/tubes in case the 1st half of the race was a battle with flat tires.  Because my foot was a big uncertainty I also put in extra socks in anticipation of a bloody mess.  My run Special Needs bag had more socks and a sleeve of Shot Blocks.  Once I finished breakfast I woke up Crea as I promised her I would.  One last hug, a pre race photo and I was off.
Swim start to the right.  Helix to the left. You bike up that at the end of the ride.

After a mile walk I arrived at the race site.  I dropped off my bags, visited my bike to drop off my Garmin and hydration then found some SoCal peeps and chilled out.  I guess before I chilled out, I doctored up my foot.  I covered all my wounds in Liquid Bandage hoping to keep it dry before getting to the bike.  I had a bottle of Liquid Bandage in each of my transition bags as well.  Anyway, with 30 minutes to go or so, we all proceeded to head to the water, get in our wetsuits and take a test swim.  The water was calm and felt great.  After the test swim, we all just stood at the edge of the water waiting for the 7am start.  While waiting I decided to make sure my watch was ready to go and set to chronograph.  I do not swim with my Garmin.  It is on the bike.  I use a Timex Ironman for tracking my race time.  When I looked down at my watch, it was blank…..BLANK.  Not simply on the wrong setting but completely dead.  Crea had taken my watch to get the battery replaced before coming to meet me in Wisconsin.  She tried out a new shop that apparently did not waterproof the watch so I was minutes away from race start with no ability to track my time.  I was so upset that I threw my watch into Lake Monona (sorry Wisconsin!) where it probably still sits today.

As a side note here, a dead watch really should not have mattered.  When I registered for this race, it wasn’t about the time.  When my foot injury transpired, race day was even less about the time.  I had many conversations with my wife and Emily Conlon about my mental state regarding race day.  They were supportive that if I gave 110% I should be proud and that pushing through the obstacles should be what I am proud of.  Crossing the finish line is what I should be proud of.  I told myself the time didn’t matter a 1,000 times but my actions kept showing I didn’t take it to heart.  I cannot figure out why really.  I think it is because I have friends, both real and virtual, that I didn’t want to disappoint. I think it is because I know what I am capable of and regardless of what I say, I have internal time expectations.  If I am minutes or hours beyond those expectations, I have to wonder and doubt.  “Did I really give 110%?”  “Could I have stretched the run interval by 30 seconds without falling on my face?”  Sorry for all of these tangents.  As I write, I really am not sure I will ever advertise this post.  It is feeling like an internal discussion and battle as I try to come to grips with the results.  If you are reading this, I apologize.  My struggle is all tied to putting in so much time for something and not having it go as planned.  Given my story, you would think I should be an expert at this by now but I guess I have more to learn.
Within the mayhem hundreds are being kicked right now
Back to the race………the pros begin their journey minutes before the age groupers and then we are asked to enter the water.  The Ironman Wisconsin swim is an open water start.  By this I mean we are not all standing on the shore charging the lake when the gun goes off……..we are all in the lake treading water when the gun goes off.  I am not so fast in the water so I tend to stay to the rear of the pack.  It is interesting how everyone has their own swim start strategy.  Some hug the buoy line which for this race is to our left.  Some start extreme right and take an angle approach to the first turn.  The advantage of being slower is that none of this matters.  I went to the middle, right near the ski ramp in photos, and stayed back 25 yards to let the faster people go first.  Part of this is of course respect because I do not like being in a marathon when slower runners crowd the front corrals making it a lot of work to get around them and the other part, of course, is that I do not want to get trampled and kicked…….which is virtually impossible to avoid.  Most people are aware of this but just in case… an Ironman, everyone starts at the same time.  Most other distance races have wave starts so that you are beginning with, at most, a few hundred people at the start.  At Ironman, the swim start is mayhem as you can see from the photo above.  One advantage to the mass start for me is that I do not have to feel bad when all the pink caps scream past me…….they started with me.  In a wave start you may have 4-5 minutes on the wave behind you.  For me, many times the wave behind me is women.  My goal in wave starts…….try to at least get to one buoy before the women catch me (barely and rarely happens).

At 7am, the outrageously loud canon goes off and the swim begins without much exciting to report.  I swim and am quickly hugging the buoy line.  I am excited I am not completely alone as with every breath I see folks. I catch a person or two but, again, starting at the back makes it tough to pass and be passed.  I remember the sun at various times was blinding.  I had brought tinted lenses but on my test swim they seemed to leak a bit so I went with the clear pair I had been using in the pool.  They didn’t leak but they made it hard to see when staring at the sun.  I made it to the first turn (Wisconsin is a 2 loop swim) of the first loop and, as advertised, it was a log jam.  Everyone was doggy paddling trying to wait for space so this definitely cut into time but I was not worried because I didn’t expect too much on the swim nor did I have any idea of the time.   The unfortunate part is that when I thought I finally had space to begin swimming around this first buoy, I got kicked very hard in the face.  I had been kicked many times before on a swim but this was by far the worst I took a foot to my face.  I was very angry.  I let it go and kept swimming and wouldn’t think about it much until the next day when it took me a minute to remember why the left side of my face was so sore.  The remaining 1.9 miles was uneventful.  I remember not feeling amazing…..nauseous a bit.  This bummed me out a little but I tried to let it go.  On the second loop I could definitely feel the effects of not swimming enough throughout my training and of not swimming at all down the stretch tied to my foot injury.  I was getting tired.  My pull was suffering but I just kept swimming, just kept swimming.  I finally made the last turn and was heading to shore.  I remembered the last time I turned to shore was at Ironman Florida where I had a good view of a shark 10 feet below me.  I gave a silent thank you to Wisconsin for not being next to the ocean and continued on.  I got out of the water, was relieved and tired and emotional.  It was very strange but a wave of emotion came over me.  I am not sure why but guess it is tied to the emotion of the last 3 weeks leading up to race day.  This day had been at risk and at least I was here.

I headed into transition.  I did not feel rushed because I wasn’t overly concerned with my time but I tried to be efficient and get moving.  Once dressed I stopped by the sun block station where they lathered me up.  They certainly did not skimp on the block as you can see in photos.  I was a sea of white lotion.  From there I was off to get my bike then out on the course for a 113 miles……yes I did say 113 miles.

It felt good to be on the bike.  Even though I had not rode in weeks, I had a good training season on the bike and felt ready to go.  I had trained on plenty of hills riding at least 2,500 feet of climb each week that would be needed on what was to be a tough bike course.  The Wisconsin bike course is referred to as a lollipop course.  You head 16 miles out of town then do two 40-mile loops then head back into town on that same 16 mile stretch.

One thing I failed to mention here is that I was using race wheels.  While this shouldn’t be a big deal I certainly made it one leading up to race day.  At the 11th hour I decided to rent race wheels and every hour on the hour for 2 weeks I questioned whether I should use them or not.  You are not supposed to try anything new and although wheels are not a big deal, I was using a Zipp 808 on the back which requires a valve extender which I had never used before.  My huge fear on the bike is not the distance……….it is flat tires.  To use a new wheel set and a valve extender and tires I had no history with (meaning they could have 3,000 miles on them already) had me stressed out.  To make a long story short, I ended up talking to many people, probably upsetting folks at the wheel rental company (Race Day Wheels were amazing and I highly recommend them) with my ridiculous questions but ultimately made the decision to use them. 

The 16 miles out were uneventful.  Truthfully, much of this write up will be uneventful because I really get in my own head and zone out to surroundings.  To this day I will get race day photos where I am beside some amazing landscape that I cannot even remember.  What I did remember was a lot of corn and surroundings that were far different than I was used to seeing in Southern California.  I remember thinking as a large tractor reminiscent of Frank in the Disney movie Cars crossed the road that I may never see something like this again.  There were enormous barns and silos that I had only seen in books or photos but never in person.  It was all very surreal.  There were people all over the place cheering on the bike course.  There were very large crowds when you made it to the start of the 40-mile loop.  I believe they were there to cheer us on knowing the big hills were to come.
IM Wisconsin has a lot of this

I was about an hour in and had finished my first bottle of fluid which quickly lead to the realization of my first problem.  I did what you should never do……….changed my nutrition plan for race day.  In my defense, I had tested the new plan….or so I had thought.  In training, I use Nuun and CarboPro.  It always works for me I just hate dealing with the fizz of the Nuun which can get messy as I open up bottle caps.  I had stumbled across GuBrew in a local shop a few weeks before the race and decided to give it a shot.  There were two flavors but what really caught my eye was that the Blueberry-Pomegranite flavor had 490mg of sodium which is far more than I was getting in my Nuun mixture.  I am a heavy sweater and battle salt loss and as such cramping.  I thought GuBrew might finally be the answer to a long fought battle.  I also wear a race belt which allows me to carry electrolyte pills but getting more sodium into my drink would be a good thing because it would allow me to zone out more and not focus on remembering to take the pills.  I drank GuBrew every day for weeks before the race.  It tasted good and did not upset my stomach in any way so I figured I was good to go.  I was actually very excited about using it.  There was only one problem here.  I have room on my bike for one bottle on the cage and one Aerobottle on my aero bars.  Many people use a rear hydration system off their seat but I cannot because of a freakish reverse Michael Phelps body.  He has a long upper body and shorter legs which is a great thing for a swimmer.  I am the opposite……..very long legs and a shorter upper body.  This makes bike fitting a challenge.  I am tall enough to be in a 60” or larger frame but because of my build this would have me reaching too far for the handle bars.  As such, I actually take a step down on frame size which pushes my seat to a place that is very challenging to fit a rear hydration system.  Long story short, this forces me to carry 3 hours of hydration/nutrition in 2 bottles (3 hours will get me to special needs where I can pick up new bottles).  Because of this, I create one bottle of nutrition at double strength.  I double the amount of Nuun and double the scoops of CarboPro. 

Side note here.  I keep referring to hydration/nutrition on the bike.  This is because I get all of my calories through my drink.  The CarboPro is a flavorless powder that gives me carbs and calories.  I do not eat bars or any real food. Each bottle of fluid for me will have 500+ calories.
Back to this double strength bottle.  It has never been an issue with Nuun so I did not think a double strength bottle of GuBrew would be a problem.  Here is where my claim to be perfect fails miserably.  I was very wrong.  I went to take the first sip from the double strength bottle and it was like the thickest milkshake I had ever drank.   It was very difficult to get the fluid out which made the rest of the ride challenging.  After I drink my single strength bottle, I always toss it and then grab a bottle of water.  I did this in Wisconsin but I tried to use the water to ‘water down’ my milk shake concoction.  I also needed to use the water to cool down so the end result is that I drank too little and took in far too few calories.  That double strength bottle was supposed to get me to special needs but it lasted the entire ride which meant I would be a few bottles and many calories behind where I needed to be.  I wish I could say that this was my only biking issue but it was not.  What are the other issues you ask?  Here they are:

•In order to take some strain off of my foot injury, I slightly adjusted the cleat on the bottom of my left foot.  I knew there was risk to this but I really didn’t have a choice.  I could not have too much pressure on the open wound so this adjustment was my solution.

Making one of many turns at one of many barns
The end result of this slight adjustment was horrible foot pain everywhere else on my left foot.  Again, I knew this was all a risk but I had to try it.  The slight adjustment multiplied by a lot of miles led to truly excruciating pain.  No need to go into detail except for this one story, which leads to the next issue.  I do not know exactly where I was but it was towards the first part of the second bike loop.  I was beginning a hill climb and when I applied pressure with my left foot, the pain was so horrible my eyes watered and I must have let out a loud yell because a fellow athlete asked if I was okay.  I didn’t even respond because I was so frustrated and literally fighting back tears of pain.  From this point forward, I rode every hill pulling and pushing with only my right leg.  I could not apply hill climbing pressure to the left foot anymore.  The pain was bad but bearable on downhill and flats so for those I used both legs/feet.

•Last issue was simply bike mechanics.  I am not sure why but I kept dropping the chain when switching to the big ring.  I was shifting down before the change but it didn’t matter.  I almost crashed a few times because of the difficulty trying to get it back on leading into the hill.  Anyway, I became so frustrated with this that for the last half of the 2nd 40 mile loop, I stayed in the big ring.  If you combine this with the fact I was climbing with one leg and the fact that I was falling behind on nutrition, you can see where the rest of the day was headed.

This all being said, it was a fun ride.  The town was amazing.  The landscape was surreal and an amazing change of scenery for me.  The crowds were incredible…..seriously incredible! I wish I had felt better to thank all of them because the hills were full of spectators cheering everyone to the top.  There was one particular small country road hill climb I will never forget.  It was a narrow road and there were people everywhere.  It felt like a scene out of Tour De France.  You actually had to pay attention because people were running up and down the hill and crossing the street.  The mayhem wasn’t annoying.  It was spectacular and made me feel on top of the world despite all the battles I felt I was facing.

After the second 40 mile loop was done, needless to say I was relieved.   One good thing I did on the bike was to NOT look at my pace.  Here is one place I accepted I could only do what I could do.  As long as I was giving 110% of whatever I had, the pace would be what the pace would be.  I vowed not to look at my speed until I at least hit 90 miles.    Wherever it was that I first looked at the watch, I remember thinking it was slow but I do remember thinking I left what I had on the bike course.  I was worked and in a lot of pain.  Cramps had started to reveal themselves now and then so I knew the rest of the day would be fun. I did the math in my head and realized if I pushed hard, I could exit the bike under 6.5 hours.  That is not great on any other day but today I would consider it a victory and it was something to shoot for.  I was using my right leg/foot to try and power myself.  I used my left foot but really mainly on the pull….not the push.  My speed picked up and I just tried to hammer it home. If you look at my time, you will see that I did not finish the bike sub 6.5 hours.  Truthfully though, I did reach my goal.  At 112 miles, my watch showed me just under 6 hours 30 minutes but off to my right about a mile away was the transition area.  I think the course had been modified a bit and on this day I would ride just over 113 miles.  I would blame the Garmin except every single person I talked to said the same thing…….”who stretched the bike course”.  Anyway, I came into transition which someone very evil created.  When you arrive at the bike finish, transition is on the top level of a parking garage so you have to climb the helix at the Monona Terrace.  EVIL!!!!  It was over though so I knew at the top of this climb I would get off the bike.  I reached the dismount line and had to pause for a second.  Cramps were getting worse so I had one of the volunteers help me to avoid a sprawl to the ground writhing in cramping pain.

Off to transition.  Again, I didn’t feel rushed. My time was nothing to write home about and I could tell my cramps and foot pain would make the next 26.2 miles a challenge.  I changed tops, tried to make up for some of that lost nutrition, put on my running shoes and hobbled out of transition. 

Here is where I really tried to grit my teeth and tell my body to FUC* OFF.  I took off.  My foot was killing me but I ignored it.  Tiny jolts of cramp kept hinting at things to come but I went out as if I was fresh and could pull a 3:30 on the marathon…….a time my training indicated was a real possibility.  In training, I figured worse case my marathon time was to be 3:45.  That is how I ran leaving transition.  I don’t know my pace but I am sure it was sub 8:00 for a brief period of time.  Very early in the race as I was near the capital I heard someone yell Chris and I knew it had to be my family.  Someone then yelled Crea which I figured was someone trying to tell me my wife was there.  I could not stop so I just kept going.  As I hit the Capital Building, the soon to be winner came down towards the shoot.  DEPRESSING!!!  Anyway, I tried to hold it together but it didn’t last too long.  All the work I had put on my right leg came back in a crippling cramp that stopped me cold.  I was upset.  I punched and squeezed my leg hoping it would subside.  I tried to run again but the cramps came back in full force.  I quickly made the decision to try a 3-1 interval.  I would run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute.  My hope was that I could hold off the cramps for 3 minutes then use the 1 minute to recover pushing the cramps farther away….then repeat.  It actually worked for a bit.  I kept a respectable pace for 2 of the 3 minutes, fought cramps for one minute then walked. I honestly have no idea where I ever was on the run but soon after I had missed my chance to see my family, I came across them again.  Even writing about seeing them months later makes me emotional.  I needed to see them.  It was on the main drag through town.  I stopped to talk to them which would never happen if my time was looking good.  I think that Thalia was asleep.  Jaden told me to do my best and that I would finish.  It was amazing to see Crea.  She is a big reason I race and raise money to fight cancer.  She is a big reason I am who I am.  I don’t know if it was this 1st visit with her, or the next visit, or every visit but I apologized for my performance.  I know spectating is hard……although after the fact it sounds like they all had a great day at the Childrens Museum……and my issues were going to make for a longer day than I wished for my wife.  I also just want to do things that make my wife proud and I was struggling to be proud of this day even though I really was giving all I had.  Crea told me not to be sorry at all and that she was proud of me and off I went. 
T2 For My Kids
A little while later I ran into a SoCal teammate Andrew Grant who was walking.  He knew he would have to walk the marathon because he was battling horrible IT band issues but I stopped to walk with him a second. We shared a laugh or two……cannot remember at what…….and then I told him about my 3-1 plan. I talked him into giving it a shot and off we went.  About a minute later, Andrew unfortunately had to bow out of the interval but I kept going because I knew I was deteriorating fast.  The rest of the run was much of the same:

Crea Patiently Waiting: "What I found a baby before"
•I drank Coke every chance I could hoping to make up for the missing calories and get in some simple sugars.
•I took my salt pills.
•I punched my quads and hamstrings begging they stop cramping.
•My 3-1 interval kept deteriorating.  It eventually whittled down to a 1-1 interval and I must say the running 1 minute might not have been much faster than the walking minute.  I took very short strides trying not to anger the cramping Gods and because it was hard to put any pressure on my left foot which had unbeknownst to me turned a lovely shade of purple and red.  It was not the wound on my left foot that hurt…… was the underside of the foot which resulted from the shifting of the bike cleat.  Either way, I was a mess.

The High Five Rule
I was disappointed but tried to savor what I could from the day.  I remember running through the stadium where the Wisconsin Badgers play.  That was very cool.  I remember being on trails at times.  I remember there were always people.  I remember bumping into a SoCal teammate now and then.  I remember trying to cheer on everyone that I passed or was passing me (far more were passing me of course).  I remember if I saw I child with their hand out for a High Five, I did what I could to get there and slap that hand and thank them.  It is kind of a rule…..”no child’s high five hand untouched”.  I feel every little moment in a child’s life has the chance to be influential.  It is only a high five…..I know.  But it is also a moment when a guy in pain thought it important enough to show gratitude for that little child standing on the sidelines.  I saw the family a few more times and some friends too along the way.  Just as with the bike, the crowds were indescribable.  People were everywhere screaming for you.  Despite the feeling of embarrassment at not being able to run fast, I was very grateful for the support.

I made it back to the Capital Building which meant home was near.  I made the last left turn towards the finish.  A guy beside me told me to go ahead so we didn’t share the same photo.  I offered to let him go first but didn’t have the strength to argue so off I went.  My legs were so wobbly.  There was a slight downhill and I just closed my eyes and asked them to hold on for another minute.  They did.  I crossed the finish line hours after I wanted to.  I wish I could say I felt elation at the moment but I didn’t.  I felt pain and disappointment.  I guess I didn’t look too good because 2 volunteers came up to me and asked a bunch of questions.  I must not have been answering correctly because they took me to the medical tent.  I do not remember too much about it.  A bunch of people asking me questions and apparently me giving all the wrong answers.  After some time……..not sure how much……clarity started returning.  I remember a guy beside me asking if it was normal he was peeing blood.  The assistant went to get someone else to provide an answer.  I took a moment to tell this guy it was not normal and he better take a seat.  I think I was supposed to stay there a while but I seized the opportunity when someone new came to ask how I was doing.  Learning from my past, I responded “Fantastic, let’s get me out of here” which is what they did.  I left the medical tent and found my family.  I am sure I apologized again but I really do not remember too much.  I even have pictures on Facebook that a friend took on the walk back to the hotel that for the life of me I don’t remember taking.

Two months have now passed since I turned 3x Ironman.  I still accept my time for what it is.  I am still disappointed and full of questions.  Ironman Wisconsin 2011 was going to be my last Ironman but I am not sure I can go to my grave with this performance as my last.  If this had just been a bad performance, I probably could live with it.  I struggle, however, with some of the circumstances that lead to the bad day so I have begged my wife for one more shot at the title.  I want to go out my way….on my terms.  While I am confident I left all of me on the streets of Wisconsin on September 11, 2011, I would like one more chance to cover 140.6 miles with no asterisks.  I am not sure what race I will choose but hope that 2013 is the year that sees me cross my final Ironman finish line.  I will close by saying while I am not proud of my performance, I am very proud to have crossed the Ironman finish line.  I am grateful to my wife for her support of my endeavor. She gives up so much to let me train for races like these.  I am proud to have shared the day with so many amazing athletes.  I am grateful to the 1,000’s of spectators that cheered for me on race day.  I am grateful to all the kind words on race day from folks on Twitter and Facebook and I apologize to those who had to wait so long for me to finish.  I love this sport.  I love all it represents. It is something I try to carry with me on a daily basis as I do my entire story.  I always say I run to remember so in that sense my ‘extended’ race day gave me a little more time to do so and that cannot be such a bad thing.

One last very good piece of news is that Laura Maloney, my cancer fighting friend mentioned in this recap, is now cancer free. I saw her at a Team in Training Kick Off and she looked much stronger and was doing great.

Final note is that I raised a lot of money to beat cancer on the road to Ironman Wisconsin.  With your help, we raised over $27,000 and I personally reached my lifetime goal of raising over $100,000.  It is now my wife's turn.  She watched me train for hours.  She has seen me complete Lavaman Triathlon the last 3 years with Team in Training.  It is now her turn to carry the torch, fight the fight and show cancer that it lost the battle with her and will ultimately lose the battle with all.  If you would like to help my 2 x cancer fighting wife fight back, the fundraising link at the top of this page is to her site.  I would be honored if you show her the same love that you have shown me over the years.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Seventy Years: 10/9/41

Quick Post. I know I always say that but this time it is a guarantee. Today is October 9, 2011 and it should be a day I am spending with my father. If we were together we would undoubtedly be:

  • Watching some football. He would go nuts today with the ability to watch every football game on tv on Sunday....let alone see every game on one screen
  • Sharing some laughs. He was a funny guy that would sometimes break off into a Seinfeld like standup routine. The example I always use is when he was on a plane that had been significantly delayed, he decided to help the crew. He dipped his cloth napkin in red wine, wrapped it around his head and proceeded to help pass out drinks pretending to be Rambo. P.S. This is why I have a whacked sense of humor.
  • Undoubtedly my Dad would disappear at some point during the day but we would all know he was sneaking in some work in some quiet corner of the house. My Dad imported wine so he would be working on some import documents, organizing (he was a mad list creator) or perhaps doing some stock research.
  • He probably would already have ordered the iphone 4S but if he hadn't, we would go order one together. My Dad always had the latest and greatest technology. It was a shame he passed away before getting to see the innovations that have been created over the past few years.
  • The day would have to involve some golf. I am not a great golfer but he was a scratch golfer.....self taught. He taught himself most things from reading. I still have a micro cassette recorder with 30 minutes of him stating all the tiny movements he needed to remember on his back swing.
  • The day would end with a fine meal out or perhaps with him cooking a nice meal. He was an amazing cook and I think it stemmed from a palate that allowed him to interpret ingredients at a detailed level. He could also eat a meal out then go home and create it.
Anyway, this is what our day would have been. Cancer took the chance for this day away from us on January 12, 2004. After a 15 month battle, cancer won a hard fought battle. As I have said before, this lost battle and this loss for my family lead me to amazing things. I run and bike and sort of swim now because of him. I learned how to fight back because of him. I learned how to lead others because of him. Over the years I have met some amazing people that are out there fighting cancer as well. Today, on behalf of my family and myself and my Dad, I want to thank everyone that has ever joined me in the fight against cancer. Today in particular there are folks out there running or walking for Team in Training or the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation program or for Susan G Komen or for an organization close to their heart. They are most likely doing it with no knowledge of my father but I hope they know their efforts help honor a promise I made to my end cancer.

I talked to my Mother a little while ago. I can hear sadness in her voice. She spent many more years with my father than I did and I can tell she misses him terribly. Time does heal wounds but I do not think you ever get back to 100%. I lost my best friend. She lost her best friend and soul mate. We talked about what Dad might be doing right now. I said that he would probably be golfing with Isabella as his caddy. Usually I think I am right but in this instance, I think my Mom's proposal is the more likely choice. I already mentioned my Dad was a Tech geek......fine leather and very fine pens too. This week we lost an amazing innovator, Steve Jobs. My Mom's theory is that my Dad is in heaven tracking down Steve Jobs to catch up on all the craze of the iPhone and iPad and MacBook Air and iMac, etc, etc, etc. Knowing my Dad, this is exactly what he must be doing which supports the theory that we should not be sad for those that have moved on..........they are in a great place...........we are just sad for the times we can no longer share with those people. I close with a photo of my Dad giving his toast as Best Man on the day
Crea and I married. He spoke through tears saying it is not a fair request to have him speak on such a special day. Just so he can feel we are even, I wrote this little post on a special day....also through tears. Cheers Dad. I am still raising a glass to your 70th birthday today. I miss you. Cancer will go down as promised.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Hope Next Exit Raffle Winners

Well it has been 2 weeks since I drew the numbers for the raffle so I figure it is about time I see who all of the winners are. I am aware who won the notebook and that is in process of being mailed. A list of all the winners are as follows:

$50 Starbucks Card: Greg Durbin
$50 Starbucks Card: Sara Schroer
DVD-CD Set (Date Night + Glee Club): Jennifer Whitter
Avatar 3 Disc Set: Ron Harvey
Deacon Jones Autographed Football: Marjorie Wilno
Punk Rock Racing Gear: Patty Lou Harris
HP Photosmart Printer: Bethany Chaney
Lexmark S815 Printer: Cooley Crew
Beats Headphones: Mark Kristof
HP Mediasmart Server: Brian Ring
Gateway Notebook: Fern Oliner

Thank you to all. Congratulations to the winners. I will be back with more prizes to help Crea Wilno in her fundraising efforts. I already have another notebook and a very cool HP Envy printer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hope Next Exit Raffle Drawing To Be Held August 13th

FINALLY!!!!!!! Drawing for the Hope Next Exit Raffle will be held this Saturday, August 13th at approximately 3pm. I have to apologize for the extreme delay in getting to this. I want to beg your forgiveness and assure you the delay is not from sitting around watching television. Between an extreme work schedule, coaching for Team in Training, spending a little time with my family (I would have said 'spending time' but I know my wife, Crea, would have corrected me) and my training for Ironman Wisconsin, I generally do not stop for the day until 1am or so. As I write this post it is only 8pm and that is only because I am pushing off a 2 hour bike trainer ride until 4am. Anyway, I almost titled this post, 'I am an @sshole' and it would be appropriate but I will say sorry and move forward. Please do not hold this delay against me for there will be another raffle soon and this time it will be to support my amazing wife. I have taken all of the training time for the last few years. I have taken Sundays to coach. I have worked a ton of hours. Through all of this, Crea, has been an amazing support system. I could not have made much impact on the world had it not been for her support so after Ironman Wisconsin, I am going to let Crea have the spotlight as she plans to train for Lavaman Triathlon 2012 with Team in Training. I have done this race for the past 3 years and......thanks to all of you.......have been a top 3 fundraiser each time. This year I will trade places......I will watch the kids while Crea trains and ultimately gets out there to race. It will be a big day as she shows cancer what she is made of.

As a reminder, the prizes up for grabs are as follows:

HP MediaSmart Server EX495
Gateway Laptop - 15.6" Blu Ray, 4GB 500GB
Monster Beats by Dr. Dre headphones
Lexmark S815 Genesis All In One printer
HP Photosmart e-All-in-One printer
Punk Rock Racing Gear
Deacon Jones Autographed Football
Avatar 3 Disc DVD Set
DVD-CD Set: Date Night + Glee Rocky Horror Picture Show
2 x $50 Starbucks Gift Card (I added one as a penalty to myself for the delay)

I went through all of the donations and have compiled the list below of people that purchased raffle tickets. PLEASE REVIEW THIS LIST AND IF I HAVE NOT PROVIDED YOU ENOUGH TICKETS OR IF YOUR NAME IS ABSENT WHEN YOU BELIEVE YOU PURCHASED TICKETS........PLEASE COMMENT TO THIS POST SO I CAN REVIEW AND MAKE CORRECTIONS (if your name is here and you did not participate in the are welcome!!!!). Beside each name is a raffle ticket number. This coming Saturday, August 13th........which is my birthday if you really must know...........I will be at our Summer 2011 Team in Training reunion party. I will bring all of the raffle tickets there and your fate will be decided by folks with no interest in winning. I will communicate on Twitter/Facebook as the raffle begins. I will go one prize at a time by first announcing which one is being drawn for. I will then have someone pull a ticket which I will communicate via Facebook and Twitter again. To be safe I will include the actual prize one more time.

Please note I will NOT have the list of donations with me during the raffle. In my mind this is one added level of security since I will not really know who has an interest in certain #'s. Here is the list. Thank you so much for your support that helped me raise over $27,000 for Lavaman 2011 on my way to Ironman Wisconsin.

Name Ticket #
Abhay Kulkarni 230
Abhay Kulkarni 231
Abhay Kulkarni 232
Abhay Kulkarni 233
Abhay Kulkarni 234
Abhay Kulkarni 235
Adam Del Vecchio 236
Adam Del Vecchio 237
Adam Del Vecchio 238
Adam Del Vecchio 239
Adam Del Vecchio 240
Adam Del Vecchio 241
Barbara Fuller 242
Barbara Fuller 243
Barbara Fuller 244
Bethany Chaney 245
Bethany Chaney 246
Bethany Chaney 247
Bethany Chaney 248
Bethany Chaney 249
Bethany Chaney 250
Brett Davis 251
Brett Davis 252
Brett Davis 253
Brian Ring 254
Brian Ring 255
Brian Ring 256
Brian Ring 257
Brian Ring 258
Brian Ring 259
Bryan Sloan 260
Calvin Lin 261
Calvin Lin 262
Calvin Lin 263
Caryn fishler 264
Christopher Hancock 265
Christopher Hancock 266
Christopher Rake 267
Christopher Rake 268
Christopher Rake 269
Christopher Rake 270
Christopher Rake 271
Christopher Rake 272
Christy Noel 273
Colin and the Cooley Crew 274
Colin and the Cooley Crew 275
Colin and the Cooley Crew 276
Colin and the Cooley Crew 277
Colin and the Cooley Crew 278
Colin and the Cooley Crew 279
Darlene Andronaco 280
Darlene Andronaco 281
Darlene Andronaco 282
Dashiell Nash 283
Dashiell Nash 284
Dashiell Nash 285
David Pittman 286
Dena Grablowsky 287
Dena Grablowsky 288
Dena Grablowsky 289
Don Chomiak 290
Don Chomiak 291
Don Chomiak 292
Douglas Sawyer 293
Douglas Sawyer 294
Douglas Sawyer 295
Douglas Sawyer 296
Douglas Sawyer 297
Douglas Sawyer 298
Edward Schober 299
Eileen Wolpe 300
Eileen Wolpe 301
Eileen Wolpe 302
Eileen Wolpe 303
Eileen Wolpe 304
Eileen Wolpe 305
Elizabeth Ryan 306
Eric Orvieto 307
Eric Orvieto 308
Eric Orvieto 309
Eric Orvieto 310
Eric Orvieto 311
Eric Orvieto 312
Fern Oliner 313
Fern Oliner 314
Fern Oliner 315
Fern Oliner 316
Greg Durbin 317
Greg Durbin 318
Greg Durbin 319
Inessa Vitko 320
Inessa Vitko 321
Inessa Vitko 322
Jared Morell 323
Jason Bass 324
Jason Zacher 325
Jason Zacher 326
Jason Zacher 327
Jason Zacher 328
Jason Zacher 329
Javier River 330
Javier River 331
Javier River 332
Jenna Chastain 333
Jennifer Conklin 334
Jennifer Whitter 335
Jennifer Whitter 336
Jennifer Whitter 337
Jennifer Zenuch 338
JoAnn Beluch 339
JoAnn Beluch 340
JoAnn Beluch 341
Joe Sebok 342
Joe Sebok 343
Joe Sebok 344
Joe Sebok 345
Joe Sebok 346
Joe Sebok 347
Josh Spector 348
Josh Spector 349
Josh Spector 350
Josh Spector 351
Josh Spector 352
Josh Spector 353
Judy Williamson 354
Judy Williamson 355
Judy Williamson 356
Kaleigh Vanalstine 357
Karene Katz 358
Karene Katz 359
Karene Katz 360
Kathryn Murray 361
Kristea Cancel 362
Kristea Cancel 363
Kristea Cancel 364
Kristy Brown 365
Laura Maloney 366
Laura Maloney 367
Laura Maloney 368
Laura Maloney 369
Laura Maloney 370
Laura Maloney 371
Lee and Kathy Quiring 372
Lee and Kathy Quiring 373
Lee and Kathy Quiring 374
Linda Vermeulen 375
Linda Vermeulen 376
Lisa Dracolakis 377
Lisa Dracolakis 378
Lisa Dracolakis 379
Lore Hernandez 380
Lori Jomsky 381
Lori Jomsky 382
Lori Jomsky 383
Lori Jomsky 384
Lori Jomsky 385
Lori Jomsky 386
Marjorie Wilno 387
Marjorie Wilno 388
Marjorie Wilno 389
Marjorie Wilno 390
Marjorie Wilno 391
Marjorie Wilno 392
Marjorie Wilno 393
Marjorie Wilno 394
Marjorie Wilno 395
Marjorie Wilno 396
Marjorie Wilno 397
Marjorie Wilno 398
Marjorie Wilno 399
Marjorie Wilno 400
Marjorie Wilno 401
Mark Kristof 402
Mark Kristof 403
Mark Kristof 404
Mark Kristof 405
Mark Kristof 406
Mark Kristof 407
Mark Kristof 408
Matthew Barnette 409
Matthew Barnette 410
Matthew Barnette 411
Maura McCartan 412
Maura McCartan 413
Megan Oconnor 414
Meghan Mcconnell 415
Melissa Anderson 416
Melissa Anderson 417
Melissa Anderson 418
Melissa Galyon 419
Melissa Galyon 420
Michael Kuhn 421
Michael Miller 422
Michael Miller 423
Michael Miller 424
Michael Miller 425
Michael Miller 426
Michael Miller 427
Michael Miller 428
Michael Miller 429
Michael Miller 430
Michael Sally 431
Michel Holtz 432
Miriam Sandy 433
Miriam Sandy 434
Miriam Sandy 435
Miriam Sandy 436
Miriam Sandy 437
Miriam Sandy 438
Nadim Bacchus 439
Nick Gardner 440
Nick Gardner 441
Nick Gardner 442
Nick Gardner 443
Nick Gardner 444
Nick Gardner 445
Patricia Lou Harris 446
Patricia Lou Harris 447
Patricia Lou Harris 448
Patricia Lou Harris 449
Patricia Lou Harris 450
Patricia Lou Harris 451
Patricia Lou Harris 452
Patricia Lou Harris 453
Patricia Lou Harris 454
Patricia Lou Harris 455
Patricia Lou Harris 456
Patricia Lou Harris 457
Patricia Lou Harris 458
Patricia Lou Harris 459
Patricia Lou Harris 460
Patricia Lou Harris 461
Patricia Lou Harris 462
Patricia Lou Harris 463
Patricia Lou Harris 464
Patricia Lou Harris 465
Patricia Lou Harris 466
Patricia Lou Harris 467
Patricia Lou Harris 468
Patricia Lou Harris 469
Patricia Lou Harris 470
Patricia Lou Harris 471
Patricia Lou Harris 472
Patricia Lou Harris 473
Patricia Lou Harris 474
Patricia Lou Harris 475
Penny Sprague 476
Penny Sprague 477
Penny Sprague 478
Peter Cilella 479
Peter Cilella 480
Peter Cilella 481
Peter Cilella 482
Peter Cilella 483
Peter Cilella 484
Peter Conlon 485
Peter Conlon 486
Peter Conlon 487
Peter Conlon 488
Peter Conlon 489
Peter Conlon 490
Peter Conlon 491
Rommel Calderon 492
Rommel Calderon 493
Rommel Calderon 494
Ron Harvey 495
Ron Harvey 496
Ron Harvey 497
Ron Harvey 498
Ron Harvey 499
Ron Harvey 500
Ron Kaloper 501
Ron Kaloper 502
Ron Kaloper 503
Rosalinda Batson 504
Rosalinda Batson 505
Rosalinda Batson 506
Rosalinda Batson 507
Rosalinda Batson 508
Rosalinda Batson 509
Sara Schroer 510
Sara Schroer 511
Sara Schroer 512
Sara Schroer 513
Sara Schroer 514
Sara Schroer 515
Sarah Hughes 516
Scott Clausen 517
Therese Soltis 518
Therese Soltis 519
Therese Soltis 520
Therese Soltis 521
Therese Soltis 522
Therese Soltis 523
Trisha Hegeman 524
Trisha Hegeman 525
Trisha Hegeman 526
Zsolt Kiraly 527