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Ironman Wisconsin 2018 Race Recap

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I can finally joke and say that “26.2 is my cool down.” This blog post will be lengthy and hopefully as detailed as possible for the people interested in my race recap, but also for my sake so that I can look back on this blog post and remember the incredible day that was September 9th, 2018!

I also would like to comment that I understand that this hobby of mine can be kind of ridiculous. Especially when that is a majority about what I post about on social media, talk to with friends, small talk with people..etc. Yes, it has been kind of obsessive, but you have to zero in on an event like this to even think you can finish it. This journey has been gruesome. It has taken a lot of hours to get to the starting line and has taken a lot of support from many groups of people and I will forever be thankful for them.

I also understand that some people view doing long distance races, triathlons, or Ironmans as a waste of time, money, energy, and can put you at risk for many injuries, take time away from other aspects of your life, and so on. Those things are true to an extent. You have to admit, doing an Ironman can expose you to many injuries; chronic and acute. From the long months training to the actual race day. The worst can happen. There are risks with anything you do sadly in this sport but the same goes for in life as well. The pros outweigh the cons for me. Although, planning and training for a big race like this can be stressful, this sport has allowed me to focus on things that really matter to me in life. It allows me to compartmentalize what do I really want to do? I fortunately am a young adult with not a lot of responsibilities in my life such as being responsible for another human being (huge kudos to all those parents who do Ironmans.) The major things I worry about for me is; school, professional career, and mental health. Triathlons help me with all aspects of the three and for various reasons and maybe one day I won’t want to do triathlons and that’s okay too. Life is full of changes, life is one big transition. But for now, the joy that this sport has brought me has been immense even before accomplishing an Ironman. The people I have met and connected with, the life-long friendships, the people I like to call my mentors in life and role models. So many people in this sport inspire me to be like them not only in their amazing ability to perform well in triathlons but the way they act through life, provide for their families, succeed in their careers. These mentors inspire me day in and day out. Because of them I had enough courage to do the scariest thing I can think of doing and actually do it! It wasn’t just Ironman. It was 6 years ago when I wanted to learn how to run 3 miles, and then 5 and then accomplish my first long run of 10 miles, and when they roped me into signing up for my first half marathon, and full marathon. All these things were major things I never thought I would do in my life. I never thought I could ride a bike outside for sport, or do an outdoor triathlon, or an olympic distance tri, or a half Ironman of all things. If you set goals and you work hard, you can do anything. I swear you can. I have to remind myself I can all the time, with triathlons, with school, with life. It is the only way I have gotten through tough things. I just want to stress how triathlons, the community with triathlons, the tough training days, the blissful finishes have all been such HUGE positives in my life. I am so thankful to have been at that starting line, because not everyone has that privilege. 

Race morning

I woke up feeling tired and afraid for the long day, but at the same time very excited. 4:30 AM wake up to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. TJ and I made it to the start where he dropped me off and he found parking. Once dropped off I went up the Monona Terrace spiral (the spiral I would be running up after the swim to T1) to get body marked and double check my bike at T1. Following that I headed to special needs drop off for bike and run which would later come in handy! I finally caught up with TJ and he helped me put on my wetsuit and it was almost swim time. We walked down the spiral and I said goodbye to TJ. I don’t know what I would have done without him there. His support at my races isn’t something I take for granted. It is hard being a spectator since it is such a long day and he kept my spirits high when I was feeling low. He was my rock that day.

Swim

Leading up to race day were many rainy days and flash floods. It was rumored that the swim might even get canceled. The day couldn’t have been more perfect to start with. It was 50 degrees at the start with some highs or 75 that day.

I stood in a sea of people waiting for our turn to get into the water and start the long day. Unfortunately, I did not get there early enough to get into the correct pace group. I stood there waiting anxiously in the 1:30 pace group. Nonetheless it didn’t matter, I was going to start when I started it wasn’t going to make a difference. I remained calm. I even saw my new friend Holly during that time as we started to progress forward. As I approached the start, I started crying thinking I couldn’t believe I was at the starting line and how thankful I am for this opportunity. I prayed to God to keep all of us safe today as we go out on the course. I started my swim.

The water was freezing but I didn’t care! The swim is my favorite part of a triathlon! Going out I felt super fast and relaxed. I was passing people and no one was swimming into me or vice versa. It was going to be a great swim! The view of the Terrace while in the lake was breath taking. So many people were there to support us. It was insane! On the turn around the water got choppy. WAVES felt like they would swallow every stroke I took and just push my back. People starting swimming into each other, kicking, swimming on top of one another. I got kicked in the nose pretty hard. I had to keep going but it felt like it was a never ending swim. The sun glare hurt and well as the people who kept hitting me.

Seeing that last buoy was so relieving. I knew that meant I only had about 500 left to go. I can do this. A change of direction will help with the waves. I made it out of the water, a little beat up, but seeing all the people there supporting was invigorating! I ran up the entire terrace. I saw TJ, my lab mates Dan and Kevin, and it was amazing to just be done with the swim. 1/3 of the events done! “I can do this”, I thought.

T1

Immediately running into the convention center the amazing volunteers started shouting “676, 676, 676!” I was assigned a volunteer who helped open my bike gear bag and help me change. All I needed was to put on my pullover (it was chilly that whole day!), my helmet, glasses, socks, cleats, and grab my nutrition for the bike. Also, I saw so many naked women! Haha I did not expect for so many of them to strip down, lather up in body glide or vaseline, and change into a bike outfit. I just stayed in my same tri suit all day! T1 felt like it happened so quickly! I ran out to the parking garage where our bike were and grabbed my bike!

Bike

And I was off. It was now the event that I was most afraid of. The longest part of the day and the discipline I worked the hardest to improve on. I had ridden the course on Zwift many times but nothing compared to actually riding it in person. It was much more difficult but fun. Yes fun, the views were amazing. I felt like I was flying. On some of the descends I was going 45 MPH and then straight into a turn and then another hill. The bike consisted of a rolling course that kept you entertained. Very technical. The famous part are the course were the “three bitches.” These hills were amazing to climb. The crowd support on the course was insane. It was a literal party with people drinking, cooking out, blasting music, and cheering us on as we conquered the hills. That first loop of the 3 hills was so much fun. My nutrition was on point, I had the biggest smile on my face. I was even chatting it up with people on the course and getting to know them. I felt amazing.

 

At the start of the second loop I stopped at an aid station and that’s when it went downhill. A guy crashed into me at the aid station and I fell over and landed on my right shoulder. All I could feel was the throbbing of my shoulder in pain. The pad on my aero bars broke off with the tumble. I had asked the volunteers if I was on the road too much to know if it was my fault and they said no. The guy just kept going without apologizing. (Not cool guy) Unfortunately, at that aid station the bike support was not there and could not help me with my aero bar. I kept biking. I was in so much pain gripping to my side bars to get up the rolling hills and even more on the three huge hills. I was dying to get a break on the false flats and just get on my aero bars to give my shoulder a break. I couldn’t see bike support for the next 20 or so miles. Around mile 85 I found trek bike support and they helped me repair my broken aero bar pad. Finally, a little relief when I could get it occasionally. The last 27 miles felt like forever. All of a sudden I was the only one on the course. I felt so alone out there tackling the road. I was thankful for special needs bike because I had a PB&J sandwich that turned out to be the best damn sandwich I have ever ate in my life haha! I ate my sandwich and gutted out the remainder of the bike. My MPH slowed down so much. I was in so much pain. I honestly did not think I was going to make the bike cut off. The last 8 miles I saw my friend Holly again. I told her what happened and she kept telling me “We are going to make it.” She sped off also trying to make the bike cut off. I felt like I was going backwards. It felt never ending and I felt like a failure.

T2

I stumbled as I dismounted and somehow sped into T2. I was crying. I didn’t think I made it for the bike cut off. My watch had died and I had no idea what time of day it was. I thought that was going to be end of my day. The volunteers started shouting again “676, 676, 676” they got my run gear bag. I was so confused. “I made it? Are you sure I made it? I am going to run the marathon? Are you positive I made the cut off. I am not DNF?!” The volunteer with me kept reassuring me I made it and I was in tears. She told me to breathe and take my time in T2, “You have time. You are going to be an Ironman.” she said.  I still rushed in T2. I didn’t believe her. I was so afraid I screwed up the whole day. I ran out of T2 and headed to the run start. I saw TJ cheering for me and I told him how hurt I was and he said to keep running. I did. I felt like shit. I didn’t know how I was going to run a freaking marathon now.

Run

That first mile of the marathon is probably the slowest mile I have ever done in my life. I could have crawled it faster than what I was “running.” I was so low in my spirits. I didn’t think I made it on time. I felt like a disappointment on the bike which I had worked so hard on. I kept seeing people running and they looked so awesome and strong. I was eating my cup full or pretzels and chips to keep me from crying. On the run I decided I need to at least try to actually run. I decided to see if I could find a friend. I asked many people “What loop are you on?” and most responded “two” and I would think “fuck!” and respond with “That’s awesome! You are so close!” and I would die inside thinking I was barley starting this “cool down marathon.” I finally found my person. I asked “What loop are you on?” And this friendly racer said “one!” and I thought “praise Jesus!” I asked her if she would be willing to run with me the remainder of the marathon because I didn’t think I would be able to do it. And she responded with a “Yes but you are so much faster than me.” I reassured her that I would need her more than she needed me to get through this. I would go through surges of feeling good and then feeling like I would give up and puke. Sarah helped me finish the marathon. We stayed together. Our plan was run to each aide station, walk up the hills, walk through the aid stations. We would stop and talk to family and friends (Shoutout to Chelsey and her awesome outfits) that came to support us, and keep running. I swear if it wasn’t for her I might of not made the cut off for the run. Not because I couldn’t run faster but because I mentally could not wrap my head around running a marathon alone while seeing so many people already finish before me. During the second half of the marathon we saw Holly again. She was taking care of the blisters on her feet. We ran/walked with her on and off through out the remainder of the course. We enjoyed the aide stations, the bathroom breaks, the chicken broth. The funny thing is, it wasn’t my longest marathon I had done (Nebraska haha!) Those last 5 miles flew by after the hills on campus and running in Camp Randall football stadium and running past the Kohl center. Sarah and I started to get emotional. We had helped each other out during that marathon and I made a friend. It was both our very first Ironman.  We parted a block away from the finish. She celebrated with family and I ran towards the finish line.

I heard my name not by Mike Reilly but from TJ. I ran to him on the side before the finish and hugged him. I was so damn happy to see him there. I couldn’t believe I was about to be an Ironman.

I had already started crying about 3 blocks prior to this. I thought about my family, my tri family, and all the people who have helped me reach this goal of mine. It was a tough day. I couldn’t believe I made it. I left his embrace and heard Mike Reilly say my name. It was amazing. I became an Ironman. 

If you are ever stupid enough to sign up for an Ironman, I completely recommend it. It will change you, it will make you realize what is important in your life. It will show you that you can do so much more than you think you are capable of. I never thought 6 years ago I would call myself an Ironman one day. It seemed like such a distant goal. Ironman has given me so much motivation not only in sport but my career and life. With Ironman as a goal I tackled two of the hardest years of my life in my Masters. I dealt with depression, I dealt with disappointment and failure, bullying, not being accepted, hard school, tougher work schedule. I got through it because I had Ironman training to think about. Ironman gave me the ability to be brave enough to apply to doctoral programs. To lead me to believe that I am smart enough, I am enough. I don’t know what better way to start this new phase in life than to celebrate by becoming an Ironman. I’ve tackled Ironman Wisconsin and now I will tackle another long race that is, UW-Madison PhD in Biomechanics. 

This was my first journey to 140.6. Thank you everyone who supported me on this journey and sent their well wishes and positive vibes. You are all amazing and I am so thankful for your support. Now it’s time for an off season and of course, I already signed up for my second Ironman. Lake Placid, see ya July 28th, 2019!

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