When I signed up for NTP in 2009, I was pretty sure I could have completed an olympic distance tri without coaching. But I also knew that if I liked the sport(s), then I wanted to continue onto an Ironman. NTP was the best way to meet the DC Tri community and when I got to Ironman training, I know the tri community support would be critical.
I asked a lot of questions about IM races (thank you Hugh and Amanda for letting me badger you with questions every time I saw you). I decided on IM Wisconsin (aka IM Moo) for multiple reasons. The previous winter was Snowmagadan and I hate trainers and treadmills. A September event meant I could do most of my training outdoors. I do not deal well with heat and humidity. The ave temp was a low of mid 50s and a high of mid 70s with low humidity and no wind. Sounds perfect! I prefer rolling hills to flat courses and WI has a technical bike course and a relatively flat run course. And best of all, I have family in the mid-West and I was really hoping they would come cheer me on.
It turned out that 16 other DC Tri peeps also decided to sign up for IM Moo as well. At the end of winter, I saw Amanda at jury duty and we put together an e-mail group of all the DC Tri IM moo crew. This group was great! We shared where and when we were doing the really long bricks. Some went to Madison and shared the recon of the race course. We even had a few happy hours in the beginning!
I knew training would be time consuming, but it was more like I had to fit my life into training rather than fit training into my life. Everyone I knew knew I was training for my Ironman, but I don't know how many of them really understood what it meant. At first all my family and friends were excited for me. But about 2 months into training, I was getting really tired, and my family and friends got tired of me not being around. It was a tough week or two, but we all got thru it and my training and relationships got better! Everything that had to be done was scheduled; if it was on my schedule, it had to get done (no time to procrastinate) and if it wasn't on my schedule, it wasn't important.
I decided to drive to Madison because I didn't want to hassle of packing or shipping my bike. The ride out was great, but the ride home was tough. Really glad I had someone to drive with. We got to Madison on Friday morning. There wasn't enough time to get checked in the race, short swim/bike/run, grocery store, and hotel check in. So we decided to swim and bike the next day. I heard on Friday that there was a lot of wind and the swim was tough. The check in went very smoothly, but the lines were too long! We had a room at the race hotel and were right next to both the checkin and finish line. Well worth every penny for the convenience all weekend long!
The next morning the swim was incredible. ~70 degrees and reasonable clear water (you couldn't see the bottom, but you could see your hands). I had been told to at least ride the 3 hills of the bike course if I couldn't ride the whole course. The bike course is a lollypop that leaves the city and has two 40 mile loops in farm land. We drove most of the course and rode the hills. We were getting close to the time we needed to check the bikes in, so with cold legs we hit the 3 hills and back to the car. It was hard and not a great confidence builder. Would very much recommend riding the course before the race weekend or adding an extra day on the front end of the trip.
Race morning was beautiful! Not too much to do because bike and transition bags had been turning in the previous day. It was incredible to see thousands of spectators line up early so to get a good cheering spot. My mom and Bill had flown in from LA and my cousin Elizabeth drove up from Chicago. A couple other cousins drive down from Minnesota just to see me start the race, the had to leave after the swim to get back in time for work the next day. I don't know how I found my family in the crowd but I am so glad it did. I found Elizabeth first and was getting my wetsuit on talking to my mom on the phone trying to find out where she was. I knew she was close but it was getting very close to the start time and I wanted to be in the water at 7 am. I started walking to the water and just before I entered the athletes only area, there was my mom with tears in her eyes and a huge smile on her face. I was so happy to have found her. It meant to world to me to have seen her at the start.
The line of participants was moving pretty slowly to the enter the water. I was still shuffling along when they played the national anthem and the pros started. I was afraid I wouldn't be in the water in time for the age group start. I am not a great swimmer, so I was going to be in the back of the pack and wide of the buoys. I planned to wait ~20 seconds to let the bulk of the swimmers go and not get caught up in the flailing arms and kicking legs. But when I got in the water there was a clear division of good swimmers in the front and a wide gap to the weaker swimmers in the back. I placed myself slightly behind the good swimmers and a good ways ahead of the back of the pack. There was some body contact. One swimmer right besides me switched to breaststroke and kicked me in the head. During one of the turns, someone hit me in the face and knocked my goggles, but they didn't come off or fill with water. The whole swim time I just kept thinking that none of the contact is intentional and it's part of what makes Ironman an Ironman. I assumed that I would be near the last one out of the water, but felt like I was always swimming with a pack of other swimmers. I was actually enjoying the swim and was a little sad it was over.
Goal time 1:30 - 1:45. Actual time 1:29.
Leaving the swim, we had to run up a three story twisty parking ramp to get to transition. There were people 4 deep cheering us up! I couldn't find my family and I was worried that they wouldn't know I was out of the water and that they should head to the shuttle to Verona for the bike course. Transition was inside the Manona Terrace and the volunteers were wonderful.
After changing, I ran to my bike. Most of the bikes were already gone (like I expected) but that just gave me more people to catch on the bike. As I ran to my bike, I heard the cheering. My family had found my bike in transition and got up on a wall to watch me start the bike leg. The volunteer had my bike ready for me and I grabbed it as I ran by and off I went to the second leg. First we got to ride down the three story helix other side of the terrace, then a 16 mile route out to the 40 mile loop in the farm county. The first loop the temperature was still cool and I was feeling good. I was probably going too fast, but it's hard to slow down at this point of the day. The course was rolling hills with 3 good hills back to back (which you get to do twice). I saw my family twice in the city of Verona and AJ & Alejandro at the top of one of the hills. The spectators on the hill section were like the tour de France. They were 4-5 deep in some places and would lean way in to cheer us up the hills. On the second hill I actually had to yell at them to move back so I could pass a slower biker! The costumes and signs and cheering were amazing! I think I had a smile on my face 90% of the time. The wind kicked up and the temperature started increasing on the second loop and slowed me down a bit. I had set my garmin to buzz every 5 miles to remind me to eat and drink. I don't think I could have consumed anymore and I still don't think it was enough. On the second loop I hit a bad spot and had to search for a second wind. Luckily the other bikers cheered me on and I found my second (or maybe third by that time) wind. By the end I was more than ready to run to just get off my bike.
Goal time 7 - 8 hours. Actual time 6:33.
Transition 2 was similar to transition one. Run into the terrace grab your transition bag and run into the change room to change. BUT there was only one door open from the bag room. The other doors are unlocked, but I learned when i ran out the other doors that I had to go back and run thru the open doors to go to the change room. Yea, I am serious. Added 10 seconds to my T2 time!
I knew the run would be hard. I had nothing left in my tank by time I started the run. It was still mid 80s and the course had some stretches of full sun. I liked most of the course. Lots of people on State street. Got to run thru the (empty) Randall Stadium. Onto campus and the back side of State street with more people cheering (and drinking). Along the lake and then back to the Capitol for the turn around to do it one more time. It was pretty cruel to be so close to the finish line and have to head back out. My times show I got slightly worse at each check in. There weren't too many hills, but I walked them all. I focused on one mile at a time. When I knew my family would be there, I picked it up a bit and made sure the smile was back on my face. I looked forward to seeing them and knowing they were there was a huge boost to me, at this point of the day the body was done and it was all heart. I needed all the boosts I could get! I got to see most everyone from DC Tri on the run course and they looked good to me. Truthfully, I was getting a little spacey at this point and most DC Tri folks actually saw me and called out my name. I had a few blisters on my feet and some chafing starting. I listened to my body and walked a lot. On the second loop I was listening to some ladies talk about making their 13 hour IM goal. I looked at my watch and thought they were out of their minds. There was no way they were going to make that goal with the time and their pace. That is when I realized my watch was on DC time and Madison was an hour later! I got a pretty bad cramp under my ribs at mile 24 that I couldn't breath away. I realized how little I had left in the tank and I wanted to run thru the finish line. So I walked all but the last 5-6 blocks. That last stretch I jogged till I got to the finishers shoot. It was downhill and all of a sudden I felt GOOD. I gave a few high fives and pumped my arms over my head. I am sure I was smiling ear to ear. I never heard the announcer say: Dena Richardson from Washington DC... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN. But that's OK, my family repeated it to me as soon as I saw them at the finish line.
Goal time 5-7 hours. Actual time 5:17.
I couldn't really eat much. So I gathered my stuff and got it back the hotel. I was torn between laying down and cheering the finisher home. I decided to go back out and I am so glad I did. I got to see some of the other IM moo crew finish and as it got closer to midnight the finish line party just got better. The last few minutes at the finish line was one of the highlights of the day.
I had no real expectation of the day. I wanted to finish in under 17 hours. I wanted to finish strong. I knew I had trained well and I was ready. Everything fell into place the couple of weeks leading up to the race. I am not a professional triathlete, my pay check is not dependant on how I did that day. I knew I was no where near a Kona slot. So I decided to have fun. I chatted with the other athletes and the spectators. I smiled a lot and had a blast. And at the end of the day I ran strong across the finishers line.
Overall race goal time 14 - 17 hours. Actual time 13:34:11.
I'm glad that you brought the family/friends aspect into the race report. Most people when they think about the Ironman, they just think about the French aspect (i.e., peeing on the bike). Although that is indeed true, the family/friends aspect is what makes it really special. Well, that and peeing on the bike.
In all seriousness, running down that finish line chute of an Ironman is pretty awesome. It's accentuated even more by the person standing on the other side of the finish line shakinng your hand or patting you on the back and saying "Congratulation, you are an Ironman!" That never gets old. I always smile when I hear people describe their finish line chute experience. Thanks for sharing.
This is a great race report - and even a better race! Many congratulations. I hope you're still glowing! (From pride, not sweat.)
Thanks Janie. Your race report from Lake Placid was an inspiration and help me find a good frame of mind for Wisconsin. Thanks for sharing!