It Takes a Village to Raise An Ironman

>> Monday, September 24, 2007

This won’t be an exciting post, but I need to give credit to those who helped me not only break the tape just over 2 weeks ago, but also those who helped get me to the starting line. Then I’ll stop talking about Ironman and move on with my life. I promise.

Matt, Steph, and Jon, our cheering crew
It was GREAT having you 3 out there. The vast majority of the photos of Pharmie and I from Ironman were taken by Matt - he clicked photo after photo! They made signs and cheered like mad-men at the sight of us. Steph offered to buy me food after I finished. Jon offered to give me a piggy-back ride back to the hotel room. I will always be grateful.

Matt, Pharmie, and Steph

Jon and I waiting for Pharmie at the finish

Kara and Margi, my 2 physical therapists, from Tria
I couldn’t have done this without them. Or the 3 dozen leg and ass strengthening exercises they gave me.

All of you, my fellow bloggers
I’m not addicted to comments. Really, I’m not. But by knowing that there are people out there willing to offer advice, console a beat up runner, and prod a fella to keep on going really helps. To see that I had 4 times the normal number of hits on my site the day after Ironman makes me know that there are people out there cheering for me, and to all of you, I say “thank you.”

All the volunteers at IM WI
SIMPLY AMAZING. Great people. They all deserve a straight path to unimaginable bliss. If I can help by paving that path, just let me know. Nothing expensive. Or sexual.

XT4 and Robby B.
I could thank ALL KINDS of bloggers specifically, but these 2 donated to my IM Community Fund. I missed IM sign up last year because I had to get back to St. Paul to teach, and I couldn’t sign up online for the same reason. After class, registration was closed. So I signed up through the Community Fund, which meant I donated an extra large chunk of money to support athletics in Madison. XT4 and Robby helped me defer some of that cost. They were also both extraordinary volunteers this year at IM WI. Thanks fellas.

The 6 names on my shoes
Before Ironman, I knew that I might need outside help to get through the run. I wrote 6 names of people that would help carry me through. Phil, my Grandpa who died when I was 12, was on my shoes. So was Aggie, Pharmie’s Grandma who past away before we got married. I never got to know Phil or Aggie that well, and I know they were both amazing people. Kara and Margi, my above-mentioned P.T.s, were on my shoes. So was Wil, fellow blogger and wonderful human being. I don’t think she knew that I wrote her name, even though we were competing in IM WI side-by-side. And last, but most definitely not least, Pharmie’s real name, Sarah, was written on my shoes. These people helped me get through those last 4 hours and 58 minutes.

My amazing wife, Pharmie
During the heart of training, I kept telling her “I blame YOU for this!” It was all in jest. I LOVED the fact that she got me into all of this. She’s the best person I could ever share my life with. She puts up with my craziness, even if she’s not always happy about what I post (if it were up to her, I would have never posted my previous post, so don’t look at it). And, for the record, she’s not happy with the quick regrowth of my body hair. I think her long-term plan from 3 years ago was to get me started with triathlons so that I would decide to shave my body at some point. She would like me to be hair-free forever. She’s the best. I love her so much. Even if she does love me more with less body hair. When I flex in front of the mirror, even though it’s only been 2 weeks since my final shave, I now look like this:

She has to put up with this every day

Thank you, everyone.


We Have Lift-Off!

>> Friday, September 21, 2007

After Ironman, I was sore until Wednesday. Then, on Wednesday, I caught a nasty cold. I just got over it. Pharmie didn't want to touch me with all of the mucus that was coming out of me (I don't blame her), so between Ironman and that nasty cold, our sex life was on hold for a while.

But this morning, for the first time since Ironman...bow-chicka-wha-wha!

Everything still works after Ironman! Let the peasants rejoice!


More Photos and a Spot-On Prediction

>> Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Here are a few more photos from the big weekend a week and a half ago. These are from Steph:

10 minutes after finishing, along with my hat,
shirt, 2 sub sandwiches, and 2 pieces of pizza.

Here are some “official” race photos:

Notice the guy shooting a snot-rocket behind me...

Look at how gross I look

Here’s a photo that Kona Shelly snapped of me talking about my penalty in the penalty tent:

Monday night, after driving back to St. Paul and teaching a 5 hour class, I crawled in bed and iced both knees:

A week after IM, I found this sweet, sweet present growing on my toe.

Yep, that toe hair to the left.
And a big nasty blister on the far side of the toe.

Last year, when Pharmie was getting ready to compete in her first IM, we were invited to Stu’s home for a pasta dinner. This is what I posted on my blog that evening:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
...So I had a bit of a revelation tonight. I realized about 5 weeks ago that when we got out here for the Ironman, I could be sucked in. I figured I’d see the excitement and exhilaration that goes along with all of this, and I’d be hooked. I didn’t really want it to happen, but I was aware that it could.

And it has.

At Stu’s house, it took just over an hour for me to go from
“I’ll MAYBE do Ironman next year,”
“I’ll PROBABLY do Ironman next year,”
“I hope to finish Ironman next year in about 14 hours.”

Crap. I’m sucked it. I blame Sarah and Stu. Super crap...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Wow, not a bad prediction for this 13:53 Ironman finisher! And I don’t “blame” Sarah and Stu anymore. Now I thank them.


Songs In My Head

>> Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pharmie and I definitely have our “songs.” I’m not talking about sweet, romantic songs. Not songs to dance to or to make love to. I’m talking about songs that get us in the mood to do triathlons.

The summer of 2006, it was “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. It just made us feel good. I never had a bad day after hearing that song. We heard it on the way to the Chisago Lakes Tri last summer, and, wouldn’t cha know, we had a good day.

This year started with Beyonce. “To the left, to the left. Everything you own in the box to the left.” It quickly moved on to Rihanna and her GREAT song “Umbrella.” And not that stupid Chris Brown “Cinderella Remix” either; I’m talking about the original song. LOVE that song! I would always get some tune stuck in my head while swimming or biking. I don’t wear an iPod while working out, so I’m always left alone with my thoughts. I like having that time (I think it’s the artist in me). I don’t mind getting songs stuck in my head. And for the majority of the summer, it was Rihanna:

Once we were nearing Ironman, our song became “Stronger” by Kanye West.

Not only was it a “get you moving and feeling good” song, it also had lyrics that could possibly be attributed to triathlon training. We heard it a few times in Madison in the days preceding the Ironman, and each time we CRANKED IT.

When it came to the bike during Ironman, 1 week ago today, I had 2 songs stuck in my head. I started with “Umbrella,” but that only lasted for a few miles; it went away before getting out to Verona. Then, and for the rest of the ride, the song in my head was “Stronger.” Welcome back to my head, Kanye. I hope you enjoy your stay.

I don’t know all the words, I can’t carry a tune, and I’m probably not the demographic that Kanye is looking to impress, but there I was – 100 miles of the bike, singing Kanye West. Sometimes out loud. Like a crazy person. I have to say, it must have helped.

Fast forward to yesterday, 6 days after Ironman. I was driving through Minneapolis, and “Stronger” came on the radio. It was the first time that I’d heard it since I kept replaying in my head on the bike course of Ironman. Needless to say, I CRANKED IT.

There I was, driving the side streets of Minneapolis, radio blaring, one arm waving in the air doing a horrible “white boy dance,” head bouncing to the beat, booty shaking a little in the seat, tears welling up in my eyes and running down my cheeks.

Yep, that’s right. Tears. No joke. Kanye was making me bawl. I was smiling (and nearly laughing), but there were tears flowing down my face. I felt like that tween girl from the last season of American Idol who was swooning over Sanjaya:

Remember her?

Hearing that song again put me right back out there during Ironman. I think it made me realize a little of what that day meant. And what I had done. “I did a FRICKIN IRONMAN last week!!...”

I don’t think I’ll even fully know what that really means, but I’ve decided that I don’t need to figure it out. I finished Ironman, and it was a great day. But I no longer need to understand the full meaning of that. Not now. Not ever. I wrote a few weeks ago that I didn’t want to be defined by becoming an Ironman, so I don’t need to spend all this time trying to figure out what it means. I’m happy to be an Ironman, whatever that means.

So thank you, Mr. West, for doing your part to help me get there.

“Work it, make it, do it,
Makes us harder, better, faster, STRONGER!

N-now th-th-that that don't kill me
Can only make me stronger
I need you to hurry up now
Cause I can't wait much longer
I know I got to be right now
Cause I can't get much wronger
Man I been waitin' all night now
That's how long I've been on ya...”


Ironman Wisconsin 2007 Recap

>> Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I still haven’t fully absorbed it all yet. I am an Ironman. I don’t know what that means yet. Regardless, the following is my story of the weekend of Ironman. I have too many people to thank, but that’s for another day. I’m going to do this “IM Recap” in 1 post, so it might get a little long, but I’ll throw in some fun photos to keep it interesting.

-- Days Before --

Pharmie and I made it to Madison around noon on Friday, 2 days before Ironman. We got registered, started loading our gear bags, and had our bikes and transition bags ready to go on Saturday:

Friday night, we ate at the official Ironman dinner with our AWESOME blogger buddies, and then sat through a 2 hour meeting that was basically “Get in the water early, don’t draft, slow down when we say slow down, the white ambulances are free, look at how old Frank is, this guy lost a lot of weight, Mexico rocks, etc.” If you were there, you know what all those things mean.

On Saturday morning, before dropping our things off for transition, we went for a semi-official swim in Lake Monona. Gatorade sponsored the swim, which was great because you could check your bag and they would keep it safe while you were in the lake. When you were done, they gave you some Gatorade and a Gatorade water bottle. Sweet. Here’s Pharmie and I after our short warm-up swim:

Then we went out for breakfast. We needed good food. Down-home food. REAL food. REAL fuel. FRIED food. Fried in bacon grease. It was perfect.

That night, we met up with Matt, Steph, and Jon, and we all had a great meal at the Great Dane. No “man burger” for me this time - I didn’t want to see that again on the race course, if you catch my drift.

-- Pre Race --

Sunday morning, we had the alarm set for 4 am. I was wide awake at 2 am, after a solid 4 hours of sleep. We took care of our final prep work: pinned numbers, put on our timing chips, mixed Carbo-Pro, etc. It’s funny how every little action on race morning is so deliberate and exact: I remember putting in my contacts and thinking, “Hold up for those 140.6 miles, OK?” Everything held an exaggerated importance. I had oatmeal for breakfast that we brought from home, but we forgot spoons, so I ate with the back of my toothbrush:

We walked towards the race. We dropped off our special needs bags for the bike and run. Mine basically contained Imodium and Pepto, in case, well, you know. Then we walked over to the ramp to be body-marked. Look at how serious we both were at this point:

After that, I recognized Mike, a recent blogger buddy, and we exchanged quick “hellos.” He was body marking and I TOTALLY would have gone to him, but I didn’t see him until after I was marked. Pharmie and I did a final check of our bikes in transition, and I kissed Rhonda and asked her to not let me down:

Then we found Phamie’s brother and sister. They were her cheering team (along with me) last year during her first IM (the one that got me hooked into this madness!).

We saw our cheering crew again on our way down to the water. They snapped one last photo of us. This is what utter fear looks like, mixed with a lot of excitement, a bit of insanity, and a good spoonful of “ready-to-get-kicked-a-dozen-times-in-the-face”:

As we were in line, waiting to get in the water, I was starting to get a little emotional. I was excited to be here, and even more excited to be doing this next to Pharmie. She didn’t see me starting to get choked up. I just said, “I’m so glad you’re here,” and kissed her on the cheek. We kept getting closer to the water. They were basically shoving people in because it was getting close to 7 am. “GET IN THE WATER AND MOVE AWAY FROM SHORE!” was being shouted by every volunteer down there. (I won’t be able to say this enough: the volunteers ROCKED! Every one of them!) We got in just a few minutes before the start. We kissed each other while treading water. And then we waited for the cannon...

-- The Swim --

The cannon shot off with a chest-rattling BOOM. I looked over to Pharmie. I smiled and took off. Have you swam with 2,500 other people all at once? I hadn’t. Now I can say I have. It looks something like this:

Ooh, there I am!...

The first half-lap was simply survival. My goal was to move in the right direction and to not lose my goggles in the melee. Here are my stats:

Slapped: 10 times
Punched: 1 time
Kicked: 15 times
Violated (below the belt “encounters”): 6 times
Violated someone myself: 2 times
Barrel rolled: 1 time
Potty stops: 3 times (I didn’t actually stop for these)

OK, here are my REAL stats. I knew I was in OK shape when I finished my first half-lap in 21:30. My next half lap was 21:13. Next: 21:53. And the final half-lap with the extra distance back to shore was 24:30. I was consistent, and I knew that was the key to the day: consistency. Well, consistency and not getting diarrhea. The swim went off without a hitch, and I was still feeling great! I was pulled from the water and off to T1.

-- T1 --

I ran out of the water and immediately into Robby B: blogger buddy, swim “stripper” captain, and volunteer extraordinaire. He shouted, “WAY TO GO STEVE STENZEL!” and I gave him a big, wet hug. I proceeded to the strippers: the volunteers that literally throw you on your back to the ground, pull your legs up, yank off your wetsuit in a flurry, help you up, and hand your wetsuit back to you. It was super. It also reminds me of a great Pharmie quote from the last month: “Those are the ONLY strippers I’m ever going to let you be around!” Great quote.

I ran up the helix and saw Matt, Steph, and Jon, yelling like mad-men. I ran into the Terrace. The spectators and volunteers were awesome! I grabbed my T1 bag and headed into the changing room. This was the changing room a day before Ironman:

Now imagine that same room with nearly every seat being occupied by a man changing his clothes or a bag of bike stuff. And bags everywhere. And volunteers sporting rubber gloves running all over, looking for someone to help. I entered the room and let out a little laugh. I don’t know if anyone else bothered to look around, but it was a hilarious sight! It was a room full of fast-moving, semi-nude, thin, pale, men with bad tan-lines. It was hysterical! I was one of those men. I threw on my bike gear and headed out.

I was met outside by a dozen people, mostly women, in rubber gloves with a white cream all over them. “Is this a dream?...” No. They were sunscreen volunteers (who also rocked!). The dipped their hands in a big tub of sunscreen and wiped me all over. Sweet. I was off to find my bike. Rhonda looked gorgeous and ready to be ridden hard.

-- The Bike --

Well, the most eventful part of the bike may have happened in the first 30 seconds. I started down the helix, and my bike computer launched off my bike! It went bouncing down in front of me. “Shit. I need that.” I hopped off my bike, grabbed the little sneaky bastard, and put it back on my bike. I tried not to think about if that was an omen or not, and I took off.

My bike ride was surprisingly OK. I wasn’t getting too depressed about having 110 miles to go, or 100 miles to go, or 90 miles to go. I was in good spirits. I just kept plugging along, with a smile on my face. Around mile 5 of the bike, my knee started to hurt a bit. It never got too bad, and it was just a reminder to keep it in an easy gear and keep my legs spinning - no mashing in hard gears. Consistent. One time around mile 80, my knee had some sharper pain, but I spun it out and made it better.

I kept smiling. Heading up the “big hills,” I kept hearing “Hey, look at this guy with a smile – go smiley!!” or “Wow, he’s smiling!” I was in a great mood and I was just sucking it all in! I was thrilled to be nearing the start of the second loop. But a few miles into the second loop, I was penalized. Crap.

I was starting to zone out; I was happy to have one loop under my belt, but I knew there was plenty left. I was riding near another rider. Then I hear one of the official motorcycles come up behind me. As soon as I heard that, I realized that I was too close to the woman in front of me. Immediately, I hear “Steve, you’ve received a yellow card. Stop at the next penalty tent.” Stupid Steve. I had zoned out and didn’t realize that I had snuck up a little close to the next rider. I wasn’t right on her tail, but I was closer than the rules allow.

The motorcycle took off, and I went to pass the woman. I told her what had just happened and I apologized for inadvertently drafting her. She laughed and said she didn’t care; I think she thought it was sweet that I apologized. I spent the rest of the ride a little paranoid. “What if I get another yellow card, and then another. I’ll be DQed!! I’ll be forced to quit! CRAP!!” I rode SSSOOOOO cautiously from that point on.

There are 2 bits of good news regarding the penalty. The first is that I had to stop at the next tent, but I didn’t know where that was. I kept scanning each turn and each city that we went through looking for the tent. It took my mind off the ride - a bit of a mental break. The second nice thing to happen was that Kona Shelly was working the penalty tent, so I got to meet her. “Shelly!” I shouted when I got to the tent. She knew who I was and we shook hands. I told her I wished we could have met under better circumstances, not while I was getting my numbers marked because I had a penalty. She wished me luck and I was off to finish the bike.

I had hoped I could break 7 hours on the bike, and finishing the second loop, I still thought it was possible. I decided that breaking 7 hours was less important, and saving some energy for the run would be key. So I eased up a little, spun my legs out for the last part of the bike, and finished the bike in 7:06:53. When I turned into the parking ramp driveway off of John Nolan Drive, I got a little choked up. I had been saying all along that if I made it through the bike, I would be just fine. Well, I made it through the bike. “Iron Steve” was in sight. It was going to be a great day. I was all smiles coming back up the helix:

(Notice the smiley face on my left leg that I
asked Pharmie to draw before the race)

-- T2 --

Nothing fancy here. I got changed and ready to hit the run. When I took off my bike shoes and the feeling was returning to my feet, I realized how sore those puppies were. I knew the run wasn’t going to be quite what I had hoped. I ran outside and ran into Iron Jenny who was sunscreening the athletes. I gave her a big hug (which I now realize was probably stinky as hell - sorry Jenny!), and she lathered me up. She also held the door at a porta-potty for me. She was shouting “GO HAIRLESS STEVE!!” the whole time. It was great. Well, off to run a marathon...

-- The Run --

No one told me it was hard to run a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike. Maybe I was just supposed to figure that out myself.

My knee was OK. My spirits were high. My legs were heavy, but not too bad. It was my feet that were giving me the most trouble. I was only able to run a few miles before having to walk for a few minutes. I wasn’t happy. Well, I WAS happy - I knew that I was going to finish. But my goal time was slipping away.

I did what everyone says to do: just keep moving forward. I hit the halfway point of the run in 2:25, about a half hour slower than I had hoped. NOW is when my race began. I had never gone more than 13.1 miles this year. It was all virgin territory. Which was OK because I happen to like virgins.

I saw XT4 volunteering out on the run twice. He was near the capital, so I saw him just after starting the run and just after starting the second loop. Both times he freaked out and yelled at me. “WWHHHOOOOO STEVE STENZEL!! YOU ARE GOING TO BE AN IRONMAN!!!” Then he slapped my ass so hard I think it left a handprint. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. He got the block of spectators in front of me all riled up, and all the strangers out there started shouting my name. It was AWESOME. It kept me running for a few more miles.

I ran into Pharmie and Tracy out on the run. They both looked good. I saw Erin a few times near Lake Mendota. I ran past Shannon once. I yelled at Frank Farrar the 2 or 3 times I saw him. I kept trying to absorb it all. I wanted to take it all in. I paid big money to put myself through this kind of hell, and, gosh darn it, I was going to enjoy it.

I’m in the white, near the right

The last half of the run was hard, but not killer. State Street, the area FILLED with cheering spectators, was always marvelous! Not too much to say here. I was able to do it. I kept moving. I saw the capital, and I was nearly home. I neared the chute, and just kept looking around, waving, smiling, soaking it all in. I had done it.

Leading a pack home


- Swim: 1:29:10
- T1: 10:48
- Bike: 7:06:53
- T2: 8:38
- Run: 4:58:03
- Total: 13:53:32

-- Post Race --

That was it. Moments after the finish line, there were no tears, no uncontrollable laughter, no cuss words under my breath, no spiritual awaking. Just a ton of super volunteers. I was all smiles. This sweet 40-something woman led me through the finish area. She got me soda, my tee shirt, a hat, and pointed me towards the food tent. Thomps was there to put my finisher medal on me. XT4 found me and gave me a huge hug.

I found Steph and Jon. I asked how Pharmie was doing. “She’s doing great!...” I’m glad they said that sentence before they said the next one: “Did you hear about her bike crash before mile 1 of the bike?” My face dropped.


She was fine, except for some scrapes and bruises and a ruined wheel. If you want to hear the report, head over to her blog.

Jon and I waited for Pharmie to come it. Matt was across the chute from us. Steph ran out on the course to find her. We were getting nervous. Jon and I watched her time from last year come and go. She wasn’t going to PR. But, then again, she nearly ruined her bike this year. A few minutes later, Steph comes running towards us. “She’s coming!” Pharmie ran through the chute like a rockstar, giving high-fives the whole way! We went to find her. That day, we became an IronCouple.

-- T3 --

I hear ya: you’re saying “What?...T3? What’s up with that?” Well, this is what’s up: We got back to our hotel room and had a solid 5 hours of sleep. We woke up, checked out the Terrace one last time, and took off for St. Paul. We raced home in my car, Pharmie sleeping, my muscles locking up. I ran into our house, quickly changed, and grabbed Phamie’s car keys. I took her car to Minneapolis and had to teach a 5 hour college class. I JUST made it. That was T3. I had truly made it.

-- Epilogue --

It’s Wednesday evening now, 3 days after Ironman, and I really don’t know how it’s changed me. I’m still coming to terms with that. Will be a better teacher because of it? A better husband? A better photographer? A better person? I don’t know. I’m just filled with a great sense of calm right now. That’s all.

Today I got out of bed, and I was no longer sore. It’s been just a few days, and I’m now back to “normal.” I had a massage this afternoon - the first in years - and it was SUPER.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me. Thank you for reading. There’s still more to come. I ain’t done yet. I’m ready to put on my winter coat (15 pounds and a solid body of hair). Stay tuned for that.



>> Monday, September 10, 2007

It’s true! Mike Riley said those words over the loud-speakers 13 hours, 53 minutes, and 32 seconds after starting my day. The complete story will be up within the next week.


10 Hours and Counting!

>> Saturday, September 08, 2007

It’s nearly time! Pharmie and I got up and went for a little “get to know you” swim in Lake Monona this morning.

After that, we got our bags and bikes set up in transition.

We went back to our room, and we had some time to kill. So I took care of my final all-over shave. I brought 3 razors to take care of business.

I thought I had gotten better at shaving - I graduated from the wire-wrapped safety razor that I had been using, and I actually used a real, big-girl razor. But, apparently I’m still no good. I cut my knee up pretty bad.

Well, it’s about time for a few hours of sleep. Then it’s off to the races! If you'd like to see how I'm doing tomorrow, you can go to The Ironman Website and find the link for “Ironman Live.” My number is 386. See you at the finish!!



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