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.


Unknown 7:10 PM, September 12, 2007  

Way to go! I just love how you're smiling in nearly every photo.

Being an Iron Couple is cool. Eeek about Pharmie's bike accident though. Glad she's okay.

Anonymous,  7:26 PM, September 12, 2007  

Awesome report. Wow!

But I gotta say, adding a little bulk is fine. But just say no to the hair. Just say no!

Marcy 7:42 PM, September 12, 2007  

You're the man! Awesome job homie! And even better that you're smiling in practically every damn pic!

I would like some details though "Potty stops: 3 times" All Numero Unos, I hope :P

And yeah I agree with Mallie . . .say NO to the hair!

crazy tri mama 7:55 PM, September 12, 2007  

Okay, I taught 2 3 hour courses today and was really pretty tired after. I cannot even imagine doing 5 hours after an Ironman! Yikes!

Thanks so much for your inspiration!

Hairy backs and stuff just ain't right though....rethink that one!

bigmike600 8:11 PM, September 12, 2007  

I am in tears here laughing. Number of times I violated someone...priceless dude. Glad you enjoyed your experience and no hard feelings about letting me body mark you. I was pretty much in shock and stood around in awe of all the people. Someone came over to have me body mark them and I forgot what I was doing and it took a second to snap back to reality. I hope that when I decide to do my first and Pharmie will be doing your 3rd or 4th or whatever.
Look forward to following you on whatever journey is next for you. We'll have to go riding sometime.

xt4 8:37 PM, September 12, 2007  

Awesome report dude. Can't wait for whatever's next for you.

Chris 9:26 PM, September 12, 2007  

What awesome pics! Congrats on your IM finish! I can't believe you guys aren't sore already. I swear it takes me at *least* a week to start feeling normal again after an IM. You all have super Wolverine like recovery powers.

cadesdad 9:27 PM, September 12, 2007  

Awesome! Congratulations Steve!

Unknown 9:35 PM, September 12, 2007  

great report man.
The "potty stops" while swimming just reinforces my thought that I never want to be a wetsuit stripper.....unless they get special tshirts that say "I was a stripper at IMoo"

(Doesn't T3 usually involve beer and brats while in WI?? I think someone steered you wrong about that one...)

qcmier 10:30 PM, September 12, 2007  

Congrats, Steve!!! You are an Ironman!!!

Can't wait to see your winter coat.

Spokane Al 10:46 PM, September 12, 2007  

Congratulations Smilining Steve. Your race and as always, your race report was absolutely monumental.

Congrats again. Very, very well done!

Born To Endure 6:45 AM, September 13, 2007  

You look: happy, smooth, happy...hee was fantastic meeting ya!! When's the next big race??

Bigun 6:45 AM, September 13, 2007  

descriptions of hair growth is ok, but remember to warn us in the event of pictures! Please!

Awesome report - you both did great!

Anonymous,  7:27 AM, September 13, 2007  

Great report, the humor is much better then the life changing drama. I finished my first IM on Sunday also and feel the same sense of peace. I did not make my ultimate goal time (12.5 hours) but reached my realistic time of 13 hours and some 2 minutes in change. I agree with the sense of peace, I feel the same way. Except for now I have managed to pickup a cold (I felt coming on Sunday morning) and am deep in work right now. Thanks for giving a great report.

Michelle 7:56 AM, September 13, 2007  

Great report, fun read. Keep the pics rolling on the winter coat thing.

E-Speed 8:11 AM, September 13, 2007  

all of that and then you go and teach. Now that's a true Ironman.

What a great report Steve. So glad you smiled your way through the whole day!

ShesAlwaysWrite 11:45 AM, September 13, 2007  

Awesome report - totally cracked me up!

Kim 12:40 PM, September 13, 2007  

hahaa aw steve, you crack me up. what a fun race report... what a great IM you had, and im super proud of you! congrats mr. super smiley hairless boy wonder!

teekayes1 12:43 PM, September 13, 2007  

A well deserved congratulations to you Steve, AWESOME!

Since my tri season officially ended 3.5 weeks ago, I've put on a solid 20 pounds and a new fresh coat of body hair, good times!

the Dread Pirate Rackham 2:15 PM, September 13, 2007  

Never run over 13.1 miles? AND STILL SMILING? after a 13 hr IM?

5 hrs sleep and then back to using your brain?

uh, yeah - wolverine-like recovery powers and then some! I'm fully impressed over here! Woo hoo!

Julia 3:21 PM, September 13, 2007  

It was so much fun to follow you this whole year and read about your adventures. A huge congratulations. Put the hair back on but keep the 15lbs of - you look great-

Lance Notstrong 5:49 PM, September 13, 2007  

Awesome accomplishment Steve. You want to know how this changed you? There's a cheesey football movie called the Replacements and Gene Hackman says this at the end of the movie and I think it describes what a person might take with them after a big event like a marathon or ironman:

"When the Washington Sentinels left the stadium that date, there was no tickertape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers or soda pop, or breakfast cereal. Just a locker to be cleaned out, and a ride home to catch. But what they didn't know, was that their lives had been changed forever because they had been part of something great. And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man. Every athlete dreams of a second chance, these men lived it."

You my friend did something great. Alot of people talk about Ironman but you lived it. That goes for ALL the Ironmen out there :-)

Anonymous,  8:03 PM, September 13, 2007  

Wow! Just, wow. Congrats to you and your wife both for quite the accomplishment! Nice job out there and fabulous reporting.

teacherwoman 8:37 PM, September 13, 2007  

What a rockstar you are! And Pharmie! This was a great race report full of awesome photos. I could never imagine such an accomplishment. Can't wait to see photos of the grown in body hair! HA!

Laurie 9:46 PM, September 13, 2007  

Great report! It looked like you were having a lot of fun out there.

RunBubbaRun 7:16 AM, September 14, 2007  

So that was you who violated me during the swim???

Great job and great report. The penalty tent must have sucked thou..

Congrats to the IRON couple...

Now please stop shaving :)

:) 9:35 AM, September 14, 2007  

What an awesome story. I am all choked up and so proud of you.

What a trooper getting back home and teaching a 5 hour just added another discipline!

(you can't stop shaving now....:) )

John 11:15 AM, September 14, 2007  

That was an awesome story! Congratulations on being an IRONMAN!

Loved the Beaver socks!

The (IRON) Clyde 2:32 PM, September 14, 2007  

Awesome race report man, congrats IRONMAN!!!

What was the deal with large Mexican contingent at IMWI? Was it part of some organization or something? You said they touched on it at the dinner they had, I'm curios as I noticed there were a lot of them racing last weekend.

Wes 3:32 PM, September 14, 2007  

Congrats! Ironman!! Glad you weren't wearing a speedo in any of those pics ;-)

Tri-Dummy 7:38 AM, September 15, 2007  

Unlike Wes, I'm disappointed that we didn't see you roll the whole course in a Speedo. You are an Ironman, but apparently DO NOT have Iron Nuggets.

Great meeting you and your lovely personal drug dealer. Keep in touch!

Dances with Corgis 5:28 PM, September 15, 2007  

Kick ass race report, Steve!

I did the same thing before IMLOU with the oatmeal... no spoon, so i actually used my knife.

And, for the record, it's called a "winter meat jacket."

Jumper 2.0 9:42 PM, September 15, 2007  

Hey Steve,
I saw you just at the finish line with Ironmomjenny and 21stcenturymom!
It was awesome. I've read your blog all summer but don't think I have ever commented.
Congratulation Ironman!
I live in Roseville so we'll have to get togethter sometime (when I'm fast enough)

IronTRISH 10:18 AM, September 16, 2007  

Great attitude and great post! Congratulations!!

Fe-lady 11:14 AM, September 16, 2007  

Great race report! And for those that have a healthy perspective, no, Ironman doesn't CHANGE you...but it may help you maintain when you are having a bad day in the classroom or find yourself challenged by life/family matters in some way. But what came first, your personality? Or Ironman persistance? :-)
I think it's in all of us, but it's just a question if we want to tap it or not! Congratulations again!

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