>> 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.
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:
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:
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:
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!...
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.
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:
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.
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)
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...
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
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
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.
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.
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.