Ironman Wisconsin 2010 Race Report

All my eggs in one basket.

That’s how to sum up Ironman Wisconsin.  Training for an ironman was one thing I had no experience at.  A 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run, all put together in one event.  I remember watching the Ironman World Championship on TV 4-5 years ago when I just got into triathlon.  I thought to myself, there was no way I could ever do such that distance.  I mean think about it???  2.4 miles in open water, that’s like… 85 laps at Eisenhower (4224 yds) plus you have to throw in 2550 of your closest friends in a mass start event.  Just crazy stuff!

112 mile bike really didn’t’ scare me.  I came from a cycling background. But doing it in a TT position for 112, that’s another story.  And of course following it all up with a marathon.  I have completed 2 of those in my life and the pain I felt after those, I was pretty sure I couldn’t start or even complete one after the two previous events.

So I was headed into the unknown, with a years worth of training for a 1 day event.  Now that takes guts!  But I wasn’t going to do it alone.

Jason Beeler, Eric Sommer, Dan Dungan, Steven Graves, Joe House and Travis Schroll all dedicating and sacrificing their  lives, family and friends to become an Ironman.  But of the IMWI gang,  Jason, Eric and I were consider to be Ironman virgins, and would rely on the experience of everyone else.

My plan of attack went something like this:  Put in a ton of bike miles. Do a long run every weekend. Put in as much time as possible with the masters swim.  Sounds like a good training plan right?  Well I think it was a good base if anything.  But signing on with a coach really helped me focus in the 2 months preceding.  Eric Bean, professional triathlete took it upon himself to get Eric and I to the finish line.  Getting a plan on paper and worked with our life style and workout schedule was the key.  Most of the focus was on intensity.  There were several key workouts that we would have never done on our own.  Hell, my longest run was 16 miles, but everything was quality.  He built our confidence and that was all we needed.  I definitely advise you to work with a coach, such as Eric Bean of FFT (Fast Forward Triathlon).

We headed up to Madison Wisconsin Thursday morning before the race.  That would give us 3 full days to prepare for the race.  These were the quickest three days of my life.  I don’t think we ever really had any spare time.  Thursday we did packet pick up, and went to the Ironman Store.  I would advise doing this and buying any merchandise the first day.  All the good stuff and sizes sell out quickly.  And after spending $125 buck on Ironman Wisconsin gear, you start to think… What will do with this stuff if I don’t finish?

Thursday night the entire gang met up for dinner and enjoyed a few beers, Madison is such a cool place to hang out. Friday was going to be my last workout before the race.  We all met up for a swim at the Monona Terrace.  The water was choppy to say the least.  But we got in the water and swam a good 800-1000 yards.  After swimming, I felt dizzy and nauseous.  At this point I started to pray for glass on sunday morning, because I wasn’t sure if I could have swam 2.4 in those conditions.

Later that afternoon we loaded up our bikes in the van and headed out to a couple of the toughest climbs on the course.  We rode easy and got a good feel for the hills. That evening was the athlete pasta dinner and talk.  People  had traveled from over 20 countries, and all 50 states just for this race.  There were even 6 people there that had NEVER, I repeat, NEVER done a triathlon of any distance… talk about crazy!

Saturday was the day, we dropped off our bike and transition bags.  This was a huge weight off my shoulder.  Now I had nothing to do but go back to the hotel and panic.

Like any big race, I don’t think I slept a wink.  4am, shower, coffee, food.  Jason and I met Eric down in the lobby at 5am and we walked a few short block and dropped off our 2 special needs bags and then headed to transition to prep our bikes.

We had a lot of time that morning, or so it seamed.  I waited in line twice for the bathroom.  Then I suited up and we headed down the helix to the swim start.  At this point I really thought I was going to throw up.  I had never been this nervous before in my life.  We shuffled our way into the water with 2550 people (150 or so would not finish).

I positioned myself in the middle just between the buoys and the ski ramp.  The clock ticked down, three…two…one…. the canon went off.

It took a few seconds before I really started to move.  I was swimming, if you could call it that in a vertical position, with my head above the water.  Arms and feet everywhere!  I eventually was able to get my head in, and start to stroke.  It took a good 500 yards before I felt somewhat comfortable in the water.  With each turn of the rectangular course people converge on the inside buoy, and chaos was had.  I complete the first lap in 36 minutes, that sounded pretty good and keeping that up would put me at a good exit time.  The second lap went well, but there was still a few hundred yards back to shore.  I exited in 1:14:46

I was glad to be back on land.  I had my wetsuit stripped, and headed up the helix to transition.  My T1 was a little long, not sure where the time went but it took me 9:45.

Finally the bike.  This was what I was all about. But I donated first 90 minutes to JRA, just riding along.  Doing this was tough, but enjoyable.  I was hovering at 18mph or so, never really getting into my drops.  I sat up and watched everyone pass me.  It was like they were in a hurry.  Was this a race or something.   After 90 minutes, I got in my drops and put my Powertap to work.  175-200 watts was the plan for the day.  With all the hills, I knew that would equate going under 20mph.  But that was ok with me, I checked my cyclist ego bake at T1.

The course was a lolly pop.  16 miles out, 2 x 40 mile loop, then 16 miles back in.  I kept the total time up on my computer.  I wanted to consume the right amount of calories per hour, and stay hydrated, but error on the side of taking in less.  At the halfway point I stopped for my special needs bag.  A Red Bull and a Snickers bar.  I figured I trained with it I might as well race with it.  The second loop went pretty smooth, but the miles were not ticking away as quick as the first.  The last 16 mile we had a slight tail wind, and it was more than welcomed at that point.  My legs started to twitch here and there, and I am sure that it was due to the hills.  Once I spotted the Monona Terrace I really felt the race start.  I did it, I made it through the first 2 legs.  My time was 6:07:25 an 18.3mph average.  Not spectacular, that’s for sure, but I would have the next 26.2 miles to make up for my slow bike split.

Sitting down in transition, putting my shoes on, my hip flexors started to cramp.  This was not the point to start cramping.  Once I stood up and started moving my legs came back and I started feeling good.  I exited the transition with a big smile on my face, this is what the race was all about.  All those hours, for one solid marathon.

My run started off a little fast so I quickly pulled back and settled in at a 9 minute pace.  I promised myself I would keep it easy for the first 10k.  Mile after mile, I kept thinking to

myself, I feel way too good.  At some point the suffering is going to start, but until then I was going to enjoy the race.  I walked through every aid station at every mile  taking in a cup of Powerbar Perform, water, and cola.  Closing in on the first lap, I had not seen anyone I knew, but heading around the Capitol to the turn around, I spotted my wife Julie, sister Kim a Chad.  She yelled “you’re doing great!”  I was starting to feel real emotional at that point, but it was also a great pick me up.  But that only lasted so long as I left the Capitol for another 13.1 miles.

My legs were still moving quite good and I was just waiting for that unpleasant moment.  By mile 18 my legs were getting tired and I started getting some twitching again.  I just kept hitting the aid stations and taking in what my body could handle.  At this point, your start seeing a lot of people walking.  I even saw two guys talking about how fast they went on the bike, but were walking now.  I just smiled and laughed, the Endurance Nation guys were right.

My pace was still steady, but I was no longer smiling.  For the next 10k I would be suffering, fighting off the twitches, but never walking more than the water stops.  But with one last hill, I knew I had to walk it, to prevent my legs from cramping.  But once I made it to the top, I continued to run.  My pace was slowing, and all I could think about was trying to preserve a 4 hour marathon.  I came onto State St. one last time, people were yelling and cheering, I was on a high.  I started running around the Capitol and couldn’t believe I had made it.  Amazing!  I ran strong down the shoot with my arm up the whole way.  I could hear my name…. Dan Billingsley from Springfield, IL, a first time finisher… You are an Ironman!!!!!!!!

I completed the marathon in 4:11 flat.  That’s just 7 minutes off my first ever marathon time. I was so happy with that, and even more happy with my total time of 11:48:39.  504th place out of 2550.  That’s the top 20%

I had two volunteers grab me at the finish, they helped escort me out of the finish area, making sure I was alive.  I met my wife with a hug, and shuffled over to sit down.  My body temp started to drop and covered up with a solar blanket.  People were talking to me, but I couldn’t think.  My wife went to get my morning clothes bag, so I could get out of my wet clothes.  And I guess at this point I was starting to turn blue.  Travis and my wife helped me get out of my kit and into my clothes, and immediately started to warm back up.  They also went and got a volunteer and brought me to the Med Tent.  I entered and sat down.  The got me a cup of warm chicken broth.  I sipped it down slowly, it really hit the spot.  Next thing I know I hear my name, “Hey Dan”, I turned to my left, and Eric was sitting a chair away from me.  I think he said something like, “Never Again!”.  What the hell were we thinking…  At least now I didn’t feel so bad being in there, knowing Eric was there.

We both started feeling better, and we both exited the tent.  I made it about halfway across the street, and got light-headed.  Next think I knew I was throwing up on the curb.  There went the chicken broth and banana I just ate. So back to Med Tent, for a little while.  I just sat there, until my buddy Chad went to get our car.  He took both me and Eric and Julie back to the hotel.

It was like a terrible hangover, and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. But I managed to come around and make it into the shower. My wife went down to the bar to get a cheeseburger and fries for me.  I ate what I could and fell asleep.

My wife was awesome the whole weekend, she took care of me like a sick child.  She drove us all the way home from Madison and even got pizza and beer for dinner that night.  And I pledged never again! At least not for a couple of years 🙂

We topped off the recovery week with a little get together to celebrate that included beer and cake.  Be sure to check out all of HardyBreed’s Ironman Wisconsin photos on flickr.