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IM Wisconsin - Running on Empty

IM Wisconsin

This was supposed to be the race. The one where all the work came together and I could glide through the swim, move through the ride, and punish the rest on the run. I felt strong, comfortable and confident. Running was border-line effortless, swim had become very comfortable, and the bike was strong.

Saturday came and I went out for a short ride and run. Power was there on the bike and the run was ridiculous. Two miles at 6.30 pace without breaking a sweat. Yes! Then the swim. I went in the middle of a windy day. The waves, on a self-contained lake, were over a foot and had white caps. They had been that way since Thursday. I went for a swim anyway. Made it down and then turned back around and my world stopped. Oh. My. Goodness. How was I going to do this for 2.4 miles? What in the world is it going to be like tomorrow morning? My head was in a bad spot. After a talk with a friend, I began to calm down. Find the glide became the mantra. After a talk with Earl, the competitor mindset began to creep back in.

Sure enough, as morning came around, the lake was calmer. No foot tall white caps, but it was still a little bumpy. I could handle this, I immediately thought. The gun went off and we began to roll in. I was right in the middle of the 61-70min group and stayed to the right when we got in the water. This gave me a chance to settle in, get a rhythm going in the wetsuit and just focus on me. That would be so important. I’ve felt tight and constricted in the wetsuit but that didn’t happen today. I did get thrown out of my zone a couple times when a random person would bump me or a wave would push me a little more than I wanted. But, my rhythm barely ever broke and I just kept saying to myself, “find the glide” as things progressed. I know my swim has improved because I didn’t feel any tightness in legs that has sometimes crept up during the 2.4mi swim. In the end, the swim was 66min for a GPS total of 4450 (2.52 mi) and an average pace of 1:29/100yds. Not that GPS swim tracking is 100% accurate, but it looks like some combination of a longer course due to their adjustments for high waters and sighting issues, added up to a little extra distance. Still, I’m please with the overall average because that is faster than I’ve been able to do at that distance. More validation that the swim has been going in the right direction.

T1 was straightforward – run up the helix, into the conference room, grab my bag and get ready to roll. I ran with my shoes over to the bike, got ready, and hopped on. I felt like this would be a good ride. My legs were feeling strong and healthy and the body was ready to race. Almost immediately, though, frustration began to settle in. The bottle top that had just been replaced by TorHans was not working. Immediately, UCAN was bouncing out of the bottle and covering my arms and bike in sticky red gunk. The bumps didn’t even need to be big. The smallest bump caused the next bit of energy to just vanish away without a chance to drink. I started to have a few sips of my nutrition within the first 5mi which was totally not part of the plan at all. From there, it was like a countdown to the end.

The bike course was challenging and a good test of fitness. The constant ups and downs made it hard to get into a solid rhythm but then that became part of the rhythm of riding. Coming out of the countless turns and building back up was just the course and the key was not to hammer or accelerate too fast. Those short bursts would come back to bite. The wind on the course definitely played a part and the climbs around mile 30 and then again around mile 70 were brutal.

Then came the nutrition again. I was out of it by roughly mile 80 or 90 and really beginning to struggle. I had a caffeine shot and still was having difficulty keeping my eyes open and focusing on the road. Energy just simply wasn’t there anymore. There is nothing more frustrating than watching the people you passed all come flying past because nutrition is all over the place except for in your body where it counts. We even had a train come across the tracks. I was stopped for about 3.40. Of course, IM, in its never ending attempts to fully support their business model, are trying to only credit athletes with 1.40 of stoppage time even though an official took every single person’s bib number and length of time stopped. They even credited a female pro with the full time but that’s only because it impacted her prize money and finish. Apparently, the age group population doesn’t warrant the same amount of respect. She and I were stopped together for the full period of the arms going down, train coming, and arms finally rising.

Bike was finished and so was I. That was probably one of the most brutal endings to a ride that I’ve done. I could barely keep my eyes open, things were spinning and I couldn’t focus, and I just plain had no energy. Only one small problem though, I still had a marathon to go. I walked through T2, walked out the door, walked through the parking deck, and then tried to shuffle a little bit coming down the ramp. NOTHING! My body was just out of it. The crazy part is that my muscles were good. I had no aches in my legs and could run except for the fact that I had no energy. I tried getting down the next bottle of UCAN. I started it and it woke me up a little bit. Over the first 1.5mi, I carried the bottle and kept taking sips to start getting some calories back in me and build the energy back up. It helped but not as much as I would have liked. I put the bottle down and planned to pick it up on the return trip.

From that point, I started a little bit of a walk-run and joined up with another guy on course. We would run together, I would walk, and then run and catch back up to him. This happened for a little bit. Mile 4.5-5 had an uphill and I decided it was time to just go to gels. This was a big gamble for me because I wasn’t sure how many gels I could take during the run and still feel ok. Looking back, I should have just started the run with gels. Quick boost – check, energy – check, running more – check. That was a game changer. I had the running legs and it was just a matter of bringing the energy up to meet them. The miles started ticking away and the legs kept getting better with more energy. In the end, my running pace settled around 7.20 but overall it was about a minute slower per mile as the average due to walks.

What a race! I was excited to line up and I was definitely excited to finish. My last 3-4 miles were the best of the race and I finished hard. I was tired. I could have done without the nutrition issues though. The most aggravating part was knowing that my nutrition was planned out but due to a faulty install, I couldn’t follow the plan. There will be more start lines to come and I’ll be ready for new challenges ahead.

Unofficial official time: 10:13:30

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