Sunday, October 7, 2018

EA: Ironman Wisconsin 2018

Before I launch into my version of events, I would like to give a massive thank you to everyone who made this day possible for me: my coach, who never gives up on my crazy self; my husband, who is always there for me, checks all my gear, and makes all my food - literally could not have made it this far without your unwavering support; to my parents who devote their entire summer to following us around to all our different races, and are such devoted support crew that they never even question any of our decisions, they just get in the car and are prepared for whatever we throw at them; and to my bestie Kaitlyn and her husband Alex for always making the trek out to all the races they can; and to everyone in my tri support crew - you all have touched my life in ways I can't explain, but I'm beyond grateful that you did. Your support is beyond appreciated.

Ironman Wisconsin was the perfect way to cap off my 2018 triathlon season. It offers such a remarkable course that is lined with dedicated volunteers and spectators. What more could you want than a whole day of running around in lycra with people shouting how amazing you are, and getting handed free food? Only hearing "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" from the man, the myth, the legend - Mike Reilly. That's what.

So that is precisely what I set out to do. As per the typical 140.6 protocol, I lassoed my support crew and off we went to check in all the necessary equipment: My bike, my bike bag, and my run bag. 

My bike bag (blue) included my Shimano RP901 Road Cycling Shoes, SockGuy Tiger socks, Roka Sunglasses, Louis Garneau helmet (old, similar), and some extra Gus'. My secret weapon- BASE Salt - I keep in my bento box on my bike at all times so I never have to worry about including it. I could wax poetically for hours on the the benefits of this salt - but all you need to know: this is amazing, it fixes everything, you need to try it. You will never train or race without it again.

After dropping everything off, it was time to relax and mentally prepare for what was about to come. After a good nights sleep (legitimately this time), my support crew and I were up and ready to tackle the day!

Race morning started with overnight oats complete with steel cut oats, chia seeds, hemp hearts, a few blue berries, strawberries, and raspberries. Delish! But alas, they were no match for race day nerves. I promptly threw it all up. What can I say? I'm a pukey person. What do you do when you throw up all your calories for the beginning of an Ironman? You eat 3 stroopwafels. Not exactly the same thing, but hey, girls gotta eat.

A quick walk to the special needs bag drop, last minute touches in bike transition, and it was time to get on the wetsuit.

A race morning sunrise is the best sunrise.

I like to take the time before the race to spend with my support crew, and let them know how much I appreciate all that they do for me. They spend most of their weekends in the summer wandering around the country watching all of our races, and they all are the best spectators I could ever hope for. They pick up the bodies, give the pep talks, console, celebrate, encourage, collect the bikes, and are the very reason I push myself as hard as possible every race.

Right before getting into the corral, I slurped down an Espresso Love Gu and choked down a Gu Stroopwafel, and then it was off to the races! See what I did there? Which proceeded more like a slow trudge as I tried to navigate through the crush of athletes. Luckily I'm short enough to fit under most peoples elbows. There were so many athletes that correctly seeding myself became impossible, and I settled for as close to the front as I could go.

Before every Ironman race I am just repeating my race plan my coach gave me like a mantra - a tried and true way to keep the race day nerves from getting the better of me. Again. I've noticed that I do much better when I focus on the task at hand and don't start thinking about anything other than the event I'm in. Literally. Even transition. It also keeps me much more present, and I'm able to fully submerse myself in the experience - and for the price of an Ironman, you better enjoy it!

With one last adjustment of the goggles, it was time to execute the plan. I crave being able to get in the water for race time - the nerves finally settle, and it's time to get to work. Work I can handle, shuffling through the corral... not so much.

And get to work I did. Being so far back meant I was in for quite the combative swim. No worries, I had my panic plan at the ready. The swim plan was to swim on the buoy line, breathe after every right handed stroke, not die, and beat my previous time of 1 hr 19 min. In the thick of it, it was everything I could do to try to stay on the buoy line while getting pushed, prodded, slapped, kicked and dragged under. Breathing every stroke was essential to keeping the panic at bay, but I managed to not ever need to utilize the panic plan. Why would someone need a panic plan you say? Do you see how packed the swimmers are in that photo above? That's the point of the race where you have the most room. A panic plan is something to have in your back pocket for when you get kicked in the face when you are shoulder to shoulder with your fellow athletes, and you need something to keep you from completely succumbing to hyperventilation because you are certain this is how it ends. Mine is breathing every right handed stroke while telling my self "You are calm, cool, and collected" until I finally believe it. And then I can continue on my swim.

Swim: 1:26:57
41st F25-29 out of the water

I didn't panic, pulled with purpose, and didn't die - so basically executed according to plan. My favorite part of the swim is getting back to the beach, definitely. Especially when my support crew is there cheering for me! And there they all were - cheering me on as I ran to the helix to enter T1. As soon as I was out of the water I ran as quick as my bare feet would take me to the wetsuit strippers, and within moments my wetsuit was off and I was propelled towards the helix. But a quick high five to my support crew!

Photo c/o: Erin Klegstad

It was so fun to be able to run into a bunch of my tri friends as I ran up the helix! I love that the helix is packed with spectators, which mimics most of the rest of the race - you're hardly ever alone when you're in one of the most supportive racing communities on the circuit!

T1: 8:08
I booked it up the helix, into the T1 room, grabbed my bike bag and dumped the contents out next to a chair right at the exit to the bike racks. I threw my bike stuff on, dumped my swim gear in the bag and tossed it to a volunteer, except my bike shoes. Those I kept in my hands right up until bike out. I padded as quickly as my little socked feet would take me through the bike racks to where the volunteer was holding my bike out for me to grab as I ran through. Once I got to bike out, I handed my bike off to a volunteer, threw my shoes on, and biked away. To my most favorite bike course I've ever raced, ever. The technicality combined with the intense climbs and heart-pounding downhills are what I live for. 

Off I went to the hills of Dane County to execute my race plan: 140w average with a cap at 200w. Meaning, I was getting passed constantly on the uphills by people grinding away, but as soon as I hit those down hills I just tucked in, relaxed the shoulders, and pushed the watts to maintain 140w average. And all those people that passed me on the uphill, well I zoomed by them with ease! I focused only on executing the plan and not worrying about what anyone else was doing around me. I'll just race my race, and try to hold the competitive nature in check as much as possible. Pft! Yeah right! But seriously, don't screw up the 140w average. As I clipped along I took in the scenery as much as possible, and tried to be as present as possible to soak in the entire experience. Which works great for the first half of the race, especially since I knew I would see my family and friends at Midtown Hill. I always look forward to the packed hill buzzing with energy from the fans, that as an athlete you need to soak in to help fuel the potentially lonely miles ahead. Well...not so lonely for me, being so far back in the swim meant that I never had a moment alone. As I approached Midtown hill my ears perked up waiting to hear the voices of my support crew. And near the top of the hill, when you need a boost the most, there they were! My parents, hubby, and bestie from college (the blonde below) and her hubby all out on the hill waiting for me.

See how excited I am? Behind the guy in yellow, there is an overly excited girl in a blue and pink kit. That's me, below, exclaiming to my support crew "I'm here! Look I'm in the Ironman!". Yes, obviously they know as they've been shooting around the course all day.

Honestly, there is nothing better than seeing your family and friends throughout the course during Ironman - giving you the energy and encouragement to continue forward no matter what demons you're facing. Luckily for me, I faced all my demons during hip surgery recovery - so Ironman is just the cherry on top, and an opportunity to appreciate my body for being able to carry me through all those miles.

I'm really just excited to be here! Plus look how awesome my QR PR6 looks!

I whipped through the bike course climbing through the ranks, hitting my plan perfectly clipping along, and enjoying every minute of it. At mile 70 I was coming to the aid station near Mount Horab with an empty bottle in my bottle cage, and needing some more water. As I chucked the water bottle, my wheel went right into a crack in the road, and time completely slowed down. My front wheel was thrown up, and I managed to duck my head and push my right side under the bike to both protect my left hip (the one that had surgery) and the paint job on the bike. Clearly my priorities are correct. According to the volunteers at the aid station I hit hard and bounced along the pavement before coming to a complete stop. Being so close to the aid station I was immediately surrounded by some of the amazing IM WI volunteers and medical personnel. I laid there assessing the damage - any broken bones? Nothing protruding the skin...but some pretty nice road rash on my arms and hands... Is the bike ok? Looks like a small scuff on the handle bars, but the paint job is ok... Should I stop? I think this is something that people stop for... It was the briefest glimpse of a thought, but then immediately proceeded by: I didn't come this far to only come this far. Is my kit ok? My beautiful kit? I was able to answer that question as the volunteers helped me unclip from my bike, and stand back up. A set of volunteers hauled my bike away to check the mechanics and make sure it was safe to ride. Luckily I didn't rip my kit, but I did tear up my bike shoe quite a bit. Thankfully, not enough to inhibit the rest of the ride. I asked one of the volunteers to call my husband to let him know what had happened, so Joe could share with my support crew and coach why I was no longer moving on the tracker. After a concussion protocol, and a deep discussion with the volunteers and medical personnel, a promise that if I got a headache or nauseous I would stop at the next aid station, I was able to get my road rash bandaged, and I was back on the bike. I cannot thank the volunteers and medical personnel enough - they bandaged me up, and all gave me some much needed encouragement after taking a hit like I did.

 It wasn't until about five miles later that the pain of the crash started to set in: the road rash, the bruise on my right hip, and the broken rib. All in all, I came out pretty unscathed, and was able to still pedal. So I took even more "one step at a time" than before: just focusing on getting to the next aid station. I continued that plan, a little slower and slightly more cautiously than before, just looking forward to when I would see my support crew again on Midtown hill. And it was so good to see them again! My mom was standing at the bottom of the hill, and like any offspring I could hear her before I could see her. And good thing! Because that support and energy was something I desperately needed at that moment. And then I got to see the rest of my crew at the top of the hill!

A little beat up, but not out! Drawing upon the energy and support from my crew I was able to finish the bike and get my mind right for the run. See? No kit or bike issues!

On off to bike in I rode. Thankfully with a non-eventful rest of the bike ride. Right up until I got to the bike dismount. At this point I could pedal just fine, but I was a little concerned how my hamstrings were doing - 112 miles is slightly tiring. I rode straight into a volunteer so she could grab my bike as I dismounted. And good thing she did! Because my hamstrings seized up and I fell smooth on my face. "How embarrassing." I thought as I heard the spectators at the bike in gasp. I pushed myself back up onto my feet and ran off, waving to my clapping fans as I scuttled off. Don't worry, my dignity was not injured. I handed it over with my shoes to my support crew before I got into the water. I click-clacked into T2, grabbed my run bag, and bee-lined it right for the chair sitting next to the exit. I was greeted by a volunteer. I instructed her to just dump everything. I stripped off my helmet and bike shoes, asked her nicely to put all my bike stuff in the run bag. I slipped on my shoes and grabbed my visor/race belt/garmin watch, and ran out of there as fast as possible.

Bike: 6:16:11
7th F25-29
T2: 1:42

As I set off for the run I began the execution of my run plan: no going faster than 9:15 min/mile pace for the first 3 mile, then hold under 9:30 for the rest of the race. I love the run portion, especially in Madison because there is so much opportunity for engagement with the crowd, I love drawing my energy from the crowd. I don't need much in life - the ability to run around town in lycra, get handed free food and drinks, and be told how amazing I am, super low maintenance. And lots of camera support, of course. I even heard one little girl tell her mom that my kit was her favorite kit - that statement alone would have had me running on clouds all the way to the finish.

Off I went, in search of all my friends that were lining the course. And they were everywhere! Spectating, racing, and supporting the athletes out on the course. It was so fun to run into the BASE team, one of the teams I race for - and I'm so glad I get the opportunity to race for them. I fell in love with their products before I applied for their team because I wanted to race on teams that I honestly believed in, and genuinely back their products. If you haven't tried BASE products yet, you really should! I don't do a bike or run with out BASE salt in my pocket, it's my secret weapon for when anything goes wrong. Cramping - BASE salt. Fatigue - BASE salt. Upset tummy - BASE salt. The team itself has been amazing to be apart of, all my teammates that I've met are amazing people and it was so fun to have that camaraderie out on the course with both those I had met, and those I hadn't - we all just lifted each other up and pushed each other to be the best we could be. 

Photo c/o: Matt Miller - BASE 

Photo c/o: Erin Klegstad
Can you tell how excited I get when I see my friends and family?

Tiger Socks: SockGuy, visor: GearWest, Photo c/o: Sean Cooley

On my way back out for my second loop I ran across Cooley, like any good friend he tried to snap a quick pic, but couldn't because he was biking. Since I take a bunch of photos for him during races and training, but mostly because I wanted to see what would happen I exclaimed "Cooley! I take all your photos for you, drop that bike and come take a nice pic of me!" And I'm so glad he did because I love the shot he got!

At some point I came around a bend in the course, and there with her arms splayed wide and that bright yellow shirt was Miss Sarah Hoffman exclaiming "There she is!" As a volunteer she was incredibly busy all day and it was amazing to see her out on the course! Volunteers like Sarah are what make Ironman Wisconsin such a stellar race.

Yes I'm awair my level of enthusiasm gets a lot of weird looks. No I don't care. I am legitimately ecstatic to be here. Surrounded by family and friends, getting free food, whats not to love! Speaking of nutrition - I followed a protocol of water/gatorade every aid station for the first 13 miles, then water/coke for the last 13 miles. Once you get on that coke train, you never get off. It's clearly the best train to board, if you ask me.

Yes my whole support crew wore Go Emma tshirts. It was amazing. And yes, that bandage was getting quite tight as the race went on. My arm swelled up and became quite heavy as I ran. It almost became impossible to pose for all the photo ops I had! Along with the swelling arm, both my hips started to feel the pounding from the day: with every step the pain became more pronounced, but again I didn't come this far, to only come this far.

Don't worry, I powered through.

Wouldn't want to let down any of my adoring fans!

My: aw, stop you're making me blush pose.

My: Got places to be, folks! pose

There is nothing quite like the joy of hitting that Ironman finish line shoot, the crowd, the buzzing energy, and the knowledge that it's almost over. I can stop moving in a matter of minutes. It's the Finish Line Feeling, that cannot be explained but must be felt to fully understand. It's the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice, missed family/friends events, getting up early, staying up late, prioritizing training above all else, the blood/sweat/tears that were poured into the training to get to this one moment, and it's all worth it. Because Mike Reilly was about to announce that I was an Ironman, again.

The look of pure ecstatic joy that I get to share this moment with my family and friends, and that they will hear along with me that I became an Ironman again.

"Emma Adriaens, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" - Mike Reilly

Run: 4:13:15
7th in F25-29 age group
Overall time: 12:06:11

My goals were to beat my previous time (12:40), enjoy the crap out of the day, and not die. Check, check, and check.

After the race, I found my support crew and took advantage of the delightful food in the food tent. I had the volunteers give me an empty box and I filled it with everything they were offering, and I mean everything. I let go of the vegan diet for a solid 24 hours and enjoyed all the meat and cheese I could handle. Including a delicious dinner and drinks with my support crew before heading back to the finish line around 10:30 to watch the last hours of the race. Don't worry, I showered before we went to dinner. I love watching the last hours of the race and seeing people make their dreams come true.

The capitol is all done up for the occasion, and Mike Reilly knows exactly how to make it a party. 

And there you have it, another Ironman in the bag and another tri season wrapped up.

Oh, I almost forgot: The damage from the bike crash:

Oops my bike didn't stop. 


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