11th on the 11th... Ironman Wisconsin

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Are you ready for the most dramatic Ironman race report ever written!? Da da daaa (dramatic music). I'm kidding, it's really not!! But here's my story (and then later I'll talk about the course in general and what you can expect should you choose to take the challenge of IRONMAN WISCONSIN!! <-- dramatic)

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There I was, standing before the mighty 3,000 acre 28 billion gallon Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. 2,500 other nervous souls beside me prepared to dive into the enormity of the day before us...

I forced down a bowl of oatmeal 2 hours prior and although it was begging to come up, I was shoving down a peanut butter spread mini bagel. The sun was coming up over the lake casting orange shadows on the slew of athletes warming up in the water. I was not one of them. I was over there clinging to the fence, in tears, terrified of the unknown...
Mom says, "You're so funny, like you've never done this before! I can't believe all these Ironman to include OCEANS and you're this worked up. Now pose for a photo."


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A mass in water swim start urged me into the great Monona. With several minutes to start, I bobbed in my wetsuit behind the masses; each with their own fears and tribulations. I stretched my shoulders and triceps, moved slowly, and breathed deep. "You can do this Lisa." 

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The cannon blasted and the swarm of swimmers went wild. Arms and legs kicking and flailing, fighting for their own water and some sort of rhythm to get through the grueling 2.4 mile swim. A fist comes at me shoving my goggles deep into my eye sockets. Bodies surround me trying to take me under. But oh no, I've been here before, this is MY water and you can't have it. I battle for the first 100 meters until my water is free and I'm easily navigating the first 1050m stretch. The first turn buoy is quickly in site and the next 300m out are a blur, bodies nervously fighting for the closest stretch from point a to b. Rounding the corner I quickly find my own water once again and set out for the long 1700m section. I count each stroke to 100 over and over again. I'm passing buoy after buoy, swimmer after swimmer. There are tons of boats, the water feels great, I feel calm. I'm thinking about my athletes, my nerves, my athletes nerves. And how we feel so scared moments before we start and how that all vanishes as we start. Take a deep breath and JUMP!

I finally reach the next turn and 200m more is behind me rounding that final buoy for the 612m stretch to the finish. The beeline of swimmers is an advantage and I'm gliding effortlessly through the water. In no rush to finish this 2.4 miles, I climb out of the lake at 1 hour and 39 minutes.

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Through the wetsuit strippers and headed to the helix I am greeted by a wall of spectators 20 deep!! They have lined the inside of the helix and they're screaming cheers, chanting encouragement, blowing horns, and beating drums. Their excitement is literally carrying me up the steep spiral! I reach the top and dart into T1, prepare for my bike, and shoot to transition where my chariot awaits. In 8mins and 23seconds I am cooly out of transition and upon my bike.

I now face 112 miles of hills and later hills and wind. The first 38 miles are smooth. We are climbing and descending, the course is well marked, tons of support, and I'm thinking, this isn't so bad, a little windier than expected... It is then that I am before the biggest most challenging hill I have ever laid eyes on. I'm watching athletes fall left, fall right, FALL. Moments before my own demise, I unclip and dismount my bike. I laugh with ridiculousness; I have never walked an Ironman hill, but like pretty much everyone else, this one got me.

I'm nearly to the top when rip, pop!! Something happens!! My lower back hip area tightens and coils. I think, it has to just be the inclined walk with the bike; it'll straighten out when I straighten out! 
I feel it inflaming and now pushing against my sciatic nerve shooting pain all the way to my ankle. I mount my bike and push off enjoying the FASTmph downhill. 
I spend the next several miles trying to stretch the area and pound/rub it out. I don't want to stop. The pain is growing worse. I'm panicking a little. I won't stop. I certainly won't quit. What if I have to?! 
I commit to stopping at mile 57 where I know the half way bags are. I'll get off, potty, and stretch it out; see if anyone has an ibuprofen. Just before the bags, I approach Verona and there's mom!!! I come to a screeching halt and quickly express my concern. The lady next to us gives me a couple Aleve. If you know me well, you know I don't take pills. And CERTAINLY not from a stranger!! But I sucked them down. Please make the pain stop. Mom and I spoke with our eyes, body language, and groans. You gonna stop? I can't. You don't have to race in pain. I know but I can't quit. I know you can push it out, please don't hurt yourself. Thank you momma. And I rode off.

The stretch seemed to work for about 14 miles before it coiled up again. It hurt so bad the tears were uncontrollable. I kept biking. I promised I'd grab another stretch soon. I stopped twice more. As I rounded mom again I reloaded with ibuprofen and cried, 12 miles to go. I'm hoping for no pain running. If so, I'll have to walk. I won't quit. I got through that last section as quickly as I could. The wind picked up, the hills kept coming, and after 7hours and 15mins, 6 waffles, 1 eGel, 1 Gu, 1 mini bagel with peanut butter, and way too many pain killers I was back.

Getting off the bike provided immediate relief. At this point I'm assuming it's an inflamed piriformis muscle or I've pulled a glute or lower back muscle. I skidded through T2 in 3mins and 31seconds.

I'm running. I feel good. The misery of the bike is behind me. The crowd is AMAZING! My first mile is strong. And as always, a damn liar. It takes several miles to find my actual legs and I'm getting the oh so common back muscle spasms that I always get. No worries, they're manageable; uncomfortable but not painful. They finally work out around mile 7. Surprisingly, on a downhill. I'm begging the hip pain to stay at bay.

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I run/walk the marathon. I always want under 5. I knew this one was looking like 5:30. And that's okay. How anyone runs a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike is beyond me *insert eye roll* The spectators pushed me through, mile by mile. I would walk, I would run. I still managed to maintain the 12:33 a mile pace and pushed out a 5:30 hour run. Along the course I snacked on potato chips, pretzels, and chicken broth. Mmm, the warm loving chicken broth ~ my favorite on an Ironman race course. No matter my speed, my goal was to be positive, stay happy. I went low a few times but I would force it away... ENJOY what you do Lisa! Be proud and admire yourself. I gave high fives, posed for pictures, chatted to everyone I could. I had fun. A long time, but FUN. Plus it was fun watching for mom and always wondering where she'd pop up along the course. 

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That finish line! I'm always asked why I do this to myself over and over again. It's so hard, the training so long, the day, grueling...but it's all for that finish line. And not the physical finish line, but how I feel. This is something I can do and be so proud of. I never played sports, or instruments. I wasn't good at art or really anything that I can pinpoint. I didn't have anything to show you and say LOOK at what I did; be proud of me too. This is it. Ironman is it. And in the meantime it inspires and motivates others. I'm proving that ANYONE can do this! Anyone can do ANYTHING! You don't have to be any sort of way, just YOU. You set your goal, you work hard, train, and then you win on race day. Yep, it's that easy. Ha ha, okay no it's not so easy... but if you want it, you fight for it.
It's possible.

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So that's my story of the day. Number 11 on September 11th, a day that truly shaped the person I've become. The race was hard, painful, and still emotional and very rewarding. I walk away from every Ironman a different version of myself. I'm stronger, smarter, braver, BETTER than I was yesterday. I don't stand up on a podium to collect a trophy but I sure as fuck win every single race in my books!

A big thank you to my mother and stepdad Bob for driving over from Ohio on their way back to Arizona. I am VERY happy my mom was there for this one!!
Another big thank you to Zoot Sports and Team Zoot for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of Zoot, share philosophies, promote gear, and spread our love of triathlon to the world!! I'm so proud to be amongst such amazing athletes!!
Finally, thank you to my Team TOA athletes. I work with some of the most inspiring, hard working athletes I know. They think I inspire them but really they are MY inspiration. I fight everyday for them and I hope they each know how crazy proud I am of them and grateful for venturing this journey with me. 

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And now for the course details in case you're considering Ironman Wisconsin.
First thing, this course is FANTASTIC!! Madison itself is fantastic!! Downtown is super (just as Ironman describes it), bucolic. But with modern almost a European flare. 
The capital building is magnificent! Crazy impressive. It's very Washington D.C. like and in fact, that was the goal of the entire city. Madison is set between two lakes. Lake Monona and Lake Mendota (the big one at 9,700 acres). State Street is filled with shops and bars and restaurants. So many people out and about daily and just a very welcoming feel! You must try an Old Fashioned and of course, cheese curds!!

Anyway, the Ironman... we swim in the little Lake. The lake was 74* and I hear it's usually in the 70s all year round. Apparently it's a drainage lake. I don't know what that means and it sounds kinda gross, but the water felt, tasted, and looked very clean. Of course it's dark water, but it's clear. AND, myth has it you can hear Otis Redding humming the infamous "(Sittin' On) The Dock of Bay" (he died when his plane crashed in Lake Monona in 1967).

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Ironman had the Lake FILLED with support and buoys! I'm talking boat after boat!! Kayakers, paddle boarders, fishing boats, motor boats, I don't even know, BOATS! I never didn't see a boater out there. It was GREAT! The course layout is great too. You swim a rectangle with a diagonal at the end... 1,050 out, 300 up, 1,700 in, 200 down, then 612 diagonally to the finish. It's really great to be able to break that up into sections while you're swimming and as mentioned, they had a ton of buoys out there. The water is slightly choppy due to swimmers and wind; but a good fast swim course. 

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Transition is long. And partly on top of a parking garage and partly inside the convention center. You run out of the lake, across a parking lot, up a helix, inside the convention center for your gear, across another room, to the 3rd floor of a parking garage. It's a little bit nuts but super easy to navigate when it's all going. I never felt misplaced or like, uhh, where do I go?! TONS of spectators out of the swim and up the helix, TONS of volunteers in T1. I was SO impressed and amazed at how hard these people were working for us. FOR FREE!

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We bike out the other side of the parking garage down another helix ~ very carefully!! Round and round DOWN. 

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The bike course is 16 miles out, 2 x 40 mile loops, and back. The loops are crazy hilly with several TOUGH climbs. One of which everyone was falling over unable to pedal even one more stroke. Most of us were just unclipping and dismounting, walking the bike up the hill. The Verona festival was WOW!! HUNDREDS of people were set up another set of hills. Music was bumping and people dancing and cheering like crazy. It definitely made you forget all troubles. And we got to go through that twice. It was amazing! There was another section where spectators lined the course too for about 6 miles. This was a flatter fast section but still GREAT to have so many people out there cheering. Dane County residents are AMAZING!! So many people at the end of their driveways, at intersections, just everywhere on the course! And signs; tons of signs out there! The bike course is definitely challenging but honestly, I loved it. Had it not been for my pain, I think I would have had a much faster time and funner time (grrrr), but I think with proper training, it's a GREAT course! According to my Garmin, 111.5 miles with 5,627 feet of climbing. Wow!

Again with the strange transition, you hand your bike off and run into the convention center and through a room, out the room and on to the run course. The run course is UNBELIEVABLE. There are people everywhere! And I mean ALL NIGHT!! I couldn't believe all the excitement and energy; these people are freaking amazing for being out there with us! And when you go by, it's like they are there personally for you. I hadn't really looked at the course so I was confused (but delightfully surprised) at every corner. Ha ha! The course is 2 x 13.1 mile loops. You run downtown Madison, the University of Wisconsin campus, Camp Randall Stadium, State Street, and a scenic path alongside Lake Mendota. And to be honest, it was quite more challenging than I expected. I don't remember reading/seeing anything about hills, but there were. Garmin says 26.2 miles with 1,089 feet of climbing. Not so bad, but that was in just 2-3 hills. Also kinda cool, we actually ran around the stadium, INSIDE of it, on the fake football grass stuff ~ different. A few annoying little out and backs but it was okay; it was a good course! I felt like it was well supported and stocked with typical Ironman goodies and volunteers. The back trail was pretty dark once the sun went down but it was almost kinda peaceful running back there. Oh and if you're from the south, bring a jacket for your half way run bag cause (for us) it gets chilly! I'm very glad I had my shrug I was COLD.

Spectators can get around easily on this entire course so it's a great one to bring friends and family. But if you come solo, you have probably 10,000 friends and family already there for you. The volunteers were HAPPY and excited to help. The city is friendly and fun. The staff was fantastic, the support was great. I think this is an outstanding Ironman. I think I'd put it top 2 favorite and I'd highly recommend it!! I don't know that I'll ever do it again (cause I like different ones), but it tops the fave list for sure!! Thank you friends and family for following along and sending your love and vibes and support; I always feel it and I appreciate you being a part of my goals!! THANK YOU!!

(some photo cred to Google, Instagram, FinisherPix, Georgia, and mom)