Ironman Wisconsin is 40 days away.
This weekend I joined 110ish other folks at a training camp put on by the folks coaching me. It was hardcore, extreme spelled with extra x's...the whole deal. It was the kind of crazy that I imagined, when I signed up for this kind of race. I went there expecting that, and I got exactly what I was expecting. Here's what happened.
Thursday morning I woke up in Bloomington. I went to the pool and swam a 2.4 Mile time trial. I beat my best time by about 5 minutes, which I was very happy about, swimming the distance in 1:29:00. I showered, finished packing, and brought some lunch for Lana at work. I offered to bring her a sandwich so I could have just one last opportunity to see her, even if it was just for 2 minutes as a sandwich deilvery man, before I left for Madison. Granted, it was the action of a love struck teenager, but I'll gladly own that. Lana and I have worked hard not to have to spend time apart, so we definitely don't enjoy it when we have to.
After I made it home I loaded up the car and headed to Madison. After an uneventful 3ish hour trip, which was frequently interrupted by bathroom stops due to my crazy hydration status, I checked into the hotel. I ran to a grocery store to load up on some supplies, and then attended a talk put on by the coaches before we road the course on Friday. Dinner was in my room that night. A turkey sandwich, baked sweet potato, broccoli, and salsa were on the menu.
Friday started at a leisurely 5am. Most mornings come earlier for me these days and the extra sleep was nice.
We started out on the bike at 7:30. My goal was to warm up for the first hour at about 65% FTP, and then move up to 70% for the remainder of the day. In practice I rode a bit easier, following some slower cyclists that knew where they were going. The IMOO bike course is a stick and loop affair. You go out on the "stick" do two loops, and then head back on the stick again. The loops are marked, the stick...not so much. I was totally lost, luckily there were plenty of other people that knew where they were going.
I was plenty willing to take it easy though. This bike course was legendary for it's difficulty and I wasn't going to seek out the suck, I knew the suck would come to me in due time.
A few rollers, and a few cows go by, and then 16 miles in the loop starts. A few more miles, Mt Horeb goes by, which as it turns out, is the troll capital of the US. Who knew?
Then some more serious stuff comes up. There are very fast descents, hard uphills, and some technical turns that come in rapid succession. This is a thinking man's bike course for sure. It's not just about being a careful climber and not roasting your legs. It's about getting up the hill, and knowing if you should coast or stay on the gas. It's about knowing when to have the balls to descent at 40+ mph and not ride the brakes, and when to slow down. It's about all those things at once. Conserving your momentum is key, especially for a heavier rider like myself.
Especially interesting, was a descent with a tight left at the bottom, followed by more descent and a tight right. Someone had taken the time to spray paint "slow" on the road, before that descent out of the many, many descents on the course. They meant it. Jim Garfoot, they named a twisty, hilly ass road after you. You must have been an interesting person.
Next up, I ran into a small town, with a VERY cool little coffee / bike shop called Uphill Grind. I had forgotten to sunblock my neck, and they had me covered. They also refilled my water bottles. They sold what looked to be delicious food, coffee, and anything a cyclist could need as well, and they were super nice to boot. Thanks guys! On the down side, that same city had a cop camped out by a stop sign making sure cyclists stopped, unclipped, and put their foot down. If you didn't? Well, I saw a cop light up a chick on a P2. You know, I kinda don't blame them. Granted there are bigger issues that cops could probably deal with, but there are so many cyclists out training on the IMWI course, it must be an issue for the locals.
In fact, that same day several of the folks in my group were harassed by a black pickup truck, and one was ran off the road. He suffered some road rash but was otherwise ok, or at least that's what I heard. I also heard that they got the truck's license plate. I certainly hope there were some consequences for that driver, but I'm hesitant to say too much since I don't really know for sure what happened.
A few miles down the road I ran into a dude grinding very very slowly up a very very big hill. He looked to be a wizened veteran of the course. "Some Hill" I said to him as I rode by. "Yeah," he said, "They call this one the bitch." I had to laugh to myself at the notion. All these hills were kinda the bitch...but ok. Up I went, and then I figured out the name. After a long, steep climb the hill turns to the right and gets even steeper. "Bitch Hill" indeed.
After that it was a clear shot to Verona. I repeated that same 40 miles, and then finished up back on the stick and 108 miles later I was back at my hotel in time to brick it. It was hot (104 according to my Garmin, but in the 90s for sure) , I was already dehydrated, and I got pretty sick on the run. Things got kinda dark, but I walked a little and suffered through my 6 mile run.
My first ride through of the course ended up being 6:25:00. Not impressive by any means. I ended up about 25 minutes slower than my goal, I really underestimated how much slower those climbs would make me, and how much smarter I'd have to learn to ride the course.
Friday night I listened to a talk on how to ride the hills a little smarter, and logged that in my head for the next day. I ate some oatmeal, a turkey sandwich, a sweet potato, and some frozen blueberries. Then I got to bed, to do it again the next day. I burnt about 4500 calories, and there was no way I was putting that all back, so I just did my best to keep the glycogen I had and slept as much as I could.
All things considered, I was feeling pretty froggy Saturday morning. I woke up, ate a PB&Honey, mixed my bottles, and got on the road. It was, for the most part, pretty uneventful. I rode the stick, one loop, and the stick back to the hotel, covering about 70 miles. In the last 10-15 miles my legs weren't willing to make Watts, and I just really let them go. I was fatigued and I knew it.
Back at the hotel I changed and did a 3 mile brick. As I was running by the Allegant Energy Center I saw the sign tell me it was 95 out. With the heat index, it was closer to 104. It was hot. My run was pretty slow, and I was ok with that. My head was finally wrapping itself around the distance, the fatigue, and what this ironman stuff is all about, which is more about "not stopping" and less about racing.
Saturday afternoon I got some sleep. That was the best part of this camp, having the time for rest and recovery. At home I'd be taking care of William, doing chores, cooking, cleaning, life... Here my biggest priority was training and my second biggest was making sure I was recovered to train.
Saturday night Lana was able to join me, which was really awesome. She did a 67 mile ride earlier that day, and we were both ready to eat! We went to a place called "Great Dane Pub and Brewery" in downtown Madison. It was really great! I had a local grass fed beef burger with local Wisconsin cheddar on a multigrain bun, some baked beans with their beer in it, and a glass of a very dark porter.
After that, Lana and I drove a bit of the bike course and got to bed. It was really awesome that Lana drove all the way to Madison to take care of me and support me. I'm very lucky to have her in my life. I doubt she knows it, but She was the highlight of my weekend.
Sunday morning I was hurting for sure. I did my best on the foam roller, had some oatmeal, and drove to the Monona Terrace, which is the Start/End(ish)/T1/T2 of IMWI. After a quick talk we took off running from T2 and ran one loop of the two loop run course.
It was a hard half marathon. The fatigue from the two previous days and heat really caught up with me. I had no idea where I was going, and that made it worse. Luckily I found some people to run with, so I wasn't totally lost.
I brought a handheld with me, and Lana brought me extra water at the State Street turn around, around 6 miles in.
We were running 9:30s and it felt quite a bit harder than the 8:06/mi I ran a few months before in the Illinois Half. When we made it the finish I was totally spent, and a little dehydrated. I was very very glad to be done for sure.
When I got back to the start Lana was there waiting for me. We got back to the car and made it back to the hotel to pack, check out, get lunch, and head home.
I took Monday off to recover and get my bike in order. Tuesday I started training again. I ran 7 in the morning and tried to swim about 3400Y at night, but it ended up being closer to 3K. I did an easy 3 on Wednesday morning, and realized I was still not feeling 100%. The recovery cost to doing this kind of thing is pretty high, but I also learned alot about how to race this course.
It was a valuable weekend for sure, but yeah, I'm pretty wiped still. Again, this is more a "here's what happened" report and my writing is really not so great right now. I just don't have the energy to do much more, so here it is.