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When you've said WISCONSIN, you've said it all!

A lot of people thought we were crazy to go all the way to Wisconsin for a half Ironman. That may be true, but we were also there to see family, hang out on Lake Michigan AND get a flavor for what we were gonna be biking and running on at Ironman Wisconsin.

With all of the fun out of the way, it is time to recon the course.

Saturday night, we went down to Madison and Alicia came down, too, from Green Bay. Sunday morning, it was up and to the Monona Terrace (where Ironman start/transitions/ends) to meet Brad and start out journey.

The Wisconsin bike course is a lollipop. You go out on the stick part, do a 40-mile loop (twice) and then come back on the stick. Today we were doing the stick-one loop-stick = 72 miles. That way, we could gauge just how hard the course really was.

The ride was fun and humid. The course is beautiful, so I tried to take some pictures along the way. There isn't too much to tell other than, yes, it is hilly. No, it is not as bad as I have imagined. For CO friends, it is like eRock course, but there are actually some flat(ish) spots that you don't find in eRock hill part. And Garfoot Road = Roller Coaster Road (but not as bad). And there are some windy, twisty downhills that you don't get in eRock.

Anyways, here are my picts from the ride.

Verona to Mt. Horeb:

On our way to Mt Horeb/up a hill

Mt. Horeb to Cross Plains
Going up Garfoot Rd, I believe, looking to the right.

Going up (technically down at this point) Garfoot Rd., looking straight ahead.

Mmm... Wisconsin farms. Probably a good thing you can't smell this picture.

Pit stop in Cross Plains.

Cross Plains to Verona:
How's that for hospitality? You'll find it about 2-3 miles out of Cross Plains at the top of a hill.

Up Midtown Road. I have been told this is the one that "gets ya", especially on lap 2.

Riding back on the Stick:
Watch out, there is a climb on Whalen that isn't that big, but will hurt after 100 miles.

Coming home. You can see the Monona Terrace to the right and the Capital straight ahead.

Happy to be done with the ride... now onto the run.

The run was a little different for everyone. Brad went home (he lives in downtown) and ran from his place. Ross and I ran out and back 2 miles with Alicia on the race course (the beginning and end). They were both done, but I had energy and wanted to recon more of the run route. Most of it I had run in college, but had never strung it together, so I chose to on Sunday-- figuring it would be my last chance before race day. Ross dropped me off at Camp Randall (mile 2ish) and I ran pretty much the rest of the route (minus a mile of out and back that I was very familiar with). I had fun on the route, and it allowed me to imagine race day and think where I would really want spectators to (hopefully) be.

To break it down, it is a windy, twisty course that runs by a lot of the "highlights" of downtown: the capital,
State Street,
Kohl Center, Camp Randall (minus all the spectators),
the lakeshore path, and some more.

There are some upgrades and downgrades primarily around Camp Randall and on State Street and again around the capital square. The only real hill is on Observatory and it will be a doozy. Thankfully, you only have to run it twice (not 4 times).

But, after completing almost a full lap of it, I was pretty confident I know what is coming (terrain-wise) on race day. Now all those other elements: what the weather will be, how my body will react, what will be thrown my way, how my nutrition will be after 10+ hours, etc. Those I'll have to figure out come September 12th, but at least I am on my way!

Door County Half IM

Another training day in the books... and a good reason to take a vacation.

I have always heard the Door County Half IM was a good one and a beautiful one. As we have learned by now, that's all you need to tell me. We had done the Fall 50 (put on by the same race director, Sean Ryan) in 2008 and had a fabulous time, so we were sure this would be no different. We took the opportunity to make this another race destination and make a family vacation out of it.

After two days of driving, a day in Madison with the family, dropping the kids off and another 4 hour drive to Door County, we were there! We checked in, got our numbers and scouted the course. All on a GORGEOUS Wisconsin summer day. When we checked the weather for the following day, however, not such a pretty picture. Thunderstorms predicted from 7 am - 1 pm. Oh no. OK, have raced in all sorts of elements, heat, snow, humidity, etc. Here's a new one to add to the list.

Woke up the next morning to a light rain. Waited around a little bit and went to the race. The atmosphere was really low key, in general, which was really nice. I had to kind of wrap up my bike and clothes to protect them from the impending rain.
I ran into a bunch of old friends from Green Bay, which is also always nice.
Me and Ivy reuniting in the parking lot!

More GB peeps-- ready to race... or ready to get ready to race!

Ross and I were even matching today, so I had someone take a picture. We even made a new friend, Brad, who was wearing the same thing. Yes, he just moved to Madison from Denver, and so we had lots to talk about.

With the weather, there was a 30 minute delay. This came in handy for me, since I had forgotten some things in the car and had to go back to it (twice). Not really sure where my head was that morning...

Anyways, 8:30 came and the race started. I was in wave 2, which was the "elite" woman. WOAH! Now, how did I get in there? Well, I asked my friend, Alicia, about it and she said "elite is not really elite, it is just for people who like to start first". Well, I like to start first, so I signed up. Turns out, she was right. There was no qualification to get in, no special awards for the group, etc. So, it was nice to go off with a group of competent swimmers and be towards the front. I figured I'd get pummeled by the men, but I didn't either, so that was nice.

Anyways, the swim went off without a hitch. I somehow had massive issues with swimming straight. At one time, I found myself tangled in a buoy. A bunch of other times I was way off course, so I started sighting more and that helped. I got to the end and there were... STRIPPERS! No, not these kind:But, these kind:
So, it was off with the wetsuit and into transition and, boom, off on the bike.

Being towards the front, the bike was a little lonely. I am used to way more people around me and I like it. But, I guess it made me focus on my riding... probably what I should be doing instead of making friends. :) Thankfully, one rider, Brandon, came up and we leap frogged each other for awhile. I think he was impressed I was standing during the "hills" which weren't much. I really just used them to stretch my legs. I had been wanting a "flat, fast course", but really having so much flat really wore on the legs.

A little over halfway through, it started to rain again. And hard. Ugh. Then there were the winds. Ok, not my day, I thought. Just get through it.

The last couple of miles I just wanted to be done. Haven't felt that way in awhile, but I was just ready for it to be over. Brian, a friend from high school, passed me and I wished him luck on the run-- he was a hs cross country star, and I had no doubt he would bury me in the run, and he did.

And to be honest, with the weather, I wasn't sure if I would get to transition and they would have called it. With the rain, there could well have been lightning.

But, no, got to transition and the race was still on. Even though I had taken the time to protect my stuff at the beginning of the race, I somehow didn't keep it that way in T1. One of my running shoes was soaked, as were my extra pair of socks. Oh well. It's not like I haven't raced wet before-- it's just usually with sweat, not rain water.

Off on the run. Hello, legs, where are you? Are you there? Not really, they answered, we hurt. Turns out my quads were still feeling it from the marathon the weekend before. Hmm? Ok, settle in then, and just do what you can to get through 13.1 miles. Ok, they answered. And off we went.

The run was a bit more fun for me because there was more people around. The run course, too, was not flat, so that made it a bit more challenging, but I didn't mind it. There were two hills to conquer, one around mile 6 and one around mile 9.5.

Here's when you know you are at the start of the second hill.
Only, they replace that sign with this one on race day.
Add a little encouragement from the race staff about halfway up.
And recognition that you made it.
That turns out to be a cruel joke.But I ran up that second part of the hill anyways. (FYI, Ross ran up BOTH hills.)

So, once you are at the top of this hill, it is mostly flat until the end, where you descend for a half mile or so. Despite my legs being achy, I actually increased my pace. And then you are done, done, done!

I crossed the finish line to find that, yes, I actually DID beat my Kansas time by about 8 minutes. Cool. After finishing, it was no problem finding Brad, Alicia, Brian, Jon and more. It was nice to find out that everyone had a good race. Alicia had seen Ross out on the run. We did the math and he was not far behind. He crossed feeling good as well. Just wet.

By this time, the post-party was in full swing. We changed (again, matching. Just to clarify, this IS NOT common for us), hung out, listened to the band, enjoyed our final hours without children and, of course, some Wisconsin beer.

Now, it is off to some active recovery and open water swims with these little guys...
Enjoy the great Wisconsin cuisine...This is a roasted "campfire marshmallow". Approximately the size of a small fist. No lie.

And the scenery Door County has to offer...
Happy recovery for me. :)

Dances With Dirt Trail Marathon

The weekend started with a trip to the Midwest to attend my friend, Laura's, wedding in Chicago.
Never seen her happier-- thank you for including me in on your special day!

Since traveling is never very conducive to training, I was going to make the most of my weekend in the midwest by (a) scouting the bike route for IMMOO and (b) doing a trail marathon with my friend, Jim. (If you missed the story, it is here.)

So, after the wedding, I headed back to Madison and drove the IM bike route with my mom. (Yikes-- lotsa hills!) But I was happy to see that it was very similar to the Elephant Rock course here, so at least that gave me a reference.

Then, I headed up to the Baraboo where I met up with Jim (and family) at the race expo. We grabbed our race numbers, chatted with a few other runners (who all said "yes, wear your gators!"), had a good dinner and settled in for the night.

The morning came quickly and this morning pre-race included something I had never had to do before:Yep, put on poison ivy block. It was highly advised via Jim's friend who had run the race before.

Poison Ivy block, check. Water belt, check. Off we go.

Here we are hamming it up before the big take-off.

Before the race, I had told Jim I wanted to treat the day like a training day, and he had the same sentiments. Jim's "A" race this year is an October marathon, so he just wanted to get through this race in prep for that marathon.

We decided to started out slow and steady. Maybe a little too slow, because about 1/2 mile in, the trail goes to single track as you head up the first big climb of the race. Being on single track, and stuck behind people kinda stinks. Then, the line of people started walking. At first it didn't bother me, but then it really started to. The trail was totally runnable. So, Jim and I decided to take off, and we started passing people on the left. Everyone was good about letting us pass, so I was glad we decided to do it. Once a the top of the climb, we settled into a good pace and just went with it. At times, Jim would start to pick it up and I would settle him back down. I felt bad and told him to go ahead, but he insisted on staying with me.
At the first aid station (about 5 miles in), we stopped so I could put some moleskin on blisters I felt forming. Again, I felt bad, but we were in this for the long haul and I really needed my feet to be ok. I was running on them after all. A nice spectator asked if he could help and I enlisted him to help me. He told us that his wife was running the marathon and that he ran these trails a lot and we had been through the worst of it. Really? That was the worst? we thought. Cool.

So, feet better and refreshed from the aid station, we continued on. More than once I had to slow Jim down, but all was good. And it was pretty.
Somewhere around mile 10, we hit another... well, climb. And this one was bad. Here's the first set of stairs leading to it. Oy yoy! What was that spectator guy thinking? This climb was way worse.
But it led to great views of Devil's Lake.
Us at the top of the North Bluff.

We continued on our way, happy that the climbing was over-- at least for the time being.

Navigating down was a different story and this may be where the poison ivy block probably came in handy. There were sections of the trail that were.... well, they weren't trail. They were "follow the pink flags through the forest". Like here.
And here.
When we approached the next aid station, the spectator I met at the first station was there waiting for his wife. "You LIED to me. That first climb was so not the worst." I said jokingly and he laughed.

As the run went on, the day got hotter, the little hills seemed bigger and we were dragging a bit. But that was ok. We walked when we had to and just kept plugging along. The run was gorgeous and soon we were heading back along the bottom of the lake.
Yay! Flat (and beautiful) terrain!

Once we rounded the lake, it was time to go up the South Bluff. Another climb.
Here we are about halfway up.

Somewhere after this picture, my Garmin beeped 18 miles. We were at a flat spot on the climb and asked Jim if he wanted to run a little. He didn't, but he wanted me to go ahead. He told me he would be mad at me if I didn't. Knowing at this point in the run, we both needed to listen to our bodies and run our own paces, I decided to go ahead, figuring it would be the best for both of us.

Being alone, I ran up the rest of the bluff. It was hot and hard, but I wanted to get her done. It was fun going up this side of the lake. There were more hikers and a number of them cheered me on as I ran by. I passed a hiker with a Gatorade and said "you don't know how bad I want to mug you and take that". He offered it to me, and I declined saying that I *think* there is an aid station somewhere around here. There was. Ever see an aid station on the top of a bluff? It looks like this:
They were low on just about everything, but I just gave them kudos for hiking it all up there.

My spectator friend was up there again, he confessed that he wasn't aware of the second-- or third-- climb we did, but he was positive all of the real climbing was done. I jokingly told him I didn't trust him, but I hoped he was right. He was.

After that, I was somewhere around 19.5 miles in and I had energy. My original plan had been to do 14 slow and then kick it up at the end IF I felt like it. I felt like it.

I headed down the bluff. Over the basin. Hit the 2nd to last aid station. They had ice. ICE! You don't know how good ice feels/tastes on a hot day like that day.

Hit the last aid station. I ran in saying "857 in the HOUSE!" (we had to check in at each aid station). They laughed and I overheard a volunteer saying, "Runners are the nicest people". I corrected her saying, "Actually, volunteers are the nicest people."

OK, 5 miles to go. I started picking people off. One after the other (maybe a total of 12). It was nice. No one passed me, just me passing people. The last 2 miles were probably the worst, and the fastest. I just wanted to be done. I rolled my ankle real bad and wiped out twice (the only time all day). Guess I was going a little too fast and too tired on the last descent. But the end was in sight. Well, not really, but figuratively.

Crossed the finish line... and looked at my Garmin. 27.12 miles. No way. No wonder it took forever. (And, yes, I was cutting my tangents.)

I waited and Jim was not too far behind me.
Now onto the post race. They are always the best in Wisconsin.

Jim and I both placed in our age group, so we got huge mugs, that we promptly filled with beer. Here I am, halfway done with my REWARD in my AWARD.
And relax a bit......notice Jim has already drained his glass.

Oh, and who could forget hanging out with our new found spectator friend, Mike. We waited for his wife, so we could cheer her in.
It was a hot, humid and hilly day. The course was hard, but I like challenges and the views made it worth it. I ran most of the race with a great friend and an excellent running companion. Perfect training day for me. Thank you, Jim, for making it happen!