Every time I talk about it, there is a constant smile on my face. Last night I was asked what my favorite part of it was, to which I replied (very Lincoln-like) "All of it". Seriously, I had a great day.
I meant for Ironman to be a one-and-done thing. Or at best, done for the next couple of years until I could devote another year to focusing on training and the business could sustain itself again. As soon as I was finished, I was thinking "how can I make this as part of my lifestyle"... and that is the question I have been pondering.
So, I have a few things in the works and right now I just need to get them all set.
I have learned that:
(a) I don't do well without a "schedule" (yes, type A)
(b) I don't do well without a goal.
The two are soon to come!
I got out to start the run and I heard cheers, so of course I had to look for my family. They were there... and there... and there. Man, do I have a great support system.
So it was out and onto the run. Now, again, I think I have a mental advantage with growing up here. I mean, I ran around campus all the time as an undergrad. So, mentally, I knew where I was going. I started the run and just tried to settle in. But... my back hurt. Bad. I ran down State Street and saw Jessie and Jason again. Yay! And then onto Dayton, the first non-spectator-lined street and had to walk. My back was tight. I stopped to stretch it. It relieved the pain, but not that much. So, it was going to be a lot of walk/running. Crap. But, oh well.
On top of the back pain, it was hot and humid and I was probably a little dehydrated from the bike. I had brought my running belt with a bottle, and I was going through a bottle/mile at the beginning. No kidding. I started mixing and found a perfect concoction of water, berry powerdrink and salt (yes, straight salt). It was sweet/salty mixture of electrolyte goodness and it worked, so I kept with it the entire way.
I had told myself this was going to make this an awesome day and I seldom back down from things I set out to do. So I continued on trying to ignore the back pain (not possible). I ran when I could, walked when I had to. And decided if I couldn't run the whole way, I would have fun doing the marathon. (This is where the camera comes in handy.)
Towards the end of the 1st lap, I saw my friend Karri had joined J squared and also my family had made it to the run course. Yay! Yay! Yay!Having family and friends along for the ride was great! That pepped me up and got me to the halfway point.
So, not sure if they do this at EVERY Ironman event, but halfway you pass right by the finish line and continue onto your second lap. Some people find this demoralizing, I found it encouraging-- you mean I only have 13 to go? I just swam/biked/ran 127.5? I ROCK! And part of it is, I think I have run 13 on more tired and burnt out legs than I felt at the time-- and I had all these people to cheer me on and motivate me? I was making it!
Off on lap 2. More family and friends, more fun. Lap 2 I think I saw just about everyone I knew. Joey was mad/crazy/fast and heading to the finish as I was about 1.5 miles out. Most everyone was rocking, so we just passed each other smiling and cheering one another on! Will, Brad, Jamey, Kelly, Niki, Jake, Brian-- I even saw the guy who sat in front of us on the plane (now I know him as Brendan). They all looked strong and it was encouraging. I didn't stop them, but I did happen upon a few that were willing to take some pictures.
Off to do more running. About 2.5 miles to go. Came up Dayton. No more family-- they were already headed to the finish. Came around State Street and even though I wanted to just get to the end, I stopped and took a picture of the capital. I wanted to remember this.
Took one last swig of water at the last aid station (about 1/2 mile from the end) jogged out of it, turned the corner and SPRINTED the last 3 blocks to the end. I was FILLED with energy. I passed people (probably 8-10) and some of them tried to pick up the pace, but no one was matching me. I raised my hands in the air and just ran to the finish shoot. I was done and SO, SO happy. :)
At the finish line, they give you two new best friends (volunteers) who talk to you, walk you through the end, check for indications that you are hurting, need medical attention, etc. I just jibber-jabbered with them and they quickly realized I was happy and fine. My family and friends were all around. I saw Wade and Theresa for the first time (although they had been following us all day), they let me know that Ross was a few miles out still, but they were going back to find him-- he was running a little bit ahead of another friend of theirs.
I recovered pretty quickly and hung out with family. Most had gone back to find Ross and others stayed with me to just rest. (My AWESOME parents had taken care of our bikes and gear- thanks, mom and pop.) Shortly after, we received a phone call Ross was 1.5 miles away. Side note: make sure your phone is FULLY charged for IM day, almost everyone's phone had died by this point.
Then another call (Jason panting) he was running with Ross around the capital. Then, I got to see my husband come down the finish line.
Our AWESOME support crew! Thank you to everyone who made it happen. We couldn't have done it without you!
And, yes, we DID make it to the bar after.
But luckily I had the help of some volunteers who handed it to me and off I went into the women's changing ballroom. There, my volunteer dumped out the contents of my bag and helped me get dressed. How helpful. The atmosphere is go! go! go! so I felt a bit rushed, but ok. She picked up my jersey and it felt heavy, so she reached into the back pocket and pulled out my camera. "Do you want to take this with you?" I answered "Yes!" and she said that was a first.
So, dressed and ready to go, I headed out to get my bike. I was glad Alicia had tipped me off to not put on my bike shoes just yet. It is a looooong way to run in bike shoes and very slick on that cement. I went towards the bikes, a volunteer lathered me up with sunscreen, another volunteer grabbed my bike, saw Brad, we ran towards the end of T1 together. A volunteer asked me if I wanted him to hold my bike while I put on my shoes – man these guys think of everything!!! Got my shoes on, clipped in and off I went!
The ride down the helix was fine. I had heard to go slow so as not to crash. And we were off on our way to Verona.
The bike course is basically downtown Madison to Verona (14 miles) and then 2 42-mile loops from Verona-Mt. Horeb-Cross Plains-Verona and then back to Madison. Some people call it a lollipop course and you lick the middle twice!
So, off to Verona. People were very focused. It was hard to take pictures because there was a lot of people.
Through Verona and now onto the loop. It started with a few hills and some wind, but I would rather the wind on this part of the course where the "real" hills aren't. I made it to Mt. Horeb with no problem. From Mt. Horeb, you get Witte Road, which is basically a big hill. At the top, I saw my dad's friend, Fran, volunteering. Said hi, got some cheers and off I went. A little more climbing, then downhills. Now HERE'S where I first started really passing some people. They were braking. On descents. Seriously? Guess my mountain riding would pay off. I just kept yelling "on your left" and shot right through. I've been down steeper, windier descents than that, so no worries here. Before I knew it, I was in Cross Plains.
From Cross Plains to Verona is where the "hills" are. There are 3 of them. The first one (Old Sauk Pass) not so bad, the second one (Timberlane) shorter, steeper and FILLED with spectators and then the third (Midtown) less steep, but longer. I made it through the first two and got a surprise at the top of Timberlane-- JESSIE AND JASON! They were there cheering. Yay!
Also at the top of Timberlane, Brian, a friend from high school, caught me. We talked for a bit and then he was off. I made it through Verona and then passed the special needs area. I was doing pretty good, so no stopping for me, and onto the second loop!
We got to Timberlane again and I knew I had J & J to look forward to. I plugged along up, up, up. Saw them again. Yay! A friend of Brian's told him he was about 3 minutes behind his goal pace and off he went. (Good for him!)
I finished the loop alone and went back towards Madison. At this point, I found 2 other riders all pacing about the same and the three of us kind of leap frogged each other. I made the comment that at this point it was really which one of us just wanted to be off the bike the most-- that's who was gonna finish first.
Before I knew it, I was seeing the capital and I just wanted to be there so bad! Then the helix. Almost home! As I rode up the helix, I saw my brother-in-law peering over the edge-- I waved and got big cheers! I was SO, SO, SO happy to see them!
Leg 2- DONE!
We had plans to meet at the top of the helix at 6:15 with some friends. Found Kevin, but no one else, so we headed down to the bottom to wait. There we regrouped-- Kelly, Joey, Ross, me, Niki, Kevin, Jamey-- and made our way to the water. We were actually still waiting to cross the timing mat when we heard a BOOM! The pros were off. Less than 10 minutes till our start.
We quickly got into the water and swam out. I think this is the only time I had anxiety and I think it was more the cold water hitting my body than anything else, because it was quickly gone.
Now, I had been dreading the swim start from the beginning. 2550 people aiming for one turn buoy means there was going to be some contact. And there was, but nothing too bad for awhile. I swam and swam and swam. Now, I breathe to my right, so for the first mile I was looking directly at the Monona Terrace, filled with spectators. SO COOL!
Got to the first buoy and it was crowded. Came up for air to get around everyone. Did my token "Moo!" – this corner has been deemed "moo corner", probably b/c we are all in there like cattle – so when in Wisconsin... MOO!
Got to the second turn buoy and turned and THAT is when the real contact began. Not sure if it was because now I was in the thick of the pack or what, but I kept getting hit, pulled on, yanked on, etc. I don't know how many times I thought, "oh, that's gonna be a bruise". But I just kept swimming.
Other than the brawling in the water, this stretch was good. I will say I had to sight less than ever. Swimming behind/amongst 2500 people gives you little to question about where you should be going.
Rounded the third corner, fourth – now back onto the long stretch. By this time, I had been kicked in the face a couple times and my goggles were super-suctioned, creating a headache for me. I pulled them off for a second, just to relieve the tightness and it worked, my headache slowly went away.
Then I was past the Terrace-- when's the turn buoy? Nope, not that one. Nope, not that one. Wow! that stretch is a loooong way. I don't think I realized it the first time, must've been the adrenaline wearing off.
Two more turns, not so bad this time-- the crowds had thinned out and I was on my last long stretch. I'll be honest, my mind was wandering. I was thinking of other things and just had to re-focus, re-focus, re-focus. Then I wondered if I wasn't working hard enough (since my mind was wandering) and I had to remind myself that I was in for a loooong day, so giving it what I could without exhausting myself was probably the right decision.
Last turn– now it was time to bring it home. The pace picked up for everyone, so I did too. I got to the edge, looked at the clock 1:17– yay! I was hoping to finish 1:15-1:45, so I was right where I wanted to be.
Out of the water and onto land. I was out of my wetsuit and onto the ground, waiting for the strippers. They did their job and I was up and running.
Now, this part I was worried about a little. Normally, I don't even really have energy to run to transition after a normal (much shorter) swim and here I was going to run a long transition UPHILL through a parking ramp after swimming for over an hour? What will my family and friends think if they see me walking? Well, I didn't have to worry about it. I had so much energy and adrenaline pumping through my body. I was ready to run.
I saw Jamey ahead of me. Caught him and we ran up the parking ramp together. We saw my family- they cheered! Jamey's fiance and mom had found my family and they were all together. Crazy! I made big muscles, more smiling and just kept going.
This was the start of a great day!
Our pre-race was awesome! As I wrote before, I went about this year making this Ironman an “event” for us. For me, I wanted to make everything from training to post-race the best it could be. This is my FIRST (and very likely only) Ironman and I wanted it to be special.
Lunch with RMTC friends (Friday)
I belong to a very cool, fun, supportive tri-club in the Denver area-- Rocky Mountain Tri Club. There were 10 of us doing the race and over the last 6 months we had met up for a few workouts, seen each other at races and just talked about the impending IM. We decided to all meet up for lunch on Friday to sit back, relax, catch-up and talk about the day to come. What a great way to start our weekend!
Athlete’s Dinner (Friday night).
Let’s make something clear, you don’t go to the athlete’s dinner for the food, you go for the atmosphere. They had about an hour long program during dinner where they highlight some of the oldest & youngest people entered in the race, those who had lost a lot of weight, doing their FIRST triathlon, etc. It was very motivational and encouraging. Additionally, it also gave me time to meet up with friends who were also racing I didn’t see at lunch—Alicia, Jill, Niki, Courtney. Jamey (from RMTC) noted about how I seemed to have collected a conglomeration of friends through training. He’s right and I am glad I did.
Bike and gear check-in (Saturday)
Now, there was nothing special about this, in particular. The only thing I really noted was that from the time I showed up, I was grinning from ear-to-ear. Checking in our bags and gear was the final thing we had to do before race day and I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was soooo ready.
Pre-race dinner with the family (Saturday night)
Now I have made it no secret I couldn’t wait to share this experience with my family. Awhile ago I asked my mom if she would host a pasta dinner the night before and she said sure. So Saturday afternoon/evening I got to spend with my family. My aunt, uncle and cousins drove in from Michigan, plus Ross' parents and my sisters and their families were over—18 total— all planning on supporting us the following day, either by being along the course or by watching the kids. Everyone was excited and happy. I had made shirts for everyone and they got them. This way, we would be able to see them (and they could also see each other better) at the race.
I kicked everyone out of my parent’s home (except them) at 7:30 and got ready for bed. As we went to bed, I had NO anxiety. None. And the fact that I didn’t have any scared me a little bit. So I asked Ross if I wasn’t taking this seriously enough and he reminded me just how seriously we had taken this whole year. We were just ready.
The following morning couldn't get there fast enough!
I knew that having my family and friends there to support me would mean the world, but I didn't expect to be so moved and motivated from the rest of the people - complete strangers - but I was. There were signs along the course, chalk painted, shirts worn, people dressed up-- everything you could possibly think of to help the athletes smile and/or be motivated to continue. And it worked.
I thought I would share with you some of the signs I saw that stuck with me:
There will be a day when you can no longer do this. Today IS NOT that day. At the start before we entered the water.
Bike like you stole it. Towards the start of the bike.
I am a COMPLETE STRANGER and I am really proud of you. On the bike and on the run.
Ironmen are Sexy. But IRONWOMEN are sexier. On the bike and on the run.
Pain is weakness leaving the body. Chalked on an uphill on the run.
If you are going through hell, KEEP GOING. On a hill on the bike and on miles 12 and 25 of the marathon.
Packer win 27-20. Just made me happy!
Internet results are forever. Mile 22 turnaround. Sounds vain, but it actually motivated me to get faster till the end.
Not only were the signs amazing, but the people dressed up. I saw gladiators, guys in pink bikini bottoms, big girl panties, cow suits-- just about everything you can imagine. If you can, cheer for the athletes by name (their names are on their bibs). And if you are an athlete, consider putting your name on your shirt. My bib got all ripped up and would have liked to hear people rooting for me by name.
Anyways, to all the random people out there that are there for "their" athletes, know that you have affected us all and thank you! Your support totally helped me (and I am sure many others) get through the day.
To my own super-spectactular Spectathletes, I love you and more on you later. :)
Tip: If you are just looking for info on the course, print out pages 4-9. The first 3 pages are about spectating us.
Ways to Spectate from home:
Follow us on Twitter. See this post if you don't know how.
Follow us on Athlete Tracker, which is on the Ironman Website. (At the start of the race you will see a link for the Athlete Tracker under the coverage tab of the event on the home page of Ironman.com.)
-- you can search by last name (Strand) or bib numbers: Ross = 1122, Randi = 2481.
-- Note: this is sometimes delayed for up to an hour or so.
Hope that helps and hope to "see" you Sunday!
I feel ready. Excited. Anxious-- in a good way. And just happy.
We took this Ironman on as a major life goal. Not one to be taken lightly.Our goal: just to finish.
If we were gonna do it "right", I wanted to make it a complete experience. Involve the people around me, draw on them for support. Hire a coach to help us with our form, nutrition, mental, everything. Make friends and bond with others going through the same thing, if possible. To share this experience with others (hence, this blog) to make them feel a more a part of our goal and/or to inspire them to reach for goals of their own.
But as Ironman gets closer, the whole thing is just coming full circle, and it's awesome. Things are coming together. I hit my last few hard workouts, making me feel like, "yes, I can finish this". I thought over all that I have done to get me prepared and I have no regrets. I can do this. I met some awesome folks along the way (too many to mention here), but I plan to make as many of them a part of my time in Madison as possible.
I made a spectator guide (more on this later) that made me go over the course in my head, again getting me very excited. As the day has drawn closer, people have been popping out of the woodwork-- saying they are coming to Madison and/or going to be on the course. And the support we have received from everyone-- whether they will be in Madison or not-- it is just UNREAL! I can't tell you how much this has meant to me.
So, everyone asks how we are doing. We are ready and excited. I compare it a lot to our wedding in that you plan, plan, plan for a long, long time. At some point, you just gotta relax, realize that you did everything you could and just enjoy the day. The caterer (or our legs) are gonna show up or they are not. And there is nothing you can do about it at this point. Just roll with it.
Perhaps what I wanted most out of this experience was to get to the start line feeling prepared, not scared. And that's where I stand.
The goal now-- TO FINISH THIS!
Side note: Many people have asked us if we are gonna do another one. Maybe...but not for awhile. We've really enjoyed this year, but with two small kids, it takes a lot of time from them that we aren't willing to make as part of our constant lifestyle. We say maybe in 4-5 years when the buggers are a little older and more self-reliant. Maybe. :) (I said that about marathons 8 years ago, too...13 marathons ago.)
While I don't plan to be an avid Twitter'er (I am sure there is a more tech-savvy, hip name for Twitter users, I just don't know it. How uncool am I?), anyways, I did it because some people out here expressed wanting to follow us on race day-- and those were also people who are pretty unfamiliar with athlete tracker (Ginger...).
For those of you who don't know Twitter, there are two ways you can use it to get updates.
If you want to follow us online on race day:
Log onto: http://twitter.com/ironstrand
and look for updates on September 12th about how we are doing. You don't have to sign-up for anything, just log-on intermittently during the day and see how we are doing. I will have my sister doing the updating.
**If you would like to have updates sent to your mobile:**
- Go to Twitter.
- Click on "sign-up". Create an account for yourself. It's free!
** You will have to add your cell phone number in when you are creating the account if you want to be notified via text messages. You may have to confirm your number via text message with Twitter.
- After you have created an account, go to http://twitter.com/ironstrand
- Click on the "+Follow" button and you will be added.
- Once you are a follower, click on this button:
- NOW, whenever Stacey *tweets* on race day, you will receive a message of where we are, how we are doing, etc.
Only 8 days left!!!
Anyways, many months ago, I was talking to a lifelong friend and she asked me "what motivated me continue to do my workouts every day". Hmm??? It was weird because I just was. I was/am very motivated to go out and workout everyday to attain my goal.
I thought about it and thought about it. Why was I doing this? And, to be honest, I am not really sure. To this day, I am STILL not very sure other than the desire to complete our goal.
I will say that what I thought about was: The Echo.
Now, what is The Echo? The Echo is a small sports bar in Madison. Ironically, it has been a part of both Ross and mine lives-- as singles and as married folk. As singles, Ross spent way more time than I there, but even as we dated and later married, The Echo is where we celebrated many happy occasions.
It's also where:
- I ran to/from on my long runs for my first marathon. Johnny served me kiddie cocktails when I was done.
- We attended a Festivus party, later that night, Ross proposed.
- We head before/after Badger basketball and hockey games.
- We planned our IM from over burgers and cocktails, September 7, 2008.
It's been 8 years since we have lived in Madison, but we still continue to love the place, the bartenders and clientele. Some things will never change and one of them is the Echo--if you have spent any amount of time in this bar over time, you will agree.
So, why did I think about The Echo? Because that is where we plan to be after the Ironman-- assuming we are still coherent and all. :) It's not that we want to dart off after the race to start drinking, but it is where we hopefully plan to finish what we started.
Getting there symbolizes accomplishing our goal. Doing what we set out to do. AND, it keeps us grounded. We're just two peeps from good-ole Madison, and we want to remember the good times the way we always have.
So, find us THERE September 12, 2010. As IRONMEN. :)
What's this all about anyways?
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