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Sun sets on my season with a big 'ole HARVEST MOON

Well, what better way can you think of to celebrate your IRONMANniversary than to do a half Ironman? Ok, so I can think of A THOUSAND other ways to commemorate the occasion, but that is what I happen to choose to do.

Harvest Moon is a half IM that is run at our local reservoir. I have wanted to do this race since we moved out here since I train out there ALL THE TIME. However, Harvest Moon is also run the same weekend as Ironman WI (I {heart} you IMMOO), so the last few years we have been back in Madison this same weekend. Needless to say, I have had HM on my race calendar for the last year.

Despite the anticipation for the race, I really didn't know what to expect. Physically, I am in pretty good shape. BUT, I strained my hamstring about a month before, so I hadn't been running, like at all. Physiology would say I should still be able to pr, but my head was reminding me how hard the course was compared to my pr course (sea level and flat). All that in mind, I went into it with two goals:
(1) To "race" my swim and bike. In the past, I have always conserved energy on my swim and bike, thinking it would help me on the run, but I have come to think that I may get even better results by pushing on the swim and run.
(2) To end up "somewhere around" my pr. Considering (a) my strained hammy, (b) the altitude and (c) that this course is HARD (read: hilly, exposed and windy), I wanted to keep my expectations in check.

The good thing about this race is that I was plenty familiar with the course and plenty familiar with the peeps racing it. Pre-race was pretty low-key– just perfect!
Me, Virginia, Shelly, Stu and Jason.
Started off the swim and all was well. I can't really say much for the swim. The beautiful thing about the Aurora res is that it is so clean you can follow bubbles. I did. Unfortunately, the bubbles/feet led me straight into a kayak, so evidently the feet didn't know where they were going. Oops! So from there on out, I tried siting myself.

This worked well till I turned around. Once heading back to shore, I couldn't tell which buoys I was supposed to be siting off of, so I did my best. At one point, Katy-I-am-EVERYWHERE-Blakemore showed up in her trusty kayak to tell me I was going the wrong way. That helped me out and then I was heading for the big, yellow buoy at the end.

Out of the water, saw Ross and he told me I was doing good (he always tells me that). :)

Onto bike and off on my way. Now, I won't say much about the bike other than it is hilly and windy. However, I know this, so I planned accordingly. Living close to the course, I got a chance to ride it and I could plan for where I was going to hammer it and where to go easy. Thankfully, I did it that way. I rode it smart and didn't hold back. AND, I ended up with a bike pr time, regardless of how windy and hilly it was. Go me!

Onto the run. So here is where the test was. Immediately out of transition and, yep, hamstring still strained. Great. I mean, OW! I worked on keeping getting my heart rate down. To be honest, not a whole lot of people passed me on the bike... and none in my division. That NEVER happens (must be improving on my bike). So I get out onto my run and I hurt. It was hot. No shade. Ugh. OK. Just get through this puppy, I told myself. Walk every aid station if you have to (I did).

I come upon aid station #1 and it is rock, stock and loaded with RMTC volunteers-- YAY! 
#1 tip to racing: If you can get into a race where there is an aid station with all of your tri club or run club homies - do it! So I ended mile one happy, hydrated and doused with water from head to toe. Off to miles 2-13.1.

I proceeded, not feeling the best. Now I was starting to have nutritional issues as well as hamstring issues. So I just plugged along. What I have gotten really good about is assessing my body and what I can push it to for the next "x" number of miles and continuing on at that pace.

At some point Katy-I -am-EVERYWHERE-Blakemore (I didn't mention it, but she was also on the bike course) rode up to chat and give me some encouragement. At that point, I saw her water bottle and contemplated asking her for it. See, I usually run with my own bottle, but figured I was getting stronger and I could just live off the course. Not so. My nutritional issues, I later deduced, were coming from the fact I didn't have my own bottle to sip out of. Instead I was guzzling at aid stations, causing all sorts of weird stuff. Anyways... back to the race.

I worked my way through it. Aid station by aid station. Aid stations were only 1 mile apart, but as I mentioned, it was HOT, so by the next aid station, I needed whatever they were selling. Oy, vey!

At the turnaround was Anne (Tyler's wife). Now the thing I absolutely LOVE about the tri community is the support. We all get it. And we would all do anything to help another racer (ex: Katy-I am-EVERYWHERE- Blakemore giving up her Sunday to, well, be everywhere for everyone). So when I passed Anne, I asked her to take my heart rate monitor (it was chafing bad). As I took it off, I realized how incredibly gross and sweaty it was-DISGUSTING! Anne didn't blink and was happy to help. Now that is love.

OK, onto my way home. The second half was just plug and go. 5-10 minutes behind me I saw Tyler. Cool! We had common time goals and he started 5-10 minutes behind me, so I figured we were both on track. Plug, plug, plug. Just get through the second half. So, I did.

Mile 11 aid station. Jason caught up with me. Wanted to rally me to the end. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep up. I was just getting so bogged down with the water at the aid stations-- but I NEEDED it as well. 

Mile 12. RMTC AID STATION!!! I got a good dousing of H20 on the head and I was home free. That is the ONLY aid station I did not walk through-- onward home!

Hit the end and there were Ross and the kiddos and, yes, A SLIP AND SLIDE!!! I took it like a pro!

And is that where the story ends? Well, yes and no. The race DID officially end there. As did my "season". But I got to hang out with my friends, enjoy the day and get up on an actual podium.
Linc on slip'n slide
What a cutie- him, not me!
Yes, I got 3rd place for my age group. So, I was happy with that. (no pictures of the podium, as Ross was at the beach with the kiddos-- what a good dad.)
On top of that, I reached my goals- I "raced the swim and bike" with no repercussions on the run (ie, I think the run would have turned out the same regardless of if I had conserved before) and a pr for me.

And what, per se, was my PRIZE for 3rd place? What did they award me for all of my hard work, diligence and contribution for the sport?
Wine. How appropriate.
The perfect way to kick off my "off season". What is that?


It was earlier this week and I got a text from a friend. It just said "Can you believe it's been almost a year?". I immediately knew what she was talking about.
Me and Courtney ready to take on Ironman WI 2010
 2 years ago, Ross and I took a fateful step and signed up for Ironman Wisconsin 2010... and last year we completed it.

A year later, I look back at our year of training and the event itself-- they were EPIC.
** I know the word epic is overused, so I looked it up in the thesaurus for synonyms. Here's what I found: astronomic, colossal, considerable, enormous, gigantic, ginormous, humongous*, jumbo, mammoth, massive, mega, monster*, monumental, prodigious, sizeable, tremendous, vast, very big, very large, whopping. (Who knew ginormous was actually a word?) I guess those would describe it as well.

What did I REALLY get out of the training and the event? Was it just bragging rights?

Starting: I thought so. I wanted to be an "Ironman".
Looking back: No way.

It's indescribable what I gained and learned over the year. Yes, my swim/bike/run form improved, as did my discipline, my drive and my dedication. Not just to sports, but to the other areas in my life.

Training not only taught me how to manage my time, but also how to improve the uses of it. While I am sure I spent less time at work, the time I did spend was more concentrated and I got more done. The time with my kids was cherished and special.

Among the other benefits I received from training:
  • Meeting amazing people along the way
  • Having goals and achieving them
  • Committing yourself to one purpose
  • Trying new things
  • Following through
  • Putting myself out there
  • Overcoming fear of failure
But most importantly, the support of others. This experience, and sharing it with my family and friends, brought to light how much they care about me and are willing to support me along the way. My mom crewing me in a 50, friends pitching in to watch the kids on big workout days, the turnout of friends and family at the event (AMAZING!) and those online. That is what I will always remember.

For anyone on the fence about doing an Ironman, I say DO IT!
 Everyone's journey through the experience is different and yields different results. You may go into the experience thinking that it will be a certain "way", it won't. You can plan all you want, but the experience will bring you what it does. While I thought that the year and my accomplishments would center around my swim/bike/running, it didn't. It was the emotional and spiritual benefits, not my fitness, that I will always remember and take with me. Even for those who sign-up and train and never make it to the finish line, the experience for those people too, will bring them more knowledge about themselves than most other experience in a lifetime.

If an Ironman were just about bragging rights, no one would do more than one.