I can now say that I am IRONMAN! After following my
brother’s training and his race at IMWI in 2010, I can finally join him. We are now the Ironmen, as one of our friends called us.
All I have to say about the whole year is that it has been tough, especially in the end where you can almost see the light but it is at the end of a 100 mile training bike ride or a 15 mile training run. Getting in those few last weeks of high volume training was really hard.Then came taper, a period where you let your body rest and by rest, I mean REST. Workouts are cut to a minimum. Instead of training 16-18 hours in your high volume weeks, you are down to 9-12 hours and lots of time to do nothing else but rest. You are going crazy waiting for race day to get here but on the positive side, you suddenly have the time to do things that you haven’t done since your Ironman training began. Now, I will go over almost everything that happened on that beautiful day in September. Almost everything, because there are some things that I just don’t remember.
Friday: Athlete Check-In & Thai
The day we left for Madison, WI was here before I knew it and we were off on our 140 mile drive to Madison. What a great city and what great support they have for the race and triathletes who come there from around the world to do their best on the course. We arrived to Madison Friday around 4 pm and I was dreading standing in line at athlete check-in for a couple of hours, at least that’s what I heard it can be toward the end of the last day. Surprisingly it went by pretty quickly. Got my weight recorded, signed some waivers and picked up the race packet. I was very excited to finally get all of this stuff, it meant that the race itself was not far away at all. Soon I was done with the check-in and decided to go through the Ironman store with my wife, Julia. After the store, we decided to take a stroll through downtown Madison and then headed to the hotel to check-in. Friday was the evening for me to load up on carbs for the race. Anything in the downtown Madison area pretty much guaranteed that we would be standing in line since all of the athletes needed to carbo-load, so we picked Sa-Bai Thong, a Thai place just outside of Madison, which ended up being a pretty good idea. After dinner we went downtown once again to walk around and then headed home to get some sleep.
Saturday: Bike Check-In & Italian
Saturday was a pretty uneventful day except for bike check-in and transition bag drop off. After dropping off the bike and making sure everything was OK, I dropped off the run and bike transition bags and headed to the Ironman store once again. I was eying some things that I would get after finishing the race. After bike drop-off we decided to get some lunch at a place downtown where me and my brother ate when in Madison for training, Francesca’s Al Lago. It seemed like they were a little understaffed for that busy weekend but the food was good and we were not in a hurry. After lunch we headed back to the hotel where I passed out on the bed for a couple of hours, even though I was trying hard to stay awake so I can get a good night’s sleep before the race.
Around 8:00 pm, my brother Konstantin, his wife Anna and their daughter Gabrielle drove up. They came for mental support for me and to take photos of the race for www.tribug.com. While waiting for them to drive up from Chicago, heavy rain started coming down in Madison and all of my thoughts were concentrated on them getting to us safely and my bike not getting washed out into lake Monona. We chatted for a couple of hours and soon it was time to say good night. Julia and Konstantin would drive up with me at 5 am and would be there the whole day, Anna and Gabrielle would join us later.
That night I did not go to sleep till about 1:00 am. My alarm was going to go off at 3:30 am. I knew sleeping earlier during the day was not going to be of any help.
Sunday: Max…You are an Ironman
My alarm rang at 3:30 am. I was already too nervous and excited to go back to sleep so no snooze this time. I got up, ate breakfast, drank some coffee and went to take a shower to warm up and wake up myself even more. Before I knew it, my brother was knocking on our door, he was all ready to go.
We packed our things into the car and headed to the race site. It was about a 10 minute drive and soon we were parking and walking down toward the Monona Terrace. The town was still asleep by the terrace was filled with athletes, support crews, relatives, race organizers and pets.
I went to the bike transition area and dropped off water bottles filled with Gatorade and water, then I went to get my number marked on me and at the end, dropped off a few things that I forgot to put into the transition bags. Then I met up with Julia and Konstantin and we just hung out until about 30 minutes before the start.
Body Glide is a lifesaver and if not for it then a lot of athletes would be in a lot of pain. Soon my wetsuit was on and we were heading down the parking lot helix to the swim start. That nervous feeling was beginning to creep up again. I said “Bye” to my wife and brother and got in line to get into the water. As soon as I hit the water, the nervous feeling was gone and I started making my way further away from the shore. After wading for a few minutes, the canon went off and the race was on.
First 20 minutes of the swim is pretty much like swimming in a washing machine. You are hitting the people ahead of you with your arms and the people behind you with your feet. For the most part, I swam the first 20 minutes with my head out of the water so that I see who is in front of me and so that I don’t get hit in the face. After the first 2 left turns, the crowd thinned out and I was able to get into a nice pace. My left shoulder started to hurt a lot, not sure why. Other than the shoulder hurting, the rest of the swim went great.
Transition from the swim to bike was 9:39 minutes and I thought I was moving fast. The volunteer tossed everything out of my transition bag and helped me put everything on. It was a bit chilly so I decided to put on my arm warmers and kept them on until the run.
Bike started out great. I felt rested and nothing hurt for the first 40 miles. At mile 60 I started to have doubts whether I can run a marathon after biking for 52 miles more. I saw my wife and brother on the first loop and saw them with Anna and Gabrielle on the second loop. It was great seeing familiar faces and knowing that they were out there tired and hungry but still waiting to see and support me. At mile 90, I could not wait to get off the bike and the last 22 miles seemed to go on forever. Soon though, I saw the Monona Terrace, was
riding up the parking lot helix and was handing my bike to a volunteer. I took my cycling shoes off and tried to run into the transition area on my wobbly two legs. That was an interesting experiment.
Transition to the run was much faster but it could still be improved. It took me 5:06 minutes to get all of the bike gear out of my jersey, take the arm warmers off, put gels and a 5 hour energy shot in my pockets and get in a quick bathroom break.
The first 3 miles were more of a shuffle then a run. I had to walk a few times to get my Another 6.5 miles of running and we are back in downtown Madison, so close to the finish line and yet we still have 13 miles left. I asked for my special needs bag, looked into it, dropped off a small body glide that I was carrying with me and left. I was happy that my feet were not rubbing and nothing was hurting. The next 6 miles included more of the same, some running but mostly walking, especially on the Observatory Hill. I get to the second loop turnaround and once again see my wife and my brother which, with a ton of other people and volunteers, helped me run through that portion of the course.feetready for the 26 mile trek. After the first few miles I got into a rhythm and would walk only the aid stations. I would alternate and take in water at one aid station and take in Gatorade at the next. The cramps that showed some sign of life on the bike never appeared and I was very happy. Mile markers for the first and second loop were placed close together and all through that first loop I was imagining what it will be like running the second loop and wishing it was the second loop already. After walking/running the Observatory hill, I was finally at the turnaround and that is where I got to see my family and friends. I ran through the whole portion, hugged my wife, high fived my brother and felt great. 18 miles to go.
The next 6.5 miles were the toughest and the best for me. I knew that this day would be over soon but it was coming to an end much faster than I thought. The Observation Hill seemed much longer this time around and seeing my family seemed to help a lot more. The miles kept going by and soon I was at the State St. heading toward the finish. I was trying to push it at the end but a slight uphill took it out of me and I had to walk a bit. Once that hill was over I regained some strength and started running towards the finish line.The finish line chute was amazing. I was pumped up on the energy of all the spectators and volunteers, high-fiving the families and kids who came out to see their athlete finish this amazing journey. When I stepped over the finish line, I knew it was over. I cannot say that I wanted to do it all over again that minute but I knew that this wasn’t my last Ironman triathlon. A little later I got my medal, my Ironman hat and t-shirt and some water. I made sure that the volunteer who helped me walk everywhere knew that I was ok and that I didn’t need any medical attention. I made my way to the exit, saw my wife and gave her a big hug. Everything felt great!
Total: Swim – 1:07:10 + Bike – 6:12:04 + Run – 4:46:32 + (T1 – 9:39, T2 – 5:06) = 12:20:31
We met up with my brother, his wife and their daughter after the race, got my bike and transition bags and went to the hotel. I took a long hot shower and then we ordered a couple of pizzas as an additional prize for finishing the race. We wanted to go back and watch the athletes who would come in closer to the cut off time but everyone was a little tired so we didn’t, which I still regret. We will definitely do it next time.
I was worried about what I would wear for the race but at the end I decided to go with the De Soto TriBib shorts, which worked out great. It has side pockets that I used to hold my gels on the run and bike and it has the bib part that held it nicely in place for the duration of the race.
The other gear was the same as I have always used: TriBug.com jersey, Asics Gel-DS Trainer, Balega Hidden dry socks, gels, bars, and a pair of sunglasses.
After completing this race, all I have to say is “I WILL BE BACK!”.