BENEFITING: THE IRONMAN FOUNDATION
ORGANIZER: THE IRONMAN FOUNDATION
EVENT: IRONMAN Race for Free 2014
As many of you know, I set out on a quest to complete an Ironman in 2013 by competing in Ironman Copenhagen in August 2013. For those of you unfamiliar with Ironman, it's a triathlon event comprised of a 2.4 mile (3.8 km) swim, 112 mile (180 km) bike and 26.2 mile (42.2 km) run. Prior to 2013, I had never completed a triathlon of any distance due to my poor swimming ability and fear of open water. Since then, I have completed 4 Olympic distance triathlons, 1 Half Ironman triathlon and most recently my first full qualifying Ironman in Nice, France on 29 June 2014. I am now on a journey to complete my 2nd Ironman this season in Madison, WI on 7 September 2014. This has special meaning to me being it’s in the state I grew up and also because I am doing this one for charity. I have committed to raise $3,000 for the Ironman Foundation, which will go to support various local charities in the Madison, Wisconsin area. Its one way for both athletes and the Ironman organization to give back to the communities it competes in. While I got a late start on fundraising and have just 6 days to raise $3,000, I feel confident it can be done. Please consider a donation of any amount as all are welcome and will be put to good use helping the local Madison community. Thanks in advance for your support and hope to see some of you along the racecourse.
For those of you interested in the rest of my Ironman story, here is how it all unfolded:
While returning from a Germany in August 2012, I decided to see what Ironman was all about and detoured to see a good friend of mine, Lars Ronning, compete in Ironman Copenhagen in August 2012. I was so inspired by the event that I committed to him I would be back in a year to compete in the full Ironman in Copenhagen.
When I returned to the States, I wasted no time and first registered for the event. I then started training and mainly focused on the swim, which was not easy. As my personal trainer and swim coach, Liz Golan, said when we first started; “I have never saw somebody work so hard in the water and not move”! So, you can see, I had my work cut out for me. Although, throughout the winter, I pushed myself to run mornings and swim evenings and little by little things were coming together. My swim was not good but at least I was moving. As spring arrived, I focused on road biking and open water swimming in lakes instead of pools and found pleasure in hitting the open road with the bike, which is my favorite of the 3 sports. I proceeded by registering in 2 Olympic distance triathlons and one Half Ironman during the summer before the main event in Copenhagen.
The first Olympic race was mentally challenging despite staying close to shore for the swim but I somehow got through it despite being asked to quit the swim by police boats. The second Olympic race was in my hometown of Lake Zurich, Illinois and required swimming across the lake and back, which really had me intimidated. The first few hundred meters of the swim had me thinking allot but after a while I just kept going and did not think much about it. I remember coming out of the water seeing my family cheering with my daughter Madeleine saying; “Oh my goodness, you actually finished!” I was saying the same thing to myself and almost in disbelief and went on to have a good bike and an average run. While my swim was still slow, I for some reason lost my run. This led me back to my trainer Liz asking what could I do to fix this. After several of her unconventional drills, things started to click better than ever before and I was ready for the Half Ironman.
The Half Ironman event was held in Door County, Wisconsin and to this day is one of my favorite events and I hope to get back there in 2015. We arrived on a Friday evening and headed to the race site the next morning to practice swimming. It was quite windy and the water very choppy. I was saying to myself that if it’s like this tomorrow, I might not do this. As luck would have it, the next day had very little wind and what little there was blew outward making the water like glass in Green Bay (Lake Michigan). In short, the event was a success with all my average times were better despite longer distance and most notably on the run.
The time had now come for the main event, Ironman Copenhagen. We left the States on a Monday to allow for adequate time adjustment and training prior to the race the following Sunday. The week of preparation went fairly well and race day was soon upon me. Being this was my first Ironman, I was a little nervous what to expect but at least my good friend Lars was there it coach me on things, which was a big help! Although, race day finally arrived. I was quite nervous and it made matters worse by not being able to get a practice swim in before the race start, which is what I always do. The swim started off slow for me, and the water felt colder than Friday’s practice for some reason. At about 300 meters into it, I took some water into my lungs in a poor breath attempt and things went downhill from there as I was constantly trying to cough it out and eventually saw a pinkish color to what I was coughing. After 600 meters, I pulled off shore and talked with some race doctors along the course. They said I probably ruptured some bronchial tubes but it was not serious. Although, if they were to treat me, I would be out of the race. So, I decided to journey on and it was slow going. At several spots along the way, the same race doctors following me on a 4 wheeler from shore told me to quit. After several attempts to convince me, they moved on but I had the company of a woman following me on a kayak, who was very encouraging. I ended up finishing the swim but it was close to 3 hours and technically I was disqualified but was allowed to continue with the race. The next major hurdle was to complete the first bike loop by before 1:15 PM. My bike started off a little slow since my lungs had not returned to normal yet but after about 30 miles I was feeling normal again. The bike was going well but I ended up too late for the first cutoff and was disqualified and had to return to the bike finish, which was really demoralizing but I decided to run the marathon at the end nonetheless and finished it. In the end, I did all the distance except approximately 60 km on the bike. I was quite devastated to have not finished but was determined to try again and later signed up for Ironman France in June 2014.
Unlike Copenhagen, Ironman France has a very hilly bike with over 6,000 ft. of combined climb, which had some stunning scenery! I was not intimidated by the climbing since I love the bike and chose France given the warmer water and that the Mediterranean is one of the saltiest seas, which makes the swim arguably buoyant and fast. My planning ended up working out well in France for the most part. The swim was still slow but a qualifying time. Although, what ended up hurting me the most unexpectedly was the bike. The climb was actually not so bad up the mountain but when at the first peak and descent, rain and wind started, which made the roads slick and eventually me very cold to the point where I had to stop to warm up. Luckily, I came across a group of others experiencing the same fate huddled in plastic sheets trying to warm up. I was just over 90 km into the ride and planned to stop at 100 km to eat a sandwich I packed. Although, I figured best to now while I have resources to warm up. I proceeded to get off the bike and found myself in a fierce shivering from the cold. Luckily, I was able to get a plastic sheet and after using it as a blanket stuffed it inside my jersey to repel the wind and rain. I knew if I could warm enough to make the next hill climb that I would build enough warmth to perhaps feel good enough to go the distance. As it worked out, that’s what happened and luckily the rain and wind also stopped. I finally completed the bike in just under 8 hours, which was disappointing but at that point I was just glad to have completed it. I then went on to complete the run and finished first Ironman “officially” in 15 hours and 22 minutes. I was really hoping for less than 12 hours but it was an achievement nonetheless.
Going into my second Ironman this season in Madison, I am hopeful to do better not just for myself but also the charities I am helping to support and once again ask for your generosity. Many thanks to you all for taking time to read this message and your support. And, special thanks to my family for all their support behind all it takes to do these events. I could not do it without you! Special thanks also to Lars Ronning for his guidance with Ironman and Liz Golan for all the swim and run coaching!
All the best,