A Little Rusty
Almost exactly a year ago today (if you don’t count the time change) I finished my first Ironman Triathlon. I’ve been thinking a lot about that day lately, mostly because for some reason I’ve been having a lot of weird dreams that somehow involve it. It was a long day in Madison, but the last year has provided enough of a cushion for me to look back on it relatively painlessly. Here are some of the things that stick clearest in my memory:
1. The swim involves an open water start, which means everybody needs to get into Lake Monona before the gun goes off at 7am. Sounds simple enough… but what they don’t tell you is that the water is too deep to stand up in, and that everybody needs to file into the water over the time-chip pad, which means that I had to tread water for about half an hour before the race even began! Not too pleasant. Treading water is always draining, no matter how loud you play “Start Me Up” from the PA.
2. The amount you get kicked in the face during a 2.4 mile swim should be treated as a separate event. Swimming, Biking, Running, and Getting Kicked in the Face.
3. The bike course around Madison and Verona is gorgeous. And it feels cool to go 42 mph down a hill. So does speeding down a road flanked on both sides by cheering fans and suddenly seeing your family for the first time. It doesn’t, however, feel cool to break a derailleur with 25 miles to go, forcing you to finish the race in the hardest gear.
4. During the bike-run transition I discovered that I had accidentally stowed mis-matched socks in my bag. This worked out well though, because I was unsure which pair of socks to wear, both having been given to me as a gift. In the end I got to wear one of each! I never would have thought of that.
5. I spilled my entire tube of salt pills a mere 100 yards out of the starting line for the run. That felt kinda stupid. But then after that I felt surprisingly good for the next 15 miles!
6. I’d rather not talk about miles 16-20.
7. Okay, I’ll say one thing. I did not know loneliness until I entered the University of Wisconsin stadium for the second lap around the track around mile 17. The seats were empty, and all that could be seen or heard were about 20 other completely wrecked runners.
8. At mile 21 my dad and my brother joined me for about three miles. It was against the rules and it made me nervous but it will probably go down in history as one of my favorite memories.
9. At the beginning of the day (about 4am), I walked to the starting area with a slight limp because my knee was bothering me. I truly did not know if I had any chance at finishing. Fortunately it turned out that 8 hours of swimming and running were just what I needed to warm it up, and I managed to pseudo-sprint the last 400 meters around the capital building and across the finish line.
10. At the finish I didn’t know whether to scream or cry or laugh or hurl or collapse. I guess that’s why they have a team of people there to stay with you until you find whoever’s there for you.
I ended up doing better than I had hoped. Well, not as well as I’d originally hoped, but after a summer of bulged discs and knee injuries, my highest hope that day was to finish in maybe 14 hours. I was mostly just happy to finish at all.
There was one thing I did know when I crossed that finish line, and that’s that I would never do another Ironman Triathlon again. But a year can do funny things to one’s convictions… Zurich 2015, anyone? Mitchell, I’m looking at you.