Last Sunday’s Ironman Wisconsin can be summed up in one word.
From the moment the gun went off at 7a until 10:30p (and later) when triathletes were still pounding the State Street pavement, there wasn’t a second when I wasn’t accutely aware of the effort and determination that went into training and actually doing 140.6.
Nick and I arrived just in time for the start on Lake Monona – and, what a sight: thousands of lime green and hot pink swim caps bobbing in the water. Never having been to a WTC triathlon (just local tris and Nick’s 140.6 last year in Oklahoma), I had no idea it was an in-water swim start. Holy terrifying. I need to quell this fear if I plan on doing an iron[wo]man next year!
After the swim started, we found a spot on the spiral ramp to cheer for triathletes running to T1. It was pretty cool to see the pros race by, but even cooler to see age-groupers, enormous smiles plastered on their faces.
Even after most triathletes were on the bike, the energy on shore was contagious. The crowd roared as the last triathletes neared the end of the 2.4-mile swim – and neared the swim cutoff of 2:20. Not gonna lie, I teared up as the final rock star woman stood up and ran out of the water and then again when a couple others missed the cutoff by thismuch. After all that training, how heartbreaking.
Coffee in hand, we made our way back to the car and out to the hill on Old Sauk Road. It didn’t seem tough walking up it, but whoa… Nick and I biked it the following day, and I completely understand why some people walk their bikes up it. It is steep. At one point my Garmin read 12 percent grade.
The hill is also the place to cheer. The entire ascent was lined with cowbell-banging, speedo-wearing, sign-holding, wig-wearing, Sherpa-ing super fans who supported and helped motivate every single triathlete climbing that hill. Nick, teammates Suraya + Eric and I hollered our heads off, especially when we saw our teammates; all of them – Michele, Deion, Chris, Sarah, Vince, Chuck and Brian – beamed as they biked by.
The hill crowd thinned out toward the end of the second loop, so we made our way back to State Street downtown Madison to get some food (cheering works up a voracious appetite…!) and cheer along the marathon course. People were everywhere, lining the streets and spilling into the sidewalks. Seeing so many race fans – support crews, volunteers, families, friends – was pretty awesome. Of all the races I’ve done or spectated, ironman fans take the cake. Never have I seen so many personalized t-shirts, crazy costumes and inspirational (and hilarious… ironman = worst threesome ever) signs at a race.
We snagged a sweet spot on the last corner before the finisher’s chute and hooted+hollered when friend Nick ran by en route to a third place age group finish – and a trip to Kona 2013. Wowza. Determination and hard work add up to incredible accomplishments. Big congrats, Nick!
We didn’t stop cheering until most of our teammates crossed the finish line (14 hours of yelling = hoarse voice for five days). And, as every single one ran by – several 140.6 first-timers – I couldn’t help but swell with happiness and excitement at their amazing accomplishment. I mean, it’s 140.6 miles. In a row. Pushing yourself to the very edge for nine to 16 consecutive hours. After months of training and many 20+ hours a week training.
So, so awesome.
Well done, ironmen and iron[wo]men! Thank you for motivating me to push a little harder on each and every workout, for showing me what can be done with dedication and persistence, for inspiring me to put 140.6 on my 2013 calendar. You are all amazing!
And, I can’t wait to be inspired again at Ironman Florida in November!