For most Ironman Wisconsin athletes, this was the last big weekend of work. The final dress rehearsal. Last chance to practice pacing, fueling and equipment.
When I tossed out the idea of Epic Saturday to the IronMoo Crew, we came up with Barrington as a host site. Barrington clearly could not handle our energy. No one would offer up a pool early enough for us. Sorry, but you can’t start Epic Saturday during adult swim at 1 pm.
Leave it to The Bus to come up with a different plan. He graciously offered up his parents home nestled on the shore of Long Lake. A bike and run route were created. Maps were made. Epic Saturday was born – again.
We drove up Saturday morning arriving at 6:45 am. It was like any other race site – park in the field, unload your equipment to carry it to transition, stop in the porta potty.
Wait – porta potty? In someone’s front lawn? Yes, The Bus had a honeywell delivered to the lawn for us to use. I told everyone they had to use it at least once to get our money’s worth.
Transition was in the driveway. Find a pole, a wall, a tree, anything sturdy enough to prop up your bike. What impressed me most was how organized everyone was. Athletes were walking in with towels, coolers, everything they would need to make the most out of their epic day. They were literally setting up their space like it was a transition area. I think what pleased me the most was that - they were taking it seriously. Not that I doubted them but like I said in the last post – when you help an athlete take their training seriously, they do take it seriously. They make notes, write lists, have plans – they leave nothing to chance and they don’t wing it. It’s all about execution of a plan.
Of course I was participating in a partial epic Saturday. Which meant I had to get my transition area set up too. I was in the pro rack with my husband. I almost went monkeyshit when he was THAT guy who accidentally touched my bike and tipped it to the ground.
Everyone arrived on time except for EE. He came screaming down the hill, bags, a cooler, shoes hanging off his one arm while the other arm was steering his bike in a squirrel’s path. Transition was just about to close but he just made it in with a little outside assistance from Papa Bus.
We all got together for a PreRace Meeting. The Bus explained the course and I offered up a few final coachisms – which at this point in athlete’s Ironman training should be nothing more than “practice as you plan to race.” No surprises on race day. Everything should work because you’ve done it over and over again – your pacing, your fueling, your strategy.
Athletes headed down to the shore of Long Lake. Long Lake was beautiful. The sun was shining and the lake was calm. I believe I was the one who said ready-set-go!- but I can’t remember because in a moment I was swimming and had nothing on my mind but keeping up!
This group has some strong swimmers. Immediately Jen was on my right and we were engaging in that type of tussle you have in a race where someone is swimming right next to you, right into you, right on you. It was just like a race! I was keeping KL in my sight as she pulled away from the group. Meanwhile, The Bus pulls up to my left and now I am in a Bus and Jen sandwich. Give me some room, guys! We have the entire lake. It gets better! EE squeaks in front of me and then slows down with a massive kick. TURN OFF THE BUBBLES, dammit! No sooner did I realize I was mounting him than I made a quick dart left, picked up the pace and found some clean water!
The three of us set out toward the shore and I just kept thinking about what it takes to keep up. The other day someone asked me what I thought about when swimming – KEEPING UP! What does it take with your form, finding just the right position in someone’s draft. I was right in KL’s draft and I was NOT giving this spot up! Chris even said – you were hauling ass on the way back! I know! It was do or die out there. I don’t need to go for a solo lake swim….you have a good swimmer in front of you and you better work to hold their draft!
After that rocky race start, I found a clean line to the buoy. Yes, The Bus had borrowed some buoys from the local yacht club and put them up in the lake about .8 miles away. I noticed that KL had picked up another good swimmer – that would be my husband who has a distinct flick of his hand with every stroke. I was hoping they would stop at the buoy so I could then focus on their feet on the way back.
KL exited the water via boat ramp ladder first but I – fresh off of nearly 2 months of no racing with a competitive streak right now that would steal candy out of a baby’s hand – ran right around her to make it to the grassy area first. VICTORY IS MINE!
I was, however, beat in transition. It was 60 degrees out – I was changing into dry shorts! And, have you ever tried to change from wet shorts into dry shorts? This was perhaps the most challenging workout of the day. On top of trying to convince everyone to wait for me while I had an entire Luna Bar shoved in my mouth.
Everyone made it out of the swim in speedy times. Some of these athletes had never worn a wetsuit prior to this year, never swam in a lake, had very little swim experience. I was so impressed! The nice thing about being a triathlete in Chicago is that you can get a lot of open water experience in Lake Michigan all summer long. That builds so much confidence and skill for race day.
We set out on the bike course – Chris, CC, RP, MK and I. Hey, I listened this morning when The Bus said the race was draft legal! We rode a short 7 minutes before realizing we had made a wrong turn. The map was wrong! I told RP that the race director would hear about this but we were soon on our way in the right direction.
I did everything I could to hold Chris’ wheel. We had tailwind at this point so that meant I was working pretty hard to match his tailwind pace. The first 45 minutes of the ride were mostly uncomfortable and I was with Chris. But then we hit the headwind and some hills – he took off so I focused on keeping CC in my sight instead.
I set out to only ride 2 hours today. So after that point I was finished, rinsed off and put on my coach’s visor. I waited for the crew to roll in after each loop. Each loop was about 24 miles. No one was riding alone – throughout all of this training they’ve found someone right at their pace in each sport.
Everyone looked great. You know how sometimes you say that in Ironman and it’s complete bullshit? I’m not BS-ing you – they really did look great! Some stopped after every loop, others after every two loops. Their spirits were high and confidence was building. It also helped that we had an aid station in transition with Nutter Butter Wafers. Two packages of those – gone. But this brings up a good point – if there is something you really look forward to on the bike then by all means put it in your special needs bag; Nutter Butters, a toasty Pop Tart, a Pay Day, maybe even…A STICKLE!
The first one back to T-2 was The Bus. Unfortunately it was only a short while later that The Bus broke down. The culprit? Not enough water today. But no harm done. That’s why we do Epic Saturday – to test it out, to see what happens. Better it happens today than on race day. Afterward, he came up to me, told me what he did wrong and how he was going to fix it. Kudos to The Bus for doing that. So many athletes will piss and moan about a bad workout without looking back at what happened and then moving forward with how to fix it. There’s always a reason – find it, fix it, move forward!
Chris and I drove out to the middle of the run course to provide an aid station and also got to watch a criterium for boats. I guess it’s called a Regatta. Really it’s a bunch of boats going in a circle. There is no prime bell and if you crash, no free lap. The run course went around Long Lake and it was a beautiful view – with a few hills, too.
We went back to the transition area to make sure everyone else rolled in and ran out. To give them motivation where they would need it most. But honestly – they didn’t need it! LS rolled in and when I asked her how she was doing she said “just getting it done.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s all Ironman is about the first time around. Just get it done. Don’t worry about how fast you’re going, how far to go. Get it done one step at a time.
Everyone survived Epic Saturday. 1.6 mile swim, 90 to 100 mile bike and a 4 to 5 mile run. There was no winner declared because, well, you know – everyone was a winner today. That sounds sappy but…each person is out there for their own race. Their own reasons, their own time. This is not about how you compare to anyone else. Ironman will be their day.
September 13th is almost here. The days are already cooling off and I can feel summer coming to an end. I’ve seen four seasons change with this group and I’m getting antsy to watch them cross the finish line. I’ve seen them all change too and I know they’ll finish this whole experience in a much different place than they started. The distance they travel on race day will be nothing compared to all the miles getting them there with today being just a few more miles of confidence.