Tuesday, September 13, 2011

IM MOO - The Race Report!!!!

Well here I am sitting in my hotel room coloring my hair, because I have time to do that again now that the Ironman is over (it has been on my to-do list for months, you really do not want to see how many gray hairs I had busting out all over my head), and I figured I should go ahead and write my Ironman Wisconsin race report. I think I am the most excited for this race report of any race report I have ever written. Grab a snack, this could be a long one.

So here is how the morning went down. I woke up at 4:30 after sleeping very little. Probably five hours, who knows. I hadn't really allowed myself to think about the swim start before I went to bed Saturday night so that was the first time I started to get anxious about it. I also visualized the whole race because I like to do that. I shoved a bagel down my throat even though I didn't really have a taste for anything, and we left the hotel at 5:00 am for the start. We did all the usual stuff - putting bottles on our bikes, checking our transition bags to make sure we had everything, making sure our stomachs were in good shape if you know what I mean, etc. Then we found our spectators and got a few last minute snaps taken. Here is me and my friend Jason who did the whole weekend with me and calmed me down SO MUCH. Thank you Jason, I highly recommend doing your first Ironman with a Buddhist who has done three before. He is a very calming influence. 

Then we went down to the water. I kind of couldn't breathe for a little while thinking about the swim start. So I just went as far left as I could, figuring I'd swim farther but be less likely to drown due to clubbing from my competitors or a panic attack. It was pretty mellow out there and I chatted with a few others trying to validate my swim lineup decision. My brother took this picture of the start... off we go!!!

I must say I was SHOCKED by the swim. It was so mellow!! The first turn buoy was crowded but nothing terrible at all. I only got hit in the head once, and it was nothing. I even did bilateral breathing the whole swim which I've been doing in the pool for almost a year but had never been able to do in a race due to nerves, contact, swimming all over the place, whatever. I felt like I was swimming well - strong, long strokes. The water felt a tiny bit choppy when we were going down the rectangle on the way out on both loops but it wasn't bad. The temperature was perfect - didn't feel cold but I also didn't feel like I was overheating. By the end of the second loop I would say I was more bored than tired.

I got out of the water and looked at the clock to find that my swim was 1:11. If I had to predict my swim time I would have said 1:10 so I was pretty happy. Frankly swimming is always my nemesis but I've worked really hard this summer and I do feel like I had a good swim.

Then we ran up the stupid, stupid helioplex. That thing killed my nagging Soleus injury, so I kind of worried that my run would be really painful, but I got over it and focused on having a fast T1. My time was right around 6:00 which for Wisconsin is about as fast as you can expect since you have to run really far. Right off the bat my heart rate was in the 170s so I knew I needed to remedy that but I also knew it was mostly nerves so I focused on keeping calm, taking deep breaths, and not letting adrenaline destroy my run later by making me go too hard on the bike. In a few minutes I was in the low 160s so I stopped freaking out about it.

So the bike. We drove the course on Friday so I kind of knew what to expect but it's always different when you actually ride a bike course. I will say it was slightly harder than I expected mostly due to the fairly strong wind out of the Southwest. It got stronger as the day wore on so I think slower people were impacted more, but it was certainly annoying! The bike course is 16 miles out, two loops of  40 miles, and 16 miles back into town. On the way out there are a few rollers and that was where the headwind was the worst (and in the first 10 or so miles of the loops). Then on the way back into town we could cruise. There are three hills late in the loops which are rather annoying to ride but positively nuts with spectators so I had fun with them. Then the rest of the course I would describe as rolling. People say it's technical but I have to say I disagree with them. A few of the downhills require a bit of braking especially when the course is crowded but otherwise you can get some good speed going.

The thing I'd say surprised me the most about the bike was how quiet it was. I would pass people and say 'good job' and it's like everyone's too worried about the rest of the race to talk. It was kind of boring until I met a nice police officer from Minneapolis and we chatted for a minute. I also saw my friend Alicia whom I met at Quassy and she was super friendly! For most of the bike I just focused on keeping a good cadence and a positive mental outlook. I thought 5:30 was in reach through the first loop but when the headwind hit on the second and I was getting my heart rate into the high 150s going 15-16 MPH that dream soon faded. However in my analysis of the results there were very few bike splits that were significantly faster than mine so I feel okay about it! I also took the bike 10 miles at a time, which seemed to help mentally. I tried to keep my nutrition going strong as well in spite of the fact that Peform tastes like salty fruit punch, it is gross. I think I did a reasonable job. My nutrition plan was all EFS Drink, EFS Liquid Shot, and then drink and gel on the course, which I thought would get boring or make me feel hungry but actually it was fine. I ended the bike with a 5:50 split - not as fast as I would have liked but with the wind I'm really happy with it.

Coming off the bike I was feeling good after a few miles with that sweet tailwind, but I was a little nervous about the run. Having run a full marathon before may not be an advantage because you know how much it can hurt. But I just got into T2, had some poor sweet volunteer help me change into compression shorts and socks (oh that poor woman, I must have apologized 50 times), and headed out to run. I kind of had to pee (finally, I started being more aggressive with the liquids on the bike when I still didn't for a very long time), but I decided to wait until the urge was more pronounced. I was also very curious as to what place I was in because I just didn't see very many girls in my age group out on the bike. In an Ironman it is somewhat disconcerting because volunteers take your bike so you can't see how many bikes are back in Transition!

So I started running and felt okay. I was running 8:30 pace and kept telling myself to slow down but my body wasn't really responding to my brain's cues anymore (it was probably pissed at me, ha). I did make a bathroom stop at mile 2 which felt good. It was pretty warm, probably in the mid-80s and on the humid side.

Here is a picture my brother took of me on the run course. Note the ultra-sweet hot pink compression socks! I'm the very short person running if you can't tell.

I had planned to see my spectators at miles 6.5, 13, 20, and then of course 26, so I was really looking forward to that. It turns out they were at T2 also but I didn't see them. They were AMAZING. I cannot say how grateful I am for them. Every time I saw them it gave me such an emotional high. When I saw them at mile 6.5 they told me I was in third off the bike. I knew no one from my age group had passed me in the first few miles of the run so I was feeling like okay, if I can just hang on, I can get on the podium. That was a crazy feeling. I thought I'd be delighted with top 10. Between miles 7 and 13 I ran with this nice girl named Erin, we didn't talk much but just ran along together which for some reason makes everything feel easier. At the halfway point I saw my spectators again and my brother ran along with me for a while and we just talked a little bit. I told him I might slow down and it was really hard but I really wanted to finish. So then I kept going. At this point I was walking every aid station and every hill that was more than a gentle grade, but my miles were still under 10:00 so I didn't feel that bad about it. By mile 20 when I saw them again I felt pretty awful, I'm not going to lie. I was tired, my feet hurt, and my right IT band was starting to make its presence known. I was really worried about this because in the only marathon I've ever run, by mile 22 that was excruciating. I actually think walking the aid stations really helped me keep my IT band under control, that is good to know!

By this time I was also bargaining with myself and telling myself all kinds of false promises so I could finish. Like okay, just run to mile 20 and you can walk the rest. Then I would get to mile 20 and say oh just run to the next aid station, walking 6.2 miles will take forever. I just did that until the end.  It was so hard! But somehow my mile splits even then, when I don't know how I made myself start running after every break, were only around 10:15-10:30. It was then that I knew I would finish so I started telling every volunteer or spectator I saw that I was going to finish. What a dork. But I was so excited!! The crazy thing was that I still didn't see anyone else from my age group so I was hopeful (but not convinced!!) that I was still in third. When I got to around mile 25 the crowds really gave me a boost and knowing I would see my family and friends soon, and get to stop soon, allowed me to pick up my pace just a little. And then once I got to the top of the last hill I really picked it up. I don't really know how but I did see another girl in front of me and I thought maybe I could catch her! Competitive to the last 5 seconds of an 11 hour race.

I crossed the line and I believe my official time was 11:22:06. Hearing the announcer say 'Barb Blakley, from Denver, Colorado, you are an IRONMAN!!!!!' was pretty awesome and it is a moment in my life I will never forget. This is definitely the hardest thing I've ever done but I'm so glad I did it.

I was very happy after the race!!!

I had abstained from dessert and really missed Rice Krispie Treats the week before the race so my awesome spectator crew brought one for me after the finish. It took a while for me to be able to enjoy it but once I did, I really did.

We waited for Jason to finish (he busted out a sweet PR in 12:29), I talked to a few people and facebooked and texted and realized I really got third in my age group and qualified for Kona, and when I realized that I finally burst into tears. I couldn't believe it. In my first Ironman I never dreamed I would qualify for the World Championships. But somehow I did. I am so proud of myself.

Then we all went out for dinner and we could not resist ordering a Wisconsin delicacy - fried cheese curds. They are disgusting and delicious all at once.

It was such a great weekend and a wonderful experience that I will never forget. Sometimes over this summer when I felt like all I did was train, I wondered if it would be worth it. When I crossed the finish line I have to say that it was. I know I couldn't have done it without my awesome crew - Jason, who listened to me obsess about training and trash talked with me and made me laugh every day; my mom, who is so proud of me it is adorable and helped me in so many little and big ways; my brother Scott who rode with me even when I was tired and hot and cranky and yelled at him; Tamra, who inspires me every day, and who convinced me to go out and have fun when I was too tired to think I should do it but needed it the most. And everyone else who has helped me and been there for me even though you weren't out on the course, THANK YOU. I am an Ironman!!!


  1. Wow, what an amazing journey you just finished. And how validating that it culminated in achieving the most prestigious accomplishment in the sport! Congrats, I am so happy for you! (And P.S. that was NOT a long report-I have millions more questions for you. Lucky for me I get to see you this weekend. Also, I cannot believe you escaped the swim without getting slaughtered. That is so so so great!)

  2. That picture of you with your medal is so priceless Barb. I am so darn happy for you. What a huge accomplishment! And see, you had fun AND qualified for Kona. Pretty rad. ;)

  3. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I'm so proud of you and so glad I got to share this experience with you, Scott and your friends. Thanks for being who you are.

  4. Congratulations on such an awesome race!! You really put together the complete strong day!! I followed your day online so I knew you did awesome but it's great to hear it from you :) And woohoooooo for Kona!

  5. Whoo hooo! Awesome report! Love it! Way to go Ironwomen!!