Sunday, September 28, 2008

That big shiny object -- Ironman

Everyone has a big horizon goal in some aspect of their life (or they should). That seemingly unattainable shiny object just out of reach. In triathlon, we call it Ironman. (see, told ya i'd get around to writing about it eventually)

When Ironman comes to town, Madison sees the effect of trickle-down athleticism. Even if you're not dreaming about Ironman, Ironman makes you dream. It makes average Joe's get up off the couch and do something. Whether that's dig the bike out of the back of the garage and ride around the block with your kids, or sign up for your first 5k, the energy of the event is contagious and undeniable.

Anything that can drag me out of bed at 5am must be pretty spectacular. I couldn't muster 5:30am to get sunrise pictures of Rainier, but for 2000 swimmers in Lake Monona I'm up without a peep of complaint. It makes no sense. And thats what makes it Ironman.
There is nothing logical about a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, and finished off with a 26.2 mile marathon run. Even the numbers don't make sense. And yet when I rolled out of bed at 5am to watch the start of this Iron day, all was right with my world.

The start to a perfect in hand....the current of nervous anticipation in the air.....sunrise over Lake Monona....and the flutter of 2000 swimmers as they start the last 140.1 miles of their journey to this dream.
I watched them swim until the crowd thinned and they started the second lap, then it was time to start the logistical nightmare of being an Iron-fan. First task, find Kelly. I had her location pinned down but crowd control wasn't letting me get to her (they were on the helix). I did, however run into Kelly's friend en route, who's fiance was racing and who randomly enough I've cheered for at a race before (Verona tri...when I bailed and became official race photographer). So my new found friend and I made our way to the helix exit to get pics of her man heading out on the bike.
He's super speedy and goes by right at his target time. (its much, much easier to be an Ironfan when your Iron-athlete stays within reasonable range of the goal pace, whatever that pace may be)
We also were there to see all the pros head out, including Madison native Blake Becker, who says he didn't end up having such a great race. But look at that rockin' bike. How could you possibly have a bad day on that thing?
And check out Amanda Lovato's set up. I totally heart her whole, racewear, even the pink aero helmet (though someone who finishes races where I do can't actually wear one without looking completely I'll be holding off on the aero helmet purchase). Amanda reported having an extremely tough race too. Tummy troubles (totally can relate to that, probably the only thing I'll ever have in common with anyone that does this for a living!).
Oh, and we did see some poor guy come down and slam into one of the partitions for the parking ticket dispenser machine as he was exiting the helix. Um, ouch. I'm guessing he was messing with getting into his shoes and not paying attention. Guy was a champ though. Stopped, fixed bike, heads out, rides back in (the wrong way!) about 5 minutes later, heads up the helix (kelly reported later that he changed out his back tire and then headed back out). Champ.
Next step, we head back up to the Hilton to meet up with Kelly and crew. Just in time to part ways as they head out on the bike course and I am off to find some much needed caffeine.
I head to State Street to meet up with Chrissy at a coffee shop. Where we sit and chat and watch the diligent fans chalk up State Street with words of encouragement. At this point I'm clearly high on Ironman crack and ask Chrissy to "coach" me in some speedwork this fall. Guess I got caught up in that crazy Ironman momentum too. Chrissy and her friends have brought bikes, so they head out for a ride and I head back to my car to do some reading. (I ended up talking on the phone and then sitting outside at yet another coffee shop enjoying the perfect day)
Until its time for the leaders to be coming back from the run. And I'm there to catch Hilary Biscay head out on her 26.2 mile run to victory -- her first Ironman victory, and it comes after doing an Ironman the weekend before. Ya, that's right. Two Ironman races within 8 days. Um, wow.
And here's another little interesting tidbit....when the leaders were coming off the bike I was standing on the first corner they round onto the capital square. Primo location. But not a soul around. Its just such a contrast to what that same location would like like hours later at 11:59pm as an enormous crowd cheers in that last runner to finish before the midnight cutoff, and I love that about this race and its amazing fans.
From there it was on to the top of State Street to meet up with yet another friend to cheer on our Team in Training coaches as they completely breezed through the day, Jackie taking home a first place age group finish and big fat trip to Kona! Not bad for her first Ironman.
Overall it was just an amazing, inspiring day spent enjoying the beautiful weather with good friends watching a bunch of crazy triathletes live a dream. I wish every weekend could be Ironman weekend!

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