IRONMAN Wisconsin part 1: A somber beginning

In this four-part series I recap one of the biggest days of my life, my first full IRONMAN!

The day began at 4:30 a.m. Even though it was earlier than I was used to, I was able to wake up immediately and fairly rested. For the past week I had shifted my sleep schedule so that I would be able to go to sleep and wake up earlier. I knew that I would need every second of rest I could get for the day ahead.

All of my gear had either been placed in transition the day before or laid out in front of me. For the next 30 minutes I had only two tasks: get dressed and eat. Getting dressed was easy, but from the moment I awoke I felt like I wanted to throw up. I knew it was just nerves before the race ahead. I forced myself to blank my mind and choked down two bananas and two Powerbars. This race day breakfast was tried and true for me. I knew I could keep it down and perform well on it. I also knew everything would be okay once the race began.

Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin

Monona Terrace during the day.

At around 5 a.m. my mom drove myself and fellow EPIC Endurance athletes Dan Wheatley and Rachel Matyasse to Monona Terrace, the center of action for IRONMAN Wisconsin. This would be Dan’s ninth IRONMAN, and he was quite a bit more chill than Rachel or myself. I guess nerves bother you less and less each time you participate. He still respects the distance, but had no problem eating a stack of blueberry pancakes he had purchased the night before.

transition area

2,600 bikes sit waiting in the bike transition area. Gear is kept inside the terrace.

Arriving at the terrace was surreal. It is dark, though the sun is getting ready to rise, and people are swarming the area despite the early hour. Supposedly around 45,000 people come to Madison to spectate the race. Seeing the crowd I was beginning to believe it.

My group made our way to transition and prepared our bikes, putting air in the tires, water in the bottles, and making other final preparations. Before long officials were announcing the closing of transition and that athletes needed to make their way down to the water. My group put on our wet suits, swim caps, goggles, and said good bye to our friends and family as we headed toward the shore. On the way, we were surprised to bump into the fourth EPIC Endurance athlete, David Ford (like finding a needle in a haystack considering we were in a crowd of 2,600 athletes wearing almost identical wet suits, swim caps, and goggles ). We were all stoked to be together again, even though we knew it would be brief.

So with music over the loud speakers, we headed into the water. We were only treading in place for a couple minutes when 7 a.m. hit and the sound of a cannon signaled the beginning of the race.

Part 2: Chaos in the water

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