IRONMAN Wisconsin part 2: Chaos in the water

In this four-part series I recap one of the biggest days of my life, my first full IRONMAN! In this entry I cover the swim and transition 1.

IRONMAN Wisconsin swim course map

The 2.4 mile swim course is one loop and takes place in front of Monona Terrace.

There is something very special about a mass swim start. It feels less like swimming and more like fighting. There are athletes trying to swim over you, kicking you in the face and stomach when you get too close, and pounding on your neck and back as they take strokes. In all fairness I did this to other people as well. It’s impossible not to. At the beginning there are hundreds and hundreds of bodies all going to the same place and not enough room for everyone.

I hung to the outside to avoid taking too much of a beating. My mentor from the Tri-Pups program, Ross Monks, told me long ago that he found this to be a good strategy so that you use your energy to swim, not fight, and you leave the water a bit more relaxed. The price you pay is swimming a few hundred yards extra, but it was worth it.

ironman wisconsin swimmers

The swim can be intimidating. Fortunately I had many open water swims under my belt. Seeing it happen from the terrace is an awesome sight.

I continued along the 2.4 mile loop, occasionally grappling for space in the water with other swimmers. Then I came to the first buoy. The joke at IRONMAN Wisconsin that is known amongst many of the athletes is that since everyone is turning at this first buoy, and still very close together, you feel like you are being herded like cows. Because of this congestion, as athletes are swimming around the buoy, the will moo. Yes moo. Like cows. They pop their heads up, stop swimming, and moo. Not wanting to miss out on the experience, I also let out a couple of moos before continuing on.

The water temperature was around 70 degrees–ideal. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of wind, which made the water choppy. I didn’t realize it until after the first turn since the waves were with me, but it was a bit nasty at times. The solution: Keep swimming. With persistence I made my way through the course and came out of the water in 1:24. Everything was going to plan!


Steven Barcus exits the Ironman Wisconsin swim course.

Fresh out of the water there is no time to relax or catch my breath. It’s on to the next event!

The crowd was going crazy as myself and other athletes came out of the water. I took wet suit off half way and then laid down in front of two volunteers. In about 5 seconds one ripped off my wet suit and the other grabbed me and stood me back up. I ran through the road lined with hundreds of spectators, climbing the helix of the parking garage to the transition area. Inside I ate a gel, put on my helmet and cycling shoes, grabbed my sunglasses, applied sunblock and chamois cream, and ran toward my bike. A volunteer had it ready to go. I hopped on, clipped in, and took off on the 112 mile course.

Read part 3: The bitter lollipop

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One Response to IRONMAN Wisconsin part 2: Chaos in the water

  1. Pingback: IRONMAN Wisconsin part 1: A somber beginning | 3 Sport Athlete

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