2013 Wisconsin Race Report: Ian Kurth, 39 minute PR!

Ian Kurth 2013 Wisconsin race report.  Prom queens, fairies, unicorns, and a PR.

Background information:

I began my triathlon career with Florida in 2000, which was my first ever triathlon event. Nothing like starting from the top…  Prior to this event, I had completed several marathons and naively thought that an Ironman® would be a natural extension. Never mind that I did not know how to swim freestyle, and had never biked more than 60 miles prior to, or including the “training” for Florida 2000. While I completed the race through will power and youthful ignorance, it was no fun walking the last half of the marathon to culminate the race being bent over on the side of the road puking, about ready to tap out.  Despite finishing in 13:48, that event beat me into near submission, and forced me to research some significant lessons in training, execution, gear, and nutrition.

Knowing that I had some unfinished business with this distance, it took over 10 years for me to recover from this folly before deciding to commit to Ironman® Wisconsin 2012. Wisconsin 2012 went much better, with my race execution fortuitously sharpened by me stumbling upon Endurance Nation podcasts and blog posts approximately 6 weeks prior to the race. I digested this information, went to the four keys to talk on the grass in Madison, and executed what I thought was a pretty good race for my fitness at the time finishing with a smile in 12 hours 13 minutes, a PR by over 1hr and 35 min.

I joined Endurance Nation in October 2012.  After completing the November out-season, I transitioned into “run get faster” and “half Ironman” programs leading into 2 HIM’s and 1 Olympic race along with a smattering of run events prior to settling into the Ironman® build. I raced well all season using EN guidance, setting several PR’s, and accomplishing one of my significant goals of going sub 5 hours in a half Ironman® at Door County in July. After this race, I committed to full Ironman® training which included attending both the WIBA (Wisconsin Ironman® Brick Adventure) camp, and the Endurance Nation camp in August. I arrived in Madison in September in good shape, and ready to execute a good race.

Lead up days:

My wife Jen and I arrived in Madison on Thursday, checked-in, registered, drove the course, and hit the Endurance Nation team dinner. It was great to meet everyone, and get to know some of the faces that I’d see on the course in the near future.

On Friday, Jen and I went for an early swim, went to the 4 keys talk in the swank new venue, loaded up my transition bags, tested and lubed my bike, and went to the Ironman® motivational rally in the evening.

After that, it was time to visit the Tornado Steakhouse for some steaks. That place can rock a bone in steak and comes highly recommended for visits to Madison in the future.

Tornado Steakhouse

116 South Hamilton Street

Madison, WI 53703

(608) 256-3570

Saturday, my family arrived in town. After helping get them settled, I checked in my bike, and took a nice nap. I had a pasta bar dinner at the hotel Saturday evening, and was in bed by 8:30 p.m. I did not even turn on the Michigan – Notre Dame pregame for fear of getting sucked in. That is what this race means to me…

Woke up at 3:30 a.m. Checked ESPN to ensure that Michigan won (good karma).  My wife turned on some motivational 90s rock while I slammed some applesauce and protein mix, chased with a banana and some perform.

Revisited the motivational signs for the day:

Received a text from my virtual cheering crew at home

(Hatchlings from L-R Sophia 6, Allison 7, Andrew 2, and Caroline 4):

We were out the door by 5:00 a.m.  I set about the morning tasks: got marked, pumped tires, setup Garmin, and was down the top secret staircase by 6:00 a.m. Despite being in the general vicinity, I somehow missed the team picture. Oh well, it was pleasant just to stand on the shore and watch the race wake up.

I was in the water by 6:45, and out at the ski ramp hanging on while watching the pros start.


I taught myself how to swim only 2 years ago.  Despite making substantial strides, it has been, and continues to be my weakest event. I am commonly smack dab in the middle of the pack coming out of the water, while my bike and run tend to consistently be much stronger than the field in each event. The swim is an area that deserves some continued attention.

I lined up right behind the ski ramp, and held on there for about 10 minutes. When the gun went off, there was a brief period of relatively smooth swimming before the mass of humanity on both sides of the ski ramp converged. This is when it got pretty dicey until approximately the second turn buoy. In my opinion, it was a typical Ironman® swim from what I have read and experienced.  Received the standard friendly elbow to the ear, kick to the head, and jab to the gut. Mosh pit is a pretty good description. Settled in after 2nd buoy and found an easy stroke.  Never was winded or significantly fatigued.

Midway through, I unfortunately managed to increase the number of “one things” in my quiver.  I lost my wedding ring to Lake Monona.  When I realized this, I knew I needed to add “better make this race count” to my “one thing” thoughts, because I wasn’t sure how my wife would react.  Seemed logical at the time, but consistent to her nature, she totally rolled with the flow, and thought it was funny that I felt worse than her.

For whatever reason, the swim seemed long this year. Perhaps it is the super long backside straight away into the wind, chop and current. Maybe I’m a wuss. Either way, I was somewhat disappointed with my swim time of 1:25.  I had put in some reasonable time and work in the pool.  My time trial results, and open water rehearsals had me realistically swimming in the 1:12-1:15 range. At the very least, I was hoping to better last year’s time of 1:20. That being said, one thing I learned from earlier this season when I swam in similar conditions was that to stay in my box, and stick to the race plan. There is a lot of wisdom to Coach Patrick’s advice of not even looking at the clock, and considering the swim as merely a commute to the bike.

2013: 1:24:52  —-  167 AG, 1231 OA

[2012: 1:20:02] —- 171 AG, 1233 OA


No major issues.  I have spent some effort paring down my transitions, and limiting the moving parts. Transitions used to be a rest stop for me.  Now I see them as a strength.  Once out of the water and acquiring my bearings, I identified the burliest looking pair of wetsuit strippers, dropped-down, and got my wetsuit ripped off.  I mashed it into a ball, and carried it like a football through the screaming crowds lining the helix holding a fast walk/intermittent jog during this stretch.

Other than my helmet and socks, I have everything in two bags (bike shoes in a Wal-Mart bag with handles, and everything else in a clear zip-lock bag). I dumped my transition bag, put on socks (point of improvement for next season is to learn to ride without socks), buckle helmet (has visor attached), grab bags and was out of there. I loop my shoe bag through my forearm so I have 2 hands free to open and stash the nutrition items/race belt from my ziplock bag while running to bike. I get everything stored before arriving at bike, grab my bike and head to mount line. Shoes on, and I’m off.

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2013: 7:44

[2012: 8:47]


My goal here was to execute a relatively steady race, maximize the course momentum, and to set myself up for the strong run that I know I am capable of performing.

Metrics: FTP 270, weight 177 lbs, W/kg 3.4.

Goal IF .7; NP Watts 190

VI goal: 1.06 or less.

Typical administration stuff at the beginning- Garmin turned on, all systems tracking, watch out for shitty swimming bike hammer heads etc.

During the bike, the race tends to play out just as Rich and Patrick have described. There are some definite mashers who initially come out hammering on the flats and up hills, coast the down hills, and generally do a great job of getting in my way in the process. This is one of the struggles with being a crappy swimmer – I spend the first part of the race dodging a good portion of the field.

A different experience for me this year relative to last year was that I rode fairly consistent at the beginning, and managed to pass a good portion of the field by the end of the first loop. Once the field thinned out I found it was much easier to stay on my desired watts. For reference, I exited the water in 1231 place, and finished the bike in 520 place.

Riding the hills, especially the three sisters was fun.  My family was out in full costumes on Timberlane.  My awesome wife Jen surprised me by dressing up as a prom queen.  This is an inside joke as we watch a certain scene from the movie “The Rock” before races.   As this is a family friendly site, please understand this is an R movie before viewing….


I find it provides good motivation for racing.  Feel free to use this scene as a motivational tool as you see fit.

Jen also outfitted the others with tutus, huge lollipops, fairy wings, and unicorns.  This was to remind me of Coach Rich’s advice to think “fairies, gumdrops, and unicorns” until the line.   From what I understand, they were quite the local stars, and had a lot of fun interacting with the riders.


I encountered a minor?!? mechanical issue on the first midtown climb. My rear brake was rubbing significantly on my rear disc, making a fingernails on chalkboard sound. I stopped twice on the midtown climb trying to get the rear brake adjusted. I knew going into the race that there wasn’t much clearance, and in hindsight, I should have formally addressed this nuance.  My rationale for not touching them was that I hadn’t had issues to date, and the mechanic downplayed it during my pre-race “bike blessing” from the shop.  It seemed to be ok without stress on the frame, but was definitely rubbing when I stressed the frame on the climbs. Pretty annoying knowing that the brake is on when going up steep climbs. Rather than wasting more time on this issue, I just decided to see how far I could get and continued riding. After all, I was moving.  If I stayed on watts, the downside was slower speed.  Solution – don’t look at mph.  On the inbound stick, as we were headed into a head wind, I surprisingly still found myself passing quite a few people who were sitting up and had already checked out of the bike leg during the last 30 miles or so.

Nutrition plan went spot on during the bike. Per my race plan, I drank 9 bottles of perform, ate 3 power bars, and 2 powergels matching my goals for fluid, sodium, and calories. I was certainly hydrated during the bike, probably because of the cooler weather, as I peed at least 8 times.  I felt tanked up as I neared T2.

Slipped out of shoes at the base of the helix, happily dismounted the bike, and headed into transition.


Avg Power:181 W

Max Power:602 W

Max Avg Power (20 min):202 W

Normalized Power (NP):190 W

Intensity Factor (IF):0.718

Training Stress Score (TSS):290.8

Work:3,682 kJ

VI:  1.05

Note:  These values adjusted down when analyzing on WKO (TSS 272, IF .7)





Avg Speed:

19.0 mph

Elevation Gain:

7,070 ft


2,418 C

Avg Temperature:

71.1 °F

2013:  5:54:48 (19mph)  —- 86 AG, 520 OA

[2012: 6:28:16 (17.3mph) —- 166 AG, 1045 OA]


No major issues. I ran into T2, grabbed bag and dumped it.  Sock change, shoes on, grabbed my Ziploc bag which contains visor, sunglasses, and run nutrition, and headed out.. Unfortunately, I needed one more pee break at the porta body on the way out.

2013: 2:57

[2012 5:22]


 I really wanted to run a sub four-hour marathon, and believed I had the training base to do it. Given my race execution up to this point, I felt like that accomplished the goal of setting myself up for this possibility. I started out running the first few miles slow (per Garmin – right on 9 minute miles).

In looking at my Garmin file, I completed every mile through 20 with the exception of mild 18 of (observatory Hill) right on pace – all at or just below  9 minute miles.

I was having fun, and it was great to see all the EN racers in full force on the course.  I saw Jeremy, Joe, Carl and Bruce shredding it ahead of me, and saw Brian, David, Rachel, Brenda, Chris, Steve, Dave, Joe Machette, Joe Motz, Terry, Carl, and Robert striding well at some of the turns.

My family spread out on course, and I managed to see someone every couple of miles.  I saw my lovely Prom queen everywhere!  In addition to being my race leadup manager (Job description:  Keep me from doing stoopid stuff, coordinating the support crew, and organizing the weekend tasks and itinerary), she does a terrific job sending a lot of energy my way during the race.  I am very grateful.

My brother and his girlfriend Megan also did an awesome job jumping across the course to meet me at many of the less populated sections.  He would run with me for a couple of minutes updating NFL scores, cracking a few jokes and threatening to punch me in the mouth if I started to slow.  They were also a huge help.


At 20 miles is where the wheels started to come off. I began having some intermittent episodes of nausea-no big deal, but certainly a warning sign. I threw down some salt tabs, and then started to hit the Coke. This discomfort steadily increased in frequency over the next couple of miles. At mile 23, I was full on bonk mode- getting dizzy, significantly nauseous, and had some intermittent hand tingling. At mile 23, I tried a double shot of Coke to no avail. As I was walking through that aid station, I noticed I felt worse (more dizzy) than while running. Recognizing that I was only 3 miles from the finish, and it hurt worse to walk than run, I decided to skip the remaining walk breaks and bring it in on fumes. It’s an Ironman® – it’s not supposed to be easy.  Even though my pace dropped substantially overall, I think this was the right decision at the time.  It certainly was a struggle, and I cannot really remember completing those miles. I do remember Rich stepping out from the tent at around 24. I have no idea what he said, because at the time he sounded to me like he was speaking Turkish. I rallied once I reached the capital, heard the crowd, and managed have a bit of a kick at the end. I did have a good stride coming through the finish chute, slapped some high fives, and crossed the line.

I did have some wobbly legs, and the two catchers kept me walking, which was a good thing. I slammed 3 cups of chicken broth and that also seemed to help.




26.49 i



Avg Pace:

9:13 min/mi

Elevation Gain:

1,713 ft


2,467 C















































































































2013:  4:04:02 —- 59 AG, 349 OA

[2012: 4:10:54 —-127 AG, 694 OA]

2013 Finish Time:  11:34:23

2012 Finish Time:  12:13:21


 I can’t argue with a 39min. PR.  I feel the improvement can be most attributed to a better engine, faster bike setup, and overall improved race strategy and execution.  I subjectively feel that I still left time out on the course for my current fitness, but I am very satisfied with my effort.  Ironman® presents a complex puzzle with many moving parts.  Attempting to solve that puzzle within the time constraints of daily life is a magnetic hobby, and one that I hope to continue to craft into the future.


Improvement tasks for Wisconsin ‘14:

  • Race nutrition.  I think part of my problem at the end of the run was not getting enough fluids and salt. I was certainly tanked up prior to the start of the run, but one cup of perform per aid station and 4 GUs for the run seems to not be enough for me.  While my nutrition was significantly improved over last year,  I must consciously work at increasing fluid and salt intake during the marathon.

  • Swim.  A quick improvement for my crappy swim, would be to improve my sighting.  I can’t afford to swim extra meters – let alone swim extra meters slowly.  I also need to commit to consistent hard work/sets in the pool with increased frequency.

  • Bike.  I need to continue to raise my FTP.  Goal is into 4 watts/kg range.

  • Run.  Continue to improve VDOT.  Current is 50.  Goal is 52.

  • Psych. Continue to practice embracing and handling the suckage aka mental toughness.  One of the reasons I do these events is to put myself in a position to experience “elective suffering”, and challenge myself to rise to the occasion.

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Coach P

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