2014 IRONMAN® Wisconsin Race Report: Ian Kurth, 10:47, 47' PR!

Coach P

Cheerleaders, belief, commitment, and a massive PR.

Background information:

  • This was my fourth IM, 3rd IMWI, second full season racing with EN.
  • Age 40, FTP 286, VDOT 50, wt 175

2012 times – IMWI

2013 times- IMWI

2014 times – IMWI

























Lead up days:

My wife Jen and I arrived in Madison on Thursday, checked-in, registered, packed my transition bags, 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.

IMWI TeamEN Dinner

IMWI TeamEN Dinner

On Friday morning, Jen and I went for an early swim (missed the group swim), went to the EN 4 Keys talk in the swank new venue, tested and lubed my bike, and went to the Ironman motivational rally in the evening.

Lots of advice from several sources at the EN 4Keys Talk!

Four Keys Talk at the Overture Center for the Arts

Four Keys Talk at the Overture Center for the Arts



Saturday, my family arrived in town. My parents and my Uncle Tom (from Alaska) returned to again participate in the Ironman hoopla, fully engaged in embracing everything the weekend has to offer.  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 9:00 p.m, in denial at the trainwreck that I was witnessing in South Bend.  I turned the TV off at halftime, knowing I might be reading about more carnage in the fishwrap the next morning.

Woke up at 3:30 a.m. Checked ESPN to assess the damage that Michigan endured, and committed to racing my race in redemption.  My wife turned on some motivational tunes (“You’re the Best” from Karate Kid anyone??)  while I slammed a Naked Juice protein smoothie, chased with a banana and some Infinit.

Crane Technique, no defense!

Crane Technique, no defense!

Revisited the motivational signs for the day:


Race Self honors the Training Self

Race Self honors the Training Self

Received a text from my virtual cheering crew at home

(Hatchlings from L-R Caroline 5, Allison 8, Sophia 7, and Andrew 3):

Team Kurth!

Team Kurth!

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. Stood at the shore to watch the race wake up, and then hit the EN team picture.


TeamEN, Ironman Wisconsin

TeamEN, Ironman Wisconsin


All-star support crew L-R Jen, Mom, Dad, Adam, and Megan.


I was in the water by 6:45, and out to zone 1 just after the pros started.



I taught myself how to swim only 3 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.

One of my identified opportunities for 2014 swim improvement as bulleted in my 2013 race report, was to commit to swimming straighter (and therefore hopefully less than the 2.7 total miles in previous years).  As part of this plan, I decided to swim the buoys start to finish, and was resigned to mixing it up with the water polo players (zone 1). When the gun went off, instead of enjoying an (albeit brief) interval of minimal contact offered by starting behind the ski ramp (Zone 4), there was instant, and consistent contact.  Also in contrast to prior years, this congestion and intermittent clubbing never subsided.  I kept waiting and hoping for a respite, but this never arrived.  Sticking to the plan, I did my best to stay in the draft on the buoy line, and swim as steady as possible.  Overall, the swim felt “easy”.  I was never winded or significantly fatigued.  I think that my long swim endurance was significantly improved by participating in “Red Mist” Tuesday mornings with my local swim group.


From April through race day, a handful of us never missed this weekly endurance swim, and while I realize my stroke is far from a thing of beauty, I am confident this session provided IM-specific fitness.

I exited the water feeling good, and was pleased to see that I swam faster than in years past (despite again registering 2.7 miles again on the Garmin), and on target for my top secret goal time I had in my head. That being said, one thing I know from past races is 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.  Keep moving…

2014:  1:15:05 — 153 AG, 851 OA
[2013: 1:24:52] —- 167 AG, 1231 OA
[2012: 1:20:02] —- 171 AG, 1233 OA

T1: I continue to place effort towards paring down my transitions, and limiting the moving parts. I like WSM Dave Tallo’s project of analyzing personal same race prior transitions, as well as looking at the best transition times overall from prior years, to get a sense of what is realistic and attempt to design a strategy to become “best in show” for T1 and T2.

Once out of the water and acquiring my bearings, I made a minor mistake of taking the first available wetsuit stripper rather than seeking burliest of volunteers and this ended up costing me some time as she had trouble ripping the suit off.  Once 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.  I followed WSM Al Truscott’s advice (apparently also a Geometry mathlete!) of taking the extreme inside track up the helix to shorten the running circumference, and ultimately save distance.  It works.


Nutrition was zip locked and rubber banded on my bike between aero bars.  The only things in my bag were my shoes and helmet (with visor attached).  I dumped my transition bag, put on my helmet, grabbed my shoes, and was out of there. My volunteer confusingly asked, “is that all?!?”, and I yelled “yes!” as I left the room.  As I left the Terrace, I didn’t see the step down curb, and wiped out on the wet cement.  It was embarrassing as I heard a collective “ooohh” from those around, but I deserved it for not paying attention.  Both my feet were cut up and bleeding, but fortunately nothing major.

2014:  6:50
[2013: 7:44]
[2012: 8:47]

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


  • FTP 286, weight 175 lbs, W/kg 3.6.
  • Goal IF .7; NP Watts 200
  • VI goal: 1.06 or less.

Typical administration stuff at the beginning – Garmin turned on, all systems tracking, watch out for swervy goofballs, etc.  I noticed my HR monitor had crapped out.  Not a big deal for the bike, but not good for the run, as I planned on running by HR metrics.  I set that issue aside, hoping that the glitch was temporary.

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.

I started the bike stoopid easy, with my virtual bucket of chicken on my bars, taking in the sites.  Early on, I noticed that I felt a bit flat, possibly remnant from my taper.  I consciously went in to the race well rested, choosing to err on the side of being a bit “over-tapered”. This was by design as I would much rather risk being 10% over tapered/undertrained than be 1% over-trained.


Riding the hills, especially the three sisters was fun.  My family again represented well, and was in full regalia on Timberlane.  My awesome wife Jen needed to upstage last year’s “Prom Queen” costume, and did not disappoint.  She again surprised me by dressing up as a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.  She and my future sister-in-law Megan were in full uniforms, and my brother Adam sported a matching speedo.  They offered terrific energy, and again made many new friends on the hill, including both racers and spectators.


Huddled up, drawing out the next cheer


Ready to Cheer

Ready to Cheer


Love this picture

Love this picture

My future sister-in-law and my wife.  I am a lucky cowboy

My future sister-in-law and my wife.  I am a lucky cowboy

My ride was steady, with gradually increasing watts over the ride.  I found myself in the mid- and late sections of the ride looking down at my computer and seeing 10-15 watts above target at the same RPE.  I looked at my projected split time, approximated what TSS I would incur, and decided to keep going with this effort.  I knew that the stick on the inbound was net downhill, with a slight tailwind.  If needed, I could back it down without incurring a huge time penalty.  Turns out, this modified strategy worked, and I came in under goal time, with a good TSS, and good VI, setting myself up for the opportunity to hit my goal time with a strong run.  I kept thinking “just get me to the run in striking range”.  I relish the challenge of running strong with PR’s on the line.

Nutrition plan went well on during the bike. I made a few in flight modifications as Perform just wasn’t hitting the spot.  Per my race plan, my target was 9 bottles of perform, 4 power bars, and 1 powergels.  I ended up with 7 bottles of perform, 3 bottles water, 3.5 powerbars, and 1 caffeinated GU approximating my goals for fluid, sodium, and calories.  I was certainly hydrated during the bike, as I peed at least 6 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.

  • Distance: 111.46 mi
  • Time: 5:40:49
  • Avg Speed: 19.6 mph
  • Elevation Gain: 5,203 ft
  • Calories: 3,857 C
  • Max Speed: 46.8 mph
  • Avg Power:  189 W
  • Max Power: 570 W
  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 220 W
  • Normalized Power (NP): 201 W
  • Intensity Factor (IF): 0.703
  • Training Stress Score (TSS): 280.4
  • Variability Index (VI): 1.06
  • FTP Setting: 286 W
  • Work: 3,869 kJ
  • Avg Bike Cadence:  81 rpm
  • Max Bike Cadence:  126 rpm

2014:    5:42:21 (19.6mph)         —        76 AG, 328 OA
[2013:   5:54:48 (19mph) —        86 AG, 520 OA]
[2012:   6:28:16 (17.3mph)          —        166 AG, 1045 OA]

T2: No major issues. I ran into T2, grabbed bag and dumped it.  Socks on (bloody feet from earlier fall), shoes on, grabbed my Ziploc go bag which contains visor, sunglasses, and run nutrition, and headed out.

2014:  2:38
[2013: 2:57]
[2012: 5:22]


Going into the race, I really wanted to run a sub four-hour marathon, and believed I had the training base to do it.  My runs in recent races have been steady and strong, and I had confidence I could settle in to execute.  Given the way my race had unfolded up to this point, I felt like that accomplished the goal of setting myself up for this possibility.  After checking my overall time at the start of the run, I knew that if I ran about a 3:54, I would realize my stretch goal of sub-11 hours.  It was then that I COMMITTED in my mind to run sub-9 min miles for the entire marathon.  I adhered to the plan of stoopid easy first few miles, but bracketed only by them being sub-9.  This was non-negotiable in my mind. During these easy first few miles, I massaged this mantra in my head and prepared myself to accept and conquer whatever nightmare was necessary to accomplish this goal.  I knew these opportunities do not present themselves often, and today was NOT a day I was going to let it float away.  It was time to honor my training self.


I started out running the first few miles slow – upper 8’s.  My stomach was a little unsettled, and easing into the run helped to mitigate the slosh.  I also skipped walking the first 3 aid stations hoping to settle into my cadence and get some running rhythm.  IM marathons are the only times that I offer myself the option of walking aid stations, so skipping these now was not foreign to me, and it felt consistent with my racing self.  In past IM’s I would go to the end of each aid station, walk 30 steps, and then resume running.  However, since I didn’t have HR to run by, and I had COMMITTED to a pace goal, I decided to walk the aid stations only when taking a GU. Every other aid stations I’d take on the fly shoving as much Perform as I could down my gullet, grabbing sponges and ice, and throwing water over my head. In going with this strategy, this race was going to either end gloriously or with a spectacular blow up. I was willing to go for it.

My pace was working as I clicked off the miles.  On the back stretch of the first lap, I visualized the terrain and internalized how well I felt, associating this with the surroundings.  I did this knowing that this section has been my nemesis in years past.  I started the internal dialogue with myself, giving myself a pep talk that “this was my race, and I will refuse to slow down through here when I return”.  I began seeing myself from the perspective of stadium seats, and imagined screaming fans yelling at me to keep moving.  This exercise served two purposes:  prepared me well for the second loop, and it passed some time on the first loop.  Soon I was near the turn around, and saw Coach Rich.  He advised to “Keep it steady – you’re not there yet”.  I checked my split – 1:52.  My “strategy head” calculated that I was a little “under par”, and had some time to give if needed.  My racing head had already turned off this option, and refused to allow any negative thoughts, or conversations on how to rationalize slowing into my head.  Keep running.

I was having fun, and it was great to see all the EN racers in full force.  My family spread out on course, and I managed to see someone every couple of miles.  My parents and Uncle Tom were leapfrogging State Street, doing a great job being visible and giving high fives.  I saw my lovely cheerleading wife everywhere!  I could tell she was losing her voice, and I wanted to serve her efforts by finishing this race strong.   In addition to being my race lead up 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 Adam and his fiancée Megan also did an awesome job jumping across the course to meet me at many of the less populated sections.  They would run with me for a minute or two providing additional motivation to keep moving.  They were also a huge help.

At mile 16 is where I started really focusing.  I know that we are not given permission to race until mile 18/”The Line”.  However, sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  At 16, I switched to Coke only, and reaffirmed to myself that I am willing and able to deal with whatever suckage this race is going to throw at me.  I prepared my head for the line, knowing that Observatory hill was coming, and beyond that point is where I have COMMITTED to deal with the backside nightmare.  In retrospect, by COMMITTING to the acceptance of the suckage, I think I may have managed to delay its arrival.  For several miles, I had occasional thoughts enter my head about my legs hurting, or nausea, or my math telling me I could jog it in with 10 minute miles and still be sub 11.  However, I think practicing my response to these excuses ahead of time facilitated my ability to extinguish the negativity before it could take root, and I just kept running.

At mile 23, I took my only mini walk break since mile 18, fueled up for the last time with Coke, and I got angry.  I entered SOUL CRUSHING mode. I stayed in the moment, and focused on my quiver of one things.  I WILL HONOR MY TRAINING SELF.  I no longer acknowledged anyone in the crowd. Jen said later that I didn’t smile the last time I saw her.  It was at this time that she looked at the time of day, did her own math, and first realized that I was going to crush my goal.  I saw one of my racing buddies Mike McQueen step out from the crowd in front of me at mile 24 screaming at me to not slow down.  I didn’t even make eye contact with him.   I do remember Rich stepping out from the tent at around 25.  He was looking in my eyes to see if I had checked out.  I have no idea what he said, but I remember his questioning gaze, wondering if I was going to finish this off. I hope I responded appropriately by finishing strong, negative splitting the run by 3 minutes (1:52, 1:49)!   I maintained a good stride coming through the finish chute, slapped some high fives, and crossed the line extremely satisfied with my effort.

Distance:          26.70 mi
Time:                3:41:16
Avg Pace:         8:17 min/mi
Elevation Gain:  925 ft
Calories:           2,504 C
Best Pace:        5:25 min/mi
Avg Run Cadence:        178 spm
Max Run Cadence:        188 spm
Avg Stride Length:        1.09

Split     Time     Dist      Avg Pace

1          8:24.9   1.00      8:25
2          8:22.7   1.00      8:23
3          8:41.0   1.00      8:41
4          8:14.3   1.00      8:14
5          8:33.3   1.00      8:33
6          8:45.7   1.00      8:46
7          7:50.6   1.00      7:51
8          8:46.8   1.00      8:47
9          8:21.2   1.00      8:21
10         8:12.4   1.00      8:12
11         8:14.3   1.00      8:14
12         8:11.2   1.00      8:11
13         8:04.0   1.00      8:04
14         8:23.6   1.00      8:24
15         8:11.7   1.00      8:12
16         8:13.0   1.00      8:13
17         8:08.2   1.00      8:08
18         8:05.1   1.00      8:05
19         8:36.5   1.00      8:36
20         7:59.5   1.00      7:59
21         8:12.8   1.00      8:13
22         8:01.7   1.00      8:02
23         8:29.6   1.00      8:30
24         8:21.0   1.00      8:21
25         7:57.6   1.00      7:58
26         8:16.2   1.00      8:16
27         5:36.9   0.70      8:02

Total:   3:41:15 26.70    8:17

2014:    3:41:00 —        33 AG, 164 OA
[2013:   4:04:02  —        59 AG, 349 OA]
[2012:   4:10:54  —        127 AG, 694 OA]

2014 Finish Time:  10:47:54
[2013 Finish Time:  11:34:23]
[2012 Finish Time:  12:13:21]



I can’t argue with a 47 min. PR.  I crushed my time goal of 11 hours.  After my 2013 IMWI, I wrote down splits on a post-it note and placed it on my computer at work.  It read:  1:15 S, 5:45 B, 3:45 R and 10 T.  These were the splits I visualized and trained to for over a year.  Nearly every day I would reflect on those numbers.  For my experience and fitness, they were very ambitious, and I certainly had my share of doubts over the training cycles.  However, to beat these stretch goal times in a race is immensely satisfying.  To set a high goal, break it down into small segments, design a training plan, commit to the work needed, and then lay it out there on race day and execute to a successful result is the experience that draws me to this sport. Ironman-distance triathlon remains 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 IM Mont Tremblant ‘15:

  • Race nutrition/body comp.  Improved this year with more calories (>400/hr) on bike, with solids early, liquids late.  Continue to refine this formula.  Force GU’s on run.  Believe in the magic of Coke late in the run.  Consider dropping some upper body weight.
  • Swim.  Red Mist was a very successful experiment, and I will continue with this endurance set.  Increase form drills with reflection on video session.  Need to increase turnover cadence.  Continue to swim with morning YMCA group.
  • Bike.  I need to continue to raise my FTP.  Goal is into 4 watts/kg range.  Participate again in early season bike camps for endurance pops.
  • Run.  Continue to improve VDOT.  Current is 50.  Goal is 52.  Continue with GRP frequency as part of run durability project
  • Psych. Continue to practice embracing and handling the suckage, a.k.a. 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.  I believe this was important late in this race.
  • Race execution.  Continue to improve transitions, experiment with IF’s on the bike, try to lower VI, and refine running to HR rather than pace.

Go here to listen to Ian’s race report interview podcast with Coach Rich


Coach P

All stories by: Coach P

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