Bruce Thompson – Ironman® Wisconsin Race Report 9/9/12
Cliff notes summary – My goals for the race were: 1) sustain no injuries or crashes since my last two tri seasons ended with bike crashes in races resulting in weeks of healing and recovery; 2) achieve solid race execution (pacing, nutrition, transitions); 3) break 12 hours; and 4) have some serious fun. I achieved all the goals as I sustained no injuries other than 3 blisters on my feet, believe I had good execution and achieved a time of 11:58:56. I finished 12th out of 90 in M55-59 AG, and 589 overall. It was a PR by 52’ vs Coeur d’Alene last year. Had fun the entire day (well maybe not when I got elbowed in the face during the swim, but certainly the rest of the day).
I arrived in Madison Thursday afternoon and picked my brother JT up at the airport. His race report has a good summary of the activities leading up to race day so check that out. I’ll just add a couple of additional thoughts.
On Friday night at the Ironman® dinner we surprised Claudia Langarica with an EN tri top to wear in the race since she didn’t have one. Big kudos to Beth Schwindt for arranging to get a loaner from Michelle Cellai, who graciously lent her top to Claudia to wear. Thank you Michelle.
On Saturday I signed up for Wisconsin 2013. Since my daughter will be heading to college next year (hopefully), I really couldn’t commit to joining JT in doing IM Louisville 2013. I will need to take my daughter to college some weekend in August and I didn’t want to have a possible conflict with me doing an IM. So it is Wisconsin again since that is after most colleges start classes. The rest of Saturday I tried to stay calm, but I almost always get anxious and crabby before a big race. Thanks JT, Mike Semmerling, Beth S and Claudia L for putting up with my moodiness.
I ate my usual pre-race breakfast. 2 bagels, 2 bananas, 2 bowls of Cheerios about 2 ½ hours before the race. It is a bigger breakfast than others seem to eat but it works for me and I’ve never had any stomach problems, even during really hot races. JT and I then walked over to the race site, dropped our special needs bags. My bike bag had a 3 hour bottle of Infinit, a bagel, a tube and a CO2. Run bag had 2 10 oz Nathan bottles with Infinit, dry socks and extra headband. We got down to the race site, got tires pumped, said hi to other ENers and Coach Rich, and headed for the swim start. Drank 20 oz. of Infinit just before the start. See JT’s report for more details and nice images.
Weather – The weather was great for racing. It was 55* @ 7:00 am and went up to 70* by 3 pm. Clear sky and a 10-12 mph NNW wind. Lake Monona water was calm & 72* for the swim. There was a slight current/chop on the long backstretch of the swim.
Per JT’s report, JT & I lined up just behind and to the left of the sky jump. When the cannon went off we swam just to the left of the jump and then darted to the right in front of it for the clear water. We avoided the mayhem for about 50 yards until those from the right began to crowd in. At least it gave us chance to get some speed built up before the combat began. Actually, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the start of Coeur d’Alene last year. It did get a little crowded around the 1st buoy with everyone, including me, saying “Mooo!!” After that it was somewhat clear swimming the rest of the way. I did have several people occasionally crowd in from the left or right, and I always yielded to them – just not worth wasting the energy to fight for space in the middle of the lake. I did make a serious effort to draft as much as possible, and I think this helped my time a lot. I just cruised along, stayed in my box counting strokes and sighting every 10th stroke, focused on my form and tried to conserve my energy. Three weeks prior to Wisconsin I swam the Madison Open Water 2.4 mile race in the same lake and finished in 1:18 so I was really happy with my IM swim. Goal time was 1:18:00. Actual time was 1:13:50, or 1:54/100 meters. 6 minutes faster than Coeur d’Alene last year.
After exiting the water, I found the wetsuit strippers and got peeled quickly. On the run to and up the helix, I noticed the crowds for the first time. Wow!! Really nice to have all those people cheering, and it would be like that all day. Just as I reached the top of the helix, I was surprised to see red EN tri top about 10 yards in front of me and recognized that it was my brother JT. So I called out to him and he said “hi” back and we proceed to run into Monona Terrace to get our bike gear bags. Since it was still very cool out, I put on a cycling vest, arm warmers, socks and gloves in addition to my sunglasses and helmet. I stopped to pee on the way to my bike. I carried my shoes since the old guys bike rack was at the far end of transition from the bike out. I had a volunteer hold my bike just before the mount line while I put on my shoes. Goal time: 8:00. Actual time: 9:56. In my goal setting I may have under estimated the run time up the helix so I don’t feel bad about the T1 time vs goal.
I really enjoyed the bike leg of the race. During various training rides this summer I had ridden @ least 8 loops of the course, and this actually felt easier than the training rides. Call it the “CROWD FACTOR”. They were everywhere and cheering loudly. During the ride I saw Coach Rich twice on Old Sauk hill, half a dozen other local Chicago ENers who did Lake Placid and who I trained with this year, and several other locals that I trained with. All the support made the miles fly by.
My plan was to ride the first 30’@ 170 watts (.65 IF), the next 30’ @ 175 watts (.67 IF) and then ride @ 180 watts (.69 IF) for the rest of the bike leg. I’d stay in aero except when climbing and my speed dropped below 13 mph. I would drink 2 bottles of 3x concentrated Infinit (274 caloires/hour + 480mg sodium/hour) and take a fresh bottle of water at each aid station. If feeling hunger, I’d eat the bagel I had in my BSN bag and maybe grab a banana from the course. Yes, bagels and bananas (just like my breakfast), so call it brunch on the bike.
JT and I rode about the first 20 miles or so together, then I had to stop for a pee. When I got going again, I came across Brian Kelly from EN on the climb into Mt Horeb. Brian, JT and I basically rode the entire 112 miles within a minute or two of each other, with one of us leap-frogging ahead when someone else stopped for some reason. I had to stop again in Cross Plains to pee @ mile 40, and took off my vest since it was getting warmer and the real climbing was about to begin on Old Sauk. After stopping twice in 40 miles to pee, I decided to cut back slightly on the water (drink only 2/3 of a bottle between each aid station, not the full bottle since it was still only about 60F and I wasn’t sweating buckets) while continuing to sip on my Infinit. This seemed to work fine since I didn’t have to pee again until T2.
On the ascents I was really disciplined to keep my watts under check, never going above 220, even on the steepest sections. I also monitored my HR to make sure it didn’t spike above 140. I did most of the ride with HR about 125, high Z1 for me. I also was really conscious to keep my watts UP on the descents and carry the speed to the next hill. It just blows me away about how right RnP are about other people mashing the hills then coasting down, losing all their speed. Must have seen it a hundred times while I passed them on the descents.
I did the first 53 miles in 2:55 @ average speed of 18.11 mph. At BSN, I took off the arm warmers and gloves, and grabbed my bagel. Saw Brian Kelly making a stop too.
I had the only bad patch on the bike on Rt 92 during the climb into Mt Horeb on the 2nd loop. I just seemed listless and my right hamstring seemed to tighten up. I ate ½ of my bagel, and got out of the saddle to stretch some. Those actions seemed to help.
I had the first of 2 small mechanical issues going into Mt Horeb. Dropped a chain shifting, so had to pull over in front of the high school for a quick fix. Curiously, I dropped the chain again on Garfoot just before the big descent. I hadn’t dropped a chain all summer and now it happened twice within 10 miles. Well, I fixed it again and got back into the race. Fortunately, I had no more chain problems.
On the 2nd loop the crowds were even bigger on the Old Sauk, Timberline and Midtown climbs. Just a thrill to have them there and a big boost. Got me going strong again.
Even though I was sipping my Infinit as planned & ate the rest of my bagel, I felt hungry again. So @ the Verona aid station I took two ½ bananas. I wanted to make sure I used the bike to fuel the run. I ate one banana right then and put the other in my back pocket, & I ate the 2nd just after I made the turn on the stick. At the last aid station on Whalen heading back into Madison I got a 3rd banana and a full bottle of water. I finished my Infinit, the banana and the full water bottle in the last 5 miles of the ride. I was fueled up to run.
On Whalen heading into town, I was in a group of guys who were between 25-35 years old. Funny thing happened. They all passed me on the climbs and I’d pass ‘em back on the descents. When I went by one of the guys, he looked at my age marked on my calf & asked me “Are you really 58?” I said “Will be in December.” He said, “My dad is 60 and he’s just sitting on the couch getting fat.” I said “Get him out here, he just needs a year of good training & he can race with us.” He said, “Yeah!! That will be the day.” I rode on. I rode the last 18 miles back into Madison at 19.4 mph.
Goal: 6:10. Total bike time: 6:13:25, which was 39’ faster than my bike split at Coeur d’Alene last year. Averaged 18.0 mph. 179 average watts (.69 IF). 88 avg cadence. Next year I want to go under 6 hours.
Approaching T2 I decided I’d take my feet out of my bike shoes before the helix. I was confident that this was ok since I’d done it many times before, but still I’d never ridden up a helix with my feet on top of the shoes. Fortunately, everything was fine. However, I couldn’t believe that guys were still hammering up the helix, the very last hill. Why blow up your quads just when you have to start running? I don’t get it. Anyway, T2 was uneventful. Got my socks and shoes on, & grabbed my fuel belt, halo headband and cap. One last pit stop to pee and it’s time to run a marathon. T2 goal time: 5:00. Actual time: 5:04
Heading out of T2, I passed by JT’s rack and was glad to see his bike on the rack. I wasn’t sure if he was ahead of me or if the bike catcher was just really quick in racking his bike and he was still in T2. Turns out it was the latter, but he was just barely behind me.
As background, last February, doing OS intervals, I hurt my left Achilles where it attaches to the heel bone, and didn’t run at all for 2 months to let it heal (yes I nearly went crazy not being able to run). So my run fitness isn’t as strong as I would have like, plus I’m still a little gun shy to push all out on the run. My Z1 pace is 8:52. My plan was to run miles 1-6 @ 9:30, miles 7-20 @ 9:00 and the last 6 miles @ whatever was left in the gas tank. On my last long training runs, my heel would begin to act up & hurt at about mile 16, so I was a little worried that it could handle the last 10 miles of the marathon. Time would tell. Nutrition plan was 40 oz of concentrated Infinit (210 calories/hour + 480 mg sodium/hour) on my fuel belt + 1 S-cap at the start of each loop (for insurance) and lots of water & ice at each aid station.
I didn’t get more than ¼ mile out of T2 and who is there motioning me to slow down – Coach Rich. Just what I needed to be reminded of. As I run past him, I asked if JT was ahead of me. Rich turned and pointed behind me and said “He’s right there.” Well, it wasn’t JT but it was Brian Kelly (turns out JT was about 2’ behind me). So I slowed for a few strides and Brian caught up to me. This was the start of some great EN teamwork.
Brian and I are both in the 55-59 AG, and we run about the same pace. So we just decided to run together, keep each other company for awhile and see what happens. We had exchanged posts on the EN website over the year and had met in person @ the EN dinner on Thursday, but we really didn’t know each other. So while monitoring our pace & walking together thru aid stations, we talked. We talked about family, kids, careers (call Brian if you need a new Honda), sports, life, oh & Ironman® racing too. When we got to Camp Randall football stadium, Brian told me he’d played a college football game against Wisconsin in the very stadium. He was a wide receiver, & he eventually played 9 years in the Canadian pro football league. He had a great pro career (97 career touchdowns) and was elected to the Canadian Pro Football Hall of Fame (sorry Brain for blowing your cover). So here I am in race with guy who has got to be really fast for 40 yards & I’ve got a suspect heel. No way I’m gonna out sprint this guy.
Well, the miles were just flying be. We both even comment on how mentally easier it was than other IM runs we’ve done to have someone to talk to. We ran the first 6.5 miles @ 9:35 pace, and the finished the first 13.2 miles in 2:09. I had to stop once to pee and Brian walked while I caught back up to him. On the 2nd loop, about mile 15 Brian had to pee and hit a rough patch. I walked while he stopped. I walked nearly ¼ mile and kept looking back for him. I even turned around and was walking along the course backwards. I had a volunteer come up & ask me if I was disoriented. I said I was fine, just looking back for a friend and wanted to keep moving in the right direction so I was walking backwards. Eventually, my brother JT came along and saw me walking backwards and looking back for Brain. He asked if I’m ok & passed me. At this point, I was feeling really conflicted – I wanted to wait for Brain since he waited for me and we had such a good experience together, but it was a race and there is this competitive thing with my brother (I’d never hear the end of it if he beat me after his stroke). I walked a few more steps, took one more look back to see if Brian is coming, don’t see him, and turned and started running again. Clearly, that was a low point in the race for me.
So I caught up to JT and now I’m running with him. We went thru the Stadium the 2nd time and it seemed odd not having Brian with me, but I was happy to be running with my brother after all he has been thru. We ran on. After about another mile, JT said he’s hurtin. I asked if he’s ok & he said he needs to slow down and told me to run my own race. Reluctantly, I forged ahead again. Another low point emotionally, so I speed up to 8:45 pace for a few hundred yards to distract my mind.
Now, at mile 17, I was on my own for the first time in the run. I noticed that my heel feels fine and crossed my fingers. I backed down the pace to 9:15 and continued to walk thru the aid stations, getting water, ice and sponges at each one. I saw other ENers on the course (Carl N, Jeff Linkus, Annie Stokes, Mike Semmerling, Claudia Langarica & more). I walked up Observatory hill and then hammered the corkscrew downhill, passing many people on the descent just like on the bike. When I got to State St, the crowd was awesome. Coach Rich was there (seems like he was everywhere) & told me “Start racing. Count em.” Meaning start counting the number of people I pass.
I picked up the pace to 9:00 but I was still cautious about my heel holding up. I passed Sarah Kim and Beth Schwindt who were on their 1st loop of the run, said hi, passed along encouragement but I didn’t wait for anyone now. I ran the next 2.5 miles @ 9:28 average pace which included walking the aid stations. When I got to the mile 22 point, I told myself it was really time race. So I picked it up again. I ran the last 4.3 miles @ 8:50 + walked the last 3 aid stations. I passed Kathy Nelson and she asked me if I’m on my 1st or 2nd loop, and I held up 2 fingers and said “Second”. She called out, “you’re gonna finish in daylight” and I called back over my shoulder “I hope so. Good luck to you too”.
The crowds the last 2 miles were great. When I’m about @ mile 24 I tried to do some math in my head, and figured I had a shot at breaking 12 hours if I hustle. I got encouragement from ENers Selina Carpenter, Anna Clausen, Mike B and Lisa McCauley who were volunteering at the Spring St aid station. I saw a few more of my non-EN training buddies on State St and I just motored on. No problem with my heel. I was going around the Wisconsin capital building now and gave it all I had. When I made the final left turn to the finishers chute, there was nobody in front of me. I heard Mike Reilly say “Bruce Thompson – you’re gonna break 12 hours. You are an Ironman.” I high fived people on the right, then high fived people on the left part of the chute. I hit the finish in 11:58:56. I counted 261 people that I passed since the 19.4 mile mark (okay some of them were still on the first loop so technically I already was ahead on them on the course, but I counted them anyway).
Run time was 4:16:41 or 9:47 avg pace.
I ran a negative split – 2:09:43 for the first half, and 2:06:58 for 2nd half.
I also beat my run time from Coeur d’Alene by 4’, which really surprised me since I know I was in better run shape last year. I just ran a smarter race this year. Next year I think I have a 4 hour marathon in me.
At the finish area, I stayed right where I could see the finish line. A volunteer got me a chair so I could sit with a great view as I wanted to be the first to congratulate JT and Brian when they came across the line. It was so great to see both of them come in shortly after me. All three of us set PRs. It was also great to see my training partners Mike Semmerling and Claudia Langarica finish their first Ironman® races. Congrats to both of you and thanks for keeping me company this summer. Finally, JT, Mike S and I were able to come back to finish for the last hour. It was awesome to cheer on the final finishers. A great way to end a super day!!