T-0 – Iron Man Day!!!

This morning started for us at 3:30 am when I woke up to take a shower.  Joe technically got to sleep in until just after 4 but he was definitely awake when I was and I don’t know that he slept much all night.  By 4:45 we were ready and on the road.  We stopped at a gas station near us so Joe could get a sandwich and a Code Red Mountain Dew.  He is not a breakfast person and does better if he doesn’t eat much so he really didn’t have much in his tummy until the bike ride and more importantly the run.  We had to park at a separate location and take a shuttle to the conference center (called Monona Terrace) so by 5:45 we were there and Joe was going to drop off last minute things in his bags, finish up his bike stuff and then change into his wet suit for the swim.  The transition areas close by 6:30 and everyone was herded into the water.  I had to wait in one spot for him to bring me back his bike pump because it was too big to stay with his other things (if you looked around you could see all of the other wives, husbands or families carrying their athletes bike pumps with them too!) so in the meantime I got some coffee and a pumpkin muffin from a little buffet thing the conference center staff had out… I was super happy about this because I was freezing cold and ready for some coffee!

Here are rows and rows of bikes along with volunteers and some athletes doing last minute things to their bikes.  Almost 3,000 bikes were here.  The whole Terrace was full of families milling around and half-dressed athletes doing last minute things.  How exciting!

While Joe was getting into his wet suit and getting down to the water himself I went and stood in line for the bathroom (Which took Forever!) and then on my way to find a spot on the wall to watch the swim I happened to find Joe and get to talk to him!  Turns out lots of athletes were having help with wet suits and last minute swim stuff and I normally help Joe with his wet suit too but we didn’t know I would be able to get to him down by the water so he had to get into his wet suit by himself!

Here he is #1186 – which is mark on both arms and his swim cap and then during the bike and run portions his bike was labeled, his helmet was labeled and he had a number on himself at all times.

Before the swim, all the kayaks and various boats out patrolling the route.  All of these nice volunteers, dozens and dozens of them, were there to help our athletes incase there were any problems.  If you needed to stop you could hang on to a kayak or boat temporarily you just couldn’t move forward with them and there were plenty of people ready to help with problems.

At 7am the swim started (6:50 for the professionals) and I watched about half the swim before I headed inside to go shopping in the gift shop (I bought a shirt for me and a shirt for Joe) and then moved on to the bike transition area to get a good spot to watch Joe head out for the biking.  I couldn’t see him in this mass of swimmers anyways but he finished the swim in 1 hour, 36 minutes and 10 seconds.  I don’t know the exact cut off for swimming but it is somewhere around 2 and a half hours so he was doing great! Joe said that swimming in this was a disaster pretty much with people always touching him and all over the place.  His goggles got kicked off twice even but luckily the strap was under his swim hat so they didn’t go flying away or anything.  It looked very crowded from the side lines too!

Here all the walls of the Terrace were packed with families and spectators. The level below us was the transition level and you can see the mass of bikes waiting to go.  I wish I would have made signs for Joe and I had wanted to but then I wasn’t sure if I would need to carry them all day or if I would be able to get close enough for him to even see them.  Turns out they would have been perfect but at least a couple of times he did see us when we shouted at him and he was passing by even without signs or anything like that.

Here are some pictures of Joe making the transition from swimming to biking…

I waved like a crazy lady but I was way too far away and crammed in a big crowd of people so Joe definitely did not see me this time.  After he left I watched some more bikers for awhile and then I walked myself to Star Bucks to buy my second Pumpkin Spice coffee for the trip and a blueberry muffin which I never did eat (until we were in the hotel room after the race again!).  After my coffee I headed back and checked on the bikers, almost all of the bikes were gone although I did see one man who must have finished just under the swim time limit and he came through the transition and I was worried about him, but then I saw him finish way later so I was very happy that he made it! Other than that almost all the bikes were gone except for maybe a dozen from people who must not have made the swim.  Up until this point I was by myself but shortly thereafter, maybe around 10 am, I met up with my parents who came down for the day to keep me company and watch Joe!  Joe’s family really, really wanted to be there but they just couldn’t make it.

After I found my parents, the three of us headed off to a shuttle bus to go to another town called Verona where there was a good spot to watch the bikers pass by two times.  We made it ahead of Joe by quite a bit so we watched all the rest of the bikers pass by.  There were loads of people and as an afterthought I wish I had made us all matching shirts like this family had (and tons of other families!) but I had no idea that was common and never even thought of it.  Next time! This particular family in the yellow here had their guy’s number on their shirts and they all said “Daughter of..” or “Wife of…” or “Friend of…” super neat!  Eventually we spotted Joe and he road past us.  We were yelling and cheering but it was loud and very busy and he was on a bike so he didn’t see us and didn’t think we had been out there… but we were and we did!  We wouldn’t miss it!  We did only stay for one lap though, right around mile 55, because we wanted to get back to Madison in time to see him transition to the run.  In the end we could have probably stayed to see both of his laps but I was worried we would miss transition and I wanted to say hello to Joe before he went for his run if I could because he hadn’t seen us cheering for him yet.

Here is Joe just passing us.  I kept getting pictures of his back because I would be waving and yelling and then forget to snap a picture.  Thankfully there will be plenty of professional photos for us to buy too!  Joe finished the bike ride in 7 hours and 26 minutes even, or a total of 9 hours, 12 minutes and 59 seconds after he began the race.  His first transition took him 10 minutes, 49 seconds.  The bike time was really great although he had a slight problem midway through when his chain fell off and he had to stop and put it back on!  There were 4 bike vans traveling the race to help athletes if their bikes needed repair but he was able to fix it on his own and keep going.  After this my family and I headed back to Madison and found some Subway for lunch while we tried to track Joe on the athlete tracker which was not working very well. After lunch we wandered a bit and found a really good spot to see Joe for the bike to run transition.  This transition was a bit longer for Joe and took him 14 minutes and 26 seconds.

Joe is just about to come through the very start of the run here, he is wearing black on the right hand side of the arch.  We were right on the sidelines and he finally saw us watching him at this point and said hello as he was passing by us.  He looked great still and went off strong! After this the rest of us headed back to catch a shuttle to the car so we could regroup.  I needed to put jeans on because it was a chilly day and we wanted to check out the maps, find some supper and possibly bring the car back to downtown.  We ended up finding a McDonalds where we had a bit of supper, and got a couple hamburgers for Joe for later, and then we found a great spot at mile 14 of the run where we could see Joe a couple of times and he could see us as well.  We had to wait for awhile but we were in a nice spot on the side of the road.

Right around 7:30 or (I think, I’m pretty sure!) Joe passed us on his 14th mile of the marathon.  This route also had two laps so we waited for awhile and saw him pass back past us on roughly his 16th mile.  He was still looking great but definitely slowing down a bit and getting tired! It was also getting pretty dark.  Just after this I called Joe’s family too to let them know how he was doing… even though they weren’t with us they were thinking about him all day and wondering how he was doing!

This is Joe going out on his second loop.  My camera was mostly not working at this point because it was so dark and my flash only goes so far! I still got a photo though! Once Joe was past us we headed down to the finish line where we picked a good spot to sit and then helped ourselves to Star Bucks (again, for my third Pumpkin Spice coffee of the trip) and the bathroom as well.  Then we settled down on the side lines and waited for Joe to come.  We were constantly tracking him but still the tracker we just not working very well.  I wish it had been better for sure! Close to when we thought he would be showing up we moved ourselves closer to the finish line.  The actual finish was so crowded and full of people that we couldn’t even get close enough to see him.  There were professional photos though that we will get instead! Eventually Joe was finished in the athlete only area and we got to meet up with him.. Our Iron Man! Joe did the full marathon run in 6 hours, 42 minutes and 3 seconds.

Here he is sitting down for the first time all day! His final time was 16 hours, 9 minutes and 28 seconds to go a full 140.6 miles! We were so proud of him! He finished with lots of time to spare (the cut off is 17 hours) and there were hundreds of people after him who still were finishing and/or quit before they even got there! After years of talking about doing this, and 9 months of straight training, he finally did this and is an Iron Man! He is amazing!

We finished off the night by picking up Joe’s gear, walking my parents to the shuttle and then walking ourselves back to the car where I managed to get us lost, stall the car in an intersection and finally make it out of downtown Madison only to have no idea where we were! We finally made it back to the hotel around 1am where Joe took a shower and crawled into bed because he was so exhausted and cold and his head was congested so we thought he was getting sick.  He managed to drink a bit and eat a couple of hamburgers and that was it.  I had my muffin and followed really fast to bed since our day was now getting close to 24 hours long!  It was a really great day and I’m so glad Joe finally got to do his Iron Man! He hasn’t ruled out doing another but wasn’t inclined to sign up for a second one right away 🙂

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Gear Check-In and a Day in Madison – T-1 Day to Iron Man!

Today was an easy going day for us! No animals, no major plans, no nothing!  We had some breakfast in the hotel lobby and I made coffee in our coffee pot in our room.  All we had to do for the day (and we is used very loosely since I really was just along for the ride and Joe did all the work!) was to get Joe’s gear ready and all checked in at the race start.  Joe had to service and get his bike ready and then organize his gear bags for the different transitions and race sections.

My spot was on the side of the bed where I read my book and occasionally did stuff for Joe like read the manual or help put stickers on his gear bags… but mostly I just read and hung out to keep him company while he worked on his bike and got his bags ready.  After that we headed to the conference center to drop off all of his stuff in the appropriate transition places.

Here Joe is putting his bike on the racks.  He had already put his gear bags in the building.  Afterwards we drove around Madison just kind of wandering…we found a Target (where we needed to get a few things like a new watch for Joe’s race and some bandaids etc.- a few things we forgot), Barnes and Noble and a mall where we had some lunch at a noodle house… it was fantastic but messy and somehow I ended up with another chopstick meal and I am not good at using chopsticks.  Joe has no trouble and can use them as well as a fork and knife but I eat like a child with them and needed tons of napkins!  Thankfully my entire lunch made it into my mouth, despite the chopsticks!

The store on the very end of the mall was actually a large, fancy grocery store with an entire section of cheese.  Huge. There were rows of it behind where I was too.  Cheese heaven! We should have bought cheese here but we had no idea how long we were going to be out and we ended up going to another grocery store later that was not even remotely close to this one to get some snacks.

For the afternoon we napped, watched T.V. and read in our hotel room.  Around 6 or 7 maybe we went to get Chipolte tacos (Joe’s pick!) for supper and then we came back, ate, relaxed some more and by maybe 9pm or so we had the lights out and were trying to sleep.  It was a really nice, relaxing day just to get to hang out together and see Madison and do nothing in particular besides get Joe’s gear to the site on time!  It was great although I am sure Joe was a bit nervous so his day probably could have been more relaxing than it really was.

Traveling to Madison – T-2 Days to Iron Man!

Today was our travel day to go down to Madison for the Iron Man!  Joe had to be there to check himself in before 5pm and then there was a mandatory athlete meeting at 7:30 he also had to be at.  We found our way and went right to the big conference center in Madison.  Joe went to check in and I waited for him in a nice chair because I wasn’t allowed to go into the athlete areas.  Afterwards we had two and a half hours to kill before the meeting so we wandered around downtown Madison looking at shops and then we had some sushi for supper, where I was forced to use chopsticks, and coffee at Star Bucks afterwards before heading back to the meeting (I had to wait outside the room again with all of the other families because it was athletes only). After that we headed to our hotel and fell right asleep!

This is the conference center on the left and the swim lake on the right.  It was cloudy and rainy out today but we wandered around anyways.  I managed to fall flat because I stepped on part of a dock that was super slippery!  Good thing no one was watching at the time and that I didn’t manage to fall off into the water! Better me than Joe too!

On our way to downtown Madison.  This is the finish line area being put up and organized! With the capital building behind it…