Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ironman WI: From a specator and volunteer

Wow!  What an awesome experience at Ironman WI 2012.  Saturday I ventured up to Madison for the 8am volunteer meeting so I knew what I was doing on Sunday.  The meeting was fairly brief, we checked in and then went upstairs, outside of Monona Terrace so that we could see the bike area. After the meeting the Farmer's Market on the square was going on, so I walked around and got some veggies, then I walked back to Monona Terrace which was filled with tent shops.  Even going up for the volunteer meeting was a ton of fun!

Sunday was the real all day adventure.  My day started around 4:45 when my alarm went off.  I had been somewhat restless all night, and was glad to get up.  I grabbed my breakfast, backpack, posters, and was on my way.  Since I was volunteering I had received a parking pass to the Anchor Bank parking ramp, so I tried my luck there first.  As luck, or planning would have it, I was able to get a spot when I pulled in at 6 am.  I headed for Monona, and stopped for a minute to take in this beautiful sight in the morning...
Shortly after I was making my way through Monona Terrace scoping out the swim.  I watched a few swimmers warming up in the water from the building, then made my way down to the water. Walking through Monona Terrace was like walking through packed sardines. As I exited through one of the doors, I heard my name and saw my friend Karl, and was able to step back for a minute and wish Coach Kitty good luck.  She seemed a bit nervous as I gave her a hug and tried to move out of the way.  I stationed myself near where the athletes filed into the water.  I was watching for my friends for awhile, and hadn't seen anyone, so I directed my attention to the water, then turned around to the athletes again and saw my friend Andrea!  I called out Andrea's name and she saw me, and gave me a biggest hug as I wished her well! At 6:50 AM the professionals had made their way into the water, and began their swim with the sound of a cannon. The sight was one to see, about 32 arms thrashing through the water.  10 minutes later, the remaining 2500 athletes began their Ironman journey for the day.

Treading water
Off they go
Wetsuit stripping

 Around 8 AM I started to look for my friends, my friend Brad said he expected to swim the 2.4 miles in about 1:15, so I thought he may be faster.  There were so many swimmers coming out of the water around 8:10 it was hard to keep track and look for friends!  I saw Brad at the last minute as he was getting his wetsuit stripped right in front of me, he turned to get up, and was off to the bike.  I had decided I had seen enough wetsuit stripping and had gotten enough water flung at me, so I started to make my way to Monona Terrace up the helix.  I said hello to my friend Karol in the helix and then made my way to the shuttle buses a block away.  On the bus I met some wonderful Ironman wives.  I helped one from Michigan track her husband on the Ironman tracker, and got to talking with another lady, Krista from Ohio.  Krista and I ended up sticking together for the bike course. The bus dropped off in Verona at the 56 mile mark.  We chatted and made fun of the 16 year old "security" kids that provided very little security!  Between 10-11 AM the bikers started to roll in.  It's amazing how practically everyone wears the same thing!  Everyone seemed to wear black, white, and red; or blue, black, and white!  I thought I had spotted Brad, but it was a false alarm, only 7 other guys were wearing the same thing as him before he went by.  But I did end up seeing him bike by at the last minute around 11 AM.  I continued to watch hoping that I would see some more friends, but I had to head back to Monona for my volunteer shift.  I had planned to leave at 11:30, but then saw a girl fall off of her bike coming down the hill, so I waited to see that she got back up, which she did, and continued on.  I waited as long as I could on the bike course, I was having a great time shaking my tambourine, cheering and holding my sign that I did not want to leave.  I made my way back to the bus at 11:45.  I chatted with a lady who sat with me, her husband was doing the Ironman, and she had her 2 kids in tow, then bolted off of the bus when we arrived back by the capital.  Amazingly I made my shift at 12:30.
My Triathlete humor sign for the bike

Bruce happy to see familiar faces
The transition area was pretty slow for quite awhile as the pros started to make their way in.  I started as a bike runner in the back in hopes that I could move up to the front around 2 when I expected to start seeing my friends.  Just after 12:30 as the bike captains had said, a guy came up with his bike asking to remove it from the transition.  He said everything that the bike captain had told us the day before someone would say: "I did the swim, got kicked in the face, dropped out, and now I have people waitng for me and we want to head back to Kentucky." Surprisingly they released the bike prior to 6pm (when bikes are allowed to be checked out). Soon after we experienced our first rush, the bikes were coming in about as fast as we could put them away. Before I knew it, it was 2 PM and I was able to trade out with someone and run bikes near the dismount line.  I was by the chip sensor and had a great time cheering for the athletes as they made their way into Monona Terrace for T2.  After awhile I was moved up to the dismount line and helped bikers off of their bikes.  It was an interesting set-up.  We tried to flag bikers into certain areas. We had 2-3 lines going, but at some times had a rush of bikers and had to jump in and grab a bike where we could.  At the dismount line I saw my friends John and Andrea.  I saw John a little late and shouted for him, but saw Andrea early enough to give her a high-five, even though I'm not sure she knew what was going on!  I continued to bike handle until 4:30 when I needed a break.  I threw my wet, GU (I hope) stained gloves into the garbage, and then found out that they were out of gloves.  So I grabbed a sandwich, relaxed a minute, checked on my friends' race progress, and asked the Bike captain if I could be dismissed.  Aaron and Laurie were now in Madison so we met up, picked a spot of the course where the athletes come out to start their run, proudly donning our signs.  We were able to see Bruce run by, as well as Kitty! After we saw them we started to stake out our spot by the finish.  We tried to bleachers, but it was extremely hard to see, so we made our way to the other side and found someone about to leave and took their spot.
Laurie and I with the signs

Way to go Coach Kitty
At our spot we cheered, watched, and waited.  We were constantly checking online, but some of the run time splits were not registering.  Just before the 11th hour I saw John heading to the finish line.  I screamed for him, but all he could seem to muster was a slight thumbs up.  At 11:25 Brad came by a foot away from my bright orange sign completely in the zone.  Laurie, Aaron, and I made our way to the finish to give our congratulations to Brad and John. 

IMWI Finisher Brad
Janesville Crew
By this time we were all hungry so Aaron, Laurie and I made our way to State Street to eat at Capital Brewery Tap Haus.  We enjoyed some food and Amber beer outside as the runners continued to push on.  We were able to see Kitty, Brenda, and Chris go by.  By now it was 8 PM or so, and I was exhausted!  We walked back to the other side of the capital and said our goodbyes.  I drove home in a daze, and went straight to sleep when I got home.  Monday I enjoyed checking Facebook for photos and videos from the day before.

I never thought I'd say this, but I want to do Ironman in 2014! Mark your calenders!

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