Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Well, I have put off writing my blog long enough. I started writing a few months back and really enjoyed posting my race report. Since then, I sort of let it slip my mind because I didn't really know what to write. I have had a wonderful first full season of racing triathlon, thus far. Last weekend I had my best race of the year, and thought it was about time to write about it.
I went up to Madison, Wisconsin to check out the bike course a few weeks before the race. It was in the 90's and 100% humidity. That was a really rough weekend of training for me. The conditions really brought my performance down, as well as my race confidence. I was pretty unsure about how the race was going to pan out for me, especially the 112 mile bike course.
We got to Madison on Thursday of race week and it was just beautiful. I was feeling rested and relaxed at this point, and knew that I just had to trust in my training and perform to my best physical and mental ability. We built a bonfire out in the country that night with some friends. I love fires and took some time just to stare into the flames and envision my race and the strengths I would need for my first Ironman.
Friday and Saturday went quickly. Friday was the welcome dinner where I got to meet some of my Erin Baker Triathlon Team teammates. I enjoyed listening to the many stories of athletes that were shared and drew a lot of inspiration from them. Saturday, Rob and I went to UW vs San Jose St football game. Rob needed as little break from the triathlon scene, as did I. Its not so good for me to spend a lot of time around so much nervous energy. I think that it can be counteractive and create doubts in your own plan by listening to others triathlon training and racing stories. I surprisingly slept like a baby on Saturday night, which was a huge blessing for me.
SWIM-Lake Monona was super calm as the sun began to rise on Sunday morning. I was unusually calm as well. I had a growing excitement inside but was sure not to waste too much energy before the start. I somehow ran into every one of my friends that I knew were spectating and received amazing positive energy to build on from them. When I got into the water I knew it was going to be just the beginning to a fabulous day. The gun when off and I took off. The mass start wasn't as difficult as I imagined. I just had to keep forward progression and not worry about the fists, kicks, and pulls from others. There were people around me on both laps so I was able to find drafts almost the entire way. I came out just under 50 seconds of my predicted swim and was happy to see I was on the right track. Running up the helix into T1 was quite and event. Hundreds of people screaming and were cheering the athletes on. It was hard not to be pumped up.
I came into T2 feeling amazing. I had no idea where I was placed in the pack, but I knew I had surpassed my expectations for the bike portion. The girls in the change room were cheering and all in a line waiting to jump at the chance to assist me. I told them they were just amazing being there and how cool it was. I started to tear up with all the emotions that came over me. The girls shouted words of encouragement as I sprinted out of the building.
RUN-I also started the run for the first 20 minutes going easy and not to take off too fast. The last leg of Ironman was still going to be long, and I wasn't planning on bonking that early! The first loop of the run felt comfortable even though I wasn't going as fast as I thought I would run. I was pacing comfortably and knew I could carry that a long way. As I got to the second loop, I found myself getting fatigued in my quads, but it wasn't anything that couldn't push through. I saw my husband at mile 17 and knew I was slowing a little, but his encouragement was an uplift for me. We looped around State St. and the crowds were screaming and echoing through the street. Perfect for all the athletes struggling with their run. I got to mile 20 and my hamstring seized up on me and I got panicked. I couldn't stop because then everything would start shutting down. So I slowed a bit, and got the pain under control and then sped up to the fastest pace I was able to handle at this point.
The last 300 meters is a lap around the capital building....uphill. I had such a rush inside that I just took off for the finish line. People were screaming from all sides as I came through the finish chute hearing Mike Reiley say, "Erin Spitler, You Are An Ironman." I thought for sure I was going to shed some tears hearing that for the first time in my life, but my brain was just in such exhaustion that I fell into the arms of the catchers and let them walk me to Rob, who was standing at the end of the street.
Then I heard the most amazing words I have heard all 2010 triathlon season come out of Rob's mouth. "Erin, you won, you are 1st Place!" I was first in my age group and first overall amateur. I was just stunned. I had achieved a position I had been gunning for all season, and I did it in the hardest race. What?!?!
This Ironman Wisconsin 2010 was the best racing experience of my life. Everything from volunteers, to registration and banquets, to course support, and weather, all fell into place with precision. Rob and I went back to the finish after dark to cheer on athletes that were still racing. This is when it all hit me. I realized, not only what I had accomplished, but what 2,500 others had accomplished, and started crying. What an overwhelming feeling. It is unexplainable to those who have never race an Ironman before.
I will never forget this day. It won't be my last Ironman. I am looking forward to many more.