Amy Halsall's Ironman Wisconsin Report

All - this is my race report from my first Ironman in Wisconsin on Sunday. I finished in 14 hours and 15 minutes!!!! If you are interested (or just want to view the pics), read on.....

So, it is official….I am an Ironman! It has been a long and fun journey. I loved the training even when it was tough. My amazing triathlon coach, Jenny Garrison, kicked my butt literally this summer and I thought at times she was trying to kill me before I got to race day. Instead she showed me how strong I am and how much I am capable of. So, the race was a big celebration and I’m so thankful to all of the people who came out to support me (and those supporting me from a distance)! It was so awesome to know that so many people were cheering me on. I hope you enjoy this race report of my journey and the pictures. http://picasaweb.google.com/ausimity

I forewarn you that this race report is loooong (like an Ironman!).
I started the day at 4:00 AM after a solid sleep. I ate a plate of pancakes, gathered my things, and Keith and I drove into Madison. We parked a few blocks from race central, Monona Terrace. I dropped off my special needs bags by the capital knowing I would have access to them at the half way point of the bike and then the run. Next Keith and I went to the bike transition where I had placed my bike the day before. I pumped the tires, added my water bottles and placed food into my bento box, and helped others pump tires. Finally I went into Monona Terrace and added food to my bike transition bag before sitting in the hallway to relax and pass time. I drank Gatorade, waved at people I knew wishing them luck, and just relaxed. Then I headed down to the swim start at about 6:15 AM for a last minute port-a-potty stop then into the wetsuit. About 10 minutes before the start I got into the water. I stayed close to shore for a while and stood. A couple of minutes before the start I swam out to the back of the group. Then the horn and go! The swim was a fight the whole time for space. I fared pretty well but went quite slow trying to keep myself from getting panicked as guys swam over me, clobbered me in the head, or grabbed my feet. I made it around once and felt ok. The second trip was much better since I had more space. I think more open water pack swimming will help me improve. Out of the water I was curious to see what the trip to transition would be like. I started to get my wetsuit off and then reached a row of shouting volunteers. I stepped up to two women who pulled the arms off, pulled it down, and then told me to sit. They each grabbed a leg and pulled. The wetsuit whipped off. I got up, took my wetsuit from them, and was off running up the parking ramp. Cheering fans lined the way and I was grinning the whole time. My masters swim coach, the person who gave me confidence to swim in triathlons, was there and was screaming her head off as I passed by.
Into transition I changed out of my swimsuit and put on my bike clothes and helmet. I ran out of transition feeling great. I got almost to my bike and realized I forgot my race number. I had to run all the way to retrieve it. That took quite a while, at least several minutes. I ran back into the bike area and a volunteer screamed out my number while another volunteer grabbed my bike sitting lonely on the rack. Most of the triathletes were out on the bike already. I ran with my bike to the mount line and rode down to street level. As soon as I got to street level I realized my Aero bottle was not latched in place. I stopped and secured the bottle the headed back out. I must have bumped my bike computer in the process because it quit working. I didn’t realize it at the time and figured I could ride without it no problem and didn’t want to stop again. I thought if these are the only problems I have on the bike then I’m golden! That was the case. I rode really strong and happy the first loop eating and drinking as much as I could. I LOVED the spectators. The steep hills were packed with screaming people. The second loop started out fine but I could feel myself fading. Muscles were starting to feel tired and it was getting harder to stomach fluids and foods. But I held strong thinking of all the people on the course. I knew my friends and family were out there waiting for me. The last 30 miles were hard. I was so ready to get off the bike and started to feel mental doubt creep in. I made it up the last big hill on the loop and headed back to Madison. The last 12 miles to Madison were a mental battle knowing that the bike finish line was so close. Finally I was on John Nolen Drive and could see Monona Terrace and was riding along the lake. Amazingly the swim course was gone! All of the buoys had been removed and the
 lake was back to normal. I rode back up the parking garage drive where a volunteer immediately took my bike. I was able to walk into Monona Terrace and leave my bike in his hands. 
I took my time changing into completely dry, clean clothes and using sanitary wipes to get the bugs off my legs and wipe the salt off my face. It was refreshing. I headed out to the run course feeling drained. It was 4:00 PM at this point and with 26.2 miles to go I knew it would be a challenge. I ate a Gu and started to run when I hit the timing mat onto the course. The cheering spectators were encouraging. I kept my run to a shuffle and was ticking miles off at about 10:00 pace. I walked at each aid station every mile and tried to take in fluids and food offered. It was not settling well and soon my jog turned to walk. I struggled to run 15 seconds, feeling so nauseous and dizzy. What was frustrating was that my legs and muscles felt so good and strong. This was a place I’d never been before. I walked most of the way back to the 13.1 mile turn around. Right before the turn around my masters swim coach was there. She completed IM Wisconsin last year and immediately recognized the look on my face. I was panicked. I didn’t think that I could go on another 13 miles feeling the way I did. I thought I might pass out in the road and didn’t know what to do. My head felt fuzzy, my stomach felt like it wanted to jump out of my throat, and I felt like there was a veil obstructing my vision. My coach jumped onto the course and wrapped her arms around me and immediately began asking questions about how I was feeling. She told me the most likely cause of my symptoms was lack of sodium. I though I’d done well with all of the sports drinks I’d had and didn’t think my sodium would be so low. She said I needed get the chicken broth they offered on course at the next aid station and start sucking it down. It wasn’t far to the next station and I did as she said. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was less than a minute as I was drinking the broth that I immediately felt the change. Suddenly my head was clear, the nausea gone. With my head and stomach on board my legs were ready to go! I began to run and it felt amazing. Suddenly what had been hazy was sharp and clear. I was aware of everything around me and I could feel a smile creeping on my face. My family, prepared to see me dragging myself by them again saw a smiling, running person instead. I could see the shock on Keith’s face as he registered the change in my body and attitude. I felt so excited to run! Dark was coming on as it was about 7:00 PM at that point. I continued to walk aid stations mostly drinking broth. I started adding some cola, bananas, and water. I plugged away not knowing what my pace was except that I felt incredible. This was the best I’d felt all day. I ran most of the second half of the marathon. I’m sure it was slow but I felt like I was cruising and loved running in the cool darkness of the night. I saw fellow Masters swimmer Frank and we chatted and jogged but I floated by him. I’d seen two other friends (including amazing Ironman Allison Moe) but they were ahead of me at that point. I started to feel fatigue creep into my legs in the last few miles but pushed it out of my mind imagining the finish line and my family there waiting. As I ran into the final stretch, I felt my legs turning over faster and faster as I soaked in the lights, the crowd, the music, and couldn’t wait to fly across the finish line. I crossed over into the arms of two friendly volunteers who guided me through the finish shoot asking me questions and assessing my physical and mental state. I got a picture and then was shown where the food and medical tent were. The first person I saw was Keith grinning over the crowd. I was so thrilled to see him and showed him the coveted finishers shirt and hat. I saw the rest of my cheering crew next and felt amazing but knew I needed to get
 through to the food tent. I went straight in and picked up chips, pizza, and a cookie. I sat down and tried to eat but that’s when the dizziness set back in. I got up and went out. Keith helped me sit on the curb but the world began to spin. I have passed out before in my life and felt like that might happen again. I headed to the med tent and talked with the doctors. They weighed me and I was only 2 lbs down but I was probably retaining a lot of fluid that wasn’t able to soak in. They let me lay down with my feet up and gave me more broth. It wasn’t long and I was feeling 10 times better. It wasn’t too long before I was back out giving me people hugs and thanking them for all of their support. Kerri, Wayne, and Kayla had a long drive home and had to work in the morning. It had been a long day for everybody.
I changed, ate, and watched some more people finish before Keith and I headed back to the hotel. Keith had already retrieved my bike and transition bags so we could just leave. Back at the hotel it was past midnight when I showered and Keith headed out to get me some chicken tacos. I ate, stretched my back, and then collapsed into bed feeling completely relaxed. The next day and even today I am sore and fatigued but I’m less sore than after many marathons or even training sessions. It is still unreal that I did it because it seemed so impossible! But with the amazing support of all of my family, co-workers, friends, and especially Keith I did it! I loved it and it felt amazing to overcome the hard points and battle to the finish.
So this is more like a short story than anything, but I left a lot of stuff out as well. I hope that you enjoyed it and take a look at the pics. I tried to photo document as best as I could so I could share as much of the experience as possible. I just love triathlon and am sad the tri season is over. So now it is time to find the next goal after a nice recovery period. Perhaps a marathon this winter. If nothing else, I’ll look forward to the Turkey Trot, Reindeer Run, and other fun events that I enjoy each year. Also I can’t wait for the 2009 Chicago Marathon where I’ll cheer on many fellow athletes. Let me know if you are running, and I’ll look for you on the course! And to answer the question I know you’re asking, yes, I will do another Ironman one day. Want to join me?
Amy Halsall

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