Thursday, September 25, 2008

Part Four: I got my cow!

I ran my not-so-straight-line into the ballrooms, grabbed my T2 bag, and ran a much more controlled straight line into the changing room. Again, naked women everywhere, I know you don't really want to hear too much about that... A wonderful volunteer helped me with all the things in my bag after I asked her frantically, "Can you help me please?" I was much more worried that I was going to forget something during this transition. I made it this far, I would hate to screw it up the last 26.2 miles!

The wonderful volunteer unpacked all of my things for me. Everything. Even my mittens, ear brassiere, contacts, everything. I laughed at the mound of gear I had packed into my T2 bag. Like I said earlier. I. packed. everything. I just told her what to hand to me and she did, it was great. I didn't have to frantically search in my bag, worry that I forgot something (which isn't possible when you pack everything), nor did I have to be concerned about packing that bag back up, which, by the way, was still full of gear when I was done getting dressed. Ridiculous.

I thought I had everything, and on the way out the door I stopped to fill up the water bottles on my fuel belt. I went to grab them, and CRAP! Where are my bottles? Alright, so having a volunteer help you get dressed is not fool proof, you can still forget something. I told the lady at the water cooler, "Hold that thought, I'll be right back!" and ran back to the volunteer that helped me get dressed, grabbed my bottles out of my bag, and ran back to fill them up with water. I'm such a dunce sometimes. I finally got out the door in just over 10 minutes, and I stopped to get slathered with sunscreen.

When I grow up, I want to be a sunscreen slatherer because they are awesome. I felt like the queen having someone else put sunscreen all over me. Oops, I think you missed a spot. Just kidding. All the volunteers were great, and I can't wait to volunteer next year. I took a stop at the port-o-john and off I went onto the run course.

I have never been so excited to run a marathon. Correction: I have never been so excited to run. Period. No. Exclamation Point! My legs felt great, and my brain was puzzled. I didn't feel like I had spent the entire day working out. I new life in my legs and it amazed me. I walked through the water stops, and continued on my plan of taking a GU every 30 minutes and two chews every 15 minutes with water. I saw the Iron Cheer Crew just after the first aid station where I couldn't help myself but take a tasty banana for the road.


My tasty banana.

It was great to see the Iron Cheer Crew after coming off the bike. I gave them high fives and then it was on with the show. I was going at a good clip, but never felt like I was pushing it too hard. I wanted to make sure I had enough in me for the whole run, and I was feeling pretty confident that I was going to be ok. My nutrition plan was going pretty well. The orange GUs were tasting pretty good after all the tri berry and lime sublime on the bike. It wasn't until about mile 6 where my plan started to fall apart. I took a GU, drank some water, and everything seemed fine. After about 5 minutes of feeling like the GU was turning into cement in my stomach, I threw-up straight GU in my mouth and waited for awhile trying to figure out what to do with it. I didn't want to spit it out because I needed the calories so I swallowed it and decided that was my last GU of the day.

When I got to the next aid station, I looked at the buffet of food they were offering, and decided to try pretzels and gatorade. Hm...this tastes delicious. I love pretzels and gatorade! This is the best food I've had all day! The pretzels and gatorade sat really well and so at every aid station from then on I grabbed a handful of pretzels and a cup of gatorade and took that on the road with me. I tried to change it up a bit and tried some coke and chicken broth, but I kept going back to the pretzels and gatorade because they seemed to be working the best for me.

I finally saw Captain Cartwheel on the crushed gravel by Lake Mendota, and I was very excited to see her. When I saw her coming, I yelled, "Kimmmiiiiiiiii!!!!!" and she returned the greeting as well. I ran to on-coming traffic, we gave each other a hug and I said, "Even if we walk the rest of this, we're still going to be Ironmen today!" She laughed and said, "That's true, but we won't!" and she was right. We went on our way after I gave her a bunch of my endurolytes. After gagging on them too many times on the bike, I gave up on taking them so I'm glad I could give them to someone that would use them.

After we parted ways, I kept on chugging along. The Iron Cheer Crew had split up along the course and about every 2 miles I saw someone I knew. It was great! I kept trying to get updates on how Captain Cartwheel was doing, and I passed the time by people watching and enjoying the sites of downtown Madison and the UW campus. Elizabeth of the Iron Cheer Crew had split off by herself and was waiting for The Captain and I on a street corner about a mile or so off of State St. She didn't notice me when I ran by so I yelled out, "ELIZABETH! YOU MISSED ME!" and she stood up and started yelling, "OH JEEZ, I have to get your sign! Here's your sign! Look at her go! Goooo Rachel! She's beautiful and resilient! Keep going!!" That put a big smile on my face to think that she really thought I was beautiful after being out on the course for 11+ hours. I told her I would see her soon because we did a big loop to get back to the finish.

Elizabeth with her TNT-colored signs.

I rode on the boost that Elizabeth gave me for awhile until I noticed my right knee was starting to hurt. I didn't pay too much attention to it because I figured I couldn't get through the whole day without something hurting. I'm just really glad I didn't feel any pain in anything until the last 10 miles of the day. I know. I was amazed too. Endorphines are a beautiful thing.

The pain in my knee kept getting worse until it was to the point where it would give out when it hurt the worst. I was starting to get worried that I had done something more on the major side to it, but I kept going. It hurt the worst when I would side-step to dodge a puddle or pothole, but it didn't hurt that bad if I just kept going straight and jumped over whatever was in my way. So, I decided pothole or body, I was going to have to jump over whatever was in my way.

I came upon Inspiration Mile which is one of the best miles on the course. It is lined with signs made by spectators for their racers. After you hit the turn around, you come to a big sign that scrolls through messages from spectators to their racers. Mr. Fury put a message in the kiosk the day before for me and when I ran by it said, "R. Holzemer 1913: You're so going to beat me." It gave me a good chuckle and I thought to myself: Hell yes I am, and almost by an hour! I have a wee bit of a competitive side with Mr. Fury that I have a hard time hiding.. I saw Captain Cartwheel again at about mile 22-23. She said, "Can I give you a hug!" and of course I said YES! I'm a hugger, and so is The Captain, especially when she's racing. She said, "I'm so proud of you!" and I told her, "You're going to do this Kimmi, you're going to be an Ironman! Keep it up!" She was a major trooper on September 7th. She raced with stomach cramps that I heard started on the bike. I know your pain lady... and it's not fun.

I saw Elizabeth one more time before I ran to the finish, and the rest of the marathon was a total high knowing that I was going to be an Ironman. I could hear Mike Reilly as I got closer to the finish and I couldn't help but run with everything I had left in me. I had a huge smile on my face and tears welling in my eyes as I rounded the Capitol. I could see the lights, I could hear the crowd. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and suddenly all the tears of frustration, sore muscles, early wake-up calls, not seeing family and friends was all worth it. Every struggle. Every hard workout. The lonely days in the pool. Everything was worth it. No regrets.

I jumped with excitement down the entire finisher chute. I saw Mr. Fury and my family going nuts behind the barrier, and all I could hear was the roar of the crowd. I couldn't believe that I was finally there. I heard Mike Reilly on the loudspeaker as I crossed the finish line say, " are an Ironman!!!" and all I could say was, "Yes! YES! YES!!"

The volunteer at the other side of the finish line "caught" me and walked me around for a little bit. I spotted my family to the right of the finish area, the volunteer walked me over there and I hugged my mom. I have never seen my family so excited, and to be honest, I have never felt so excited either. I couldn't stop jumping up and down, I was so happy, and my mom said through tears, "You did it baby girl! You did it!" and I responded with, "I'm an Ironman, I did it! I did it! I got my cow!!!" I hugged the rest of my family, and then the volunteer took me to get my finisher's picture taken.
I got my cow!

She walked me around for a little while longer, told me where to get food and asked if I needed to go to the med tent. I told her about my knee and she insisted that I go to the med tent to have it checked out. I met up with Mr. Fury and the rest of the Iron Cheer Crew, everyone with tears in their eyes...even the mighty Mr. Fury himself. I, though, could not wipe the smile off my face or stop saying, "I got my cow! I got my cow!" Ok, I wasn't going crazy. The medals were little cows this year.

Mr. Fury walked me over to the food tent and then the med tent. I spent about an hour in the med tent getting my knee iced and my legs massaged by one of the massage therapist volunteers. If I ever have to visit a med tent again, I hope I'm in a similar condition as I was at IMWI. Everyone else around me looked horrible and was either puking or shivering, but I was smiling and joking with the massage therapist. I'm sure I told everyone around me that "I got my cow!" about one too many times too. My family picked up my bike and bags for me while I was in the med tent and we told them we would meet them back at the hotel.

Mr. Fury waited outside the tent for me, and when I came out, it felt about 25 degrees cooler than it had before. I forgot the blanket I was given at the finish line in the med tent so Mr. Fury gave me his long sleeve pullover to wear. I was so cold by the time we had walked to the finish line that I couldn't wait for Captain Cartwheel to come in without getting hypothermic. We met up with my family in the hotel bar, and I took a seat on the barstool. My dad told me how he had just got off the phone with my Aunt Margo and how she couldn't stop saying, "I can't believe she did it Rex. I just can't believe she did it!" Believe it! I did it! I got my cow!

My family was tired, and so was I so they headed back to their hotel and Mr. Fury and I went back to our room. Our friend Waima met up with us shortly after Mr. Fury came back to the room with a cooler full of ice for my ice bath. It took both Mr. Fury and Waima to lower me into the tub and they hung out with me in the bathroom while my teeth chattered away. After 10 minutes, I couldn't take it any longer, I had been cold since I left the med tent so I made the two of them lift me out of the tub and then I kicked them out so I could take a shower. A shower has never felt so good, and I would have stayed in there all night had it not been for the ferocious hunger brewing in my tummy.

I got out of the bathroom and Safety Bob soon came up to the room to grab his things so he could head home. He hung out for a little while, talked about the day, and then he was off. I tried to eat some food, but nothing was really tasting good or sitting well in my tummy so I choked down some cheerios and banana bread and went to bed. I woke up around 2:45 to the sound of my stomach rumbling, and then I felt the most horrible hunger pain. I stumbled into the bathroom with a bowl, spoon, knife and as much food as I could carry and sat on the floor eating cheerios and more banana bread and reading the paper. I went back to bed when I thought I had my fill and woke up an hour later and had to eat more. I left the food in there when I went back to bed. I again, woke up to my tummy at 5am and decided I was up for the day and got sick of going back and forth. I grabbed the container of lunch meat that Mr. Fury bought for sandwiches and I sat on the toilet eating smoked ham and yogurt while reading the comics. I ate half the container of ham before I decided that I should probably put it away before I got sick, finished reading the comics, and thought: I'm sitting on the toilet eating ham with a side of yogurt for breakfast. This is ridiculous. This, right here, is Ironman.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Part Three: Toe Popsicles

After exiting the water, I made my way to the wetsuit strippers. I had my wetsuit off my upper body by the time I got to them. The wetsuit strippers are like machines. They shouted instructions at me: "Down on the ground! Lift up your butt! Butt down, legs up!" They were yelling instructions so quickly, I was just hoping that I was keeping up with how fast they were moving. In the end, the stripping was successful, they handed me my wetsuit and I was on my way up the helix.

The air temperature wasn't much warmer than what it was when we first got in the water, and the concrete on the helix was mighty cold. Dang! I should have worn socks! I made the chilly run up the helix and was soon into the much warmer ballroom to pick up my transition bag and then made my way into the changing area. Women were all over the place, scrambling to get their things organized and trying to pull dry clothes on over their wet bodies. I tried to dry off as much as I could, but I still had a bugger of a time getting my clothes on. I got them on correctly, for the most part, although I did try to put my bike shorts on backwards. Whoopsies! Note to self: the large part of the bike pad goes in the back...

I managed to pop off a snap on my race belt and had to scramble to find a safety pin. Thankfully, one of volunteers directed me to a very large bag of safety pins. I fixed my race belt and then I was out of the ballroom to be slathered with sunscreen. As soon as I exited the building, I saw my family waiting just outside the door. It was nice to see them before I headed out for the long ride. I waved to the camera and then I stopped to get some sunscreen, the only exposed flesh being my legs and neck. It was the quickest I have ever had sunscreen put on me!

I ran down the guantlet of bikes, and finally I made it to mine. The volunteer was having a horrible time figuring out which bike was mine for some reason. I don't know why it was so hard because there were only about 5 bikes left on the rack by the time I got there.

So, I tried to give him a little direction:

He finally chose the right bike and then I was off to the races.

The one thing I didn't pack in my transition bag and wish I had:

My poor toes were so cold, I thought they were never going to warm up. No worries, they finally warmed completely around mile 80. I did put socks in my T1 bag, so I put them on despite feeling more comfortable riding sockless on my training rides. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made all day! I was making my way out to Verona when I caught up with Captain Cartwheel (she had an amazing swim!). It was really nice to see her since I didn't get to say a final Good Luck! before we set off in the water. She was looking good, and like most others, was just trying to get into the groove of things on the bike before we hit the hills in Verona. We had a quick conversation as I passed, and now I cannot remember what it was about. I didn't see her again until the run.

The trip to Verona was pretty uneventful until we were just about to enter the city and I saw a guy that had to pull over because he broke his chain. I felt so bad and really hoped that the tech vehicle would stop and they could help him. It would be awful to have your race end so early in the day because of something like that.

The first big hill on the course I got a major flashback of riding the course with The Captain in early August. It made me smile, but I tried not to daydream to much so I didn't swerve off the road. I have been known to do that from time to time...

On one of the first really crappy hills where we had to climb to the top of a hill, turn at an intersection and continue climbing, a spectator ran me up the hill yelling and cheering for me. He had some sort of affiliation with TNT and was yelling "GO TEAM!" which really helped to motivate me. He dropped off from cheering when I neared the top and then in true Ms. R fashion, I dropped my chain. OH HELL! It's going to be a long day if this keeps up! I tried to pedal it back onto the sprocket, but it wasn't going to give me an inch so I had to get off my bike and fix it. It only took a couple seconds to fix, but by the time I went to get back on my bike, there were so many other racers coming up the hill, I had to wait for an opening. As soon as I got back on my bike, I had a nice coast downhill until the next set of hills. See a pattern here..UP, down, UP, down, UP, UP, UP, down. It was seemingly endless.

I had to go to the bathroom so bad, but didn't want to pull over to the side of the road. I finally found a port-o-john at one of the water stops and took a seat. Ahhh, there's nothing much more relieving than popping a squat when you've had to go for quite awhile. Marathon Laura saw me stop at the potty and yelled, "What? No peeing on the bike today?!" Ah, no thank you. It's much too early in the race to be sitting in that for the next 80 miles.

I remember hoping that I would make it to Verona before I got passed by the leader, and then having a little bit of a party when I turned at the intersection to bike into the party at Verona and the lead car had not passed by yet. It was not a full minute later that I was passed by this nice looking vehicle and then by the Mac Attack at blazing speed (aka Chris McDonald):

So, I made my impromptu goal. I soon arrived at the party in Verona where I saw the entire Iron Cheer Crew. Down in the main crowd I was able to spot my brother and sister-in-law who managed to see me at the last second. Apparently, my parents were off somewhere doing something more important ::sigh:: and missed me entirely so they had to wait another 2 1/2 hours or so until I came through Verona again to see me.

In the mass of the Iron Cheer Crew, I didn't see either Safety Bob or Mr. Fury. They had talked about staking out a spot on the course elsewhere because they were going to ride on Safety Bob's motorcycle, but I didn't see them on the first loop. I started to worry a little because I am a notorious worrier when it comes to motorcycles, but I kept on chugging along and made my way out to Mt. Horeb. I was just riding along past a cow pasture, minding my own business when a woman started to pass me who quickly turned into Crazy Lady on the Bike. She seemed normal, until she started talking to the cows. Crazy Lady on the Bike was mooing and asking the cows how they were doing like they were actually going to answer her. Ok Crazy Lady on the Bike, whatever gets you through the day. And I thought I had problems...

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful until I got to the infamous Tour de France Hill and saw Safety Bob and Mr. Fury. YES! Finally, I thought I was NEVER going to see you guys! Mr. Fury ran beside me and asked me how I was doing. I replied with an assertive, "I'm so sick of these F#*%ING hills!" He, calm as always, said, "You're doing great babe, keep it up. You look so good!" We exchanged I love yous, blew him a kiss and then I was off to finish up the ride.

Seeing those two really gave me a boost and I felt like I was flying on my way back to Verona. When I got back to the part on the streets of Verona, I saw the Iron Cheer Crew, and I finally got to see my parents. I made sure the coast was clear and then pulled over to give my mom a hug. I tried to persuade my dad to give me a hug too but he was trying to take a picture. He finally got the perfect picture (which I'll post when I get a copy of it), and then he gave me a hug. I hopped back on my bike and saw my brother and sister-in-law in the crowd and pulled over far enough to give them high fives on my way out of town.

I made my way back to Madison smiling the entire time knowing I would soon be off my bike. I got a second wind as I biked through the Alliant Energy Center parking lot and rounded the corner to the path that lead straight back to Monona Terrace. It felt great to see the terrace and when I was pulling up to the helix, I heard Safety Bob screaming my name from the top. I looked up and saw him with his face hidden behind his camera which is how we often see him these days.

I made my way up the helix and saw the volunteers waiting at the top to take our bikes. I rode up to one of them and said, "You're going to have to hold tight because I don't think I can get off this thing alone." I gently lifted my leg off one side of my bike, and ran the most crooked line I possibly could have back to the ballroom to grab my T2 bag. I honestly don't think I could have passed a sobriety test with the wobbly line I ran toward the entrance of the terrace. I was looking forward to the run because that is my true love of the three. Finally home!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Part Deux: The Demise of Comfort

I said goodbye to my family and told them I would see them in Verona, and started walking toward the helix to go down to the water. It was a crazy zoo of people walking down the helix with fan clubs saying goodbye to their racers and racers trying to get down to the water. It was like cattle crawling into the barn. The emotion and excitement was thick in the air and I could see it on the faces of everyone around me. I had to remind myself to breathe or I was going to succumb to nerves, and now was not the time for nerves, it was time for my game face. It was about halfway down the helix that I started to think:

Ok, breathe, just breathe, why is it harder to breathe than it should be? OH JEEZ! I TOLD YOU NOT TO FORGET TO TAKE YOUR INHALER! You big dummy. One full hour this morning I reminded you, and this is how you remember? By not remembering?! Nice work. Well, Good luck Chicky, you're going to need it!

Ms. R: Oh hush up you. I'm going to be just fine. I have been through much
worse without my inhaler.

Call Mr. Fury, have him bring it down for you! He's probably not that far away.

Ms. R: Oh yeah, let me just pull my cell phone out of my tri shorts, hang on.... Or wait, they might have bananas down by the water that I could call him with.

Good point.

Ms. R: Really, it's going to be fine. Today is going to be a great day!

After I calmed myself after the panic of not taking my inhaler, I continued the walk to the water and tried to enjoy everything that was going on around me. When I got to the bottom of the helix, I slipped the remainder of my wetsuit on and stood at the edge of the water and thought to myself:

Wow! Look at all those people! That really is a site ain't it?

Ms. R: Ain't is not a word genius.

Sheesh, you're sure on the ball today Wonder Woman.

Mike Reilly was on the loudspeaker directing everyone to get in the water so I moved to the side a little more, put on my cap and goggles and waded into the water. The water felt great, it was a nice 71 degrees compared to the 50 something air temperature. I swam out to the edge of where most of the people were wading and moved more towards the back of the pack. I wanted to give myself some room and a little more time before I received a swift kick or elbow. A guy swam by me and asked, "So, what's your plan?" and not really knowing if he meant for the swim or for the whole race I just said, "To finish!" and laughed. He didn't think I was as funny as I thought I was, as is often the case, so he gave me a funny look and swam away. Did he think I had some big secret to share? Hello, I'm sure I had "FIRST TIMER" written all over my forehead!

Before we knew it, the pros were off and we had only a few more minutes until our race began. Mike Reilly was playing up the crowd as usual, but I got the chills when he asked all the racers, "Who's going to be an Ironman today?" and everyone in the water cheered. It was amazing the roar of racers in the water. It really made me aware of how many people were in the water with me. Not long after that, the cannon went off and everyone started swimming. Well, kind of swimming. Actually, it was more like treading water in a forward motion because no one was moving very quickly. I was just so happy that race day had officially started. (Yes, HAPPY IRONMAN DAY!)

I have heard over and over that the swim is like being in a washing machine. My opinion: Please pass the Tide! There were arms and bodies everywhere and you better have quick reflexes to dodge a kick or elbow to the face. The water was instantly choppy, but I felt well prepared for it. A big thank you to Mr. Fury and Safety Bob for making the team swim without lane lines in the pool. It was the best accidental preparation for Ironman I could have accidentally had.

I tried my darndest to stay to the outside during the first lap, and I was doing a really good job of it until we approached the first corner buoy. Suddenly, everyone came to a halt and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I lifted my head out of the water and saw that I was about 15 ft from the buoy which was much, much closer than to the outside where I planned on staying. Somehow, in the madness to turn the corner, I was slowly pushed closer and closer to the line of buoys. Crap! This is not where I want to be! No one was moving very quickly, or much at all really, but most people seemed to have a good attitude about it. I think we all realized that none of us was going to set a course record today. One guy and I looked at each other and started to laugh, shrugged at each other and then tried to tread water in a forward motion.

After making my way out of that debacle, I made a very deliberate attempt to get back to the outside. I think I was stuck in the mess around the corner for a good couple of minutes before breaking free. I finally got some space in the water and was in a spot I was comfortable with when ::SMACK:: I got a swift elbow in the chin. What in Sam Hill! Where did that body part come from!? It was the phantom limb. I still couldn't tell you where the flying elbow came from, but let me tell you, I do like me a good flying elbow. (Insert Mr. Fury shaking his head at me here.)

I recovered nicely from the phantom limb episode to swim right into a swift kick to the ta-ta. Now, let me tell you, Comfort and Joy may not be the largest ladies on the block, but they are just as sensitive as the next pair. The blow to Comfort was pretty mighty and I had to take a moment to catch my breath and collect myself. If only that guy had any idea what he had just did, he would have felt a little remorse I'm sure.

I got back into the groove and the remainder of my swim was fairly uneventful, thankfully. There was so much action going on with the number of people in the water, it was quite entertaining, and made the swim go by much more quickly than I anticipated. My mind never strayed to think about how long I had been swimming or how much farther I had to go because I was instead jockeying for position and trying not to hit or be hit by others. I made my way back to the terrace after rounding the last buoy and before I knew it, I was being helped out of the water by a volunteer. I looked at the clock and it said 1:15:03. Nice! Exactly where I want to be! Next stop, T1! Sheesh, it's kind of cold out here!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Part One: Happy Ironman Day!

This post is long overdue, but I was on vacation so give a girl a break, eh!? Yes, yes, I finally got some R&R up north with Mr. Fury. It rained most of the time we were there, but at least I wasn't at work. As I found out today, it was pretty eventful in my absence but my co-worker wasn't getting much pity from me as he left me all alone to run the show for a week not too long ago.

So I bet you're all dying to hear how my first IM experience was. Well, I'm dying to tell ya! This will probably have to be done in separate posts because it was a long day and I want to make sure I relay as much as I can.

Let's start the night before Ironman. Reservations were made at Tutto Pasta in Madison, great food by the way, for the family, The Fury, and I. I had been waiting for this night for 9 months and I was extremely excited it was finally the night before race day. I love race weekend, it's exciting to go to the expo, pick up your race numbers and all the things that go with race weekend. Love it. Love it. Love it. Race weekend means you get to race soon and I love. to. race. It makes me so happy. I digress.

On the way down to the restaurant, we were all chatting away. We came to stop when we saw all the people waiting outside of the restaurant and started to weave our way inside when I spotted two people that I recognized. You know when you see someone somewhere and you're not expecting to see them at that location because you know you shouldn't see them there? Yeah, I saw two people and did a double-take thinking, "No way, that can't be them..." Yes, yes, it is. Crash and Numb Toes came to Madison despite leading Captain Cartwheel and I to believe they couldn't come. I couldn't believe it. I was so excited to see them, I couldn't stop jumping up and down, and then I couldn't stop the tears. "Excited" really doesn't do justice to how happy I was they made the trip to Madison. Ecstatic. That's a better word. Crash and Numb Toes didn't think my reaction was serious until I started crying. Ok, you got me! Mr. Fury was in on the surprise too. He can keep a good secret! I was in shock pretty much the remainder of the weekend that they actually made it out to Madison for us. Thank you again guys, it meant so much to me to have you there!

We made it into the restaurant and dinner was delicious, as it was last year when we ate there before Mr. Fury's date with IM. After we were finished eating, my dad asked one of the guys at the table next to us to take a picture of the family. "Hm...I recognize that guy," I thought to myself, and I could tell "that guy" was thinking the same thing. "Jeff! Oh my gosh! How are you!? I can't believe we bumped into each other here!" I met Jeff in the pool at Lifetime about a month ago. He was wearing the swim cap from Chisago 1/2 Iron this summer and I struck up a conversation with him because I did the race too! I can't help myself, I'm such a chatter box, especially when I'm looking to avoid starting a workout. Ha! We ended up talking tri for about 25 minutes and then decided we should get on with our workouts. I didn't get a chance to catch up with him after the race, but I'm sure you rocked Jeff!

After we left the restaurant, I bid ado to my family and the Fury and I went back up to our hotel room. I felt amazingly calm for the night before a race and especially a race that is my first Ironman! I was too excited to get nervous. I had been working toward this day for so long and it was almost Ironman Day! I couldn't wait, and I'm getting a little excited just reliving it in words. The amazing thing about the whole weekend was that I never had much for nerves. The only time I recognized feeling nervous was when I had some down time in the hotel. I was just on the verge of sleep when I shot awake, stunned Mr. Fury a little, and said, "Oh! I think I just got nervous!" It was almost too funny to be serious. The feeling passed and then I took a little bit of a nap. And that's the end of my nerves story.

Finally it was sleepy time, and I couldn't wait to sleep the night away so I could wake up to Ironman Day. I slept like a rock until about 3:30 am when I woke up to use the privy. I laid back down and then I started thinking about all the things I needed to remember to bring down with me to transition to pack in my bags that I forgot yesterday, "...oh and don't forget bring Mr. Fury's inhaler to use before the swim. Don't forget the inhaler!"

Ok, ok brain, chill out. I won't forget all the things I need and I won't forget the inhaler!

Listen chicky, I'm reminding you now so you won't forget later. I know how you are about taking your inhaler. You're horrible at remembering. You'll thank me later for not letting you sleep an extra hour!

Right, right. I'm sure I will. Now let me sleep.

No dice.


So, I just laid in bed and waited for time to pass. Finally, I could feel a little sleep coming and then, ::BEEP::BEEP::BEEP:: I jumped out of bed, looked at red-groggy-eyed Mr. Fury and said, "HAPPY IRONMAN DAY!" He just looked at me and rolled over pulling the covers over his face. Yes, I am much more of a morning person than he ever will be. I went into the bathroom, heated up some water in the coffee maker and made myself some oatmeal, gnawed on a banana and drank some gatorade. I couldn't stop smiling. It is IRONMAN DAY TODAY! WAHOO!! After I finished up my oatmeal, I heard a knock on the door and went to answer it not thinking anything of the fact that I didn't have pants on. I figured it was Captain Cartwheel. We've moved past formalities with each other and this includes pants. I opened the door and found Dr. B instead. Dr. B and I have not completely moved past formalities so I hid behind the door. "Oh! Good morning! Happy Ironman Day! I don't have pants on, sorry!" She laughed and handed me a card wishing me good luck during the day ahead. It was a card that played music and there's nothing like hearing the hampster dance song at 5am! I loved it, but Mr. Fury not so much. It made me smile even more than I already was, thank you Dr. B!

After doing a little jig to the hampster dance song, I gathered my things, yes I grabbed the inhaler, and was off to the race site. Mr. Fury was not far behind me with the tire pump and extra snacks just in case. I met Team G, Marathon Laura (soon to be Ironman Laura) and Captain Cartwheel in the lobby of the hotel. I saw Marathon Laura and The Captain first and greeted them with a cheerful, "Happy Ironman Day!" and The Captain returned the greeting. (As you can see, I have moved Ironman Day up to the ranks of a National Holiday. Happy Ironman Day!) Team G showed up in their matching shirts and we all walked down to transition together.

We stopped at body marking first on the way in to visit our bikes one final time before the big ride. The woman who did my body marking had such pretty handwriting. She marked my numbers on both my arms and then asked me my age. " Hold on a second, I know. I just need a second." Yeah, I blanked on my age. I had been so focused on my race number that I didn't remember how old I was. I could have spouted off the ages of everyone else I knew, my social security number, the year my parents were married, but I couldn't remember how old I was. I actually had to do the math. "Oh jeez, sorry. 26! I'm 26! Oh thank God! That's embarrassing." She got a good laugh out of it, and then I was off to visit my bike.

Everything was in order. I pumped up the tires, put my gazillion Luna Moons in my bento box along with some salt tabs, and strapped in my aero bottle. Good. To. Go! Crash and Numb Toes were on the catwalk just above our bikes taking pictures. I told them again how excited I was they made it to Madison:

...I even cried again this morning because I am still so excited you're here!

Oh honey, it wasn't for us, it's just the nerves!

I know, but I'm still really glad you're here!

I was done checking my bike and then I was off to meet Mr. Fury and my family. Team G, Marathon Laura, and The Captain all joined the huddle and then the four of them broke off to go down to the water while Mr. Fury and I waited for my family to arrive. Come on guys, remember when I said 6:15am! It's 6:30! FINALLY! I saw my parents rounding the stairs in the Terrace along with my sleepy eyed sister-in-law and brother. My mom gave me a big hug, followed by the rest of the family and then we chatted for a little bit. Mr. Fury got a call from Safety Bob who was on his way so I waited for him to arrive too. I got a big bear hug from him when he arrived and then he snapped a few more photos, told me how excited and fricking proud he was of me, and that I was going to have a great race. I agreed, thinking positively about the day, said I had to get down to the water and that I would see them all in a matter of hours. I stressed again how important it was to get a good spot to watch the swim because it is SO COOL to watch, and then I was off to trot down the helix to the swim start.

I have to leave you hanging here because it's sleepy time. Here are a few more photos from the morning though. Nighty, night!

Bob taking a last second pic before I took off for the helix.

My bike awaiting my arrival at T1. Oh, my trusty steed!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Rachel Holzemer, You Are An IRONMAN!

I DID IT! I rocked and finished in under 14 hours. YES, YES, and YES!!!!!! What a high...

More to come later. For now, I am going to eat and take an ice bath, Dr.'s orders. Thank you to everyone for all your support and love!

-Ms. R

Saturday, September 6, 2008

AKA: 1913

This morning was fantastic. I woke up, ate some oatmeal and a banana and headed down to Lake Monona to test out the water. We don't have a microwave in our room, but we have the second best thing:

A good ole' coffee/oatmeal maker! Woohoo, genius! Makes for some tasty oatmeal with a hint of coffee flavor... I wanted to test out making some oatmeal this morning so I can make some tomorrow morning without a hitch.

I walked down to the water, hoping to see Captain Cartwheel or some of the Boston Crew, but they were no where to be found. I did the funky chicken dance into my wetsuit, dropped off the rest of my stuff with the lovely Gatorade people checking bags, and charged, err..or gingerly waded into the water. Turns out the "beach" is really rocky. I'm really glad I didn't slip and fall on all the greasy rocks that were under foot.

The water was a great 71 degrees, and the algae seems to be at bay being the air temp has been cool enough lately. There were only a few weeds, and once you're about 50 ft. off shore, the lake drops off and you cannot see the bottom. I cannot express how happy I am the lake is deep enough that you cannot see the bottom. For those of you that don't already know, I have a ridiculous fear of seeing the bottom of a lake/ocean/river/puddle/etc. I think this fear formed when I only trained in Lake Nokomis which is so grimy that you cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Ever since then, I DO NOT WANT TO SEE THE BOTTOM. Yes. Ridiculous. My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.

After I finished up my swim, I came back to the room, ate some more, and finished packing my transition bags. I still did not know what to pack so I packed one or more of everything. I figure that should get me through the day, right?

I decided I should practice changing a tube on my bike and using the CO2 one more time before I dropped off my bike. I haven't yet decided if that was a good idea or not. After a possibly catastrophic technical difficulty, a trip to the bike shop and one hour later, I was able to finally put the wheel back on my bike. The valve extender on the front wheel was not cooperating, got stuck inside the wheel for awhile and really just acted like a child hopped up on sugar...they never quite behave themselves now do they??!!

I finally, and barely, got my bike and transition bags down to the Terrace a little after 2pm. It was more than a relief to drop off all of my stuff and be done with it. Mr. Fury and I came back to the room and, of course, I found my water bottles for my fuel belt I forgot to put in my T2 bag. Whoops! I didn't quadruple check and that's what I get. Thankfully I can throw them in there tomorrow morning.

Speaking of tomorrow morning, I am so excited. SO. EXCITED! The nerves have hit me a little bit, but mostly I'm full of excitement. I'm looking at this as a very long training day because I've done this all before. Well, maybe not all together in one day, but I know that on race day things are possible that are not possible on any other day. Yes, I'll do anything to cross a painted line in the middle of street especially when I come to that line I get to hear Mike Reilly say, "Rachel Holzemer, you are an ....."

Tomorrow is going to be a great day! (Rain or shine) You can track me at home on and my number is 1913. I'm hoping to finish before 9pm, but mother nature will play a role in that as well. We'll see what she brings. Send your good vibes in the direction of Madison, WI tomorrow!

Good luck to everyone racing at Square Lake Half tomorrow!

Friday, September 5, 2008

I have arrived!

Captain Cartwheel, Mr. Fury and I arrived in Madison around 5pm yesterday. I got to meet the Boston Crew, and then we checked into the hotel. I wore my Gopher's apparel for good measure. It makes me feel better to show my Gopher Pride. Watch out Buckey, you may receive a swift kick in the shins from this Gopher fan...

I thought it would be HI-LARIOUS to leave some Gopher paraphernalia in Camp Randall, but I don't have anything with me. I'm guessing that I won't be able to find anything gopher related here either. I didn't know the stadium had turf in it because my original plan was to leave a Gopher flag in the grass, but that's not possible with turf. If anyone has ideas, let me know because my bro is another die-hard Gopher fan and I'm sure he can bring me something on Saturday.

Anyhow, enough about that craziness. Today I'm going to head down to Monona Terrace and pick up my race packet. Tonight we have the dinner and mandatory athlete meeting which will be very informative I'm sure. I'm going to try to lay out all my gear that I'm going to put in my transition and special needs bags. It's going to be a tough decision seeing as I brought almost all of my gear. Seriously. All. My. Gear. I couldn't take the suitcase I packed it all in on an airplane because it's so heavy.

And now, as promised, the update on the weather is not looking so great:

Sunday: A 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 73. Southwest wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Sunday Night: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 51. West wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Currently, it's 56 and drizzling outside. The lake is going to feel like a hot tub! I think today will be a great day for a quick jog by the lake. I'm going to try to not freak out when I see the swim course. YIKES! Oh man, remember to breath Ms. R!

More to come later...