In September 2003 and again in September 2004 I went to Madison,
Wiscosin to compete one of fourIronman races held every year in
North America (the other locations are Florida, Lake Placid, New York,
An Ironman race is 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2
mile run -- 140.6 miles in all-- you might call it
Below are some pictures of me. At many marathons and
triathlons there are photo agencies that take photos of everyone they
possibly can on the course, and then afterwards they'll sell you the
prints at exhorbitant prices. But it's worth it as it's about the
one way to get photos short of dragging a loved one to the race course
and making them spend all day there. (Note, I
plan to do this in 2005 when I race at the Ironman Germany in
Frankfurt, I'm dragging Andrea there and my secret hope is she'll
photograph me. :-) ).
The race starts at 7:00 am, just at sunrise. You wouldn't
want to start any later as it takes most people somewhere between 12
and 16 hours to complete the race. The cut off is 17 hours --
that is, they close the course at midnight. The pros can do
the race in a little under 9 hours.
Below is a photo from this year's race - that is 2300 racers in
the water, about 1-2 minutes after the starting gun went
off. If you look closely you can ('t) see me right there in
Yes, it's as beautiful as it looks.
This year I did the swim in 1 hour 14 minutes... which is
actually a pretty good time - it was 63rd percentile for my age group
(which is 45-49 men). I was really pleased with this because the
time was a little faster than last year (1 hour 16 minutes) but it felt
a lot easier this year, I think because my swim technique has improved.
To give you a feeling for how I've improved, in my half Ironman
races in Sonoma the last three years, my swim time has always been in
the bottom 10th percentile -- that is, when I get out of the
water 90% of the guys in my age group have already finished and
typically are already on their bikes!
Here is an aerial view of the 2003 Ironman swim leg. You can
see the swimmers stretched out on the rectangular 1.2 mile course (if
any of you are math challenged, we swim around the course twice
:-). You can see lots of volunteer lifeguards / referees in
kayaks and the like on the course.
In the above photo you can see downtown Madison in the background,
and spectators lining the shore. The cool building front left is
"Monona Terrace", designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930's but not
built until the 1990's (and you thought you were late on some of your
to do list). Monona Terrace is a convention center on the water
and the Ironman race is hosted there including all our transition
areas. I think some of my blood is in that building now.
After the swim you go to a "transition area" where you change into
your bike clothes and run out to the bike parking lot and grab your
bike and then start the long bike ride, the longest part of the day.
Here I am in 2003 Wisconsin:
I'm bent forward in my "aero bars", so called because in that
position you are more aerodynamic, which is key in triathlon racing,
where you are not allowed to draft behind other bike riders (that is
stay immediately behind them and cutting your wind resistance down
And at times in 2003 I looked positively zippy in
2003! Imagine how fast I could have gone if I didn't have
In 2003 my Ironman bike time was pretty good at 6 hours 12 minutes
to go the 112 miles. That's an average of 18.1 m.p.h. over the
notoriously hilly Wisconsin course. Want to know my
secret? Look in the above photo and you'll see that my
socks matched my jersey!
So how did I do on my 2004 bike? Well, I began the bike segment in great spirits because I had a great swim time and
felt pretty rested - energy conservation is the key to good Ironman
racing. Below I'm just leaving the bike starting area
Note that in 2004 my tires are yellow but the yellow jersey and socks were gone. Was this an omen?
Well, as you can see the above photo, once I was out on the course
I tried to be zippy, but it was harder this year. Look at
that grimace. First of all, I made several really silly rookie
mistakes, the first of which was my seat post was not fully tightened
and so it slowly drifted lower and lower and it wasn't till the middle
of the 112 miles that I realized this, so I had been riding a long time
in a less efficient position. Now I'm no longer a rank rookie so
I should never have started the race with a loose seat post, but at
least I had the correct allen wrench in my saddle bag to make a quick
stop and remedy this problem. My other mistakes were
water/sports drink bottle problems that led to me getting dehydrated in
the middle of the bike ride. Not a good idea!
(but if misery loves company I take some consolation in Lance
Armstrongs famous dehydration in the 2003 Tour de France).
Bottom line, in my 2004 Ironman (and also in my August 1st 2004
half ironman) I had very tough stretch in the middle of the bike
ride where I lost all oooomph and just slowed down a fair
amount. A miserable experience.
But that is one of the lessons of Ironman races - sooner or later
during the day everyone will have tough patches, and you just have
to slow down and adjust and after a while it will probably get
So for me I rode a bit slower and concentrated on drinking lots
more and sure enough, after only 2 hours of being really miserable
I started feeling and riding better and I finished the last hour of the
bike ride feeling better... and hoping to have
a good run leg to salvage something of the day!
In the end my bike time in 2004 was 6 hours and 36 minutes, a big
slow down compared to 2003's 6:12. In 2004 my bike was in
the 44th percentile of my age group. I went into the "T2"
transition area and change from my biking clothes into....
Just wanted to make sure you are paying attention -- you are
right, there is no colisseum in Madison! The above photo is from
my March 2003 Rome Marathon.
(these computers can be hard to use sometimes so I apologize about the out of place photo and all that...)
Okay, here's a photo of me running in the 2003 Madison Ironman:
The capitol building in the background is the... capitol building, Wisconsin state capitol.
And, since marathon's are inherently long and seem to last forever, here's another similar shot, also from 2003:
I don't have any photos of me running in 2004, but my run in 2004
went really well. After that tough bike ride it was
actually a relief to go out and run, because I know how to run
marathons (having done about 25 so far). I ran
my marathon in 4 hours 25 minutes, which isn't a fast time for me, but
for an Ironman really isn't bad at all, especially on a brutally hot
day (both 2003 and 2004 were abnormally hot and humid for Wisconsin,
getting up to low 90's and high 80's respectively).
To put my marathon time in perspective, it was 83rd percentile of
my age group. Another way to gauge it, when I began
the run this year, out of the 2300 contestants, there were 1173 ahead
of me, and when I finished the run that night, there were 702 ahead of
me. In other words, as I ran the marathon, I passed 471.
That's passing almost 1 runner every 30 seconds.
That's the good news. But, in hindsight, I was pushing
myself a bit hard in this run, because, even though I stopped virtually
every mile at the aid stations and walked and drank and ate before
starting to run again, by the end of the marathon I skipped the last
few aid stations and just blazed on home. I was humming!
But see if you can see the difference in my finish line photos from 2003 and 2004.
Don't I look a bit more wiped out in 2004?
In 2004 my total time was 12 hours 35 minutes, a tad bit longer
than my 12 hour 24 minute time in 2003. While the 11
minutes seems like a big diference when you're on the ground racing,
it's just a 1.5% difference - not really statistically significant
(unless it's a Presidential election).
To put my 12:35 in context, I placed 701 out of 2188 finishers, or
68th percentile, and I was in the 74th percentile of my age
group. In other words, in my age group, I finished in the top
quarter. So of course I'm happy.
But back to that exhausted look in 2004 at the finish line.
Yes, I think I was wiped out in 2004. Based on some friends
observations, and also the really dizzy rotten way I felt 10 minutes
after finishing, and the way it took me 5 hours that night to rehydrate
to the point I could pee for the first time in over 12 hours, I now
know that by the end of the marathon I was pretty badly
dehydrated. Nothing really dangerous, but definitely
dehydrated and a lesson to me that I need to drink even more, and maybe
skipping the last aid stations that night was not the right thing to
do, even if it gained me a couple of minutes.
But back to why we do this racing, and why did I do it again in 2004 after having done it once in 2003?
Well look at me in 2003, just seconds after crossing the finish line. What a sense of accomplishment!
So yes, I'm signed up to race next July 10th, 2005 in Frankfurt,
Germany. If 2004 was the year of my swimming finally coming
together, and me starting to really learn what it takes to go 140.6
miles and being able to finish with a strong marathon, in 2005 I hope
to get in really great biking shape and have a day where I do well in
all three legs. That's what triathlon racing is all about.