It was a hot day in Madison for the running of Ironman Wisconsin 2011. It was also the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Madison fireman Robert Verhelst, who had gone to New York after 9/11 to assist in search efforts, ran the marathon in full fireman's gear in honor of his fallen compatriots. On a day that reached 85 degrees, he finished before the midnight cut-off.
The woman's event was won by retired army captain and pro triathlete Jessica Jacobs of Green Bay, whose husband was watching from Iraq. After finishing at 9:48:03, she gave an emotional speech praising those serving in the Army.
My official day began 10 minutes before the race started at 7 a.m., when, clad in wetsuit and swim cap, I sang the National Anthem on the shore of Lake Monona.
Afterwards, I high-tailed it into the lake, but forgot to cross the timing mat. A volunteer waded in and pulled me back so my start would be official.
A canon went off and 2,500 swimmers entered the 'washing machine' that first half mile when the mass of swimmers resemble a scrum of feeding sharks.
Other Oak Parkers in the race – Mike Stec, Karen Steward Nolan, Matt Sullivan and Robert Towler – noted that the swim times seemed slower this year. Steward Nolan attributed this to too many knuckle-headed and slow men who insisted on pushing over her only to be re-passed moments later.
There was more heat and wind on the bike than had been forecast, but it was sunny and the crowds were large. On the steepest passes there were dancing men in bikinis, loved-ones with signs, and congo drummers.
On the second loop through the hills some men were off their bikes clutching tight hamstrings.
After tearing a hole in his tire on road debris, Stec's bike time was slowed by three flats. He had to improvise a tire patch from the plastic paper of his race number. By the third flat, Stec was out of tubes and resorted to begging from the side of the road as cyclists zipped by. Someone finally tossed him one. Despite this, Stec averaged over 19 mph on the bike and finished the race ninth overall in his 46 to 50-age group with a time of 10:50:25. His only complaint is that he cramped on the run because of not enough sports drink in the Dixie cups. At mile 16, he downed 15 small cups of Coke and most of a gallon jug of water. Re-hydrated, he finished the run in good form, averaging 8:33 per mile.
Sullivan had a great day. He managed to take one hour off his previous Ironman time, finishing at 11:25:10. That was good enough for 23rd in his 46 to 50-age group. He averaged 18 mph on the bike and 9:25 on the run.
Towler also did well. He finished at 12:02:20, a personal record. Like many runners, the heat took it's toll, and, in standard Ironman fashion, the end of the run was slower than the start.
Steward Nolan had an outstanding bike, averaging just under 18 mph. This effort probably cost her some time on the run, but she finished with a strong overall effort of 13:14:40. She was 36th in the competitive 41 to 45-age group.
As for me, I was the Oak Park caboose at 14:15:52, which, at 51, I attribute to being the senior member of our training group and having the least athletic ability. I resisted the strong temptation to retire for a hot shower and nap at mile 11 of the run. At mile 23, I briefly passed my friend Jason Blake from Crystal Lake before he overtook me again. He beat me to the finish, but ended up in the med tent having lost 12 pounds.
It was a moving and long day.
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