Sep 12, 2007
The day started like most other race days. I try to get in some calories with the nerves running high. I make sure everything is packed and I check my list that I put by my car keys. The list was short for Ironman as most of my gear was checked the day before. I grabbed my water, food and phone.
I was out the door at 4:15am to pick up a future Kona winner -
Tyler Stewert. She flew in from San Francisco to be with our
team in Madison for the week with Scott from BMC. She is so
amazing. You need to check out the results from the
Lake Placid Ironman to see what Tyler can do. WOW.
Anyway, with Tyler in the car, I made my way to pick up
Michelle. She seemed as nervous as me, so it was great to
have all the nerves all in one van. We chatted on the way to
the race, until we saw the Monona Terrace. I turned to Tyler and
Michelle and said "this is why this race is so great." It was
still dark, but the terrace was lit up. I have not seen all
the Ironman sites, but this has to be one of the top.
After getting a choice parking spot, I walked with Michelle and Tyler to put my special needs bags in place. I also checked my bike, pumped up the tires, and got body marked. I looked over my transition bags one more time and was ready to go. A few times I looked at Tyler and thought - how weird is this? I'm walking to the Ironman with the person that could beat all these women here today. That really helped me calm down. Again, I want to thank Tyler for being a true rock start. She IS the future of the sport and for darn good reason. Don't forget her name as she is what the sport is all about. She has the balance.
After checking everything over, I sat on the floor and pulled out my iPod. My daughter put 4 songs of her choice and made a recording in GarageBand for me. The first song that played was the song Guardian Angel. The next song was from High School Musical. After those two songs her voice came on. What she said next was awesome. Let's just say that it was one of the days and maybe life highlights! Thank you Abby!
After listening to her message I was ready to go. I had done the training. It was not a question of if I would finish, it was a question of how fast.
I would use the same strategy as 03' and 05' I would start as far to the inside as possible. I was one of the last 4 people on the inside. PERFECT! The cannon went off. The 2007 Ironman was underway. The water was PERFECT! I was all alone. I swam alone, untouched for the 1st several minutes. I was swimming as slow as I could for the most part. Nice and easy. Smooth. I thought that coach Mike would be proud. I had done the pool and lake time. The goal this year was between 1:03 and 1:07. I thought my time would be about the same as in the past, but I would use much less energy as I was in better swim shape this year. Everything was perfect until about 10 min into the swim. I had the biggest headache. What is going on??? My swim cap was on funny and my goggles were cutting into my eyes. I had such a long way to go that I did not want this to go on, so I pulled my goggles down. The headache went away. After about 2 min I thought I would try and put them back on. I did so and the headache came back again. I made the race time decision to swim the last 50 minutes without goggles. I'm not a fan of this, but it was better than a headache. I just said to myself that during the day things might go wrong, so just keep going and enjoy the day. I did just that and swam a very easy 1:05:33. I had done a 1:03 in both my previous races, but felt 100% better in this one.
All week I was contemplating running or walking up the helix. Coach Mike said I should walk it. I did NOT want to, but I was putting my complete faith in him. The reason was to keep the heart rate low. It worked and I had a great time walking the helix. I slapped about 100 hands, and just enjoyed the day. After looking at my T1 time of 12:57, I may have had too much fun.
I jumped on my BMC and was happy as can be. I have to say that the BMC and the ZIPP wheels, crank and bars really make a huge difference for me. I will say it again that I do think they help age groupers like me as much as it might help a pro. Compared to my old Cervelo, I was so much faster. NO question about it. Everything was on. The bike was tuned to perfection. This was going to be a great day.
My goal on the first 16 miles was just to ease into the ride. I was going to go out about 130-140 watts and keep the hills under 211. I got a bit excited on the first hill and hit 240, but got into a perfect groove and stayed with my plan that Coach Mike and I talked about. I was prepared to have people fly past me on the first 16 miles. I lost count after about 300. I know that sounds like a lot, but these people had to be pushing 350-400 watts on the first few hills. I kept telling myself that I would see them again walking on the run, or maybe sooner. Ha!
After I got to the 40 mile loop I was going to take the rest of the day about 140-160 watts while always keeping the hills under 211. I never looked at speed. I never felt the wind, I just love racing with power. It makes the day so much easier, and much more fun. The BMC, Zipp, and PowerTap combo may be the best Ironman investment ever. I actually looked forward to the hills. I couldn't wait to see people push 400 watts and get out of the saddle. I just started to say to myself "I will see you on the run." I think I even laughed out loud a few times.
I was coming into Verona and had to fill my bottles. In the past I used salt tablets and drank Gatorade - that did not work for me. This year (and in all training) I finally found something that works for me 100% of the time. NUUN and CarboPro. Nuun gave me something so important. It gave me the ability to do an Ironman and finish in good health. This stuff is the best for me. I was able to drink my way around the 112 miles and feel almost 100%. NUUN is the best as after about 4 or 5 hours it was impossible for me to swallow salt tabs. I want to send out a huge shout out to Julie and all the other cool people at NUUN for the ultimate Ironman product for me.
In Verona I stopped and was filling my bottles with NUUN and
Carbopro. I was literally standing and I heard the sound you
hate to hear. BLAST! Oh no. A flat.
NO. Please NO. Just for kicks I had looked at my
time. I was averaging 16.7 mph. I had NEVER done that
on this route on a 112 mile day. I was rested, trained well
and now a flat. I took my time changing the tire. I
thought it is better to take the time to change it right. I
was in the middle of a very busy transition area so I had plenty of
company while I changed the tire. I even got a huge applause
after the change. I started to ride when I noticed that I
forgot my tubes. I thought about it for a few minutes and
decided to turn around to get them. When I arrived back at
the location they were gone. They had tossed them in the
trash so I had to get them back. I put them in my back pocket
and was finally on my way again after a 15 min delay.
For the next 20 miles I just was hoping I didn't flat again. Just like the problem with the goggles, I told myself things like this happen and to just focus. I got back into a rhythm and focused on my beloved PowerTap. I just stayed in my watt range and found myself at a point where I was passing people. It had happened. I was staying steady and starting to repass those crazy 400 watt people. I'm not sure that I got passed again on the bike. I was feeling great and thought I might even break 7 hours on the bike with the flat. My goal was a nice and conservative 6:59. I know that may seem slow, but to run anything close to a 4 hour marathon, I needed to stay on track. I just watched my trusty PowerTap and knew that if I did what I did in training, I would have no problems on the run. I finished the bike in 7:02:20.
I was so ready to run. I felt great and had 26.2 miles left in my legs. I was doing what Coach Mike and I worked on all year. I had a plan. I was on target, and I had one more thing to do. Run a marathon.
I had done this so many times in training, but not this long. My marathon plan had so many parts that I just took them one at a time. The first goal was to get my heart rate under 134. I was so exited and felt so good that I had to really focus. I did what was on my plan and I stayed about 134 for the first 3 miles. After that I was going to run in zone 1 and 2 (133-143). I felt so good that I ran past the first 2 stops. I wanted to get my stomach feeling good. My goal was to have one bottle of NUUN and Carbopro and switch to on course fuel the rest of the day. PERFECT. I drank my bottle of NUUN and felt great. I was now starting to look for the 3 people ahead of me from the team. I never saw Kona-Chris but did see Brett and Michelle. I looked at my watch and they had to be 30+ min in front of me. I really thought I could catch them. I ran from station to station and drank and ate everything I could. I felt like a pig at times, but kept eating and keeping my stomach in check. I never really thought about my time much. I monitored my HR the first 7 or 8 miles and after that I was in such a rhythm that I didn't look much after that. I have run many marathons before (without swimming 2.4 and biking 112) so I knew the "wall" was coming soon. Mile 15. Nothing. Mile 16. Nothing. Hmmmm. My mantra for the day was something Coach Mike told us. "Your goal is to be running at mile 18." That was in my mind all week. So there I was at mile 17. Running. No wall. Hmmmmm. Mile 18 came and went. I was still running. I was running from station to station. I walked while I ate and drank, but started running again right away. Mile 19. Where is the wall? I finally decided at mile 20 that I had trained well and I was not going to hit the wall. The NUUN gave me the nutrition I needed all day. That was the difference for my nutrition. I'm sure that I did a negative split on the swim. I did a negative split on the bike, and I was on track to negative split the run.
I hit mile 21 and started to look at a possible time. I have had such horrible Ironman experiences in the past. In 2003, I swam a 1:03. This year I did a 1:05, but felt perfect. On the bike in 03' I did an 8:35 and in 05' my day ended with me under a tree only 95 miles into the bike. I was so far ahead of my 03 and 05 pace that I was set for a FOUR HOUR PR! I laugh now in how that is even possible.
After mile 22 I started to think about my wife. She has been with me on 3 Ironman's and 16 years of marriage. For the family it is much more than that day of the race. It is almost 1 year of solid training. 1 year of support. But in the end when I saw Kris look at me when I came out of the swim with a hint of pride for her husband, I was set. I was not going to let her down. It is NOT easy for anyone to support a spouse, so I have never been so excited to see her smile.
At mile 23 I started to think about running across the line with my children. Austin needs his dad back. He wants me to play more golf with him and that is just what I intend to do! He doesn't say much, but I had to do well for him. I could not let him down. I wanted to look strong for him. I ran the entire marathon just to make sure that I always looked strong for him.
About mile 25 I thought about Abby. I really wanted to catch her at the finish. Would this be the day?
I ran to the finish line and stopped about 100 yards from the line. I did not see my kids. NOT AGAIN. I walked and slapped hands with everyone. I kept walked and did not see them. NO. Please NO! I walked a bit more and still did not see them. I was so sad. NOT AGAIN. How did I miss them? I started to walk toward the finish line when I heard someone yell "Hey Stu - Over here!"
YEEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAA. I saw Abby. She ran out and I picked her up and gave her a huge hug. FINALLY! FINALLY! I looked for Austin, but I did not see him. I just stood in the middle of the lane. I didn't even care about moving forward. I just held Abby and gave her a big kiss. She jumped down, held my hand and stared to run. We ran hand in hand over the finish line. What a way to finish. I'm sorry that I did not have my son, but Abby did make my day. She had a huge smile. I didn't even look at the time. Didn't really matter! What matters is that I had my team, my friends and my family with me all day. They are what matter most to me. They are what make this day so special.
I ran the marathon in 4:20.
Thanks to my wife, children and friends. When all is said and done, when the Ironman is done, the things that matter most are right by my side.