Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin 2012

How many times do you think it will take before I say NO when someone suggests I do something stupid with them?  So this is how the story goes. Just over a year ago, my friend and teammate, Chuck suggested I do an Ironman with him.  Of course at first I was like “no way” then after a while I gave in and said yes.  Chuck said I found the perfect race, Ironman Wisconsin, it’s a 5 hour drive, it should be cool by September and it gives us all summer to train.  So we had a plan and the minute registration opened for the race, we were online and both in.  Now this is something you need to know in case you ever want to do an Ironman race, registration fees are awful, $650 dollars per person and don’t even think of backing out, not for any reason, because they already have your money and they don’t care.  I mean even if you break your tailbone, still not a good enough reason to get your money back.  So once you’re in, you may do what I did, start thinking this was not one of my better choices.

Chuck and I got a training plan from our friend Jeff. It was a 25 week plan, in just 25 short weeks we would be called Ironman!  Then about half way through the plan, we started to hate training, every day, every weekend, our whole life revolved around Ironman training.  We had to miss races because we needed to do long workouts, we had to schedule early morning workouts to fit all the training into our day.  It was grueling.  Next thing we knew every time someone would ask, “how is Ironman training going”, we would both say, Ironman sucks.  By the time race weekend got here, we were both just ready to get it over with.

I say IM weekend because that is what it is, an entire weekend. 

You have to sign in on Friday, attend the IM dinner and pre-race meeting on Friday night, drop our bike and transition bags on Saturday, and of course hang out in IM village fulfilling all your IM needs.

Ironman Village
Loot I bought, but said I wouldn't use unless I finished
Chuck and I met in Madison and went through all the motions to prepare for the race, We stood in line to check-in. 

Line to check-in
We went to the dinner/meeting and were more nervous after than we were before all the stories were told and the race information was given out.

The Voice of Ironman
On Saturday we got our gear and bikes checked in while Rob and Lori took photos. 

My Beautiful Bike
Awesome Spectators
We had pizza for lunch, and then had dinner at noodles, carb loading you know.  Andrea, Russ and Madison came to cheer us on and they graciously helped out by bringing my China doll with them.  If you don’t know who my China doll is, it’s my daughter, and between her and Madison, I knew we would have a great cheering section, since they are both varsity cheerleaders at their high school.  But it all comes at a price, I also had to go to the local mall and buy a homecoming dress for China while I was there. Good thing I had Madison along, I’m not good at this dress thing and she helped China pick out the perfect dress.  Oh and they got some encouragement from a close friend while at the mall too.

A little dress shopping
So I guess you can say I had two great accomplishments over the weekend, I made it through dress shopping alive and finished a simple little Ironman.

Back at the hotel I double and triple checked my gear, I set the alarms on my watch, phone and the alarm clock and then went to bed.  At 5:15 am on race day we were off to do what so many people have never done.  I felt like I was going to puke, and was having a hard time eating, so I took some little white donuts with me, you know that is the breakfast of champions.  Chuck and I did a final check of our bikes, then dropped our special needs bags and headed to the water. 

Bike Transition
We put on our wetsuits and were standing there ready to go when I realized that I still had my socks and shoes on.  I hurried and took my shoes and socks off, then we headed for the water, and I still felt like I was going to puke.

Why does Chuck look so happy
The swim took a long time, and I found myself off course more than a few times, I was just trying to swim the entire lake.

"And They're Off"
As I stood up to run out of the lake, I heard the voice of Ironman say, “Chuck Vohsen from St Paul, MO is out of the water”, then the next words out of his mouth was “Robin Rongey from Edwardsville, Il is out of the water”.   

Chuck is out of the water
Robin is out of the water

Chuck beat me out of the water by about 10 seconds.  I caught him on his way to transition, we both ran in to change clothes and I just couldn’t seem to get things working right.  I finally just let the volunteer help me with everything, she pulled my clothes off, helped me pull the dry stuff on, got me water made sure I was eating, helped with my shoes and sent me on my way.  Chuck was much faster and he was ahead of me when I got on the bike.  As I was running to my bike I could see China and Madison above me hanging over the wall screaming.  It’s really hard to explain the feeling you get when you know the people who are cheering you on really love you and want you to succeed.

I headed out on the bike leg and was passing people, and at about 5 miles I passed Chuck, I didn’t even see him, but I heard him yell, “Go Robin”. I yelled hey Chuck and kept pedaling hoping I wasn’t going out too fast, but I felt pretty good, I was pushing the small ring and not working too hard. 

What came next was probably the downfall of my race.  I know you think it was the crazy hard hills, but it wasn’t, it was the awful wind.  I heard the wind was 15 to 20 mph, and I believe that to be true, if not worse.  It was a head wind for most of the race and it never let up.  At one point I was on a steep decent that should have pushed me to 35 mph and I was going 18 because the wind was so strong.

Ah How I love a Good Headwind
At Least My Bike Looks Fast
By now I was feeling so mentally distraught because my average speed was much lower than I had planned, but all the spectators on the course really helped me get out of my funk, they were everywhere, cheering like I was their best friend.  On the big hills they were 3 and 4 deep, and some were dressed up in costumes, and they would run up the hill next to me screaming that I could do it.  The hills were steep and long, and these people I didn’t even know were running beside me doing everything they could to help me get to the top of that hill.  The spectators were giving me crazy, unimaginable support.  Then at about 45 miles, I see Russ and Rob, then further up the road I see Lori and China, and that came at just the right point, when I was feeling mentally drained and I needed a boost.   

China Cheering us on
I started the second loop, stopped at mile 58 for my special needs bag, where a grabbed my can of fruit juice and some pretzels then headed back out.

As I rode I saw signs posted all over the road, some encouraging, some funny, all helpful.  One guy was holding a sign that said “smile if you’re not wearing underwear”, of course I smiled. 

A Supportive Sign
The MDot on a Building
Then it hit, disaster, the last 40 miles of the bike leg my quads started cramping, and I was having problems seeing out of one eye.  I thought the eye thing was just salt getting all over my glasses, but later found it to be something else.  Oh and I saw a unicorn, I thought for sure my race was over when I saw that, but then I realized it was just some guy in a unicorn costume.  I finally finished the bike leg by riding back up the same parking garage ramp that I rode out on.

IN/OUT Bike Transition
I had a little problem getting my leg off my bike, but I got through it. 

Off the Bike heading for the Run
I ran into transition and got through it pretty quick, the volunteer helped me get my jersey on, got me water and found me some Vaseline to put on my chaffed arm.  I was heading toward the run out, when a guy yells down to me from above, to make sure I eat and drink.  I think it was because I was looking so skinny, I needed food, ok, probably not, but that’s what I want to think. 
I started out on the run and came around the first corner that runs right by the finish line.  Standing there was Andrea and Russ cheering me on, then I made the next corner and saw Rob, China and Madison.  I stopped and hugged the girls then took off. 
First Lap
My legs were cramping, but I just kept running, thinking I would just get some salty foods at the water stops and work it out.  Then I kept trying to wipe my eye because I couldn’t see out of it, it was just blurry grey, when I finally figured out there was nothing in my eye, I realized it was a low sugar thing, I needed to get my sugar back up to get it to clear up.  So now I was trying to eat grapes for the sugar and drink chicken broth for the cramps, while fending off my upset stomach. It wasn’t going well, but at least I was still running, stopping only to walk through the water stops.  I did walk up observatory hill too, but I think everyone was walking up that hill.  At mile 13.1 I started the second lap and knew that there was no way I was going to finish in my goal time, but I just thought, goal or not, I’m going to finish this.  I paid $650 dollars to do this and I’m going to get my money’s worth out of it.  I ran through the Wisconsin’s badgers stadium for the second time looking at all the empty seats and thinking that what I have been feeling on the streets with thousands of people cheering me on, is probably what it feels like to play football in that stadium.  The feeling was so amazing.
I had passed mile 18 headed for 19 and Chuck comes up next to me and he says “hey, aren’t you that Trek Mountain Girl, I read you blog all the time”. I just acted like I didn’t know him and said “yeah I am” and started laughing.  We were just getting to observatory hill for the second and last time, so we started walking it and Chuck just about saved my life, he gave me some ibuprofen which I really needed.  At the top of the hill I could tell Chuck was ready to go, I told him to take off and not wait for me, so he took off. I was soon at my lowest point and feeling like I might have to crawl to the finish line, when out of the blue, a guy cheering on the side of the road held up a sign that said “Hey Stranger, I’m proud of you”. Wow, I almost started crying, and then I thought, if he thinks I can do it, then I can do it.  The ibuprofen kicked in and I started feeling better, then at the mile 22 turn around, I saw Chuck ahead of me, but not as far as I would have thought he would be, we yelled at each other and kept going. Oh, and my eye was getting better, although still foggy I could now see things through it.

Chuck headed in and crossed the line about 20 minutes ahead of me, enjoying every minute of it.

Chuck is about to be an Ironman
I soon came to the last half mile and saw Russ, he jumped in and ran with me for a couple minutes then headed to the side of the road to cheer me to the finish.  

Robin is about to be an Ironman
I came around the last corner heading to the finish line.  Everyone was reaching out giving me high fives, then I saw China, Rob, Lori and Chuck, I stopped and kissed China and then ran through the finish line, with a smile on my face, and a feeling of relief that it was over.

My Mom's an Ironman
Then a volunteer put a big honking medal around my neck, it was so heavy I couldn’t hardly keep it from pulling me to the ground, ok, maybe not that big, but pretty darn big.

I was walked through the finish line by the volunteer, handed a finisher hat and shirt, taken over for a short photo shoot.  Those are the pictures they later sell to you for a million dollars, but you know you have to have one.  Oh and I asked the volunteer to make sure I looked good, I wanted a good photo, so the photographer made sure it was good.  I walk out the end of the finish chute to see China standing there wrapped in a blanket waiting for me with a big smile on her face, which was exactly what I needed at that second.  I knew I did it and not on my own, I did it with the help of so many. 

Call Me Ironman
"Let's go home Mom"
So a BIG thanks goes to my family for putting up with all the long training hours, to my workout buddies, Jenny, Russ, Jim, Carl and Chris, who came out at 5:30 am everyday to train with me and swim in a hot green lake while it was still dark outside, to Russ who drove a boat around the lake following my slow butt so that I could get long swims in, to Mike for letting me swim off his dock in his lake, to Mark who’s training consisted of pulling my butt around on long bike rides, to the guys at the Cyclery who rushed to fix all the code blue problems that I ran into the bike shop with, to Andy who figured out how to setup my bike and shoes so my foot quit hurting all the time, to the St Louis Cycling Club for their continued support and all the good advice I get from Louie and Jim, to John and the Wednesday night gang for allowing me to ride with them all year, and of course to Chuck for talking me into one on the biggest events of my life. Wow that was one big run on sentence. BTW, Chuck I hate you!

Oh and I can't express to you how great the volunteers were and the spectators too, I want to say THANK YOU, YOU ROCK!

Now I know you’re wondering, so what did I get for my $650 dollars, well I got a ton of great loot, backpack, license frame, hat, shirt, book, medal and I earned the right to use them and show them off.  Best of all I can be proud to be called an Ironman! In fact Chuck and I just go by the name Ironman now, when he calls me, he just says “hey Ironman” and I say “how’s it going Ironman”. 

All the Loot
So would I do it again, well if you would have asked me between miles 55 and 90 on the bike I would have said “NO”, if you would have asked me between miles 16 and 20 on the run, I would have said “HELL NO”, if you would have asked me after I ran across the finish line, I would have said, “NO WAY”, if you ask me today, I would say “One more time, then I’m done”. So look for my next report in 2014.


  1. You're amazing.

    And crazy. I look forward to cheering for you again in another 2 years. (From the sidelines)

  2. Congratulations Ironman , you made all your training buddys proud, Lots of texts back and forth on your progress that we never doubted you would achive, well done

  3. You're wonder I like you! Great report. I was cheering you on from home.

  4. Excellent report! This must have been a poor decision. "Poor Decisions Make for Better Stories.". And this was a great story. Big Congratulations.
    Keep up the great work! You are a joy to train with.

  5. Robin, you are awesome! Your report just about made me cry in several places -- you describe everything so well. Congratulations again!

  6. Thanks for the race report! We should talk about putting together a massive Godzilla team to tackle the next one together.

  7. Is your eye completely normal now? That is a weird symptom.

  8. Thats my girl, your amazing and you always make me proud !Love ya, Mom

  9. Congrats to you and Chuck!! I admire both of you and maybe one day will join your elite group!! 2014, huh??
    Your training girl - Jen

  10. Way to go, Ironman! You are my inspiration! I'm so impressed with the race log too - the pictures, the humor - the way the pretzels taste....and I want to see China's dress too. From me and the boys to you and the girls (and one Zack-attack) we are sending oodles of love. You are a chosen sister - Love always, Rebecca

  11. Great Job Robin!!