If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ve probably learned that I like running and love traveling. It isn’t just running though, I like anything I can push myself in. I’m comfortable in the uncomfortable. So when I found myself craving another challenge, along came triathlon. This is the story of the first time really I traveled far and ran farther.
While many people may tell you to start small with triathlons, that’s not our style. Krista and I signed up for a half Ironman only for me to also commit to the full Ironman a few months later. For those of you who aren’t sure what these are, a half Ironman is a 70.3 mile race is composed of a 2 km (1.2 miles) swim, a 90 km bike (56 miles), and 21.1 km run (13.1 miles). You complete these events, in that order, as fast as you can. For a full ironman, you double that distance. Ergo, Latin, a full Ironman is really freakin far!
I ran my first and only (so far) Ironman in September of 2019. The event is known as Ironman Wisconsin, localized to the area in and around Madison, WI.
I woke up long before my alarm with anticipation – the day had finally arrived! The event begins around 7 am, but you need to drop off gear bags and check your bike before the race, so I was on my way to the start before the sun ever peaked its shiny little head out. I got all my things in order and headed to the swim start and as I was walking toward the start line chutes, I realized I didn’t lube up the back of my neck. Rookie mistake. Fun fact, if you’ve never tried to swim in a wetsuit, the neck back will chafe your neck like a loose shirt on cold nips (definitely not speaking from experience here). Luckily I found another racer with a glide stick who let me borrow it. I was ready to start.
Starting takes some time as athletes enter the water on a rolling basis and I was somewhere in the middle of the group. I eventually found my way up, waved to my friends who had come to watch the start, and I was off!
The water was cold and choppy. As someone who had only done one real lake swim up to this point, months ago for the half Ironman, I was what you might call “underprepared.” Nevertheless, I preserved and completed the swim in under the allotted 2 hours and 20 minutes, somewhere around 1 hour and 45 minutes. So take that, training plans! As I stumbled out of the water, almost falling due to my equilibrium being off, I had my wetsuit stripped off me, to reveal in all its glory, my custom tri suit! I would be spending my whole day in this thing, so when browsing suits I knew I had to be fashionable! And what’s more fashionable than Pokémon!? That’s right, I completed my Ironman in a Pikachu tri suit!
Having gone through transition rather slowly, I grabbed my trusty steed, a trek speed concept I purchased through a guy on Facebook. The bike is by far the longest part and I am by no means a good biker. Like, I can’t take my hands off the handlebars easily, and I’ve been known to fall down sitting still. This presents a problem in an endurance race where your performance is highly dependent on nutrition, and consuming things requires your hands.
Whelp, I had no nutrition plan from the get go, so at least I had that going for me! I was basically going to have to bulldoze my way through the bike and that’s what I set out to do. In my 7ish hours on the bike I consumed one bottle of Gatorade zero and 2-3 Nuun tablets. It wasn’t the most best strategy I could have done (or probably even one I would recommend). However, as our friend group always quotes, “But did you die?” I didn’t, don’t worry. And if my goal had been to lose weight that day, I #crushedit.
Again I went into transition – I was pretty stoked to be off my bike and so was my butt! At two thirds of the way done with my race, I prepared to run a marathon (yayyy). I came out of the changing area ready to go though! I had gotten some fluid, food, and most importantly, Vaseline (if you hadn’t already gathered, I have sensitive skin). The run course is pretty awesome in that you get to run through downtown Madison several times, passing up and down the well known State Street.
During Ironman, State is lined with spectators getting hammered at the bars and cheering you on as you try your best to keep your feet moving slightly faster than what triathletes lovingly call “the Ironman shuffle.” I managed to avoid that shuffle pretty well, and as I ran up State one last time and around the Capital building my race was almost done. It was well in to dark when I got there, but the finishing chutes were lined with people screaming and the announcer continually calling ever finisher’s name followed by “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.”
Running those last few feet of an Ironman is something you can never forget. My emotions were fried, having experienced every possible feeling since 4 am that morning when I awoke, but my eyes were watering and I could barely see straight. I was about to finish my first Ironman!
“CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”
I did it! In just over 13 hours I had swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles. It is no wonder that Ironman’s slogan is “Anything Is Possible.” Words to live by.
Call me crazy, but I can’t wait to do another one.