Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Part 4

Here we go folks.  The final stretch.  For those of you who've stuck with me so far - thanks.  For those of you just getting to the party.  You may want to check out my earlier posts for the pre-race, swim, and bike.  Or, you can skip to the finish to find out how this all ends.

My goal for the bike had been 6:40 and I ended up finishing the 112-mile course in 6:45.  That's close enough to make me happy - plus I still felt like my legs had something to offer up on the run.  I scooted into the Terrace, quickly found my transition bag - right at the end of the row where I left it.  I asked a volunteer if I could use the other changing room because the last one 'had a bunch of naked guys in it'.  No?  No.

I took my time in transition, making sure to apply a liberal amount of Body Glide to my special places.  I wasn't about to let friction abuse me the way it did on the bike.  I peeled off my bike jersey, applied some more Body Glide to the ol'l high beams and threw on my running singlet.  I velcroed on my Garmin wrist strap and then my stomach hit the floor.  I had left my Garmin on the bike.  Crap.

Since my running pace was going to be determined by my heart rate I NEEDED to get that back.  I waded through more nude dude and out of the Terrace back to the bike hand-off.  The volunteers weren't going to let me in to the racks, but one offered to grab it off my bike and meet me by the run-out area.  Okay. That'll have to do.  I turned back around and jogged through the Terrace again, out the back and to the run-out.

I saw the timing mats and stopped.  I didn't want my run time to start until I had my Garmin in hand - I'd rather have a long transition than a long run.  I don't know.  It made sense at the time.  So, I waited by the fence.  And waited.  And waited.  After what seemed like hours, I still didn't see a sign of my volunteer.  I made a decision, said to myself 'Eff it.  Let's do this thing'.  I crossed the mats and ran out onto the course.

Shuffle shuffle shuffle.

The crowds were amazing.  People lined the streets and sidewalks all over town, waving signs, ringing cow bells and screaming their guts out.  The first mile went quickly - you'd be surprised how a good crowd will help you run faster.  By the second mile though, I started to feel nauseous.  I think that six hours of gel and shot bloks was finally catching up to me.  My legs were fine, but all the bouncing from running was making me sick. 

By mile 3, my guts couldn't take it anymore.  I had to walk. Ugh.  Now, I know that there shouldn't be any shame in walking during an Ironman.  But, after months of training, it's never easy to adjust your goals mid-race.  My spirits were down for the first quarter of the race.  I wanted to run, but couldn't.  I knew I needed calories, but everything at the aid stations tasted like poo.

The good news was that, after doing a little Minnesota High School math in my head, I knew that I'd be finishing.  In the end, it was the hope of finishing that kept me going. 

For better or worse, without my Garmin, I had no idea how I was doing on time.  I knew that a sub 5-hour marathon was now out of the question, but everything else was a mystery.  By about mile 10 I actually started to just enjoy the experience.  Ironman puts your first name on your bib number, so a runner never goes more than a minute or two without someone cheering for them by name.

Running through Camp Randall Stadium.  Not pictured: me singing Minnesota Gopher Fight Song.

For those of you familiar with the run course, you know how excruciating mile 13 can be.  Runners are lead within less than 100 yards of the finish line, only to make a u-turn and head right back out onto the course for lap two.  I had to hold back tears as I watched one of the front-runners sprint to the finish line, knowing that I still had a long run ahead of me.  Dang.  I wanted to cross that line SO BAD.

During the 2nd lap, the sun began to set so the temperature started to drop.  My stomach finally started to settle down too.  I was able to release some pressure, by um, you know, 'lettin' 'er rip'.  Hey.  Don't judge.  I wasn't the only one out there grunting them out.

Photo Credit: The Wife.  Least graceful running photo posing credit: Me

For the last 10 miles of the course, I was also able to adjust my mix of running and walking to one with, well, more running and less walking.  I would just pick some landmarks, like traffic cones or street lamps, and walk one span while running 2 spans.  This had a few effects.  First, I was able to run faster and actually started to pass people.  Second, it helped me focus more on running and less on how miserable my body felt.

As I got into the last few miles, my emotions were all over the map.  I knew it would be over soon, and I could finally cross the line.  That mad me about 12 different flavors of happy.  I also saw many runners still heading out to do their 2nd laps and knew that a lot of them didn't have a chance to finish.  It was truly heartbreaking.

During the last couple of miles, I was running more and more.  I wanted to leave it all on the course.  If my calves cramped up or my quads locked, I'd walk a bit, but then get back into a jog again.  Then, I heard it.  The crowd was going crazy.  I ran through the last aid station, telling the volunteers 'Thanks, but no thanks.  I've got somewhere I need to be.' 

I ran the last 1/2 mile.  Enough of this jogging baloney.  I was RUNNING.  I made the final left turn and into the final stretch.  There were HUNDREDS of people on either side of the street.  I 'Hulk Hogan-ed' the crowd and they went bananas.  You've never Hulk Hogan-ed a crowd?  It looks something like this:

This was it.  I lifted my arms into the air and hit the finish line in full stride while race director Mike Reilly yelled 'Eric Bergstrom....You are an IRON MAN!'.

The next 30 seconds were a blur.  I was literally 'caught' by a volunteer - Kathy - at the finish line.  I put my weight on their shoulder and my legs went all noodle-y.  Another volunteer - Chris - grabbed my other arm and the two of them walked me over to a chair.  These volunteers are freakin' ANGELS.  Kathy got me wrapped up in a tinfoil blanket while Chris got me some Sprite, or Sierra Mist.  Whatever.  All I know is that a couple of sips got my stomach settled.  It was like liquid gold.  The cure to what ails ya.  Sex in a cup.  I wish they would serve this stuff out on the course.

My legs came back to me and they walked me over to get my finisher photo.  Now.  I don't usually toot my own horn.  But I looked back at some photos from the times before I started training.  Let's just say that Ironman has been very very good to me.

Packing on the pounds.
And After:

Evidently, modesty and humility weren't the first things on my mind after the race.

After the finisher photo, my volunteers angels did their most important task of the night.  They brought me to meet The Wife.  I love my wife.  She takes good care of me.  We hugged, grabbed some more Sierra Mist and went for a content, albeit slow, walk.  I was now an Ironman.



  1. Atta Boy! It was worth waiting a week to read it. Nice work Cap'n!

  2. well done...better than well done! You inspire us all EriC!!!

    Becky Blaul Sliva

  3. Nice work out there!! Congrats on a great finish!!!

  4. Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!!! Thanks for taking the time to log this....inspiring!

  5. Excellent race report! I'm late to the party, but really enjoyed it :-) Any more Ironmans in the future?

  6. This was a fun and inspiring read... Thanks and congratulations!