Before I dive into my race recap, I first want to say how incredible this race venue is! It has by far the best crowd support I have ever seen. The course was challenging, but beautiful. I'm so sad there will no longer be a pro race here as I would go back to Madison in a heartbeat!
Okay, now onto the race!
In my last meeting with my coaches before I headed to Madison, coach Tim said, “what’s your plan if everything falls apart”. In my head I knew that “everything falling apart” was a possibility – it’s Ironman – that’s ALWAYS a possibility for everyone, no matter how fit they are. But I was focused on my perfect race. I was prepared for this race – ready to race FAST! Sure I had fleeting thoughts about all hell breaking loose, but planned for the perfect day and expected to get exactly that. It was a good thing coach Tim’s question prompted me to give some serious though to what I would do in a shit show situation because at mile 10 of Ironman Wisconsin that’s exactly where I found myself.
View from my homestay's house on Lake Monona (looking at downtown Madison) I love this view!!
I think it was a confluence of factors that led me to that point. A little injury leading into race day and subsequent time off running, a bad time in my “cycle” (sorry guys), some botched nutrition on the bike and by mile 10 of the run the unraveling had begun. I felt heavy, sluggish, and then completely sick to my stomach. I stopped several times to throw up, spewing orange perform all over the sidewalk. I was disappointed that my A race was coming down to this, but I knew I needed to keep moving forward. I shuffled back into downtown to the 13.1 mile mark. I wasn’t sure I had another loop in me. It seemed like there was no possible way I could run another half marathon in my state. I was sick, dizzy, and tired! My body hurt already. Then I thought of my rock bottom game plan. It was time for coca cola, water, and taking 1 mile at a time.
Exiting the water and running up the helix lined with HUNDREDs of screaming spectators. You couldn't help but smile - hard, crazy, and fun!
still have a smile on my face for this one - must have been taken in the first 3 miles :)
As it hit the 13.1 mile mark, I saw my in-laws and one of Mark’s best friends from childhood cheering me on. Then I heard my Coeur Sports teammates yelling my name. There were thousands of spectators screaming and cheering and with each step my spirits lifted. I drank what seemed like a liter of coca cola at the next aid station and as I turned to head back out of town, I vowed to push forward no matter what. If I had to walk it in, that’s what I was going to do. There was no way I was going home with a DNF. 13 miles seemed like a daunting task, but I told myself I just had to do 1 more. I existed just to get to the next aid station where I could drink more coke, water, and get ice. Soon I only had 8 miles to go. I was starting to feel better, to run more quickly. My stomach issues were gone and although my body was screaming at me, I was more determined than ever to hang onto my 6th place position. I focused on one mile at a time until finally I could see it – the most amazing finish line of my life.
For the 9th time in my triathlon career I heard Mike Reilly say, “Jessica Smith, you are an Ironman”! (Technically the first one was Jessica Trimmer, but you get the idea). I’m really not sure there is a phrase any sweeter than this one. My race was not pretty, but it was done. I didn’t swim, bike, or run, like I hoped, but I was more mentally tough than I expected to be, or knew I could be. I have never felt that bad during a race, yet been able to will myself forward. It’s great to have a perfect day, but now I know I can do much more with a less than perfect day than I thought possible. And that my friends, is priceless.
I have to give a HUGE thank you to all my amazing sponsors. First to Coeur Sports: Not only do you outfit me in the best kits (cutest AND most comfy!) for training and race day, but you have given me an incredible team of women with whom I can share experiences, successes, failures, laughs, and tears. Everywhere I race now I see my Coeur ladies – always supporting one another even in a race against one another. To my dear friends Kebby and Reg who own Coeur – your kind hearts and positivity spread from the company to the athletes and make racing for your brand an incredible honor! Next to Quintana Roo – it was great to have these guys on site at Wisconsin. My Illicito handled AMAZINGLY well on all the twist and turns of the course. It’s easy to take up the climbs, and is screaming fast on the decent. The engine might not have been in perfect working condition on race day, but since the bike was, I still managed the 4th fastest bike split on the day (3rd of the finishers). And of course a big thank you to PowerTap, Challenge Tires, Reynolds Wheels, Rudy Project, Xterra Wetsuits, Clif, Timex, Cognition Cyclery, and Saucony. I am living my dream because of you!
Finally, I huge thank you to my 3 amazing coaches, Tim Sheeper, Ian Hersey, and Mike Osmond. After this race we took a microscope to everything that happened. We didn’t chalk it up to not being fit, or just having a bad day. We actually pinpointed EXACTLY what went wrong and made plans to correct the issues going forward. I am a much smarter athlete after a year of working with these guys – I mean they have over 100 years of triathlon experience between the 3 of them! But I also know I still have a lot to learn – I’m just glad I have these three in my corner to teach me! ;)
Luckily my race wasn’t all puking and rallying! I was able to spend some quality time with two dear friends and two of my favorite pro triathletes. These incredible ladies are my IMWI race recap VIP’s!
VIP#36 and 37 Ali Black and Kim Schwabenbauer
I first met Ali Black in St. George 2011. I had won the amateur division and Ali came in 2nd. I had seen her during the race, but we didn't actually meet until the awards ceremony. Although we were only able to chat for a few short minutes before heading up onto the awards stage, we clicked instantly and have stayed in touch ever since. Ali is one of the most positive, upbeat, amazing, humble women I have never met – in and out of the sport. Not only is she an incredible triathlete, she is also a mom of 4!! I have heard her talk with her children on the phone and she is so patient, but also empowering. I hope those kids know just how lucky they are to have this superwoman as their mom!
Kim and I really met on social media. We knew a lot of the same people and came up the ranks as age groupers at the same time. We both went pro in 2012 and I was finally able to meet her face to face in Arizona 2012. Of course we hugged hello – I felt like I had already known her for years. It’s funny how quickly you bond with like-minded women going through similar life experiences. Since then Kim has worked her tail off and has seen some incredible results – 3rd at Ironman Melbourne this year, 2nd at Ironman Lake Placid! She is one tough cookie and I have no doubt you will hear this name in Kona in a few short weeks!
Both of these women are fierce competitors, but they are also fiercely kind people! We were able to share some training and life stories and have a few good laughs after the pro meeting. There are so many things I love about triathlon - the challenge, pushing yourself beyond your limits, setting and smashing goals, traveling to new places. BUT if I had to pick my favorite thing about this sport, I think it would be developing lasting relationships with women like Ali and Kim. People like this enrich your life in a way no amount of triathlon podiums can. I'm so lucky to have great friends like you two!! xoxo
11/16/14 - Ironman Arizona - DNF (mechanical)
4/19/15 - HBM Olympic Tri, Half Moon Bay, CA