Deanna's long and involved IMWI race report

Training: I have one person to blame for signing up for the 2008 Ironman Wisconsin – Tasha (Gazelle). Well maybe two people since I did use my own credit card to pay for the race entry. After training a bit with her for the 2007 race and watching her race and finish, it was an easy sale. She also somehow convinced me to run the Vegas Half Marathon in December and the Disney Marathon in January. So training for IMWI officially started for me in early February 2008 after taking a month or so to recover from the Disney Marathon. Training went well and highlights included the America Triple Triathlon, the Tour of the Mississippi Valley, and Cheese Hell Week. I also raced the Racine Half Ironman in July.

I had two “health” issues in training – a sore left hip flexor that was resolved with a couple of Active Release Technique (ART) sessions and a couple of high heart rate spikes (over 260 beats per minute) during training. I saw a doctor for the heart rate issue and she diagnosed me with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and had me take a stress echo in the winter. The test results came back normal indicating that there was no physical cause of the condition and told me to go ahead with training. She did advise me to cut back on caffeine during and before training. During training I had three SVT episodes about 2 hours into long training rides that I was able to get under control (ie bring my heart rate back down to normal) with breathing exercises and was able to finish the ride with no issues.

Pre-race: Taper went well and I enjoyed seeing a movie and getting some rest. I also enjoyed the look on my cat’s faces when I went for a ride starting from home and was back within 2 hours. They looked at me like “Why are you back so soon? Whenever you take that thing out of the house we don’t see you for hours or even days”.

I arrived in Madison on Thursday, got checked in, and settled into my room. I had my transition and special needs bags packed by Thursday night so I had plenty of time to relax. I went for a short ride on Friday and a swim on Saturday. Saturday also included a trip to the Farmer’s Market where Tasha attempted to fatten me up with donuts, cheese, and other treats. I also picked up my voucher for next year with the intent of ripping it up as soon as I crossed the finish on Sunday.

That night I had an early dinner (4pm) with Tasha, Chad, and my two excellent coaches – Renee and Nancy. And taking Nancy’s advice, I was in bed by 6:30ish and was asleep in no time. It is a gift I have – to be able to sleep anywhere at anytime. This gave Tasha (who was the best Sherpa ever, even with 1 arm) a chance to decorate my room with a banner wishing me a Happy Ironman, inspirational notes (slow is fast), and a few really cute gifts which make waking up at 4am a great experience.

At about 4:45, headed out to walk over to the race start. In the hotel lobby, we meet up with Gregory who helped me and Tasha carry my special needs bags to the drop off location. With the bags dropped off, I headed over to transition to add bottles to the bike and pump the tires. I found Tasha again (she went to Starbucks for coffee) and we sat inside the Terrace for a while near Michelle.

Just as I was getting into my wetsuit, I saw Jillian and we all headed down the helix together. At the bottom, we took a few photos, had some fuel, and headed into the water about 20 minutes before the start.

Swim: My coach advised me to start wide to the right about a quarter of the way back so Jillian and I positioned ourselves just right of the ski jump. My plan was to swim wide around the first two turn buoys and then head in towards the buoy line in order to not get caught up in a huge pack. It worked and I had enough space that I was comfortable. But I think heading to the buoy line after the second turn buoy was a bit too soon. It was packed in there with all sorts of people doing weird things. I was surprised to see how many people actually stop swimming to sight. I mean there are 2000 people swimming in 1 direction – I just assumed that if I was swimming with them and not perpendicular to them, I was going the right direction. I also ended up getting hit in the nose but recovered just fine. It got a bit less crowded once we passed the third turn buoy and I settled in nicely. It felt good to see I was passing people the whole way. Just before I was able to stand, I swallowed some water and started to choke. Wouldn’t that have been a sight – getting rescued by a life guard about 15 feet from the end of the swim? I was able to recover and safely exited the water. I was hoping to be under 1:10 but came in just over 1:13.

T1: Running up the helix was amazing with all of the crowd support! The rest was uneventful – get bag, change, run to bike, and mount bike.

Bike: Once down the helix, I tried to settle in. I reminded myself that not to get caught up in watching the whole race pass you by. Being a decent swimmer, I knew I would watch plenty of people fly by me throughout the bike and I couldn’t let it get to me like it did at Racine. I was doing well mentally but noticed I wasn’t 100% physically. My stomach was upset. I figured it was because of the all the water I drank during the swim and nerves and it would eventually go away. I settled into a pace and was moving along.

Just before the first aid station on the out and back – I felt my heart rate rise and checked my heart rate monitor – 245. Not good, I pulled over, did my breathing exercises but I couldn’t get the number on the monitor to fall. I tried again and again but it was still reading over 200. I could no longer feel my heart beating fast so I got back on the bike with the thought I would talk with medical at the first aid station. I got there and my monitor was still reading over 200. I talked to the medic who said if he touched me I was out so he had me check my pulse manually and it was in the low 100s so he sent me on my way. He told me that sometime the vibrations in the road will cause the monitor to not reset so we turned it on and off and it went back to reading my actual heart rate. Based on a quick glance at my watch, I got to the aid station just before my 50 minute mark and left at 1:10 so a nice 20 minute break. My stomach wasn’t doing better but I did my best to stay on my nutrition plan of a bottle of Infinit every hour.

I got through Verona and to Mt Horeb with no issues. Once I hit Mt Horeb, all I could think of was getting through the rollers, down the big descent and into Cross Plaines where CTC was. I quickly got to Cross Plaines (Mt Horeb to Cross Plaines in my favorite portion of the course) and saw everyone. The best part was the pink bunny in a blue barrel which made me laugh so hard I cried. I would have to say, it is worth all of the training and pain to go through Cross Plaines on race day.

I made it up the hills (thanks to Liz on Old Sauk Pass and Kostya on Timber Lane) and to Verona where I stopped to use the restroom (this would be my only bathroom break for a long time). As soon as I got back on the bike, I could feel my heart rate spike again. I checked the heart rate monitor and it read 268. I took it easy and knew that special needs were coming up and I would stop there to deal with the heart rate thing. I stopped got my goodies (Swedish fish, a payday, and another bottle of concentrated Infinit). I also did my breathing exercises to get the heart rate in check. It took numerous of tries but a manual check of the heart rate said it was in the low 100s. By this time, I was mentally frustrated with the whole heart rate thing. It had never happened more than once on a ride and after it happens, I always ride much more conservatively as I don’t want to push things and end up in an ambulance. I believe I had another 20 minute or so break at special needs.

On Loop 2, the journey from Verona to Mt Horeb was not as fun as Loop 1. There was a terrible wind. And mentally I was mad and my stomach really started to hurt. It was much worse while in the aero position so I had to resort to riding in the basebars. Just as I was cresting the hill to the high school, I felt palpations in my chest and pretty much burst into tears. I couldn’t believe that it was happening a third time. I stopped at the aid station again. Did breathing exercises and checked the heart rate manually. When it was at a normal level, I decided to continue with my ride. I got all the all clear from a volunteer to enter the course and headed out. But just as I pulled out, another volunteer yelled for me to stop as there was already an athlete coming and I attempted a track stand to by some time. I learned my lesson - never attempt a track stand many hours into a long ride when you are not completely clipped in. I feel over and my left quad got caught between my tire and frame. Other than a sore quad, I was fine and continued on my way.

I got to Cross Plaines and was greeted with the CTC fan fare again. My stomach was killing me so I decided to try to use the restroom but no luck. Once again, I was up the hills (thanks to Nancy and Chad for running up the hill with me and the rest of the East Bank folks for screaming) and back to Verona. Finally, I was headed back to Madison with a nice tailwind. I finally got to the Terrace, up the helix and handed my bike to a volunteer. I tried not to focus on my time but I was over an hour slower (8:14) than I had hoped to be but I was off the bike and under the cutoff.

T2: I was surprised at how many bags were still in T2. I had an awesome volunteer who helped me select my run clothes, get changed, and out the door. I was so surprised at how good it felt to have running shoes on my feet as I hate to run. I tried to use the restroom but once again had no luck. I did take some pepto to see if that would help with my stomach pain.

Run: Just outside of the Terrace, I saw Nancy (my coach) and her crew which was a nice sight. I got a few inspirational words and started the run down State Street. State Street was amazing and I got to see a ton of folks from CTC who screamed my name. That was such an awesome feeling. I was shuffling along nicely and was slowly passing the walkers. While many of them were on their second loop, it still felt nice to be moving quicker that someone. I made it around the stadium, down the path, and onto part 2 of State Street where I saw my parents for the first time of the day (my cousin got married the day before the race so they didn’t come up till race day afternoon). Then it was back on the path, into no man’s land, and back down State Street past more screaming CTC members.

Just before the Capital square, I ran into Nancy, Renee, Mary, and a few others. Nancy ran with me for a bit and I lost it – my stomach hurt and I was still frustrated with my heart rate issues from the bike (although I was having no issues on the run). I hit the lowest point I would hit that day. Some tears where shed but Nancy told me I was doing great and sent me on the way to the turn around. I saw Jennifer and Kristin at the turn which was nice pick me up and when I turned the corner, Nancy was there waiting for me and she gave me another pep talk. I also passed the Running Away crew who shouted words of encouragement. All of this helped as I started to run and just took in the atmosphere and enjoyed the day. I made a mental game of locating people ahead of me and trying to pick them off. Slowly but surely, I managed. It was all fun and games until I hit the path for the first time and I was alone. There was no one in front of me to make a target out of and it is lonely out there in dusk. I struggled through and got to State Street where I saw my parents and Tasha. Then it was back on the path, it started to rain and it was really dark. Finally I had a few targets to take out and I made it my mission. I loved the Ford Inspirational Mile where my comment read – You call that running? But just past that, my stomach started to rumble. I took some more pepto but it didn’t help. Just before the Mile 23 aid station, I thought I would need to find some bushes to hide behind. I barely (and I mean barely) made it to the portapotty. After the stop, I felt a bit better but took an Imodium as precaution and headed in for the final 5k of the day.

About a mile from the finish line, I found Nancy and Chad who ran with me a bit down State Street screaming – “this is Deanna – cheer her in”. I have to admit it was kind of cool having a bunch of random strangers scream my name. Just off the square, I gave each of them a high five and headed to the finish. Rounding that final corner and entering the shoot is an amazing feeling. I saw Tasha, Annette and my parents and threw my glow stick at them (couldn’t ruin the finishers picture now could I) and darted towards the finish. I hear Mike Reilly say – “Deanna Doohaluk (or something close) from Oak Park, Illinois – You are an IRONMAN” so I guess it’s true!!! With a time of 15:32.

Post-Race: I got my space blanket, finishers shirts (was stoked that they still had smalls), and hat and headed for a photo. I think I may have disappointed my catcher as I really didn’t need to be caught. She looked sad when I told her I felt ok and would be ok standing in line by myself. After that I exited the madness of the finish area and was quickly congratulated by Mary and Cecelia. Soon after that I was reunited with my parents, Tasha, Annette, Jennifer, and Kristin. My parents had collected my gear but somehow missed my dry clothes bag so Tasha and I went to claim it so I could change. After changing and hitting the foot tent, I wanted more pizza so Tasha so kindly went and fetched me some pizza and we watched the final finishers come in. Sometime after midnight, we headed back to the hotel where a dream of Tasha’s came true—she got to pour ice on me so I could take an ice bath. I believe she has been waiting for that ever since I forced her to take an ice bath between her half marathon and full marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge this year at Disney.

Overall, I was happy to have finished but not happy with my performance on the course due to all of the issues with my heart. I have some unfinished business out there that needs to be settled. So let’s just say that voucher has not been ripped up and I am working on determining if I will be trying to settle the score in 2009 or waiting till 2010. I have already seen my doctor and have an appointment with an electro physiologist in a week so I am working on getting a better handle on what exactly is causing the SVT and how I can better control it.

Thank yous: Thanks to my coach Nancy and everyone at MaxMultisport Coaching including Russ, Renee, Mary, Laurie, Cecelia, Alyson and the rest of the crew for keeping me motivate and training smart. Thanks to everyone in CTC, Team Xantusia, and the Womens for the training advice and inspiration. And a special thank you to Tasha who despite having two surgeries the week before Ironman was the best Sherpa one could ask for and a major reason I can now call myself an Ironman.