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Ironman Wisconsin 2010

Although I took a year off from racing Ironman, that sure did not mean I would avoid Madison in the beginning of September. I would in fact be having a full day myself, volunteering to be a spotter in a kayak on the swim course, and afterwards following a couple friends racing.

The Swim

The swim finish line

The swim finish line

Being on the front line of the swim course made for a great morning. A flotilla of over seventy boats cast into Lake Monona in the early morning light. I was assigned to the far corner, responsible for ensuring the athletes stayed safe and on course. After the canon sounded, the heard of triathletes started their long day and hurled themselves towards us. When the pack arrived, I was ill prepared for the chaos that ensued, despite having been in the pack before. The mass of swimmers was at least fifty yards wide and moved like a herd of cattle. Trying to ensure everyone went around the turn buoy, while simultaneously searching for any struggling people was taxing. We did our best to push people around the corner and through the washing machine, but some still intentionally cut to the inside of the buoy to avoid the mess. Even staying in my boat was a little challenging. The plethora of people produced a a lot of turbulent waves. They were not big, but came from all directions, and I had to be careful for them not to catch me off guard.

Kayakers cheering for the last swimmers

Kayakers cheering for the last swimmers

At least by the second lap, the athletes had spread out and the herd was slightly more manageable. Thankfully I had mostly an uneventful time in the water, with no emergencies and just a couple of people holding onto my boat to rest temporarily. As the Ironman to be left in the water dwindled, the kayaks from around the course followed in these last athletes. A parade of boats lined the course giving these final swimmers the encouragement they needed and deserved.

As two hours and twenty minutes ticked by on the clock, the kayakers were relieved from their responsibilities and made their way for dry land. My time on the water was great, and helping the athletes’ day be possible was an added bonus. I already plan on being up there again next year.

The kayaks which helped during the swim back atop their cars

The Rest

With my volunteer obligations for the day completed, I changed my attention to tracking my friends who were racing. To get my own long workout in, I ran sixteen miles to Verona where I could cheer for the bikers, and then rode the shuttle back. Back in Madison for the marathon portion of the race, I dashed around the run course following my athletes, all the while harassing encouraging everyone with a bullhorn. The races I was following had great days, and finished with awesome times, a result of a lot of hard training and good execution. Although the people I knew had already finished, many people were still on the course who deserved a word of encouragement in the darkness. So after grabbing dinner, I stood out on a stark section of the course, about three quarters of a mile from the finish, helping pull people in through the last bit. I stayed out there until the last runner passed, and then rushed to the finish line at midnight to catch the best party in Madison. After the long day from paddling in the morning to celebrating as Monday morning arrived, I somehow found the energy to drive back home for work that morning.

Ironman finish line