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Ironman Wisconsin Race Report
Well, we did it!! So many people just completed Ironman Wisconsin and a large number of first timers of which I was one. So, congratulations to all who competed in this incredible event.
When preparing to write this report, I had to think about who got me into this sport and why did I aspire to run an Ironman. There is only one person and that is my wife, Kerri. It started with her dragging me to a spin class on a Saturday morning at 5am. It was an hour-long class of which I road for 20 mins and faked it for 40 mins. Wow, I was out of shape. Don Rivkin, a fellow triathlete, taught the class and he told us about sprint triathlons. Kerri’s immediately said we are in. That was 3 years ago.
Over the next couple of years we progressed from Sprint to Olympic distances and last year we started to compete in ½ Ironman. It was after the Providence ½ Ironman that we decided to volunteer at Madison and sign up for the race this year. So, that is how we got committed!!!
Committed is a great word to describe what you need to be an Ironman. But it isn’t just about your commitment. It is about your family, friends, coach and co-workers. I’m going to call out a number of people that helped me mentally and spiritually thought out my training and race. First none of this would have been possible with out my family. My wife and I decided to do it together which was one of the best decisions of our lives. It brought us closer together on so many dimensions. But as importantly, I couldn’t have done this with out my two boys – Bret and Kyle. These guys sacrificed so much for me. There were so many mornings when we would set an alarm clock and leave them a note to make breakfast and get themselves off to school. Additionally, there were so many weekends when we would be gone for the majority of a day. They were great. They called if they needed something and they worked as a team to make sure they took care of each other. I know it was hard but I also think it made them grow closer as well. I should also note that they both became triathletes this year and competed and won their age groups on many occasions. So, at 12 and 14 they are already better than me. J
My friends, I have to start with the people I trained with this winter. Roland Dzekciorius, Jenna Sawyer, Jim Webb, Crane Patten, Joe McMahon, Ken Carlson, Kevin and Kim Radisewitz and I’m sure I’m missing a bunch. These are the core folks that would meet at 5:30am during the winter to ride for 1-2 hours. We had a blast and the company was outstanding. Once spring came, the group narrowed down to Roland, Jenna, Kerri and me. What a fun group of people and what an honor to be able to train and race with all of these folks. We will all have a bond that will last forever.
I have to also mention that none of the training would have been possible without Sammy’s bikes. Sammy allowed us to train early in the morning at his shop; he had all of the equipment we needed to have successful training. He also made sure our bikes were perfect for all of our races this year. Thank you Sammy.
The last thing that was critical in getting to the starting line was a good coach. Kerri and I asked Eric Gauthier if he would coach us through our first Ironman. Eric put together a program that got us to Madison feeling good and healthy. Of course we had to challenge him a little bit. My travel schedule was brutal and I hit a car on my bike 4 months before the race. So, needless to say we gave him a good challenge and he delivered. Thank you Eric.
We made it to the starting line. At most races I get very anxious and I can’t sleep the night before the race. The thing that had me anxious about Madison was the swim. I had never been in a mass start swim event before and I was worried that I would just get beat up in the swim. So the day before the race, Jenna, Roland, Kerri and I headed over to the lake and swam the first 800 meters. What a relief it was to see the course and swim it prior to race morning. While I can’t say I slept perfectly, I did at least sleep.
Race morning came quickly. It was absolutely perfect; we topped off the water and nutrition on our bikes, gathered our wetsuits and headed down to the swim start. The energy was incredible. Not only were their 2800 athletes, there had to be 5000 fans up at 6am that morning. It was electrifying. We had so many great friends down at the start cheering us on it was just simply incredible. Kerri and I got into the water at the same time and decided we would start on the shore side of the first buoy. That worked perfect except 1000 other people had the same idea. By the time we eased our way up to the starting line – BAM – the cannon sounded and we were off.
The first 800 meters of the swim were physical. There was a lot of bumping and pulling. Once we got to the first buoy, things opened up. I was able to extend my stroke and I found myself lost in my thoughts. It was the coolest time. Normally, Eric has me counting strokes or I’m counting laps. This time, it was just me and my thoughts – This is when I thought a lot about how much people gave up to allow me to race. Thank you again. I finished the swim ahead of my planned time and that was probably because I was so relaxed and comfortable.
As I came out of the water, the fans were astonishing. I saw so many good friends that helped me get to the starting line shouting my name and telling me my wife is 12 minutes ahead of me go catch her. Now my thoughts were focused on catching her on the bike, which wouldn’t be an easy task as she is a great rider. T1 went really well the volunteers where fantastic and helped me get in and out of transition quickly. Leaving transition I saw my two boys and they have smiles on their face and just look so proud of me.
I had ridden the bike course a few times so I knew the hills and was prepared to pace myself on the bike. While training, I didn’t ever ride through the Aliant Energy Center. When riding through the parking lot I decided to eat something. I reached back to grab my fuel I hit an unmarked speed bump. That was the closest I came to crashing all day. Once through the parking lot I was on familiar roads and I felt great. The fans were everywhere especially on the hills. Riding up the hills with people running next to you banging drums – thanks Ryan – was incredible. I have to say, it made the hills seem a lot shorter than when I road them in practice. My first loop was better than the second as the wind picked up a few mph. After my second loop, I started thinking about the run. I kept reminding myself to keep my cadence high and not to burn out my legs. I finished the bike strong but behind my targeted time. I did catch Kerri but that is only because she had a flat tire. Great ride honey!
T2 was fantastic again; it was fast and the volunteers where very supportive. They helped me make the transition quickly and I was off to catch all of those people that passed me on the bike.
I had never been on the run course before so I didn’t know what to expect. As I started I realized my legs felt pretty good. I didn’t try to push it. I settled into my planned pace for the first couple of miles. At mile 6 I saw Jenna who was way out ahead with an incredible swim and bike. I kept running and still felt great. The crowds were phenomenal. As I made the ½ way turn on the run I was excited. I realized at that point that I would be back in a couple of hours to finish my first Ironman. On the second loop I told myself to enjoy it, take the time to listen to the crowds, to look at the signs and simply to relish the accomplishment. When I hit mile marker 25 I started to pick up my pace. Not because I was trying too. It was just happening. People where cheering, you could hear the music from the finishing line and you could here the famous – “You are an IRONMAN” that just caused me to go faster and faster until I heard it. “Dirk Izzo from Saint Charles, IL you are an IRONMAN”. What a feeling of accomplishment.
Again, my accomplishment is dwarfed by the sacrifices that others gave for me to be able to train and complete. I want to thank everyone for there support. I’ve dedicated this race and my finishing metal to my two boys as they are my inspiration to stay healthy and continue to be the best I can be.