Monday, September 26, 2011
Karen's Ironman Journey Continues
Ironman Wisconsin Race Report - Karen Lipinsky
Like most race days, Ironman Wisconsin day started in the dark. I woke up with a blood sugar of 132 and ate my breakfast of peanut butter and jelly on bread in the room, taking a 70% bolus for it. Those of us sharing the mini-van were set to leave the hotel parking lot at 4:30am. We got dropped off, visited our bikes to add our carbo-loaded water bottles and pump up tires, and put our run and bike special needs bags in the bins by the capital. The nervous energy in the pre-dawn of Madison was palpable and exciting. What a fantastic feeling - the race was finally here!
After dropping my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) in my T1 (swim to bike) bag, I met up with some Team WILD teammates and a couple of friends, and we all began suiting up. Thankfully the clock isn't running when you put your wetsuit on, because it takes me a long time! For this race, I was wearing my insulin pump, which isn't waterproof, in an Aquapac pouch around my waist. I also was swimming with a 100% basal rate of insulin. Some teammates have waterproof pumps, and some left their pumps on the glasses table right by the swim out. My blood sugar an hour before the swim start was 144 and then just before getting in the water was 157, and I ate a gel (25 grams of carbohydrates, or 25g CHO) at each of those times.
I entered the water about 25min before the race start. IM MOO is a deep-water start, so you tread water while you're waiting. With a wetsuit on, this really doesn't take much energy, though. I was intentionally starting toward the back and off to the side of the buoy line, as I'm not a fast swimmer and didn't really need to put myself in the thick of the thrashing mob. I started the race with Karyn Brown - we loved seeing the sun coming up across the lake as we waited for the cannon.
And then - boom! The race started! We could hear the crowd on the shore (and on the top of the Monona Terrace) screaming. At water level, it sounded like most races - some splashing, a little grunting, me counting in my head. Although I had some body contact on and off throughout the race, I never got a big kick in the head or face, and nobody accidentally removed my goggles, so I was quite pleased! This is a 2-loop swim, and I stopped at the start of the 2nd loop to eat another gel in the water; I took this opportunity to take in the crowds, the swimmers, the kayak support - it was pretty amazing. The whole swim took me 1:51, and I'd anticipated about 1:50, so that seemed pretty good.
I ran out of the water (or rather, was kind of pulled... nice volunteers!) and up to a couple of wetsuit strippers who did a much more efficient job of getting the rubber full-body girdle off me than I ever do J. I started running up the helix and saw my screaming family in their orange T-shirts (my family lives about 90 minutes from Madison and 7 of them came to watch!), and then Tony taking pictures further up. What fantastic energy was coming from the crowd and other racers! I ran inside and was handed my T1 bag, and then into the women's changing room, where a volunteer who knows me (she trains with some teammates in Chicago) helped me out.
My blood sugar was higher than I'd expected in T1 - 263, so I opted to only eat 1 shot blox (8g CHO) at this point. I set my pump to a temporary basal rate of 130% for the next 8 hours to accommodate the many carbs I planned to eat on the bike. I put on my biking things (socks, helmet, race number, sunblock, sunglasses) and ran outside to my bike, carrying my bike shoes. I was handed my bike and scurried to the mount line, where I got on and started the longest part of my day.
While the time in the saddle is the longest segment of any distance triathlon, I knew that this Ironman course was rather notorious for its difficult bike leg, and I'd had an opportunity earlier in the summer to ride the 40-mile loop that you traverse twice in the middle of this course, so I was aware of the upcoming challenge. While I knew that I could make time cutoffs on the bike course, I also knew that I wouldn't have much buffer time and thus couldn't afford many glitches like flat tires and blood sugar issues.
The first 3 hours on the bike I got all my nutrition from one water bottle filled with Ironman Perform powder as well as some Carbo-Pro and SaltStick tablets. In total in there I had 152g CHO and 1000mg sodium. I also drank 3 bottles of water and had 6 SaltStick tablets besides this, so I was on track to have 50-55g CHO, ~30oz of liquid, and ~700mg Na per hour, which was my plan for the whole time on the bike. I train (and race) with a power meter and had a power goal, but I also was displaying my overall speed on the bike so I'd make sure to make time cutoffs. In the first couple of hours my blood sugar stayed high - 324 was the highest number I saw on my CGM, which I was consulting every 30min. I also checked my blood sugar once in the first half of the race - since I was on one of the few flat portions of the course at that time and no other racers were around me, I actually tested while moving. I took 2 different mini-boluses (25% of the insulin I would normally take with that blood sugar) during this period, and for the rest of the bike my blood sugar was in the 150-180 range, which I was happy with.
After the first 3 hours on the bike I was taking a bottle of Ironman Perform from aid stations and drinking one of those per hour, supplemented by one Fig Newton and one SaltStick tablet each hour. One of those hours I hadn't grabbed the right bottle from the aid station, so I had a bottle of water along with a gel and 3 Fig Newtons.
I saw WILD supporters in their orange T-shirts many times on the course. In Verona, around the halfway point of the race, I again saw my family with their cowbells (my dad actually runs an auction business and they'd gotten ahold of an extremely loud dinner bell, which no doubt dismayed those cheering near them, but was great for me to hear!). At the halfway point I was doing great on time, and saw that I could back off a little on my effort on the bike, to save some of that energy for the run. That was a very good feeling for me!
The Wisconsin course has a lot of hills, a few of them grueling... not long, but difficult, and there were people out there with crazy costumes and megaphones helping the racers up those. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one very hairy man in a Viking hat wearing a tiny (2-piece, woman's) bikini and a cape. My second time around the loop there were fewer people cheering on the hills, but my friend Sandy and her daughter Samantha ran me up one hill, assuring that I looked strong the whole time.
I saw my family again in Verona and then turned to head back to Madison. I was starting to really look forward to the run of the Ironman. Not only is the run my strongest discipline in triathlon, but there's also time to interact with people cheering, and to read all the signs on the course. I really like picking up other runners and helping each other through a mile or so out there, too. And I'd only seen my teammate Kathleen so far on the bike course - on the run I would possibly see everyone, since there are many out-and-back sections on the course. I reviewed my diabetes plan for the run, which was to back down to a 75% basal insulin dose and try to get in 40g CHO per hour, if I could. At the last aid station on the bike course, just past mile 100, I waved to friends who were volunteering there.
And then I woke up in an ambulance. I remember asking the paramedics what had happened, and they said I'd gotten into a bike crash in Ironman Wisconsin. I definitely didn't believe them, as I clearly remembered doing a couple of half-Ironmans (that would be last year and the year before) but thought "a whole Ironman? No way!". So evidently it's fairly easy to forget a year of your life when you land on your head in a bike wreck. By the time I'd been in the ER for a while I remembered most of the last year, and even a lot of the race. I still don't remember the crash or immediately afterward, although an eyewitness account says that I was indeed waving (and/or trying to throw out a gel wrapper) and bobbled a little - maybe I went over a little bump? My blood sugar was 179 when they checked it in the ambulance, so shouldn't have been affecting my performance at that point. Anyway, I went down and was unconscious by the time I stopped skidding it's not a very interesting story, so I might have to add a mountain lion to it.
I spent a couple of days in the hospital in Madison. I broke some ribs (they don't know how many, so I enjoy telling people 7), fractured my pelvis, got a concussion, and had a pneumothorax. Also some cool road rash. I don't recommend broken ribs - they're kind of craptastic. Evidently I kept trying to get the hospital to let me out that first night (I don't remember this) so I could see my teammates go through the finish chute and become Ironmen. Eh, the broken ribs could've waited?
All along, I said that if I didn't make it in the race I was going to sign up for IM MOO 2012 the next day. Now, I should perhaps say that I _really_ thought I'd make it! And even if I didn't, I thought it'd be a missed bike cutoff and not a crash that stopped me, so I'd be out cheering on the run course. Alas. Anyway, on Monday when online registration opened for Ironman Wisconsin 2012, Tony was sitting on my hospital bed with me and signed me up (I still couldn't be trusted to type at that point ).
So many things were going right in the race this year, and I can only hope that those elements are also in my favor next year. The weather was pretty darned good, not including severe humidity, strong winds, or rain, any of which would slow me down. My blood sugar, while not perfect, had gotten into a nice groove after the first couple of hours on the bike. My continuous glucose monitor was getting a good signal and giving me reliable data, so I didn't have to stop multiple times to check my blood sugar. I was able to get in as many calories as I had planned on, with no stomach problems showing up. I didn't have any mechanical issues with my bike. My body was holding up just fine (although I understand that I hadn't even started the run, so presumably it would've been doing worse later!). My family was having enough fun that they can probably be easily coaxed to come cheer next year, especially if the weather is similarly nice.
I really was having a great race, until the abrupt end of it. I'd had a huge smile on my face much of the day, thanked the volunteers, high-fived fans while running up the helix, laughed at various silly signs. I'm disappointed to have trained so long and hard to have the season end this way, but I still had a simply amazing journey to and in this Ironman. Being a part of Team WILD (Women Inspiring Life with Diabetes) has been fantastic for me, and being the captain of our IronWILD team this year made me keep all 10 of the other team members in mind throughout my training. These women are amazing. FastForward Sports, my training group, has gotten me to and through all of my athletic goals in previous seasons, and I once again taxed my poor coaches with endless questions and arguably too much analysis as I very determinedly made my way through this season (I take the training very seriously, even if/when I'm the most remedial athlete in the group). Being a member of both of these groups was huge for me, and I cherish the friendships I've gained through them. I loved the process of working my body to the point where I could reasonably expect it to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run in one day. I didn't get to do that on 9/11/11, but was it a distinct possibility? Absolutely!
Right now, I'm busy with healing. I guess that's a slow process with these kinds of injuries, but maybe I can start water running soon. And before too long, the training will start up again' and so on to IM MOO 2012...