Well, if I wanted an exciting welcome to the world of triathlon, this was it. And let me preface today's adventures at Ironman Wisconsin by saying that Kelly had to come home early from work on Friday because I'd called her to tell her that Cole had split his lip open in the living room and was bleeding all over the place. It stopped and I didn't have to call the doctor, but she came home anyway out of concern.
Thankfully, our Saturday was busy-but-routine. Because we were up at 3:30am and had the kids in the car by 4am for the 3 hour drive to Madison from Chicago. It was dark and chilly and Cole was excited to figure out what was going on so he stayed awake staring out the dark window almost the entire way. By the time we arrived at the Start, the sun was up and the athletes were already in the water...well around the first turn.
We walked from the capital, past what would become the Finish, to Monona Terrace--a Frank Lloyd Wright designed building that sits on the lakefront. It's a ramped, multilevel building that houses the Transition Area with bike racks, plazas for spectators, etc.. We watched the swim for awhile--more of my thoughts about the actual race to follow--and then I walked Cole on my shoulders to see the fountains, views of the lake, the huge crowds.
The other end of the plaza had restrooms, so we headed that direction with Kelly going first due to the typical ladies room lines. Then we switched. But when I came out of the mens room, I found a hysterical family and that I'd missed quite a bit. As I walked away, Cole had immediately left his mom and the stroller behind, made his way down the series of ramps running to the next level, slipped, fallen on the brick hitting his head, and a complete stranger had to pick him up and return him. Poor kid. I wiped his snotty nose and the bump on his head was pretty swollen but eventually looked much better later in the day.
But wait, there's more!
My original plan had been to find the spot where riders first come out of T1 and ride down the helix ramp from the terrace to the start of the race on the roads and bike paths of Madison. Essentially, the course takes you on a lollipop stick route out to rural Wisconsin where you do 2 50-mile loops then head back into downtown for the run.
The way that Monona Terrace works with roadway underneath it and the configuration of downtown streets, we had a few blocks to walk before we could get across railroad tracks at a traffic light to access the race course. We crossed the street for a view of the capital building and watched the bikes come by from the lakeside bikepath. We parked the stroller in the grass and eventually Cole got antsy and wanted to take a walk. So Kelly took him down the path a few hundred yards...thank God. And I picked Leda up because she was freezing cold in the 50 degree temps. Thank God.
I didn't see exactly how it happened. Just commotion plus we were blocked by a crowd "up" course. But the next thing was 2 racers and their bikes flying into our parked stroller. The empty stroller did a complete flip ending up the opposite direction on a different side, athletes crashed as the bicycles jumped the curb and hit each other, our stroller, pavement, grass. Broken brake cables, bruised racers, bikes needing wrenches to be fixed. Our bottles and toys and snacks were scattered all over. People came running up afraid the kids had been in the stroller. People asking the cyclists if they were ok. Trying to find quick fixes to their bike problems.
What a crap way to start a 112 mile bike.
I felt sorry for the guy with the most damage. I have a feeling it was an unseen other cyclist who actually caused the wreck but didn't have to deal with the outcome. He was clearly thrown for a loop. The first mile of your Ironman and the rest of the day he probably wondered how his bike was and felt a little battered. I wish I'd gotten his number to track him.
In hindsight, some of the guys going by were being ridiculously dangerous. You've just been in the water swimming 2.4 miles for an hour, you've changed clothes and hopped on the bike and are trying to get in a new zone. Yet here in the first mile you had people shouting and trying to pass and starting arguments about lane space. If you have people to pass, you have another 10 hours to do so, people! Not to mention that some of the expert advice--from people who have qualified for Kona on this very course--is usually to use the trip out to the "loops" to warmup.
Anyway, after that it was time to pack it in. Kids needed diapers, food, warm naps. I enjoyed what I managed to take in during our brief visit.
Madison was interesting--not what I expected, but it reminded me a lot of St. Paul--the swim venue was beautiful but daunting. Not scary. Just much, much bigger than when you see that little map of the outline. Standing on the terrace, the course went all the way right. Then a couple of left turns and so far to the left parallel to shore that you had to go to the other end of the terrace to see it. 2.4 miles sounds long in your head, but to see it marked in buoys in the water with a long line of thousands of swimmers is another matter.
But the atmosphere was amazing--and has me excited for marathon race day! The spectators, the setting, seeing all those people participating. It was nice to get a feel for how the process works, what it really feels like to be there.
Maybe Ironman someday soon for me?