Ironman Wisconsin 2015 Race Report

11988495_10153019571861906_5625107479653669097_nIronman #4 is done.  I previously mentioned that I wasn’t really sure how it would go due to my lack of training.  At the end of the day, for how I trained, it went really really well.  My measure of really really well was not really the time.  When I initially set out to do this race I had different goals, but shit happens.

I say it went well because for the first time in my history of all four ironman my head never got into that deep dark place of hell when all you want to do is quit.  I almost feel like I didn’t get a true ironman experience because I didn’t have that mental breakdown.  I felt great the entire time.

I finished the race 12 minutes faster than the first time I did IM Wisconsin which was also my first ironman in 2011.  I probably trained about half as many hours.  I averaged about 8-9 hours the last few weeks vs in the 20’s in 2011.

A few ramblings about the day:

  • The weather – what can I say it was perfect.
  • My Riding on Insulin team mates and all the support crew on the course. There was hardly a moment where I didn’t see a red ROI supporter t-shirt.
  • awesome ROI supporter shirts that were EVERYWHERE!!!
  • Over 70 ROI athletes 36 with T1 Diabetes raised over $120,000 for riding on insulin to help T1D kids go to active camps – mountain biking and snowboarding etc. Enough said!
  • Having no expectations and not being nervous. I just enjoyed the day on my bike then went for a long run .
  • My parents, at 80 and 83 – I truly didn’t expect to see them as much as I did. God bless them they were out all day cheering for me. Love them to pieces.
  • Tom, who took great care of my parents.
  • Other friends on the course who provided great support – Amy Flores  and Dave Athans who ran with me for a spot.  Thank you!!!!
  • Carol, Helen and Tina – always love you guys.
  • Coaches and friends who got me to the start and believed that despite my accident that I was strong enough to do it… Mike Peters, Chris Navin and Bill Bishop thank you all!! Katy Sandberg who PT’d the hell out of my broken body to get it ready for the race. Melissa Bowman who helped me get my nutrition plan ready.
  • My sweet little Ruby necklace from Chris.
  • Trimonster tailgate such a perfect location and thanks for taking care of my parents.
  • The woman ironing on Witt road… hilarious.
Mom on bike course high fiving me :)

Mom on bike course high fiving me 🙂

My parents with Steve on the bike course.

My parents with Steve on the bike course.


I arrived with my parents and Tom on Thursday.  Despite my best efforts to not be nervous I could feel the nerves creeping in.. seeing Monona Terrace just scared the crap out of me.  Remembering back to 2011 when I did my first Ironman.  It was terrible and I was so deathly afraid of feeling that way again. As the days passed my nerves subsided and I had fun seeing a lot of the athletes I had trained with over the months.

Thursday night I finally met in person the Riding on Insulin team as we gathered for some food and drinks at Grays Tied House which is actually on the course.  I will reiterate above – we raised $120,000!!!   Friday night I went to the athlete dinner and split my time with the Trimonsters and my ROI teammates.

At dinner with ROI team

At dinner with ROI team

At the athlete dinner Chris, who never ceases to amaze me for his thoughtfulness gave me a beautiful lucky charm for my race.  He gave me a gold necklace with a ruby cat on it.  For those of you who don’t know my cat Ruby passed away with cancer just prior to the race.  I got to carry her with me the entire time around my neck.  What a thoughtful gift.




Saturday I racked my bike and got my bags all ready.

One thing I did this year was keep my bags simple.  I think in 2011 and other IM’s I packed everything but the kitchen sink.  My run and bike special needs I had a spare tube and c02 some extra blocks, cheese crackers, red bull and  a small first aid kit in each with Vaseline and Band-Aids etc. My transition bags only had the bare necessities.

I made a few changes to my nutrition as well.  After sharing my nutrition plan with Melissa Bowman (VQ nutritionist) and having her laugh at me I figured I’d better listen to her. So we spoke on the phone and she talked me through what I should do.  Note I didn’t take anything different than I was used to in training I just did things a lot different than in previous ironmen.  I made things much more simpler.  See below for more details.

I taped up my dexcom sensor and added 2 spare insertion sites on my abdomen.  Should I lose a site due to heat or accidently tearing it off in a porta potty I would have plenty of back up.  I also carried my tester, my dexcom and a syringe and a vial of Humalog with me the entire time.  My friend Lyndsay had brought a spare pump which she had left at the “glasses table” just in case my aquapac which I use in the water failed.  I just got a new one after my old one failed during a training but apparently not enough to kill the pump (thank god).

Real estate was hard to come by at this point! Extra pump sites and tape over the dexcom sensor...

Real estate was hard to come by at this point! Extra pump sites and tape over the dexcom sensor…

I ate breakfast at about 4:00 am.  I would normally do a bagel with almond butter and a banana but instead I went with oatmeal which I had taken from the breakfast the morning before at the hotel.  It was pretty hard to swallow and I wasn’t able to finish it.  I did finish my banana.  I fully bolused for this meal.  I had preset my basal rates as a new pattern – I did 0.3 units until about ½ hour before I was due to start the bike so that was about 60% of my normal during the swim.   My friend Helen dropped Tom and I off at 5:30 am.  I quickly set up my bike where I found a sweet little note from Nic Ruley. Which made my morning.

Awesome little note on my bike in the morning

Awesome little note on my bike in the morning

I walked with Tom and headed to the start. I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful sunrise.  I took a deep breath and thought of Katie and thanked her for watching over me.  I checked my blood sugar one last time it was 112.  Although near perfect for a normal person, a little low for pre-swim for my liking.  I had brought a honeystinger waffle with me.  I figured it was fairly light and if I need it I could eat it.  My initial plan was to drink an ensure about an hour before start but I just didn’t feel like it. So I ate about ½ the honey stinger.  I had my gel tucked in my wetsuit just in case. I was 126 coming out of the water – woot!  I put my wetsuit on and headed to the water.  I dropped my bag with dexcom and tester  at the eye glass table.  It would be at the swim-out waiting for me.

i'm in there somewhere drowning

i’m in there somewhere drowning


I entered the water and found a position that seemed good.  Fairly far back and just to the right of the ski ramp.  I had been in the water the day before and new that the water was going to be nice.  Within a few minutes the gun went off and mayhem ensued.  This was the worst part of the race by far and I think always will be for me.  For at least the first 500 yards or so I thought I was going to drown.  I was panicky and I was being swam over.  But one of my goals this year was to fight through it.  I tried with all my might just to keep swimming despite having no room around me and feeling extremely Closter phobic.  I felt my wetsuit tight around my chest I couldn’t see any break to get over to a kayak.  I am sure if I had remotely seen one I would have used it.  Eventually it thinned out.  I had a few mantra’s which were shared with me for the swim – my wetsuit floats –  it’s the most relaxing part of my day, I am on a paddle board paddling forward I cannot sink, Left arm right arm left arm right arm.  I had not been able to turn my watch on. It had gone back into lock mode and I didn’t realize it until after the race started.  Stopping to turn it on in the mayhem would have been a recipe for disaster.  So I just didn’t worry about it.  I would have liked to see how I actually swam.  I know I kept off to the right and probably didn’t swim so straight on the back long edge.  Other than the first 500 yards I felt pretty good.  I came out of the water and had no idea what time it was.

One of my other goals was to make my transitions fast.  I did a light jog to the wetsuit peelers then jogged away.  As I was passing some ROI folks I realized that I hadn’t seen the glasses table.  I had run right past it.  So I had to go back, I went back past the wetsuit peelers and headed to the table.  Mollie asked if my pump was ok and held up the spare that Lyndsay has left.  I looked at my aquapac there was no errors and no buzzing.  It was all good. I jogged back again and headed up the helix.  It seemed to take forever.

just prior to turning back to get my dex and tester.

just prior to turning back to get my dex and tester.

I decided to quicken my transitions I would not change.  I got into T1 dried myself off. I put on my bike jersey which had all my pockets prefilled.  Spare blocks, a tube and co2, insulin, syringe, Lara bar and I put my tester and dexcom back there.  It was pretty full.  I used my arm coolers then put on some thicker arm warmers on top because it had been quite cool in the morning.  I thought I was pretty fast in T1 but apparently I was not.  I honestly don’t know how it took 18 minutes.  I tested, drank some  Skratch and had someone put lotion on me and I carried my shoes to the bike.  I didn’t even eat in T1.    The hi-lights included getting to see fellow VQ’er Cecelia who had just done Latoja the day before, a 200 mile gravel race.  She flew in after the race just to spectate at IM.  So awesome. And seeing Sharon and Michelle my other VQ teammates.  As I was running to my bike I realized that I still had my spare googles around my neck. I squeezed them off over my helmet and handed them to a volunteer.

Melissa and I agreed to the following nutrition on the bike:

On 0 and 30 I would take Skratch. On 15 and 45 I would take 1-2 blocks Marguerita shot blocks  with the goal of doing 4 per hour with water.  I told her I may need to eat something a little more solid at some point. She was not buying into that. I also had endurolytes and took about 8-12 during the bike.

A huge change from prior years where I mixed all kinds of nutrition – gu/sustained energy/ blocks/ you name it.  I had no idea!

My basal rates were set for 1 unit per hour which is about 115% for me.  In hindsight was a bit much for my reduced intake.

I had decided that I was not going to use the Gatorade endurance orange flavor on the bike – because gross.  The Gatorade spiked my blood sugar too much and I hated the flavor.  I stuck with my Skratch despite being extra work.  I filled a small flask with 6 scoops of Skratch and water – essentially making a concentrated Skratch mixture.  Every time I refilled my aero bottle I squeezed a 5th of the bottle into it.  I kept just water on my down tube.  It worked like a charm.

I glided down the helix and pedaled lightly down the path towards the stick.  I had received a phone message from Robbie Ventura earlier that day and I could hear his advice to take it easy and calmly leave T1 and settle in to the bike.  It was exactly what I did.

As I said I didn’t break any records on the bike but I certainly felt a million times better than I did in 2011.  I enjoyed every second of the bike.  I thanked all the volunteers and high fived people it was great.  My back didn’t hurt (much).  The hills came and went. I watched my watts and basically smiled and enjoyed it.  As I said the course was lined with ROI spectators and having my parents and Trimonsters out there made me feel great.

The first loop was over before I knew it.  On to loop two I actually looked forward to it.  At mile 56 I decided I would not stop at special needs.  I did eat a small cherry Lara bar that I had with me.  I didn’t really need anything else.  In fact, I did not get off my bike once in the 112 miles.  Yes I peed my pants.  I passed by the Trimonsters and my parents for the last time and finally saw Tom out of the corner of my eye. I almost ran into another racer as I swerved to catch a glimpse oops….

When I said my basal rate was a bit high it was because I was beeping low the entire bike.  See picture below.  I actually suspended the pump as I hit the stick part of the bike course. I knew that I wouldn’t be needing much insulin on the run.  I had set my basal rate to be 0.25 units per hour on the run.  Knowing that I probably wouldn’t even need that.

Blood Sugar Readings during race

Blood Sugar Readings during race

I rolled up the path to the helix, spun up the helix and dropped off the bike.  Now for the run.  And trying desperately to make this a fast transition.  I had practically nothing in my T2 bag.  I drank some Skratch and tried to deal with my low blood sugar.  I ate some glucose tablets.  I took off my bike jersey and my arm coolers.  Put on my visor took two packs of cliff blocks tested my sugar (it was low) and off I went.  I had forgotten to Vaseline up my feet.  T2 was better but still not great.  Again, not sure what takes me so long.  This time I was out in 11 minutes better than the 19 minutes in 2011.  You will see in the above that my sensor actually expired – note to self make sure sensor has enough hours in it to last the entire race! luckily i only went a small time without it.

Heading out on the run

Heading out on the run

Total transition times 2011 –  15:45 and 19:32

Total transition times 2015 – 18:35 and 11:32


I eased onto the run course pretty much on schedule.  Now, I knew I had plenty of bike strength to glide through the bike course but my running had been less than stellar. I had run one 16 miler 4 weeks earlier.  I had planned on doing a long brick the weekend of the Michigan Titanium race which was to be my last big workout but that turned into a long swim and only a 56 mile bike and no run.  A lightning storm cancelled the race and the swim and the bike had been so bad that I was glad it was over.

First I had to deal with the blood sugar.  I was still low.  I shoved about 4 blocks in my mouth.  My plan had been to eat 3-4 at the top of every hour then sip the lemon/lime Gatorade endurance and water for for the first half or so. Lemon/lime was much more palatable to me than the orange on the bike course.  Within the first 2 miles I saw my support crew… my parents, Tom, Helen, Carol, Tina and Dave .  It was great.  I stopped to give my mom a big kiss as I did every time I passed them.

I ran the first 3 miles without stopping.  I just put one foot in front of the other.  My back ached a lot but I knew from experience that this would disappear after a while.  After the first few miles of not stopping I walked through each aid station.  By mile 6 I was drinking coke.  I couldn’t stomach any food at this point.  I was feeling a bit of nausea.  I knew I needed to eat something so I tried a bit of banana but it was gross.  It seem thick and mealy and not very much like a banana so I spat it out.  I managed to eat the two remaining blocks in my packet.  I recited my mantra which Lorraine a VQ athlete had given me.  I had run into her a week prior to the race and she was so insightful.  I told her about what I’d been going through with work, the injury and Ruby.  Her belief in what she practices is that the injury happened for a reason.    Anyway, my mantra was “with every step I take this day I will get stronger in every way”.  I used it a lot throughout the race especially at this time during the run.  As I felt a bit rundown and my feet and back were sore.  I had never really used a mantra before and it worked!  I was happy that I got to see Lorraine a couple of times on the run course.  I recited my mantra to her.

As I finished the first loop I started to feel more nauseous. I ran into Amy Flores, fellow diabetic and ironman athlete.  She ran with me a bit and tried to raise my spirits.  As I ran by special needs I grabbed my bag.  The only thing that I took were 2 tums that I had packed in my little first aid kit.  I prayed that it would work.  As I kept running I threw up a bit and finally around my 15 or so the nausea went away, the back pain was gone and I was chugging along slowly, walking through aid stations drinking coke and broth and trying to eat a bit.  I managed to eat a few potato chips here and there and some orange slices.  My main concern was getting my blood sugar up.

As I ran I got to see my ROI teammates and plenty of Trimonster athletes it was great.  As I approached the capital for the last time I was in complete disbelief that I had done this again.  I had kept my pace intact and I felt good. Not once during the entire event did I worry about my time.  I didn’t even look at my pace on the run at all. I savored the finisher chute and saw Tom and my parents.  I passed over the finish line and unlike ANY other ironman I did not need any help I walked through handed back my timing chip grabbed some water and walked out.  I went into the food tent and even inhaled a piece of pizza.  I sat with teammates Gary and Alex who had finished close to me.  I saw Maryann a Trimonster who told me where my parents and Tom were.  Standing up was definitely not easy.  I could feel the blisters on my feet. Two big ones.

Matching blisters on each foot.

Matching blisters on each foot.

I walked over to where my parents, Tom and Helen were and gave them huge hugs.  In 2011 I had finished sat on the curb and did not move for some time.  I couldn’t eat or drink.  This time was much much different.  I even stayed out until midnight to watch the final athletes come in and got to see some of my riding on insulin teammate’s finish.   What an amazing day.

Hanging out at midnight

Hanging out at midnight

The problem is that because it went so well I sort of want to sign up for next year although I swore I off triathlon for 2016.  I have some great friends who are doing it and I would love to do it with them….

Final results:

Swim 1:41:38

Bike 6:54:00

Run 4:45:21

Total 13:51:06

A special shout out to my coach Mike Peters who was hit by a car recently.  He has always been such an inspiration to me.  He works so incredibly hard in training, at work and at home with his family.  Even now his recovery is much faster than anyone would have imagined.

And of course thanks to Tom for putting up with my race antics.

Next up, next week I get to see my fellow global heros as I return to the twin cities for the global hero alumni event.  Can’t wait… oh yeah and I have to run the marathon while I’m there… oops.





About Gillian

I am a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 30. I run marathons, participate in bike races , ironman triathlons and everything in between.
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