IRONMAN Wisconsin is one of the most popular full-distance IRONMAN events on the circuit, it’s also one of the most challenging. The bike course offers a very technical course; consisting of lots of hills, turns, and more hills. As in all triathlons, but maybe more-so -than-ever at IRONMAN Wisconsin, being able to tackle the bike course while and saving your legs for the run is key. The run course offers, “Spectator support on the run course legendary across the IRONMAN race circuit”.
Over the past 9 months, I’m sure many of you have heard all sorts of different tips, advice, or strategies for racing IRONMAN Wisconsin, but why not hear it from the Pros who live, train and race in Wisconsin. I had the chance to catch up with some local pros from the Madison area and get their thoughts/advice on racing IRONMAN Wisconsin.
Paul Eicher, 22
Hometown: Cross Plains, WI
How long have you competing in the sport: Since 2009
Pro since: First Year Pro
Favorite about living/training in Wisconsin: The AMAZING biking/running roads/trails. And the GREAT community of athletes.
Jackie Arendt, 28
Hometown: DeForest, WI
How long have you competing in the sport: 2005
Pro since: 2011
Favorite about living/training in Wisconsin: Great road for biking, great active community
Blake Becker, 31
Hometown: Madison, WI
How long have you competing in the sport: 2001
Pro since: 2006
Favorite about living/training in Wisconsin: Having access to some of the best cycling roads in the country
What makes IRONMAN Wisconsin different from other IRONMAN races you’ve competed in?
Eicher: It has the BEST spectator support out of any race I have ever done. Also the unique course keeps you interested/engaged and not board/zoned out.
Arendt: I know SO MANY people racing and cheering!
Becker: I grew up here, so tend to know a lot of people on the course. IN addition, it was the reason I got into Ironman back in 2002. Personal mission to win the race before I retire
IRONMAN Wisconsin features a mass swim start (2,500 people). What are some of the keys to having a solid swim during an Ironman event?
Eicher: Be mentally prepared to get hit a few times (Its not that bad) and know that no one is out there purposely trying to hit you. Also get down to the swim with plenty of extra time to lay back, float and relax in the water a bit before the big day ahead.
Arendt: Not going out too hard or getting sucked into the excitement. Have to keep in mind that Ironman is a long day and the swim is just the warm-up for a good bike ride.
Becker: Starting off an appropriate pace for yourself, having things to focus on when things might not go as you plan and enjoying it.
IRONMAN Wisconsin is known for its’ tough bike course. What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to a first timer taking on the bike leg?
Eicher: Don’t go out to hard, relax and spin up the up-hills while taking in your nutrition. Say Thank You to the volunteers/workers they will give you so much energy back in return.
Arendt: Pace yourself. If you are well trained and tapered you will be feeling pretty good on the first loop. Stay within the limits of what you are able to hold for the duration of the ride rather than the first 2 hrs. Use the downhills to your advantage and conserve on the uphills (spin easy) to save your legs.
Becker: Go easy on BOTH loops and watch the spikes on the hills.
With the huge crowd support on the run course, it is easy for athletes to get over excited and forget their race plan. What are your thoughts on handling this?
Eicher: Always be thinking and going through a check list in your mind with how your body is doing. Are you going to fast, are you going to slow, do you need food, are you drinking too much water, should you walk the hill or the aid station or should I drink that beer on State Street?
Arendt: I like to use the crowd for energy, but it is important not to go super fast just because there are people around. I like to time my first couple miles to make sure I’m on the right/goal pace, then just run off effort from there…with another ‘pace’ check around half way. When you are feeling good and loving the crowd at the start, remember that you want to feel that good and be running just as well when you get back to them next time!
Becker: Most first timers shouldn’t worry about time, so enjoy the crowds. At the front end of the race, the crowds help, especially when they know your name. Everyone should stick to their plan.
Overall advice for an athlete taking IRONMAN Wisconsin (or any IRONMAN) for the first time?
Eicher: Just enjoy the day and HAVE FUN!! Its ok to walk up the up hills, aid stations or stop at the porta poties during the race, as long as you just keep moving forward! Your doing something truly amazing, remind yourself how blessed you are for even being at the starting line. Also know that after the race if you break your goal time by 4hrs, miss it by 5min, or don’t get the chance to make it to the finish line all your peers are proud of you and you should be happy for what you have accomplished. I heard from someone one time that, “Be happy with whatever performance you get out of the day because tomorrow your still breathing and your heart is still pumping.”
Arendt: Have fun, thank the volunteers, go with the flow and don’t quit!
Becker: ENJOY IT….it’s never the same after the first one. I barely remember mine and I think it was 26 or 27 races and 12 years ago!
Thank you again to Paul, Jackie and Blake for your time. Best of luck to everyone racing IRONMAN Wisconsin in the coming weeks. Don’t forget to have some fun out there!