Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Great Birthday!

Simply stated, I got to live another life dream yesterday on my Birthday and what a great day it was.  The euphoria has died down and I'm starting to be able to control my emotions enough to sit down and focus on a race report.  The e-mails and Facebook messages I have received in the past 24 hours have been overwhelming and so much appreciated.  Now, let me try to do justice to what turned out to be one incredible day.
Side view of swim start
Aerial view of swim start 

Exiting swim and taking off speed suit
My birthday started on Saturday morning at 4:30 AM.  We (the Wiens and the Leatherburys) woke up and drove down to Kona for body marking and to make a final check on the bikes.  On our way in, we passed Karlyn Pipes-Neilson, our swim coach on Wednesday who sprayed us down with Glide (a lubricant to try to prevent chafing) and gave us final thoughts from Madame Pele (the Hawaiian Goddess).  She set the tone for the day.   At 6:45 AM, we jumped into Kona Bay and swam out to the swim start.  At 7:00 AM, the cannon went off and 1,800 triathletes all started swimming to a sail boat stationed 1.2 miles out in the bay.  In the words of my Nephew, David Salzman – “Game On!”  

My swim went according to plan as Karlyn’s tip on where to position myself was right on target.  I found some breathing room after the first ½ mile and was able to relax into a consistent stroke for most of the race.  My swim time of 1:14:44 was about a minute faster than last year and 3 minutes faster than 2006 and put me in 10th place for my age group.  

Nannette relayed this information to me as I entered the bike transition area. 
Heading out to the Lava Fields
The bike course is a 100 mile out and back to Hawi, the northern most point on the island with a quick 12 mile loop in Kona before heading out across the lava fields. The challenge on the bike course is heat and wind.  There are hills, but with the strong winds, some of the down hills with a head wind feel like up hills and some of the up hills with a tail wind actually feel like down hills.  A head wind up a hill as in the seven mile climb to Hawi is a real killer.  The good news is that the winds on Saturday were either in my face or at my back.  There were very few side winds and my fear of being blown off my bike was not that great. The challenge was that the head winds were much stronger than last year. At mile 70, just after leaving Hawi, I started to get some significant cramping in my legs.  So, I kept pedaling painfully through it, I took some salt tablets and drank Perform (Ironman’s version of Gatorade) more aggressively and got the cramping quickly under control.  My bike time was virtually the same as last year and five minutes slower than 2006 – a day that had moderate winds.  I averaged 18.5 miles per hour on the bike and dropped down to 18th place.
Mike starting the run on Ali'i Drive
Eighteenth place is not where I had planned to be, but I had survived the swim and the bike and I was now on my home court, the run.  Nannette was stationed at the first half mile on the run to deliver a critical message about my current place in my age group.  Our son Andrew and Nephew David were tracking me and told Nannette to deliver the following message -  “You are in 18th place and are only 18 minutes behind the guy in 5th.”   Eighteen minutes – that is all I needed to hear.  I knew that my strength in this sport is my ability to run, especially on a hot day.  And for all the abuse I take in the number of layers of mismatched clothes I wear on a hot day, this was going to be my day of vindication.  I knew that I typically run 30 seconds to a minute per mile faster than the old men in my age group and felt confident I could close an 18 minute gap making a podium finish was very do able.  It certainly helped build my confidence that I passed 5 or 6 competitors in my age group in the first 5 miles of the run.
Approaching the finish line
The rest of the run was focused on trying to control my body temperature and keeping the pace.  There were aid stations positioned almost every mile in the Ironman World Championship, staffed by the most enthusiastic and helpful people they can find on the island.  The volunteers are truly wonderful and help to make this race so special.  I ran through each aid station following the same routine.  First, I would grab a cup of ice and pour it in my tri suit to act as a radiator for my body.  Then I would grab a cup of water and pour it over my head.  Next I would drink a cup of water, a cup of Perform and a cup of Coke, about 3 to 4 ounces in each cup.  All these items were handed out by volunteers in a 50 yard line so it was easy to do all this without breaking stride or slowing my pace. 
At mile 10, my support teams on the computers had me in 8th place.  Numbers are assigned by age so I knew to look out for numbers 239 to 281 who were my competitors.  I counted the number of my competitors I passed and because there was a turn-around point at mile 5 and mile 18, I could get a pretty good idea of who was still ahead of me.  When I came across the finish line, I was not sure if I had taken third or fourth, but I knew I had accomplished my goal, lived the dream, and was going to the Podium.  I had run a 3:43:52 marathon (8:32 minute per mile pace) for a total time of 11:11:39  
When you cross the finish line in an Ironman, Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, announces your name and screams over the massive sound system those four famous words, “You are an Ironman.”   Then volunteers quickly surround you so you don’t collapse in front of the thousands of cheering fans, present you with a beautiful fresh flower lei, determine if you need to be sent to the medical tent or direct you to the athletes area for pizza, soft drinks, a finishers medal and a massage.. Nannette had been part of the team putting leis on finishers for the past 2 ½ hours and when she heard Mike Reilly announce, “Here comes Mike Wien”  she quickly moved to the front of the line to greet me and present the official lei.  As my mentor Fox Ferrel loves to say, “It just does not get any better than that.” 

(Watch my finish online at the following link:  
Go to 12:11:00 on the timer, which will correspond with 11:11:00 on the official finishers clock and start watching.)

About 15 minutes later, my son Jason in Boston and Cousin Larry in Las Vegas both called with the official results – Second in the World and First USA finisher.

Top Three Finisher in the Male 60 to 64 age group
Name                             Country            Swim                     Bike                       Run                        Total Time
1  Louis Ackerman         Switzerland        1:26:18                  5:24:28                  4:04:27                  11:03:41
2  Mike Wien                 USA                  1:14:44                  6:03:30                  3:43:52                  11:11:39
3  Juan Arraste               Chile                  1:22:48                  5:47:51                  3:54:15                  11:13:52
Mike and Nannette at Finish

It is hard to describe how I felt when we got the official word.  Elated, overwhelmed, exhausted, delirious, ecstatic, euphoric, and exhilarated represent a good start.  But as in 2006, when I took 5th in the world, I did not feel the true emotional impact of what I had done until I starting reading the hundreds of e-mails I had received from my incredible family and friends who have been there for me as I trained for this event and who were with me last night in spirit as I danced across the finish line with unbounded exhilaration.

Mike, Bishop and Michael at "Morning Coffee"
Bishop Leatherbury, a first timer for the Ironman World Championship came here with one objective: to finish in 14 hours or less.  He accomplished his goal and was rather precise with an official finishing time of 14:00:00.  Check his finish out at the same site above.  Michael Berger also joined us from Atlanta as a first timer and came in at 13:10:18.  Five years ago, Fox Ferrel took me under his wing and was in Kona to help me prepare for my first Ironman World Championship.  It was a real honor to follow Fox's example and be with Bishop and Michael and share their exuberance.

The final chapter was the awards banquet held next to Kona Bay on Sunday night for 5,000 people.  As we were finding our seats, I spotted Steve Smith a couple tables away.  Steve was the 2010 top ranked triathlete in my age group.  Yesterday, he was second out of the swim, and first off the bike, but had a difficult run.  We met on the podium at the Ironman 70.3 in Buffalo Springs in June (he was first and I was second), and we met again in Las Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in September (he was third and I was fourth.)  As we approached each other, I stuck out my hand to shake his.   Steve looked at my hand and said, “You took second place in the World – You don’t get a hand shake” and with a big smile, gave me a congratulatory bear hug.  To the people who wonder why I love this sport, it is because it seems to attract class acts like Steve Smith.
60-64 Age Group Award Winners - Mike 2nd from center 

The two highlights of the evening were seeing Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman be surprised by being inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame.  While he has never run an Ironman, he has spent the last 22 years helping thousands of men and women of all ages celebrate accomplishing a significant life dream by announcing those four magic words…You are an Ironman!  In his impromptu acceptance speech, Reilly talked about the two things that drive him in life.  First his family and second, the passion he has for helping members of the Ironman family celebrate accomplishing their dream.

The second highlight was standing on the podium with the top 5 men and the top 5 women 60 to 64 years of age in the world proudly holding our Umekes – the wooden bowls given to each of the podium finisher.  In Hawaiian culture, the Umeke is given as a gift to designate honor, accomplishment, fulfillment or completion.  Having a Umeke means you know what it means to be filled, filled to the brim!

Nannette registering an athlete
While I have elected not to try and mention all of my support team in this blog, I want to give a special shout out to one very special person in my life.  As I have spent the past week…and maybe the past 6 years preparing for this day, Nannette has been my partner, from doing the multiple loads of laundry I can generate in 6 hours to keeping fresh bananas in the house.  She made me very proud this week by becoming an active part of the Ironman World Championship Family.  Nannette spent Tuesday and Wednesday as a volunteer at athlete check-in.  On Friday, she volunteered to help at the bike check-in.   And on Saturday, she was at the finish line putting leis on some very appreciative finishers.  And as many of you watched on the internet feed, she “lei-ed” me as I came across the finish line.  Please congratulation Nannette when you see her on being a critical part of the Ironman World Championship team.
Official Team Picture

Let me close this wonderful day with a couple of observations or lessons learned.  First, being in Kona this week has reinforced my belief that people who have a very specific goal or objective, who are focused on living a definable dream, seem to be on a more interesting and exciting journey than those who lack a specific direction.  Kona is filled with people this week who have specific goals and  who are “I can”, not “I can’t.”

Second, never underestimate the power of family and friends.  I have seen it all week in the thousands of family members who are here to support their athlete and the over 5,000 volunteers who have flown in from all over the world to help complete strangers live a life dream.

Third, by getting really good at doing something extraordinary, I have been given the opportunity to mentor others and maybe motivate some of those people to make changes to live a more fulfilling life.  This is a responsibility that I continue to honor and cherish.

In closing, a special thank you to all of those who have supported my efforts to help people with disabilities.  If you have not had the opportunity to show your support, it is not too late.  Please help me make my goal to help fund the Spring Getting2Tri (G2T) training camp and change lives.  G2T trains athletes with physical disabilities and changes lives by inspiring participants to regain their confidence.  In turn, this confidence develops hopes, dreams, new physical skills, camaraderie and a greater sense of purpose.  They help people with physical disabilities find their Kona

Donations are still being graciously accepted at this link:


Mike Wien
Second Place Ironman World Champion
Age Group 60-64
Kona, Hawaii 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

T-Minus 10 Hours and Counting Down

“They have moved the Space Shuttle to the launch pad and are starting to fuel the solid rocket boosters.”

Aloha from Kona as we enter the final phase.  This update summarizes the final two days of preparation and shares some personal thoughts as I get ready for a very big birthday on Saturday.Thursday was a change of pace.  Yes, of course I started out with my mile swim for my coffee and cookie.  But that was it for serious exercise. 
Kebby, Mike and Michael at Underpants Run

At 8:00 AM we participated in the traditional underpants run.  I am not sure of the history, but on Thursday, it is a great way to relieve the stress and anticipation and Ali’i Drive is packed with athletes running in minimal attire. 

Nannette and I spent the rest of the day with Bishop and Rob (Bishop’s son) kayaking out to Captain Cook’s monument.  The monument is on the West side of the big Island about 10 miles from our house on a magnificent reef teaming with fish.  We rented snorkeling equipment and spent an hour chasing fish and marveling at nature’s beauty for the second time that day.  Then we kayaked back.
Nannette and Bobbe at Pre-Race Dinner

Thursday night was the pre-race banquet, a dinner for 5,000 people held outside.  The entertainment was what you would expect in a Hawaiian Luau with hula dancers, plenty of coconuts, and a great display of fire aerobics.  I think the display was designed to help us prepare for the lava fields on Saturday.  However, part of the program was designed to help all of the athletes appreciate and harness the mystical powers of the Islands.  The Hawaiian’s rich and colorful culture has helped these people survive for the centuries.  This was great spiritual advice for the 1,800 trying to survive the elements on Saturday and stay in the good graces of Pele.

Greenbergs, Leatherburys, Wiens and Ferrels
Friday was preparation day and a day of peace and tranquility.  There is nothing more that I can do to get myself ready.  I have put in the miles in the pool, on the bike, and in the run.  I have my game strategy for tomorrow memorized and have rehearsed each segment in my head at least 100 times.    

We took our last coffee run (a one mile swim) at 7:30 AM, followed by an 11 mile bike and a 3 mile run.  Then we packed our bike transition bag and run transition bag and checked our bikes in for tomorrow.  Tonight, we hosted a pasta dinner for the Ferrels and the Greenbergs and are going to bed early.  Bobbe Greenberg is a 65 year old teacher from Highland Park, Illinois and a friend of my sister – Alison.  This is Bobbe’s third time to Kona.  During the dinner, Kelly Fox mentioned that her real name is Miriam.  I told her that my Mother’s name is Miriam, but everyone calls her Mim.  Jeff Greenberg, Bobbe’s husband perked up and said, “Mim – Does she play golf?”  Jeff use to play golf with my mother at Sunset in Highland Park and had fond memories.

I concluded my blog from last year’s race with five positive things that came out of my unsuccessful attempt to make the podium.  I would like to conclude this blog by sharing the five specific and difficult lessons I learned from last year that I hope will make me more successful this year.

Mass Swim Start at the Ironman World Championship
  1. Positioning at the start is critical.  In 2006, I positioned myself in the swim start on the outside edge in an attempt to stay out of the pandemonium that happens when 1,800 people start swimming in the same direction.   I missed any advantage of the drag created by that many bodies.  In 2010, I started in the middle of the pack to take full advantage of the drag.  It was a slugfest and I did not get into a comfortable stroke until the first and only turn at 1.2 miles.  This year, we hired Karlyn Pipes-Neilson, the local swim goddess to give us pointers on where to start.  I have a plan and it is to find a balance between the pack and the outliers.

Mike on Queen K Highway going across the lava field
       2.  Being swift versus being in a hurry.  Last year in my attempt to be swift, I rushed through important speed bumps.  I ran out of the transition from swim to bike without sunscreen for a 6 hour bike ride and lost time at the first aid station discovering that the aid stations do not have sun screen.  I missed picking up my special needs bag at mile 60 on the bike course as I rode right past the volunteer ready to hand it to me.  And I rode through an aid stations so fast, I fumbled the hand-off for water.  I can’t afford to miss any aid stations going across a 112 mile lava field.      
       3.  A general idea is no match for a specific plan. Last year, my plan on the bike was to eat and drink often and as much as I could.  That was not specific enough. I did not force myself to eat and drink enough and ended up dehydrated and running out of gas after 90 miles.  I need to be more specific and purposeful with what I consume on the bike, keep track and be accountable.
      4.  First earn the right to wear it.  On Thursday, two days before last year’s race, I drove down to the ocean to run 4 easy miles with Gary Kessler.  I forgot to bring my socks.  So I ran into the Ironman store and bought a pair of Ironman 2010 socks.  While I make it a practice not to wear any race specific merchandise before running in a race, this time I made an exception.  At about 3 ½ miles, I tripped over a curb and as many of you will remember, took a quarter size piece of skin my palm.  Not good for a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean or a 112 mile bike ride.  I have no plans to wear anything I buy at the Ironman store until after the race tomorrow.
           5.  Champions don’t take breaks.  I had run the first 10 miles in last year’s race at a sub 8 minute mile pace and was starting to feel pretty spent. Mile 10 is the infamous hill on Palani Road.  About 440 yards representing the steepest climb of the day.  I decided that a quick walk up the hill would cost less than an extra minute and would give me a well deserved breather.  So, I walked up Palani.  I spent the next 16 miles trying to figure out what I was thinking as I had never walked in any endurance race before.  I have spent the last 364 days challenging every hill in my training runs and looking forward to finally having the opportunity to make peace with Palani.   I asked Nannette to be at the top of Palani Road tomorrow with a baseball bat and to hit me over the head if I am walking.  She refused.  So instead, if you know Nannette’s cell phone number, please call her at about 9:45 PM Eastern – 3:45 PM Hawaiian time and ask one question.  Did Mike run up Palani?  If she says no, send me an e-mail with the subject line – Loser.  Turn off your computer and go to bed.  If she says yes – pop another bag of pop corn.  Watch and fasten your seat belt.  The ride isn’t over yet.

Finally, one of the most common questions I get asked is what do I think about during the 140.6 miles to keep going.  The answer is simple…I think about all the wonderful people who have helped me focus, work toward a goal, and really enrich my life.  I hope by example, it enriches the lives of others.


Please remember that I am competing in the Ironman World Championship tomorrow to help support Getting2Tri (G2T).  G2T trains athletes with physical disabilities and changes lives by inspiring participants to regain their confidence.  In turn, this confidence develops hopes, dreams new physical skills, camaraderie and a greater sense of purpose.  They help people with physical disabilities find their Kona.

Please click on the link below to make a donation to this worthy cause.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kona Update Three - The Coffee Bar is Open!

Mike with his cherished morning cookie and coffee

Sometimes, the simplest things in life can be so memorable.  The Kona Coffee Growers set up a coffee bar every year during Ironman week and give out free coffee and a cookie to anyone just for the asking.  It is a great marketing stunt.  People line up all around for a little three ounce paper cup.  It only comes in regular and they will gladly add a little sugar and milk on request.  No Latté, no soy milk, no tall or grande, no expresso, just coffee.   I don’t drink coffee, but in Kona, this has become my morning ritual…coffee and a cookie.   Now there is a catch.  The coffee bar is ½ mile out in the middle of Kona Bay and the only way to get there is to swim.  But this is Ironman week, so the only traffic jam in Kona at 7:15 AM is in the middle of Kona Bay.   The athletes swim out to the Coffee bar (an outrigger sail boat) and back in a no organized fashion what-so-ever creating the ultimate dodge ball game.  Even treading water waiting in line for coffee is fun.  And the views of the fish and the ocean floor on the way out are spectacular.
Bishop in Lava field on Queen K Highway
Training today was focused on the Lava fields.  Bishop and I rode about 30 miles on the Queen K Highway trying to practice capturing the strength from the stored up energy of the Island.  It is amazing what you think about when riding through lava fields with the temperature in the three digit range.

Athlete Bracelet
Tuesday was also registration day and I picked up the most expensive piece of jewelry I will ever own – the Kona Athlete wrist bracelet.  Now it might look like a cheap plastic band to the untrained eye, but to the more informed, it is worn by 1,800 athletes who have spent thousands of dollars on equipment and endured thousands of hours of training to earn the right to buy one.  If anyone is still wondering the true value, the Ironman organization auctions off three entries on e-Bay each year for charity and they sell                                                                                                 for $36,000 to $38,000 a piece.
Michael, Mike Scott Rigsby, and Bishop

At 5 PM, we walked with the USA contingent…870 strong … in the Parade of Nations down Ali’i Drive.  Athletes from all over the world including three from Israel walked to the cheers of hundreds of admiring fans.  As we studied the signs, stores and shops, we all knew we would be running down this same street on Saturday night to the cheers of thousands.
Dinner with Laura and Kevin

Laura Sophia (Current World Champion – 55-59) and Kevin Moats (Many times World Champion) joined us for a Pesto Salmon and BBQ Chicken dinner after the Parade of Nations at our house.  We ate fruit grown in our back yard for dessert.
Fox Ferrel in Kona
Wednesday was more of the same in paradise.  My morning coffee and cookie “run.”  A four mile run down Ali’i Drive followed by a 20 mile bike ride past the volcano fields north of the airport.  Kelly and Fox Ferrel (18 time Ironman – 5 time Kona finisher) hosted a shrimp and chicken dinner for us that include Kona Coffee Ice Cream for dessert.  What an appropriate end to a really great day.

Tomorrow will be my last blog before the race and one not to miss.  And as a final reminder, please help me help Getting2Tri train athletes with physical disabilities.  Their camps change people’s lives by inspiring participants to regain their confidence through sports.  In turn, this confidence develops hopes, dreams, new physical skills, camaraderie and a greater sense of optimism about the future.  They help people with physical disabilities find their Kona.

Getting2Tri Run Clinic

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Getting Settled in Kona - Sunday and Monday

Kona, Hawaii is a special place.  We are in a place that provides a constant reminder of the power and beauty of nature.  We are also in a place that attracts some incredible individuals from all over the world for one big week every year.  I always find a great combination of peace and excitement on this magnificent Island.

On Sunday, we started the day with a swim in Kona Bay and a run down Ali’I Drive.  The coffee bar in the middle of Kona Bay was not set up yet, but the conversion of Ali’i Drive to the greatest ¼ mile run in the world was starting to take shape.  We spent most of the day exploring the Kilauea Volcano and marveling at the power of nature.  In 1926, an explosion sent 8 ton rocks (the weight of a school bus) over ½ mile in the air.  While the top of the two highest volcanoes on the Big Island are about 14,000 feet above sea level, they are close to 56,000 feet above their base at the ocean floor.  That is a lot of Lava.

Nannette and Mike in volcano
Sunday night, Chef Leatherbury prepared Opah (a local fish) on the grill with a medley of fresh vegetables as we tried to embrace the Hawaiian culture.

Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess
Kona started filling up with more athletes on Monday as the tempo started to pick up.  Still no coffee bar in Kona Bay, but plenty of swimmers at 7:30 AM.  After a mile swim and a 7 mile run down Ali’i Drive, we drove north and stopped about 12 miles from Hawi to ride our bikes.  Hawi is the turn-around point for the bike course and known for strong winds coming down the volcano, peak heat, and the largest climb on the course.  We rode the 12 miles to Hawi and back to test out the natural challenges and Pele, the Hawaiian Mythological Goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes gave us a demonstration of her real powers.

Fox, Mike, Lew Hollander, Michael, and Bishop
Monday night we attended the Iron Gents dinner.  This is a dinner for the athletes 60 and over.  I was the youngster in the group.  There were four guys in the 80 to 84 year old age group talking about their competitive strategies for Saturday.   One lady , Harriett Anderson, 76,  is competing in her 20th Ironman World Championship in Kona and her 40th Ironman overall.  Lew Hollander, last year’s winner in the 80+ category was the master of ceremonies.  At 81, he is ready to go for the 22nd time.  That is just a sampling of the inspiration I got from my elders.  Fox (my 70 year old mentor) and Kelly Ferrel joined us at the dinner.
I am starting to remember and appreciate the special spirit created by this World Championship.  The beauty and serenity of this place is in complete contrast with the intensity of 1,800 athletes attracted here to chase a life dream.  It is amazing to see what happens when you get a large group of people together who all have three common traits – a specific goal or dream, self-discipline, and a zest to live life to its fullest.   

Mentors for a new physically disabled swimmer
Come back tomorrow for another update.   And please help Getting2Tri help train athletes with physical disabilities.  Their camps change people’s lives by inspiring participants to regain their confidence through sports.  In turn, this confidence develops hopes, dreams, new physical skills, camaraderie and a greater sense of optimism about the future.  They help people with physical disabilities find their Kona.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aloha from Hawaii - Home of the 2011 Ironman World Championship

TriGeeks Hawaiian Send-off for Mike

Nannette and I arrived here on Saturday night for the Ironman World Championship and are sharing the same house we had last year with Bishop Leatherbury and his son Rob.  It is great to be back.  The most exciting thing about being in Kona this week is being with the people this sport attracts. In addition to being healthy and in incredible shape, everyone here is trying to live their lives to the fullest.  This is one group of highly motivated and driven individuals who are disciplined, attack their dreams, and are enjoying life.  They are all “I can” people.  The “I can’t” people were not invited.
With one week to go, I am on a taper.  Wednesday was my last serious training day as I met the TriGeeks in Cartersville for a 40 mile bike and a 1 mile swim.  The two highlights were first, how excited Betsy Babbit Perkel (age 29) was in beating a 59 year old man up the last hill.  We were both thrilled.  Second, we had a great picnic lunch after our Wednesday “Brick” and my mentor, Fox Ferrel, the Mayor of the TriGeeks had arranged for everyone to surprise me and dress up Hawaiian style to provide me with some last minute support and encouragement.  What a great group of people and what a great journey it has been.

Our flight to Kona was packed with people flying over for the Ironman and they could be categorized in three different groups:  Athletes, Friends and Family representing the athletes personal fan club, and Volunteers.  This last group is the most interesting.  These were veteran volunteers that come to Kona for a week every year with no connection to any specific athlete.  They just want to be a part of the energy and play a critical role in the personal success of so many competitors.  The positive attitude in Kona this week is contagious and I guess they just want to be infected and contribute to this extraordinary environment.   
I will be updating this blog daily so please check back daily. 

Please visit my fundraising site and read about the great things the Getting2Tri Foundation is doing to help disabled individuals get back to life.

Mike Wien

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Happens in Las Vegas, Stays in Las Vegas – My Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

This past week-end, Nannette and I flew out to Las Vegas to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.  We came in a day early to have dinner with Mike Leven, a friend and long time mentor who left Atlanta a couple years ago to become President and Chief Operating Officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, operators of the Palazzo and Venetian Hotels. It was great reconnecting and hearing a little about the very different world of casino marketing.  It was also fun splurging and staying at such a beautiful hotel on the Strip. 
On Thursday, Nannette and I met my cousin, Larry Anspach who lives in Las Vegas and went for a bike ride through Red Rocks Canyon.   That night, we saw “O,” Cirque du Soleil’s show on water at the Bellagio.  It was an inspiring artistic performance of athletes - perfect pre-race entertainment.   Friday was registration day and the pre-race banquet…pasta loading two days out.  We had dinner with Scott (training buddy) and Joann Boylan and Fox (Ironman mentor) and Kelly Ferrel.
Mike, Scott and Fox Carbo-loading 
I went out for an early morning run on Friday and met John and Susanna in the lobby.  They were in Las Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 from Barcelona and were trying to figure out how they were going to get to the race site which they had just discovered was 30 miles away.  We had a big rental car and “adopted” them for the week-end. 
Saturday was a quiet day.  Scott and I went out for a 12 mile bike ride and swam 30 minute on the swim course.  We met the Fox for a big breakfast at Denny's.   In the afternoon, we checked-in our bike and equipment and had a quiet pasta dinner with the Boylans and Donna and Larry Anspach at Lake Las Vegas.  Later, I was told that Donna asked Larry, “Could you believe how much Mike Wien ate?”  The truth is that while I did eat two full plates, I actually held back as I did not want to stuff myself the night before the race!   I guess we are a really strange group to an outside observer.
Lake Las Vegas swim
The Ironman 70.3 World Championship was on Sunday.  We got to the start at 5:30 AM to check all the equipment.  As we waited for our swim wave, I had time to reflect and realized that the 31 competitors in my age group from all over the world all had one thing in common.  We had all won the age group in an Ironman 70.3 race earlier in the year as there was only one slot in each qualifying race.
The swim was a non-wet suit wave start.  The pros started first, followed by women 45 and over.  Men 50 and over were in wave three.  Other than being a little crowded for the first 10 minutes, the swim was uneventful.  I came out of the swim in 8th place. 
Lake Mead National Park
The bike course was primarily on a two lane road with rolling hills through the Lake Mead National Park. With over 4,500 feet of climbing I was riding between 8 miles an hour and 39 miles an hour depending on the terrain.  In this part of the world in September, nothing grows…not even cactus.  The landscape has its own distinctive beauty, even though it is just a bunch of rocks.  As I started climbing away from Lake Las Vegas, two guys riding in front of me bumped each other and crashed.  Fortunately, we were all climbing a hill at a slow speed so their injuries were minor and I was easily able to swerve and miss joining them on the ground.  As I approached the final water stop at mile 50, the guy in front of me missed a drink hand-off and crashed.  I barely missed him and unfortunately heard volunteers scream for a medic as I left the area.   It was one of many reminders of how fortunate I was to still be on my wheels. 
I am always happy to finish the bike and start the run and this time was no exception.  In the last two Ironman races, I might have burned myself out early on and did not take enough liquid or nutrition as I struggled over the last 10 miles.  In this race, I finally found the right balance and came into the transition feeling strong with an average speed of 19 miles per hour.  In the process however, I dropped from 8th to 10th place.
The run is my strongest leg.  It is my home court.  It represents my specific edge.  I was happy to be there and I was ready to do what I needed to do.  That included running fast, drinking as much water, Coke and Gatorade as I could grab, and eat as many power gels as I could stand.  In addition, after about 2 miles, I started sensing some early stages of cramping in my left leg.  Fortunately, I was carrying some salt pills and starting taking one every three miles.
As in previous races, Nannette (with Larry Anspach this time) were on the sidelines relaying me updates from Dick Jones in Atlanta who was tracking everyone in my age group on the computer.  The last thing I heard was that I was in 8th place and if I kept my pace, I would be on the podium (top 5 in the world.)  I held a 7:17 minute per mile pace and finished the run leg in 1:35:29, good enough for 4th and a climb to the podium.  It has been five long years and four failed attempts to be back on the podium on the world stage. (France, 2007;  Italy, 2008; Clearwater, 2009 and Kona, 2010).  I was thrilled to be back.
Mike with Steve Smith (Red Shirt) on Podium
Normally I conclude with some comments about why this is so special to me…and those of you who know me, know the answer.  Because I have such great support.  But the Ironman 70.3 World Championship was not the final chapter for 2011.  I still have one more race ahead of me so I will save those comments for later.  The Ironman World Championship (140.6 miles) in Kona, Hawaii in three weeks.   Steve Smith, last year’s US Champion in my age group will be there.  Steve beat me in June in Buffalo Springs by 6 minutes, 36 seconds.  On Sunday, Steve took third and beat me by 1 minute, 16 seconds.  We both look forward to competing with some outstanding European athletes that will also be in Kona.
And a final note for those who remember my qualifying race in Orlando in May.  I still heard the voice, “Go Mr. Wien” on Sunday.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Buffalo Springs Ironman 70.3 Race report - A new definition for Hot.

Hello from Lubbock, Texas where the temperature at 5 PM was 111 degrees. It was only 105 when I finished the Ironman 70.3 earlier today. I came to Lubbock with two objectives. First, to win my age group and second – by winning my age group, earn a slot to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (on my 60th birthday.)

Steve Smith, (ranked number one by USA Triathlon for the 60 – 64 age group last year) won the age group and I came in second. Steve beat me in the swim by 2:44

and on the bike by 12:44. While I beat him on the run by 9:04, his impressive margin coming off the bike was too great. However, I met Steve tonight at the awards banquet and learned that he already had a Kona slot. So the slot rolls down to second place and I am going back to Kona.

As far as the race goes, I tried a new swim technique I learned on Wednesday …what was I thinking …and it worked. I had one of my best swim times ever. Larry, Steve, and Curtiss’s swim coach – Sonni Dyer came to our Wednesday “brick” (a swim, bike and run practice – took one look at my swim and asked one question. “Why are you breathing every third stroke? You probably are not getting enough oxygen and need to breathe every other stroke.” My answer – “I did not know and I had spent 5 years perfecting the alternate side breathing because I thought that was the best.” (Lesson – Your greatest weakness is in the zone of not knowing what you don’t know. Sonni found my blind side in less than 5 seconds.) I should also mention that Jack Spartz also contributed to the better swim by encouraging me to reduce my stroke count and get more power out of each stroke. But that is still work in progress.

I came out of the swim feeling great, but made my first strategic mistake of the day…and I know better. I did not walk through the swim finish to the bike in advance and ran the wrong way though the corral. Stupid…and it cost me 30 seconds and a near heart attack since I could not find my bike.

The bike ride, other than being hot was very unexpected. Lubbock is very dry and very, very flat. I bet there are only six hills within 100 miles that are caused by natural canyons. The race director found all six hills. But that was not the biggest challenge. Neither was the heat. It was the stiff wind. With the wind at my back, 27 miles per hour was easy. With the wind at my face…which seemed like most of the time, 15 miles per hour was impossible. The bike course ate me alive. At about 50 miles, I was pooped and started to get intermittent cramping in my legs and had trouble staying in the aero bars. In the bike to the run transition, I made my second mistake. I guess I fried my brain because I put a running shoe on one foot and bike shoe on the other foot. Fortunately, I did not get too far. The good news is that I was able to get strength from the heat and actually ran faster as the day got warmer. I ran the first 6.5 miles at an 8:25 pace and the second 6.5 miles at an 8:09 pace. The volunteers were outstanding providing water, Perform (a sports drink) Coke and ice every mile. I poured ice down my shirt every chance I got and drank aggressively at every station.

Today was another great day. While I lost to a great competitor, I won a slot to the Ironman World Championship. I was also inspired today by two people. Tyler Lorenzi whose memory continues to remind us all to live an exciting life. And Jimmy Spartz who reminds me to celebrate all the victories, no matter how big or small.

Special thanks to my wife Nannette, who is my biggest fan and fought the heat all day to be there for the brief couple seconds just to yell, “Go Mike!” We celebrated our 36th anniversary last week. Putting up with me for 36 years…now that is a real iron woman.