Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009

I finally followed my own advice…..and it worked! As a professional speaker, I get the opportunity to share my ideas about staying motivated and avoiding burn-out with a lot of people. Hopefully, I am making a difference in some of their lives. This past Sunday, I followed my own advice – Dream, Plan, Journey, Balance, and Mentor- and was very happy with the results.

See for more details on keeping the flame lit.

What a great day. I got to live another dream and share the success with so many. So here is my report that I write in appreciation to those who were part of my journey.
I was treading water with my nephew David Salzman in the middle of Lake Monona last Sunday with 2,500 other people getting ready to swim 2.4 miles and trying to remember what I was doing there. David signed up for the Wisconsin Ironman right after completing his first Ironman last year, and at the time, I thought it would be a good idea to come back. However, this time I wanted to come back as a participant, not a spectator. I signed up, visualized a new dream of winning my age group and eventually shared it with everyone. Just before the gun went off, David held his hand up to slap me a high five and pronounced, “Game –on.” I felt those two words and the hand slap sending electronic impulses to every nerve ending in my body as I finally woke up to what was about to happen. My brain seemed to do a data dump and every muscle in my body had only one mission – to keep me moving forward for the next 140.6 miles.

The gun went off and I got caught in the middle of the slugfest. The good news is that with 2,500 swimmers, we created our own current. The bad news is that I was kicked, jabbed and wacked more than I remember. After two laps, I came out of the water and was greeted by two stripers who had my wet suit off in seconds. Of the 73 men in my age group, I was the 5th out of the lake. That was my best swim place in all of my Ironman races and I attribute it to some great coaching by Pete, Oliver and Diana and by chasing Debbie and Leslie at the Concourse pool. My open water swims at Lake Altoona with Fox Ferrel and the TriGeeks was also critical.
Next was the 112 mile bike ride – a two loop rolling ride with a number of steep hills and lots of corn and soy bean fields. The steepest hills were decorated with screaming fans that create a Tour de France atmosphere for the riders. As we climbed a steep hill at mile 45, I could see my sister Alison standing at a look-out post on the top of a hill. She spotted me and I could see her running down to the side of the road to give Marty, Nannette and Evan, our official photographer, a heads-up that I was approaching. Nannette gave me my position as 4th as we passed. At about mile 75, as I rode 22 miles per hour through beautiful cornfields, a bee decided to commit suicide on my lower lip. It appears he decided to attack rear end (as in stinger) first. Not only did it hurt, but I am allergic to bee stings, so I started to swell up. My lower gums started to go numb and my lip was really...well stinging. I had three options: first, to recognize the medical emergency and stop at the next aid station in less than 5 miles or second, to wait until I passed Nannette at mile 85 and pick up a Benadryl, or third, just grin and bare it. Since I believed the first two options would knock me off the podium, I took option three, which was more drool and bare it. As I passed Nannette at mile 85, I yelled “bee sting” and “I’m OK.” (Well, one out of two was correct.) Drinking Gatorade at 22 miles an hour with no lower lip was pretty ugly and messy. I finished the bike and was able to take almost 30 minutes off my bike time from four years ago. I have to give my bike coach Tony Meyers of ATS a lot of credit for that improvement. In addition, my Colorado triple bypass team (Scott, Bishop, Dave, Gary, Mike, Jeff, and Lewis) gave me two critical training weeks in July. I also appreciate the patience Gabe and Bill had in trying to get me to go faster on Columns drive.
I came off the bike, changed my shoes, picked up some Cliff Cubes, a Larabar, and a chocolate Boost high protein drink and headed out for the run. I was smart enough to remember to take off my bike helmet, but not smart enough to remember my gloves. As I approached Nannette and Alison at the first half mile, I dropped my gloves and continued on. Nannette yelled the update that I was back in 5th and 22 minutes behind the leader. But the run leg of an Ironman has always been my strongest leg. I came from a runner’s background and felt like I was on my “home court.” If I could run just a minute a mile faster than the leader, I could win this race and I felt that was reasonable. At mile 13, Nannette yelled another update that was being relayed to her from Scott Boylan in New York and Dick Jones in Atlanta. I had moved up to third and was on track. Then, at mile 20 Nannette screamed the final update. I was in second, and according to Dick and Scott, “hold your pace and you will win!” Well, at mile 20, I felt like smoke was coming out of my ears. My internal gage with the red line had shattered. My tongue was dragging on the pavement…and my wife was commanding me to “hold your pace.” And then I remembered what my training buddy, Kebby Holden, wrote me days before the race….”Mike – are you ready to unleash the beast?” Yes, I thought, it was time! I started running with more purpose as I pushed to make sure I did not fall off my pace. I would later find out that I ran mile 14 to 19 at a 9:17 pace and mile 19 to 26 at an 8:56 pace, so Scott and Dick relaying messages to me through Nannette did make a difference. Running the hills on every Monday night with Adri Herman and her group, and running the hills on Wednesday night with Dick and Ken Lawler, and my Friday run with Alan Cohen, and my ongoing runs at the river with Jim Duguay and all my friends on the Atlanta Track Club Masters team also made a difference. And chasing Scott Boylan up every mountain he could find also helped. I ended up beating the leader, 55 year old Ken Kuehn, a 17 time Ironman (6 times in Kona), from Oshkosh, Wisconsin by 8 minutes.

Later that evening, two magic moments happened. The second one was getting back to my hotel room and reading all the e-mails from my friends who tracked me during the day. It was very emotional for me to try and accept the fact that the kid who was always picked last and played right field had so many people celebrating his victory. I can’t describe how much that meant to me and I still get tears in my eyes just writing about it. The first magic moment was when my nephew crossed the finish line and beat his previous Ironman time by 15 minutes. I went back into the finish area and ran over to hug David and say, “a new PR by 15 minutes!” At the same time, he saw me and walked over to hug me. Now there was a lot of things David could have said after just traveling 140.6 miles, like “oh am I glad that is over!” or “a new PR!” But instead, he stunned me with a big grin and yelled, “you won your age group!”

I have learned that there are two sides of being a mentor. The first is to teach, guide, and encourage someone to set high goals and achieve them. The second is to be a role model to inspire others to live their dreams. David’s personal victory, his congratulations at the finish line and the e-mails I have been receiving all week have certainly given me the impression that as for mentoring, I am on the right track in inspiring others to keep their flame lit for life.
With appreciation,
Mike Wien (Mahalo Mike)

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