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


Robin Ballin said...

Mike, That is so awesome - CONGRATULATIONS! and so inspiring! Clearly the power of the mind is as important as the power of the body and you've got both! - Robin Ballin

Lynette Lewis said...

Mike, Ron and I are looking at all these photos and marveling at you and Nannette, you INSPIRE us beyond words, I love your learning points at the end, really yet another new beginning of your life message, thanks for keeping the flame lit SO SO BRIGHT!!

ataygb said...

Mike, really proud of you and congratulations to you and Nannette, you made a great team. Arthur Taylor

Paul Schempp said...

When dreams meet action, good things happen. You and Nannette prove that. Congratulations to you both!

Bob Davis said...

Mike, You are the man! Congrats to you and your entire team on an amazing, inspiring accomplishment! Flame is brighter than ever! Look forward to seeing you in Atlanta and congratulating you in person!

Larry Anspach said...

Congratulations Mike and Nannette in finishing 2nd out of 7 billion people in the world!! It is truly an amazing accomplishment, especially on your birthday!! Keep up the good work in supporting "Getting2tri". We love you, cousin Larry in Las Vegas

MJ said...

I'm training for my first Ironman next July at Lake Placid (also on my birthday). Great to see a ZBT brother accomplish this. You rock.

Tommy Breedlove said...

Well done Mike and Nannette. Congratulations on accomplishing so much and returning home safe and sound.

MAH said...

Congratulations to a world-class athlete. Second in the world is quite an accomplishment. Thanks for sharing details of your Ironman victory with the Cyclingtribe group. Don’t think that this means we’ll stop giving you a hard time about your clothing selection. The blog was a great read with a rewarding ending. Your run time of 8.32 minutes per mile over a 26.2 mile course sounds super-human for a man half your age. I read that paragraph twice to make sure my eyesight wasn’t failing. Unbelievable!

harry said...

What a great job and more importantly a fantastic accomplishment! Trully inspiring.
Vander Krabben