blueseventy racing

Incredible Ironman Debut

I had a blast at my first full distance at Ironman Wisconsin. I finished in 9:52:31 which was good for 4th in the 30-34 age group and 12th overall.

This was my A-race for this season and all of my focus has been on this day for 2 years. This recap might get a bit long ;)


I woke up a bit before my 4:20am alarm and decided to just get going instead of laying there staring at the ceiling. I brushed my teeth and started applying the first layer of ChafeX before heading to the lobby to heat up my premade pancakes that I make Wednesday night. I was a little surprised the hotel didn't have microwaves in the rooms, but they were nice enough to set up a couple in the lobby for the racers staying there. I was okay with it since it gave me an opportunity to buy a cup of coffee that would be marginally better than whatever I could brew up in the room. I got a kick out of the couple of guys quietly eating oatmeal down there staring at their phones assuming they were probably trying to not wake up their families. It reminded me how lucky I am to have Naomi (my fiance) who lets me turn the lights on and get going at 4am on important days like this. I got through my pancakes and coffee and started getting ready. I put on the 2nd layer of ChafeX, 2 applications of PR lotion on my legs and lower back, Zealios sunscreen, and Body Glide on my neck for good measure. All of that put me pretty close to transition opening at 5. 

It seemed like just about everyone had the same thinking as me dropping special needs bags and getting transition set up as early as possible. The bag drop was smooth (a volunteer just took them from me and told me to have a good day). Transition was about 2 blocks away at the waterfront parking garage. It only took me about 10 minutes to get the bottles on my bike, check that my head unit was working, and borrow a pump to set my tires. 80psi front and rear seemed appropriate based on the cool forecast and the way the bike felt in the past couple of races. By that point it was somewhere around 5:25, so I went back to the room to finish getting ready. 

By 6:00 I had my kit on and used the restroom for the last time. That was when I really started to feel the nerves. To avoid pacing around the room driving myself (and Naomi) crazy, I felt like it was time to head to the start corral. That might have been the best decision I could have made. Getting out there feeling the energy in the air and seeing the huge range of emotions from other racers totally recentered me. I remembered everything that I had done to prepare for this day and reminded myself that no matter what I came up against, I wasn't going to stop until the end.

Lining up

Self-seeded corrals are always funny to me. I’m fortunate to be so good in the swim with no competitive background. There are usually a bunch of former collegiate swimmers talking big game, bringing up their pace per 100 and complaining about how they’re going to have to swim through a crowd. I rarely see them after the gun goes off. The first group was for everyone planning to go under an hour, so I figured there was going to be a pretty decent spread in abilities. The plan was to swim in the 57-58 minute range, but pacing by the number is pretty tough. I took down a Maurten caffeine gel and used throwing it out as my excuse to push past people and get toward the front. I wanted to be 5 or 6 rows back for this race after the experience at Musselman. I felt like that would give me a good chance to get a draft for a while before it strung out versus being on the front for the whole leg.


The swim course was 2 loops of a rectangle. The leg to the first buoy was pretty short so it was a bit chaotic at the first turn despite only maybe 30 people starting in front of me. It strung out pretty quickly after that as people who mis-seeded themselves started falling off. There was some chop from an eastern wind which made the first long leg going southwest super fast too. The long leg back was a little harder coming back into the wind and staying just off someone's hip helped a lot. TrainingPeaks says the first leg out was about 1:11/100yd and 1:23/100yd on the way back. The 2 loop course was an interesting choice by the race organizers. They were still getting people in the water when I finished the first one which meant I got to swim through pretty much everybody. I’m pretty sure I pissed off a lot of people making and squeezing through gaps, but hey that's racing. Despite having to climb over what felt like hundreds of people, the paces for the second loop were just about identical to the first. As I climbed out of the water and took off down the chute toward T1 I heard something like “Matt Nussbaum...6th out of the water” and thought for sure there was water in my ears until I looked at my watch. I saw 54-something and realized how hard I rocked the swim.


T1 on that course is pretty interesting. You run out of the water and up 3 levels of the parking garage spiral to the top. The whole spiral was lined with people cheering me on to the gear bags. I got to the top and ran down the line of bike gear bags to mine where a volunteer was standing, pointing at it for me. Bag in hand, I ran around the corner and grabbed a chair where 2 more volunteers ran over to help me. One told me to hang onto the chair and yanked the wetsuit off my legs while the other got my helmet and shoes out of the bag. I’m pretty sure they would have put my shoes on my feet for me if I had asked. It took maybe 30 seconds and I was ready for the next leg. I clomped down the rows of racked bikes to mine, where yet another super-helpful volunteer was standing and pointing. They set up the placement stickers a little close on the racks, so I had to carefully shift the next one over a bit to get mine out. While I was doing that I heard Naomi and her cousins who drove out from Minneapolis cheering. I waved at them and took off to the mount line. It turns out I passed 2 people in transition even though I never saw them (maybe they were in the change tent?)


The first part of the bike course was riding down the parking garage spiral which I’m sure got pretty sketchy when the crowd got there. I had a giant grin on my face for just about the whole bike course. I did a decent job of sticking to my power plan and caught 3rd place on the southward leg heading out to the loop. It was hard to keep the watts low on the hills just because I ran out of gears. The climbs weren’t steep for terribly long compared to what I’m used to, but they’re decently punchy. The road was really rough in some spot which made me really happy to be tubeless. I drilled one gigantic pothole that launched my throwaway waterbottle; I would have flatted too if not for the tires. It was a pretty long time before I saw another rider. The fans were really just getting out there too. I caught 2nd place way out in the boonies somewhere in the loop. I held that spot for a while and got caught by an Every Man Jack guy who (as expected) passed me like I wasn't moving. The cheering sections were insane. When I went through the first time I swear they were cheering my name. Randos in various spots were giving me updates on the gaps to the guys in front and behind me. The start of the 2nd loop was decidedly less fun. I got to ride into the backs of the Ironman and 70.3 packs. I did a whole lot of passing in some pretty tight sections. It was just like the swim but at ~22mph. Things chilled out a bit when the road widened and I got some clean air when the sheriff motorcycle escort found me. They rode up next to me and asked if I was Matt. When I told them I was they were like "You're in 2nd so we're with you now." One went up ahead a bit and the other hung out right behind me. The one behind me would come alongside every so often to crack a joke when something sketchy happened. With the amount of passing and the lack of anyone looking over their shoulder before pulling into the middle of the road, that was a lot. It made me realize how far my bike handling has come too, theres no way I would have been able to swerve through the crowds like that in aero a year or two ago. I realized I had let my power get a little out of hand on the second loop so I dialed it way back on the return leg from Verona to try and save it a bit for the run. This was by far my favorite leg of the race. Between the escort and cheering I felt like a pro.


T2 was another interesting one for me. I racked my bike and ran over to the ramp to go down to the lower level where the run bags were. I ran down the row of bags to another volunteer pointing, grabbed it and ran to the chairs where 3 more volunteers started helping me. I still can’t get over how helpful the volunteers were at this race. The ones helping me were trying to get me back out there as fast as humanly possible and I had to slow them down a bit to make sure I was ready and not forgetting anything. A marathon is a lot normally, 20 seconds to breath wasn’t going to kill me. 


I'm well aware that running is my limiter and part of me wishes this leg went better, but really I'm just glad I survived and ran a majority of the course. My plan going in was to walk the aid stations to try and make sure to get enough water. I think that helped a lot in keeping me disciplined and running outside of them. I accidentally paused my watch instead of hitting the lap button somewhere around the stadium and didn't realize for about 3/4 of a mile which was super annoying. I felt my core starting to cramp around mile 9 or 10 and was able to ignore it for a bit. It got really bad around 11 and I was forced to walk trying to massage it out. Eventually it released and I got back to running. Things were going somewhere between good and okay again though the turnaround and up to the UW campus when I felt my stomach starting to go. It's a good thing I had 2 shots at the porto-johns on State St. I skipped them the first time and about 200ft later I realized I wasn't going to make it much further without a pit stop. That stop really helped but getting my trisuit back on was a nightmare. Refreshed and at mile 19, I was able to start picking back up again. I tried my best to ignore the giant blister I could feel formed between my toes on the big one. It hurt a whole lot until mile 22 or so when it suddenly didn't and my toes felt damp. I didn't want to look down to see what happened since I knew it would be super gross. Once that pain was gone and I only had about 5K to go and I knew I could force it from there. I knew the landmarks and the crowds were finally out and cheering loud downtown. The feeling going around that last corner was unreal realizing what I had just accomplished. It was an easy kick to the line while I got to listen to Mike Reilly calling me an Ironman.

Swim Split: 0:54:53 (3rd AG - 6th Overall)

Bike Split: 5:04:43 (1st AG - 5th Overall)

Run Split: 3:44:27 (14th AG - 86th Overall)

Overall Time: 9:52:31 (4th AG - 12th Overall)

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