One month ago I heard those words, “Brent Rauch You are an Ironman!” No words can describe this journey entirely, but there is no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t all about the end, it was about the entire JOURNEY! It’s time to share with you a little about this story now that I’ve had time to reflect…
I am grateful and thankful to many people along the way especially my wife, Bridget, who was “all-in” support from the day I signed up through the finish line. It was a big sacrifice for us to dedicate 9 months of training and more to complete a life-long goal. For this reason it has been helpful taking the past month off with minimal activity and time to rest. Starting tomorrow, I get back into a rhythm of physical fitness with a new focus, something much different than 140.6 miles. The new aim is to maintain the weight I attained through training, all the while increasing muscle fitness and endurance to lean up a little more. This will take a focused diet and a consistent routine with varying activity. I’ve received so many compliments and encouraging words along the way in regards to the change in my physical appearance, and I too have noticed how for a number of years I had taken my health and fitness for granted. Now is not the time to let it go. I’ve got to be reminded that was actually the auxiliary goal of preparing for and competing in an IRONMAN. This is where I began and knew that it would be something to celebrate even if I didn’t finish on September 10. This is why I made this Journey about More Than an Ironman! Here’s a glimpse of a message I shared with many others via a cape I wore race day.
Didn’t know I was such an artist, eh? And yes, that last box was checked, see it in this video. The Journey is so much more than the finish line and I knew that this perspective is what I needed to carry with me. On Thursday night before race day I attended an event, an Ironman Wisconsin Legend, Fireman Rob, shared his biggest advice to “Enjoy the Journey” during a little Ironman Story Telling with the Voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly. Interesting enough, that just happens to be part of my life motto “Put God First and Enjoy the Journey.” They also mentioned the fact that a very small percentage of the world’s population even step to the start line and no matter what happens, we’ve already done something great. I had no doubt in my mind that I would enjoy it most if I reminded myself of these things each mile along the way! So much so I had these words written on my arms so that I could see it throughout the day. No matter what challenges we take on in life, these words can really help anyone and I hope they can be an encouragement to you today and always!
It wasn’t just these words that were encouraging, there were many others who shared in this journey to Madison and to the finish line. I can’t thank them enough for the ways in which they challenged me to keep going, helped me reach new goals, endured long days on the bike and simply helped me prepare for what the race day would be like. It all started with having a couple friends who had already signed up before me: Jay Johnson, a great friend from high school and Brian Breuner, a friend from church. Then there were a number of others I got to know through a training team I was invited to join via Jay, Ironworks, many of whom had already competed in Ironman Wisconsin in previous years. Here we are getting ready for our pre-race swim. Through the training months many from this training group found their own way to encourage me and shared great insight in preparation. Even in the final days leading up to the race and the final build up any last minute tips and help were exactly what I needed to feel confident that I had done all I could. The cool thing about having the training group and friends who were competing, including another friend from church, Brad Hiatt, is that we knew that we weren’t in it alone. An important message to carry through life’s big challenges.
In the midst of the crowds of people we have to also thank our good friends Ben and Hillary Lindell who hosted us on race weekend, providing a home and great meals throughout the weekend, taking Bridget to the great spectating spots and simply being great encouragement through the entire process. When it was all said and done they were right there cheering me into the finish with Bridget. It’s no doubt that this is what friends are for, to share in the journey in special ways. They’ve truly been a special part of this journey in our trips to Madison for a training day middle of the summer and for race weekend. A big thank you to all of our family and friends!
Are you ready for the details of race day? You may not get the full story as I am still remembering some of the details and I’m sure over time some details will fade while others will come back to mind. Waking up early in the morning for something big, something fun, something unique has never been an issue for me. The alarm clock sounded at 4:15am and it was time to prepare myself, a little wake up shower, followed by a nice little oatmeal breakfast and coffee. I gathered the final equipment I needed and then headed out the door to the venue with Ben. After arriving to downtown Madison, I made the drop off of my special needs bags and then made way to the bike transition for one last air up of tires, bottle drop off and final gear check. A couple more things in transition were done before I met up with the Ironworks team for a team photo before we headed to the start line to meet up with Bridget, Ben and Hillary. Before we knew it, my wave was gathering in the corral as we prepared to enter the water. Two waves of athletes started before my wave and then just before 6:50am while floating in the water the countdown began and we were sent off on the 2.4 mile swim.
The water temp was great, the surface was smooth and the water was somewhat clear which means it couldn’t have been any better conditions for a swim. I settled into a rhythm away from the pack of fast swimmers off to the side a bit and kept a comfortable pace. As we traveled buoy to buoy, I couldn’t help but notice we were constantly surrounded by others. It was never too bunched up, nor did I feel as though I was constantly running into others. For those who haven’t done triathlons, it is nice to have space to swim and with 2,500 triathletes in the water, I didn’t know what to expect. At the first turn I made sure to carry out the tradition of Ironman Wisconsin by shouting “MOO” and as intended on the back stretch near the 1/2 way point I stopped to take in a view of the terrace and State Capitol. While I tread water and looked in, the sound of swimmers was quite peaceful out in the middle of Lake Monona and it reminded me that it wasn’t only about the destination. I noticed multiple swimmers that I tended to swim alongside for segments and I knew that I was swimming at a good comfortable pace, one that I found consistent through training. As I headed in from the last turn, we got to a point where you could see the moss and weed from along the bottom which gave me a sense of the ground I was covering with each swim stroke. It was something that I was mesmerized by and made me feel like I was flying in the water. I had set a goal of 1 hour and 30 minutes and ended up out of the water in 1 hour and 23 minutes. I felt good and after the wonderful volunteers helped remove the wetsuit, I ran up the helix which was lined with spectators. I couldn’t help but getting them going, encouraging them to cheer on others!
I made the transition with no hurry, making sure I got all my equipment on, cape included, and was prepared for the long trek on the bike ahead. As I ran out of the transition I saw another team member going in and gave a big shout. After collecting my bike off the rack and running down the transition level, I couldn’t help but notice a friend who was spectating on the bridge and a friend who was volunteering in transition that I was able to say hi. Then as I arrived at the mount line I hopped aboard the rocket ship knowing that I wouldn’t be back for well over 6 hours. I saw a few friends, Breuners and Klingensmiths right away as I started and they gave great support. I had everything I needed and the cool morning air helped me dry off quickly as the sweat started not to long into the ride. As we made our way out of downtown Madison along a few trails, through a park and past an arena, I found myself quickly engaging other athletes in conversation with a quick hi and sharing encouraging words. I knew that was my hope for the 6 hours to pass, was to be sure to encourage and greet others along the way. The way out of Madison is known as The Stick and this was one section of the ride I hadn’t ridden yet, and I found that the bumpy roads caused for many lost water bottles which became hazards in certain areas. I let the first 10 miles be easy, getting into a rhythm wasn’t needed immediately and I needed to make sure I knew my game plan for nutrition. As I was riding alongside many other athletes we made our way out to the two loop section of the course on our way to 112 miles total. All I could think about at the start was who I would see along the ride, then simply prayed that I wouldn’t have any issues that would keep me from finishing.
TO BE CONTINUED…