As of Saturday September 7th, 2014 at 10:32 PM I became an Ironman Triathlete in Madison, WI. Being an Ironman means I swam for 2.4 miles, rode my bike 112 miles, then completed a full marathon under 17 hours.It has been a year journey. Scratch that, It has been a nine year journey.My official training started in the last week of December 2013 but I’ve been training since my first marathon way back in 2005.
I’m gonna break down the day. The weather was beautiful and I had my wonderful girlfriend by my side until I jumped in the water at 6:30 am. Emily and I were taking selfies, saying prayers, setting up, and just going over the race day. Emily was a trooper. But more on that later.
The official race started at 7:00 AM but you can swim out to the start 30 minutes early and tread water. So I missed an important detail, The Ironman Wisconsin is a 3,000 athlete mass start in Lake Monona. Not an age group wave start, a 3,000 athlete mass start. You are a trout swimming upstream with other 2,999 trout. The entire time after start gun goes off, I was kicked, punched, swam over, and swam under. At one point I thought my arms were going to fall off. But I kept telling my self to stay calm, keeping eyeing for the buoys, and focus on my swimming form. I’m sure other athletes heard me say out loud, “Stay calm, Bobby. Stay calm” when my goggles were knocked off my face at the second turn. My goal for the 2.4 mile swim was 80 minutes. I finished in 79 minutes. When I got out of the water I waved my arms around in the air joyfully screamed, “I’m alive!” Just at the edge of the gate I saw Emily. I touched her hand and went to a wet suit peeler to help me get my wet suit off. Later I learned from Emily I waked a security guard on my way out of the water in my excitement. (Sorry Mr. Security Guard)
After the wet suit was peeled I ran up the parking road helix to the second floor of Monona Terrace where I could change into my bike gear. There were people screaming the entire way up. The volunteers had that place running smoothly. Before I go further, Monona Terrace is Madison’s Expo center. Monona Terrace’s ballrooms were converted into transition/ changing rooms for all the triathletes. I exited the changing ballroom and went to a volunteer just out side the bike racks who were lathering athletes up in bullfrog sunscreen. After I was lathered up, I went to where my bike was stationed. A volunteer handed my bike to me and I then got on my bike. I rode down the opposite end of Monona Terrace where I started the 112 mile cycling portion.
On the bike I had two goals in mind besides just finishing. One – maintain a speed of 14 to 17 mph and conserve as much energy for the marathon, Two – Eat, Eat, Eat, Drink, Eat, Drink. The weather was getting hotter and the road was hilly. I was letting people pass me who wanted to get by. My goal was to finish not to race people today. I just focused on my goals and staying safe. As I rode I thought, “this course is pretty but really hilly”. I don’t like going downhills cause I’m afraid of losing control so many cyclists were passing me up on down hills. Funny thing was I was a monster going uphill so I passed them up on uphills. The uphills were easier on me thanks to my third little ring on my bike which I don’t think many people utilized all their rings on the up hills. At mile 12 I started getting a sinus head ache. To relive my head pain I blew my nose all over my bike glove cause I didn’t have any kleenex. That kept happening for the first 40 miles. At mile 50 I started seeing my friends. I really surprised them. First I saw my friends Debbie and Donna W. They said oh my is that Bobby so I replied “YES it’s me” as I focused on the uphill. Little more up the road I saw fellow Team In Training Coaches Marie, Chris, Donna K., & Toby. Same reaction as before. They said is that Bobby. I yelled out, “Yup”. On the second loop (just passed 90 miles) Toby got a video of me. I yelled out “My butt really hurts.” That time I was thinking I’ll need to invest in a new seat for next time and put portable anti-chaffing creme in my emergency bag.
At mile 53 I saw my family just after I refilled my water bottles. At times I asked other cyclists, “Who’s hungry for pizza?” For what ever reason the second cycle loop felt shorter then the first. Towards the end of the bike my stomach was starting to get full. Nothing big but I can feel it coming on. As I rode back into Monona Terrace I saw my family cheering for me. Now I was on to my strongest event, the marathon. I maintained a slow and steady pace on the bike of an average of 14.82 mph for a total time of 7 hours and 33 minutes.
NOTE I’m about to give out more personal information then you might need to know. It’s all PG but just wanted to give you a heads up.
After I got out of my cycle clothes and into my running clothes I started my 5 minute run and 1 minute walk. Thanks to Marie, she let me borrow her Ironman Timex watch. The GPS was not working but I really needed it to look over my intervals. I saw Emily at the capital and I gave her a kiss. Then I saw my Team In Training friends (Marie, Chris, Donna, & Toby) just a few feet later. I was feeling strong and confident. Up to mile 5 I maintained my 5:1 interval with a 11 minute per mile pace (My goal). Then I stared getting a sloshy stomach and getting tired. I moved to a 1 minute run and 5 minute walk interval. Soon I was only athletic walking. Then I was hitting a porta potty every other mile. I maintained a good walking athletic form the entire time but I was aching and my muscles were tighting up. My body did not want to eat any more. I was starting to feel dizzy and my stomach did not want to take any more fluids. Worst of all I entered the “bite me zone”. If you don’t know what the bite me zone is, the bite me zone is a time when you’re so tired you get irritable at everyone and everything. Yes me the happy go lucky, loud, happiness is a choice guy was not so happy. I was just focused on getting to the next point and my stomach.
The marathon course consisted of two loops of 13.1 miles each. I just finished a 13 mile loop. I was thinking after I made the turn for the second loop:
- Could I do it all over again?
- All my long distance training went well, why didn’t I do more long distance bike and run trainings in the same day?
- I need to go poop and my body won’t let me.
- I almost thew up in the bathroom cause of the smell alone. Am I done?
- Do I need to see a medic?
- Did I stop sweating?
- Am I dehydrated?
- I don’t want to quit. Should I?
I kept going. I got to my special needs running bag and grabbed a sprite. I couldn’t stomach anything else. A few feet ahead I saw Emily and my Team In Training friends. I knew I could stretch and vent to them. When I reached them I got into a fetal position to stretch my legs and give my stomach a rest. “You’re doing great. You have six more hours to finish the course,” Chris told me. I was scarred and to the point I wanted to cry. Everyone encouraged me. Emily rubs my back and tells me that she’s been updating my family and friends via my phone on my status. Marie encouraged me to get some warm Chicken Broth at the next water stop to help fuel electrolytes and fluid. Then Chris reminded me that happiness is a choice not matter the distance. Marie then interjected by jokingly and lovingly saying, “Bobby payback is a bitch huh?” It made me laugh. It’s usually the opposite. I’m positive helping others in pain. The tables are turned.
So I kept going. I was quoting Pete the Cat in my head. Pete the Cat is a character from a popular children’s book series. I kept thinking like Pete, Just keep walking along and singing your song cause it’s all good. At this point my mood is starting to change. I keep pushing. My athletic walk is faster then every other athletes’ walk. I kept chugging along.
I’m at mile 25 and there are few crowds left. Everyone is back at the finishing line. I then see Emily cheering for me with her self made Bobby Head on a stick fan. She wanted to make sure I was okay. (I told you she’s awesome). She’s impressed how I’ve picked up my pace. She can’t keep up with me. I tell her to get to the finish line so she can see me finish. I slow down just a bit to stall.
I get to the finishing chute. I hear the cheering. I see the lights. I hear the music. I try to soak it in. I try to cherish the moment because It’s not often you’re a first timer. I pick up the pace to a slow run. I start giving everyone I can a high five. I see the finish. I see the lights. I swear the lights got brighter Then I hear the announcer say it. The one quote I’ve been training to hear for nine whole months…
“Robert Dobroski…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
I did it I’m an Ironman. I had enough in the tank for a giant leap of relief and celebration. It took me 15 hours and 32 minutes but I did it. All of my friends and family were at the finish. Emily handed my iPhone to me and I was amazed and felt so much love when I saw the wave of text messages and Facebook status updates with screenshots of my finish.
As I had 15 hours to think, I summarized my experience into a powerful lesson. The road of life is tough with ups and downs. There will be times with high and lows. There will be times you’ll see the end but it will seem impossible to get to. Sometimes you may fall, stumble, and get sick to your stomach. Everything will seem impossible. There will be times you’ll want to quit…DON’T. Get back up and get support from the people that love you. Keep looking forward and break up the challenge into smaller parts. Get to the small goals and keep moving. THE challenge is tough but the reward is AMAZING!
I couldn’t have done this race without the support of so many people. There were times this past year I didn’t think I would cross that finish line.
- To my parents Bob and Natalie: I’ve been having financial difficulty this year. My parents helped me by sending me food and helping me finance my trip to WI.
- To my girlfriend Emily: Who has also been feeding me well but has also put up with modified date nights and early morning texts about my workouts.
- To my friend Mike: Who helped give me extra Energy chomps and help me set my pace for the marathon.
- To my friend Clint: Who accompanied me on the long Saturday bike rides.
- To my friend Marie: Who gave me my training schedule, loaned me her Ironman Timex Watch, Introduced me to Emily, and cheered for me on race day even though she’s going through her own personal endurance event.
- To all of my friends: You cheered for me at Wisconsin or at home. You believed me when at time I couldn’t believe in myself.
- To all the race organizers and volunteers: Amazing job at the race. There would be no race without you.
My goal now is to focus on general health and future endeavors. I’ll do an Ironman again but not yet. So I’ll sign off by saying my favorite quote. If anyone ever asks you “how’s it going?” say “forward” that way you’re never lying. Keep moving along and singing your song.