Race Coverage

Egg Baskets & Energy Immersion...

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By Jessie Stevens

Oh that Madison Magic!

I registered for this race in 2019 after competing in IMWI and earning my second KQ. It was to be my first tri of the 2020 season and a great set up for a year that would end on the Big Island, but we all know that’s not how things went down....

There have been many many ups and downs since March 2020 and it’s been hard to stay committed to training when races keep getting moved and canceled. I was hopeful Kona would go off this year and as we got closer and closer to October it felt like it really was going to happen. It was my only real focus of the year. I had two 70.3 races carried over from 2020 on the schedule, but all I wanted to do was race in HI. I even considered skipping the 70.3’s, thinking if all my eggs were in the one basket, maybe that helped my chances of actually getting to have that basket. Needless to say, I wasn’t training with IMWI 70.3 in mind. I almost feel bad admitting I had basically looked past it. I think it was my way of not getting too excited about another race that could be taken away.

So, race week came and my excitement grew. What a unique experience to be in Madison, racing a half on the same day as the full! I love this town and the excitement of race weekend and I was thrilled to be a part of it. With so many fellow Gear West athletes racing the full, I also was quite thankful to only spend half my day racing as the other half would be cheering those athletes on home.

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My husband, Danny, and I camped in our van across from the swim start the night before the race. I wanted to be present to see the buzz of IM athletes on race morning and feel their energy. We hung around for the swim start and took in the emotion of the moment. It was a beautiful start to the day!

Eventually my time came to line up. I positioned myself in the 33-35:00 swim group. The weight of being back racing in Madison, being surrounded by so many dedicated and passionate athletes, and knowing I got to share my day with all the IM athletes was intense. Per usual, I fought back the tears and reminded myself I had work to do.

My swim was pretty standard, but I may have felt a little better than usual. Minimal contact in the first 1/4 and the last 200m got a little choppy. I had planned to strip my wetsuit prior to running up the helix and found it strange I was the only one around me to do so. T1 was a breeze once I got to my bike and off I went.

I LOVE the IM bike course in Madison and was really excited to basically do a “half” loop. It had now been 2 years since I had been on these roads. I was excited to explore the new and old pot holes and see how quickly I could get through the loop. I got to work right away and spent the first 23 miles catching and passing IM and 70.3 athletes. Then the courses split and I had about 10 miles of new roads to play on. When we joined back with the IM course, it was on a sweet downhill, not far from the 3rd B hill. I was SO thankful for the IM fans there and all their energy and support. Those hills lined with cheers really make this place that much more special. It’s a quick jaunt back to Verona and from there you basically head back to town. As I neared Madison, with about 3 miles to go, I caught my friend Christina Roberts. As I came by her, I learned she wasn’t feeling so hot, which is always a bummer. Knowing she’s a phenomenal athlete, I figured I’d see her again.

As I came into T2 a volunteer told me I was in 3rd. I thought he was confused. I got in and out of T2 moments ahead of Christina and she passed me back in the first 1/2 mile. I did my best to keep her in my sights and after 4ish miles I caught her at an aide station. As I ran up and over observatory hill and through the first out and back I was surprised to have pulled away a bit. There were a few other girls who seemed to be coming in hot and my cheer squad kept motivating me to push. There are about 4 miles to go after the second out and back with a few seemingly long and gradual hills. I knew the course, felt good, and tried to finish as strong as I could. I can say I accomplished that and am so happy with how I felt on Sunday. It’s extra fun to go into a race with zero expectations and finish better than you could have imagined. I was so thankful and grateful to have the opportunity to race then to do so with the massive amount of support that comes with Ironman Wisconsin was simply a dream.

After finishing and getting my emotions together, the part of the day I was most excited for was to begin. Cheering the full IM athletes through the finish. It had been 2 years since I’d been to an Ironman finish line and to be immersed in that energy, sharing the experience with so many great athletes and friends was priceless.

ED. Jessie placed 5th overall in the women's race.

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