September 20th, 2011
There is a certain youthful feel to a college town, and Madison is no different. My wife and I drove around the WU campus before the Badgers football game on Saturday and could feel the electricity. Everyone was dressed from head to toe in red just waiting to go nuts for kickoff. This was our second trip to Madison and once again, the race weekend did not disappoint.
Race day started with the usual singing of the national anthem, but today was different. It was the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and there were many first responders actually racing the Ironman. I remember treading water before the gun went off thinking of all the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, firefighters and paramedics that serve our country on a daily basis. Their sacrifices go unnoticed so many times and I am so truly proud to be an American.
The professional race cannon sounded at 6:50 a.m., 10 minutes before the amateur race was set to start. The conditions were ideal and the sunrise over Lake Monona was amazing. Romain Guillaume quickly took the lead distancing himself from the rest of the men’s field. While in the women’s race Meredith Kessler took the lead early putting three minutes in to Heather Gollnick, a multiple Ironman champion.
On to the bike and the race began to take shape. Guillaume pushed the pace on the bike early, putting time in to the men’s chase pack consisting of fellow pre-race favorites Ezequiel Morales of Argentina, local pro Blake Becker and South African Freddy Lampret. On the second loop of the bike I noticed the temperature on my power meter read 88 degrees so I knew hydration and sodium intake were going to be paramount for the remainder of the race. On the women’s side, Kessler and Jessica Jacobs rode nearly the identical time, which gave Kessler a nice cushion coming into T2. The female race was turning in to a two-woman battle.
The Frenchman Guillaume entered T2 with a five minute lead over Morales while Becker and German Stefan Schmid were only a couple minutes in arrears. The temperature on the run course was climbing and the marathon became a battle of attrition. Morales, known for his amazing run splits, took the lead from Guillaume and never looked back. He posted the fastest run split of the day and crossed the finish line for his first Ironman victory in his career. Stefan Schmidt ended up running a strong marathon as well to finish 2nd, while class acts Becker and early race leader Guillaume walked in together after fading on the run. I was fortunate enough to run in to third place after “surviving” the run. As I stated after the race on Twitter, “not a pretty day today at IM Wisconsin, but sometimes showing up, putting one foot in front of the other and never quitting gets you to your goal.”
The women’s race would not be decided until the last 10k of the run. Kessler was running well, but there was simply no quit in Jacobs. The Green Bay native and retired Army captain gave it her all, which would be enough to earn her the title. When Jacobs crossed the tape, she gave an emotional celebratory speech to the spectators while her husband watched online from Iraq. Kessler finished in second after setting the pace for most of the day and Whitney Garcia from Boulder rounded out the podium.
Ironman Wisconsin was a very special day for the Jacobs family. At the awards banquet, Jessica gave quite a stirring victory speech praising her Army soldiers and explaining her decision to move back to Green Bay to be with her mother and sister after her father had passed. No one deserved and earned that victory at Ironman Wisconsin on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 more than Jacobs.
September 11, 2011
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
Top 5 Pro Men
1. Ezequiel Morales (ARG) 8:45:18
2. Stefan Schmid (DEU) 8:57:51
3. Mac Brown (USA) 9:08:14
4. Ernst Moser (AUT) 9:09:42
5. Andreas Wolpert (DEU) 9:13:57
Top 5 Pro Women
1. Jessica Jacobs (USA) 9:41:03
2. Meredith Kessler (USA) 9:50:45
3. Whitney Garcia (USA) 10:03:53
4. M. Soledad Omar (ARG) 10:06:57
5. Katya Meyers (USA) 10:10:28