At almost the same point in the race, IM Wisconsin shows the softer side of its personality. You exit the swim and head for the bike--a little bruised, but realizing that it's a nice, windless 75 degrees. Yes, the never-ending quick inclines will sap you of quad strength, but a good weather day in Madison is just the personality you want to meet. At the Verona bike loop just short of 50 miles, Wisconsin turns the athletes into giddy school children. Waving arms, cheers of joy and smiling faces make it feel like the final summer school bell just rang. The crowd loves it and gives the athletes much-deserved support. At this point they are in love.
As the Louisville athletes reached the Ford motivational zone on the run, full of messages written by loved ones, they are having a difficult time figuring out where the calmness of the morning went. One mile from the finish line party, the sounds of music and frenzied spectators float to their ears. It's a side of the event they haven't yet experienced. Near the end of an excruciating day, Louisville holds out its arms and awaits the heroes of the day.
In comparison, the IM Wisconsin run feels like Mom fixing you breakfast. The athletes' faces tell the story: they are in love with this "IM Moo" race, as it's affectionately called. The rambunctious crowd on State Street dictates a big part of this event's personality. The athletes can't wait for Wisconsin's embrace in front of the state capitol at the finish, and it isn't just because they want to end the pain.
During an Ironman, athletes divert their thoughts to take their mind off the pain. But what they can never do is lose the sense of who they are and how they got there. IM Louisville and IM Wisconsin are what they are: Their personalities are always in your face--the only constant you can count on.
Remember when people used to write in your high school yearbook, "Don't ever change"? They obviously loved your personality, and most of you probably haven't changed. If there was a yearbook for Ironman events, the notes would probably read something more along the lines of, "I like you and I don't like you, but in the end you make me stronger. Don't call me--I'll call you".
On to Kona!