10 Ways to Succeed at Ironman Wisconsin

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As with any key race, athletes preparing for the Ford Ironman Wisconsin are eager for any information to give them a leg up on the day. Without a doubt, a large part of success on race day is being 100 percent ready to handle whatever the event will bring in terms of the course, weather, the competition, etc.

While no one has all of the answers, here is a quick review of the top questions inside Endurance Nation about racing Ironman Wisconsin. In addition to these race specific tips, don't forget to download our free race execution guide to help you manage the overall picture of racing as well. Travel safely and best of luck on race day!

What Is the Swim Like?

The Madison swim is pretty unique—well, not the swim itself but rather the stadium-like feel the venue offers. The swim is a two-lap, counter-clockwise rectangle, with the long sides parallel to the shore and with a deep-water start from the bottom left corner of the rectangle.

However, Monona Terrace, packed with spectators at each level and in the parking deck, is on your right shoulder (on way out), giving the swim a very unique feel! Be sure to moo like a cow when you make the first left turn, in true Wisconsin fashion! Note: You do not exit the water at the end of the first lap, just continue swimming.

I've Heard the Wisconsin Transition Is Crazy? Something About a Helix!?

Yep. Upon exiting the water and having your wetsuit stripped, you then run up the "helix." Think of a spiraling ramp up a parking deck. Everyone has to do it, it's no big deal, and the spectators lining the helix will make it an experience you'll never forget!

The changing tent? Think of a huge convention center room with convention center chairs. You then exit, run to your bike, mount at the top of the opposite helix and ride down it. Don't worry, everyone runs the same distance, and don't sweat riding down the helix. Again, think parking garage ramp and just take your time. Safety is your number one priority here.

Ironman Wisconsin participants ride down the helix on Monona Terrace.
AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal/Leah L. Jones

I've Heard the Wisconsin Bike Is Tough...How Tough?

The Wisconsin bike course is a stick and loop affair: out of town and generally uphill 16 miles towards Verona and the start of The Loop. Twice through a 40-mile loop, then return to Madison.

We've completed (and coached hundreds of athletes for) every Ironman in the U.S. In our opinion, Wisconsin offers the most challenging bike course. To be clear, there is no such thing as an "easy" Ironman or Ironman bike leg. 112 miles is a long way to ride, especially when you tack a little swim on the front and a run on the back end.

In our opinion, what truly separates one course from another isn't total elevation gain, winds, etc, but rather how often it forces you to make a decision. Lots of little good decisions create a good day. Lots of little bad decisions add up to create a very bad day.

At Wisconsin you are making decisions for the entire 112 miles. Flat, false flat, up, down, left, right, head/cross/tailwind, do I shift/not shift into my small/big ring? Do I power up or noodle up this little/big hill?

On the Wisconsin course you are never doing any one single thing for longer than about five minutes. This creates the opportunity to make a lot of little (and big) mistakes that express themselves somewhere on the run. Wisconsin, more than any other U.S. course, rewards the smart, patient and disciplined cyclist. Strength can be a liability on this course, if you don't know how to use properly.

We highly recommend you read our Climbing Smart on Race Day article. It's helped thousands of athletes have great races on hilly courses.