Ironman Week…Let’s SWIM!

I was first introduced to Ironman several years ago, when I was the emcee at the Trek 100. A couple of riders finished the 100 mile ride in just under 5 hours (better than 20 mph for 100 miles!) | and when they returned, one of them changed into a t-shirt that read…


Yes, I shave my legs, but I can…
Swim 2.4 miles
Bike 112 miles
and Run 26.2 miles

I asked what that was all about and was told that it’s “Ironman.” I told my wife about it and told her that I have to do that! Her response | “But you don’t know how to swim!”


After several false starts learing to swim, I finally registered for the 2008 Ironman and got a bit more serious about swim lessons. Even with that incentive, it took me months of really expensive lessons, and several coaches trying to teach me…there were even two high school girls, who saw me struggling at the Middleton High School pool, and volunteered to work with me one night…and again no luck.

Eventually my training partner encouraged me to join the open water class that she was taking, and thanks to a LOT of work with Derek Scheer, the coach of that class, I finally learned to swim. Ironically | Derek was the first coach that was recommended to me, but I was intimidated, because…he is an Ironman.  Turns out, Derek is about the least intimidating guy you’d ever want to meet (unless of course you’re racing him in the water), and has become a good friend over the years.

I’ve never become a terribly fast swimmer…but I’m able to do the 2.4 mile Ironman swim in about an hour and 30 minutes, well under the 2 hour 20 minute time limit.  

The swim for Ironman Wisconsin takes place in Lake Monona, in front of the Monona Terrace.  I haven’t done the race in a few years, and the course has changed a bit since my last race.  It used to be a two loop course with a deep water, mass start. The deep water, mass start remains, but the course has since changed to one giant 2.4 mile loop.

If you are planning to watch the swim | get there early, the best spots for spectating fill up early.  Not only will early arrival help assure that you get a good spot to watch the race, it’s also fun to watch the athletes go through their last-minute preparations for the race | they’ll be doing final bike checks, getting race numbers marked on their bodies, and nervously putting on their wetsuits before heading to the water. 

The very best spot to watch the swim is on the top of Monona Terrace, if you can get yourself on the V.I.P. list…if not, try to grab a spot on the east helix (the curly-cue ramp that leads to the parking area of Monona Terrace). From that spot, you’ve got a good view of the start of the race and can see a pretty good portion of the swim, including the athlete’s exit from the water.  After exiting the water, the racers will run right past you as they make their way to the transition area to get ready for their 112 mile bike ride. 

Another fun spot to watch the race is near the area where the wetsuit strippers do their job.  It’s not the best view of the water, because it’s basically at water-level, but it’s fun to watch the strippers do their thing.  To be clear | the wetsuit strippers don’t actually strip themselves…it’s their job to remove wetsuits from athletes…and they do that very quickly!  It’s the athlete’s job to remember to wear a swimsuit under the wetsuit when they get ready in the morning.

Tomorrow…we’ll take a look at the 112 mile bike course of Ironman Wisconsin!