Andy Bernholtz Ironman

I rode up to Madison Friday morning with Steve Cox and his wife as my wife was to take my car up Saturday morning. We went directly over to the Athlete Check in at Monona Terrace where we waited in a line for the better part of an hour to sign the agreement, grab our bags and bibs. Not the highlight of the trip but if you’re able to show up on Thursday, do so, as the line isn’t as long.

I hung out with Steve and his wife for a while longer at their hotel which was just a couple blocks down the way from the Terrace. The two of them were a huge support system for me this year as I did not have my wife and mother to bog down. I’m pretty cheap; so the idea of paying 300+ a night for a hotel room mind boggles me and I will not do that. I picked the right destination as one of my best friend’s lives under 10 minutes down the road and allowed my wife and me to stay there free of charge. Woot!!!

I attended the Athlete meal that night at the Terrace which was actually quite informative. Mike Reilly was the key note speaker as usual. The banquet shows some motivational videos which do move the emotions around just a tad. There are also several others that speak with stories of their own whom of which are supporting a cause.

Steve and I were out and about early Saturday morning putting in a 30 minute swim, 25 minute bike and a quick 10 minute run. We then prepped our bikes to have placed in transition. Megan arrived at the Terrace soon after and we shopped around for some merchandise (mainly for her). She found a sweet hoodie. She is most definitely my number one support system. We went to some fancy dansy place for dinner with the Triathlon Racers of Iowa, but we only nibbled as we weren’t quite that hungry. The rest of the night was quite relaxing and I knew I was prepared for Sunday morning to arrive.

I jumped into the water soon after the National Anthem, about 10 minutes from start time. I lined up on the right side of the ski jump (folks that have been there will know what I am talking about). So mainly right side of the mass swim start. I have gained a lot of confidence over the past year, as I started at the very front on the swim. I had the most incredible start as there was no real contact for the first 10-15 minutes. It did get interesting around the first turn, why you ask? I MISSED THE STINKIN TURN!! The nice kayakers pointed me back in the right direction; no wonder I felt alone. So I feel as though I earned myself a nice 3-4 minute time penalty by my own doing. I knew I had messed up when I reentered the pack because by this point at Texas it definitely felt as though I was swimming next to folks around the same speed as myself. I was pushing the pace a bit, but only by means of upper body. I was easily passing other swimmers. During the last long straight away before the last turn in a group of us decided we were just going to swim wide and ended up way further wide then what I would have preferred. Once again I was making up some time working my way back on tract. I knew besides the sighting errors I was swimming a great pace and would be close to my Texas time. Getting out of the water and running up the Helix is a phenomenal feeling!
Swim Time: 1:06:33

After rather a quick transition with the help of Tim Fencl I was off and on to the bike portion. I really had no big expectations on the bike as the hills on the loops scare the bejeepers out of me. I took it quite easy for the first half of the ride with the plan to crank up the pace on the second half of the bike portion. The second half really became more of a maintaining period than a cranking period. Those hills are monsters. My nutrition for the bike portion was 5 GU’s, Base Salt, GU Endurance mixed with Gatorade and a plan to eat 4 Salted Nut Rolls (I ate two). For those interested I peed a total of six times on my bike. Typically on a downhill or flatter portion which allowed me to stop pedaling for a few seconds.

Back to the hills; although they did scare the bejeepers out of me I did enjoy the heck out of them. The crowd support was A MAZE ING!!!!! I saw my buddy Nathan Hamm on the second B**** (the hills are nicknamed). So essentially you rode up the hills very slowly but with a ton of adrenaline pumping through. Folks wore costumes and partied their butts off to help athletes get up them dang hills. I knew those hills were eating at me by the way I felt after getting over top but nonetheless they were AWESOME and really drove the emotions out of me.

During the second loop I could feel the wind had picked up, but I continued to maintain and push through while conserving for the run. The stick on the way back to town had the wind pushing our backs which was helpful. Scott Carkhuff (Kyle’s Bikes Teammate) passed me on mile 100 which seems to be an ongoing theme on the bike.
Bike Time: 5:57:10

My wife was at the beginning of the marathon so I made it my priority to stop and kiss my number one supporter. I made it a focus to follow a 9:00-9:30 pace for the first 10-15 miles and then increase pace as seen fit. I believe I hit an 8:40 for the first mile which felt easy but I knew I would pay for the increased pace in the later miles if I continued to click off miles in the 8:00s. It was interesting while I controlled my pace in the first mile it seemed as though other athletes were FLYING by me (literally). I really felt comfortable for the first 9-10 miles; but wasn’t ready to increase my pace. On say mile 14, I cramped (Charlie horse; go figure in my case) and had to pull up to a walk to rub it out. I am still learning a significant amount each and every race, but this particular cramp I do not believe came from dehydration rather over hydration. I was walking through every aid station taking in one or possibly two cups of Gatorade Perform. I tried to calm the cramp with pickle juice but that didn’t seem to have the same effect it had when I cramped from dehydration in Texas.

My hamstrings are a weakness I am going to work on in a significant manner this off season. It was my intention to speed walk the extremely steep inclines in which I did successfully. After the cramp I really didn’t experience anything other than increased fatigue on the run. I stopped walking through the aid stations, only grabbing a glass of coke and marching on. I only took in coke and base salt during last 10 miles and that seemed to be enough. I peed freakin 5 times on the run!!! I could feel the finish after running past the Badger stadium near downtown Madison. The miles continued to click by at consistent pace. Getting to that last mile is an unbelievable feeling; the finish shoot is out of this world. I made sure to soak in the chute and walking up to that line I raised both of my arms and thanked the man upstairs for everything!
Run Time: 4:27:09
Total: 11:42:33


Megan greeted me at the finish line this year! She volunteered and her shift ended 30 minutes before I finished so the volunteer captain allowed her to stay and catch me. She helped me get a bottle of water, some snacks and my medal! To have her there meant more than words can explain and I hope to get her the same volunteer position next year if she still puts up with me. Oh! On that note; I may have signed up for 2016 by accident due to peer pressure.

I want to thank my wife first and foremost for always enduring my attitude and lack of presence at times. I need to send a shout out to Kyle’s Bikes and Discount Tri Supply for the continuous sponsorship and support! Thank you to the whole clan at Triathlon Racers of Iowa for letting me be a part of an amazing club of truly awesome people!

This year has been crazy! Megan and I were married in July. I took on my 3rd half Ironman in August. My sister was married in September and I completed my second Ironman in September! Bring on 2016; can it get any crazier?


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The Triathlon Racers of Iowa are a group of dedicated athletes who train, run and have fun with the sport of Triathlon. We offer training, camaraderie and social events and is open to those of all skill levels.


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