Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Long Ride

I've started writing my posts on Saturdays lately. I used to write them in the middle of the week, so folks could read them instead of monotonously pressing buttons. I think most of us have jobs that require the pressing of buttons. It doesn't quite have the same glory as slaying woolly mammoths, or skinning woolly mammoths, or cooking woolly mammoths.

I don't really know what people used to do.

But now that race season is here, I like to write thrilling and/or hilarious race reports. I didn't have a race today. But I did bicycle 70 miles. Most serious cyclists and triathletes have probably done this, like, a million times. But this is only the third time I've ever ridden this far, and the first time this year.
If it's not on Garmin, it didn't happen!

Not everyone is a super-turbo champ. Some folks may appreciate reading about the experience from someone who's still pretty new to triathlons and cycling and all that junk. Geoffrey spends hours every night on his bicycle. I'm pretty sure he's gotten it so it can transform into a fighter jet or a bazooka. Not USAT legal, but still pretty cool.

My bike is covered in rust and makes all sorts of noises. Before our first outdoor tri, Geoffrey said, "hey, your bike was literally about to break in half, which would have caused you serious bodily grievance. I fixed it." (Not his precise words, but close). I said, "oh, uhh, thanks!"

Which means I won't be writing a post about flying off a bicycle going 20mph. Sorry.

Given my lack of experience with all bike-things, I'm pretty nervous about the biking portion of the upcoming Ironman. The swimming I'm comfortable with, especially with a buoyant wetsuit that basically makes it impossible to drown. And running... I can run a marathon at the drop of a hat. But my training on the bicycle has been crap.

So I decided I needed to go really far. Also, my bike ride ended up obscenely hilly, but that's a good thing (now that I'm done with it). I needed to know that I could do it without blowing up. It was painful. It was hard. It was pitifully slow. But I did it. I even ran a 5k transition run afterwards, and my legs still functioned.
Those hills were absurd. And stupid. And awful.

In order to make the 5 hour ride more palatable, I decided to have a delicious destination at the halfway point. I picked Glenwood Pines, a fantastic restaurant I haven't been to in years. They've won Burger of the Year... a lot. I don't eat burgers, but I eat their other things. Instead of bringing food with me, I'd stop halfway, eat, and then bike back. Genius!

I started bright and early at the crack of 10am. Here's the breakdown of my ride by 5 mile segments.

Miles 0-5: This was terrible. My whole body hurt. I was riding into a headwind (which, hopefully, would be a tailwind on my second half). I had to keep stopping for traffic lights and dodging trucks. Barely a few minutes in, I was already thinking, "can I scrap this and do it tomorrow instead?" My body really didn't want to cooperate. I said screw you body and kept going. The first few miles are often the worst.

Miles 5-10: Why are the first few miles the worst? Because it takes a while for fat metabolism to kick in. And the endorphins, they take longer on the bike because you're not going as hard as a run or a lift. So I still felt like trash. The road was reasonably flat, with a few rolling hills. But I was tired. And I kept struggling against the wind. I had to force myself to not push too hard, despite my terrible speed. I had a loooong way to go. At the end of this stretch, I entered the first town I'd pass (the downhill in was nice). They had a dairy festival going on. Great.

Miles 10-15: Getting out of that town was a not-trivial hill. I know about that hill. I was ready for it. What I always forget is that there are still rolling hills after it. I passed what once was my favorite brewery on this stretch (still is, I suppose). It was too early for it to be open. I don't drink anymore, but it's probably still a good thing. My body was finally starting to kick into gear. I wasn't regretting this decision quite as much.
At least I can pretend to not
regret my decisions.

Miles 15-20: I was approaching Ithaca, the next city I'd be passing through. I'd broken the ride up into mini-goals, which helped. I was getting closer and that amped me up. Also, I knew I'd get to ride down a massive hill. It was about a 700ft drop. Crazy! I was excited. Not as excited about riding back up it on the return trip. But at that point I'd have no choice. I'm evil (to myself).

Miles 20-25: Weeeeeeeeeeeee..........!!! I coasted for over 2 miles. I hit about 40mph, even with a headwind. It felt incredible. Of course, riding this particular stretch of road is actually illegal for bicycles. But at least two cops passed me. They didn't give a $hit, and neither did I! Weeeeeee. Then I hit Ithaca and had to put on the brakes with the crazy traffic. Bummer. Then I got out and had to start riding up hill on the other side of the lake. Eep.

Miles 25-30: Hills hills hills. Not too bad though because I had a bit of a tailwind, or at least it wasn't a head wind. My body was feeling pretty decent by now, although I was barely a third done. I tried not to think about that. I passed my destination at mile 28.5. Cr@p, it was closer than I'd thought. I was going to have to keep going, and turn around and stop on my way back. Sigh.

Miles 30-35: I just kept thinking about food. Food food food. I just had to do this little out and back and then I'd get to EAT. Nevermind that it was 13 miles. Don't think about that. This stretch had a surprising amount of downhills. Spoiler alert, this was awful on the way back. The last mile before I got to turn around was a gnarly hill. Gah! I tried to push up it, but my legs just wouldn't cooperate. I just sat back and resigned myself to slowly peddling on the lowest gear.

Miles 35-40: I got really close to my friend's winery, which would have been a fun halfway point, but I turned around just shy of it. I got to ride that big hill down, which was nice. I dreamed of greasy food and felt happy. Then I hit all those hills again. I did not remember them being so long and so plentiful. This stretch was harsh. Eyes on the prize. I'm almost there. My body hurt. I pointedly did not think that I had almost 30 miles to go after I ate.

Miles 40-45: I stopped at 42. I ate. And it was incredible. I got a haddock sandwich and onion rings. And lots of ice water with lemons. It was the best meal I've ever eaten. The nice bartender refilled my water bottle for me with icy water. I meant to take a picture of the lake from here and completely forgot.
So here's a totally different picture
of a totally different lake.

Starting back up.... sucked. It was like starting over from scratch, except my belly was full and my legs were shot. It was really hard. I mean, I needed to eat, and I would have suffered even worse later if I hadn't. But still. This part was hard. All hills.

Miles 45-50: The hill down into Ithaca was too brief. The traffic wasn't as bad. And then. That hill. Three miles up the most massive hill I've ever ridden. My pace got down to 5.7mph. I could've run up the hill faster. It took an obscenely long time to get up the hill. It was a torturous slog the entire time. No happy thoughts here. Just slow, painful pedaling. I hated myself for tricking myself into doing this hill. #worthit?

Miles 50-55: I finally finished climbing the hill. But I was dead. I told myself I was on the home stretch. The worst was behind me. But there were still a lot of rolling hills left. But it didn't matter. Unless my bike exploded or I got hit by a car, I wasn't calling for a rescue. I just had to finish. My anguish didn't matter. This is the "benefit" of an out-and-back ride. You're locked in for that second half. Awesome.

Miles 55-60: I had a tailwind, finally. But I was so tired it barely helped my speed. I finally got to ride down the hill into that first town. Finally. After this it was just homeward. The dairy thing was mostly done. I had to stop at an intersection here. I almost missed the pole I was going to lean on. It bent precariously under my weight. I tried to avoid pulling my feet out of the cages if I could.

Miles 60-65: Uphill to get out of the town. Not a super bad hill, normally. But every hill I was hitting now, I was on the lowest gear. There was going to be no epic finish here. But once I got to the top, I felt better, knowing how little I had left to go. I actually felt really good. Not physically, but you know. At the end of this stretch, I could see my hometown. Woohoo!

Miles 65-70: This was it! This was the only portion of the trip that was completely flat, and I took full advantage of it. I flew into town averaging over 21mph. Why couldn't the whole ride have been like this? I pushed like crazy. I was so close! It felt amazing. I was actually grinning. I was ecstatic. And then, I hit 70.

Boom. Done.

I hit my watch. I rode the last half mile home very lazily. I can't overstate how happy I was. I'd survived. That distance. Those hills. The self-doubt. All of it, gone in a wisp. I. was. DONE.

Run: Just kidding! I got off my bike and ran a 5k. Zero thought behind this. Just autopilot. You bike, then you transition. It's just how it is. My legs felt OK on the run, actually. Then I was actually done. I took a cold shower, lay down flat for a while, then went and got a bunch of food.

I could recap some lessons from this, but I think you can glean them for yourself. I'll say though, that after this ride, I feel a lot better about the Ironman. I still have training to go, and a couple half-Ironmans in between. But I feel better about the whole thing. I won't be fast, but I'll finish. And I'll have that darn 140.6 decal on my car like all the other d0uchebags!

I lost a LOT of weight on today's ride...

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