...Actually ended up being 107.
Saturday morning the alarm goes off early: 5:25 am.
My first reaction – no. My second – not yet. My third – wait, why? I search back through reasons I might be up this early on a Saturday morning ……..
There are none.
But then it hits me: Ironman.
Oh, yes. That.
I begin the early morning long ride preparations. Quickly I am reminded that Ironman takes time. I forget how long it takes to simply get out of the door. Wait, the heart rate monitor strap. Wait, the salt tabs. The gels. The 3 bottles of drink plus enough mix in a baggie for 3 more. The gloves, the socks. Did I grab my helmet? Finally a cup of coffee, load the bike, don’t forget the husband, a 45 minute drive west to DeKalb for an organized ride. One of those where you pay the money, get the map and are sent on your way.
Getting ready in the parking lot I set a few goals; this will take me under 5 hours 15 minutes. I will not leave zone 2 today. I will ride 100 miles – no more. Even that seems like a stretch. I’m feeling all 5900 feet of climbing in my ______ (name body part here) from last weekend's race. Best thing to clear that right up? I’d say coffee but I’m going big today – let’s say 100 miles.
Someone walks by our car. It is Anwar and his wife Jackie from swim team. Anwar as in – oh crap that’s the only lane left and Anwar is in it. As in – I might have a fighting chance of staying within 5 seconds per 100 to him if I have paddles and fins on. As in – the only guy I know that can do 25 butterfly no breath and frequently does so just because…he can.
They are training for Ironman Florida and he asks if he can tag along. Why not? The four of us start together but soon it becomes just Anwar and I. Jackie is doing her own pace. Chris is doing his own thing and hoping the kinesio tape holds his left leg together. Anwar and I are ready to ride.
The first hour is the easiest. You are fresh and excited. I remember this. I call it the honeymoon phase. The first 20 miles. Time flies by. We have settled into a good pace and there is barely any wind. Yet. Don’t be fooled, I tell myself. You are in DeKalb. There is corn. Much corn. And where there is corn there is wind.
The second hour goes by just as smooth. It’s a great day for a ride. Anwar is good company as he sits behind me – but not on me. His front wheel is like a little stick that gives a little poke to keep the pace. Or not give up. Or stay mentally strong. We are at a stop light around two hours into the ride and I realize I am bleeding everywhere. This is a new one. Third Ironman in training and you are still running into new things. Anwar I have wounded myself, I say. My nose is bleeding everywhere on my gloves and aero bars. I thought peeing on myself in the parking lot was bad. This is just disgusting. But what can you do. You just deal and ride.
We are cruising along in the third hour. I’m having all kinds of conversations in my head. With myself, with others. I’m even singing songs. In all of this, I miss a right turn. I didn’t realize this until we actually rode into downtown Sycamore and I thought to myself – this can’t be right. Anwar studies the map and confirms we have made a wrong turn. Now how to get back? We look ahead – they are repaving the road. A construction man walks up to us:
You’re not thinking of riding them skinny tires down that new asphalt?
No sir. We’ve just gotten a little off track.
Well if you ride them skinny tires you’re gonna sink into the 300 degree asphalt and it’s gonna hurt real bad.
Thank you sir for the lecture in proper English. Like I said, we are a little off track. And in case you were wondering the extra miles we have just ridden at some point today will probably hurt more real bad than your 300 degree asphalt. Trust me. So how far, Anwar? How far off track did we go?
DAMMIT! That means from here when I think we have gone 62 miles, we have only gone 54. 92, only 84. And by the end of the ride we’ll be at 108. It is far too early in this ride for me to lose my spirit. And I’m too soon into the training to go 108 miles. I am not happy but what can I do. I am only permitted to have a breakdown after I pass the 90 mile mark and it’s too early yet today.
We backtrack to get back on track and then find the rest stop around 2:22 into the ride. Chris is there. The rest stop has all sorts of treats that I want and none that are part of my plan. Torture by way of Butterfinger. Chris looks so relaxed I am convinced he is not riding today. Just hanging out at the rest stop. He takes off (supposedly) and we do the same.
Anwar says we only have two loops to go. RR told me the Ironman Arizona course is boring because it is 3 loops. That's my bread and butter, baby. I do nothing but loops. Once I topped out at 6 loops around Fermilab for a total of 100 miles. Each loop is always different no matter how much similar it looks. Like on this third loop here today - it was very similar to the others but tihs time we got headwind, bumps, a little loose gravel. Exciting! Not really. It starts to wear on us as we approach 60 (really 52) miles.
But then we make a turn. And we feel good again. Anwar is next to me. It is quiet, Anwar says, this is great.
Yes, my friend, that is the sound of tailwind.
At 3:30-something we pull into the rest stop again. We are at 70 miles. Again, Chris is already there sitting at the picnic table. Has he even moved? We realize the next loop will be the worst. The honeymoon is over. It is now time to tackle the Ironman Lows which occur between miles 60 and 90 of the ride. It might be 30 miles of low or 3 miles. You never know.
So we head out. I think we will have mostly tailwind but that is not the case. There is little wind today which is sometimes the worst. Why? Because every direction you go the wind is just enough there that it is always work. We are both quiet now except for occassional groans as we grind over a bump or into the wind. Finally we do make a turn and there is tailwind. At that point we are about 92 miles into the ride. Anwar takes off. I want to throw a water bottle at him.
Ironman Rule #234: You do not drop she who just pulled you for 92 miles!
We arrive at the rest stop for the final stop. Anwar admits he dropped me. Confession accepted. We are at 96 miles. There is one more loop left. Chris is still sitting there. Seems that he waited for us for the final loop. Still I am convinced he rode about 12 miles for the day and not the 75 he was supposed to. Now, the final rest stop is always tricky. To figure out how far you have left to go. One thing I have learned is that if you are on a 100 mile ride at mile 96 do not assume you have only 4 to go. I ask a few people and the truth is told – there are 19.5 miles left. That would be the 14 miles originally planned on the route plus the 5 mile detour.
I take a moment to regroup myself so I don't rage by throwing mixed nuts, oranges and Butterfinger bars all over the rest stop and then tossing a jug of Gatorade. I am not riding nearly 117 miles today. Not yet. I can’t do that to myself yet. My back hurts. My stomach has turned its head to sports drink. And I only wanted to go 100 today. So I decide (correction: demand) to the boys that we will ride along Route 38 to make the most direct route back to the car.
On paper this is a good idea. In real life – not so much. There is no shoulder on 38. There are just fast cars. So that lasts about 5 miles before we make a turn. And a few more turns. Try to figure out where we are and when we hit mile 101 I realized I should have just done the 19.5 miles because I guarantee myself I will ride nearly 110 today anyways.
At mile 107 we have found our way back to the starting point. I am tired but as I dismount my bike I thought to myself – yes, I could run a marathon. The body remembers. The body knows. I feel good. And I hit all of my goals. We hit 100 miles at 5:10 into the ride. I held my heart rate mostly in the right zones. And I had a good go in my mind. When I found myself thinking this is a long way to go I told myself something I’ve told myself for every Ironman – the time will pass. It always does. You’ll be pedaling away at mile 20 and think 92 more miles to go – and then all of a sudden you’ll find yourself at mile 92 knowing you have less than 20.
So there you have it. The first 100 miles. I made it but I knew I would. Next up - I'm not sure. My schedule only goes so far as Monday for next week. That is never a good sign. But at least if there is another 100 miles coming up, I know I already have 7 miles extra to put towards it.