It was a cold (47 at start, 57 at the end), windy day. No rain, luckily, but the wind’s effect on the event could not be overlooked. My guess would place it somewhere between 20-25 mph, which when trying to bike down a path adjacent to huge farm fields becomes quite the challenge.
Because of the temperatures, I wanted to get to the ride as late as possible, so I’d be as warm as possible throughout the ride. When I arrived at 9:30, parking was quite the issue…until, as luck would have it, I tracked down someone leaving (I guess they had already completed the ride!) so I got a spot right next to the entrance to the high school. This allowed me to leave the bike in the trunk of the Beetle until I got registered and all ready to go, which made the process much easier than having to not only bike to registration, but also securing the bike while I went into the high school to register.
The ride started off really hilly. Besides a mile route around the Lake Marion, the first half was completely up and down, one hill and then the next. I’m used to this kind of hill-intense biking around my apartment’s area, but after the Saint Paul Bike Classic’s fairly level course, I was expecting something a little bit less demanding, especially near the start. As luck would have it, most of the inclines were into the strong winds, which made it even more demanding. ‘course, as the website for the event explains,
“The Minnesota Ironman is not a race - but it is quite the test of personal strength, stamina and your commitment to cycling. The tradition began back in 1967 when the first IRONMAN Century was held, and named IRONMAN because of the time of year, the obvious lack of training, and the probability of inclement weather…”
After a rest stop around mile 18 that was well provisioned with lots of food and drink, I was off on the course again. The next 6 miles or so were mostly on nice, smooth trails with fairly level riding…with the wind to my back, I ended up easily cruising at a speed of 25 mph or more. Besides the final, huge climb in the last mile, which was only made difficult due to the proximity of the finish line, the most strenuous sustained pedaling was from mile 20 - 28, which was run alongside farm fields that provided no cover from the strong headwinds.
I finished the route in almost exactly 2.5 hours, which gives me an average speed of 12.4 mph, since the route was 31 miles long, according to the map/organizers. (I only registered 29.4 miles on my odometer…so I have made a note to check the calibration on the unit) Once I returned to the high school, I took down my bike, packed it back in the Beetle and went in to check back in. I picked up my t-shirt, gift bag and gobbled down some cookies on my way back out to the car.
I look forward to doing the ride again next year. I don’t know if I’d attempt the 60-mile ride without upgrading my bike, but I can certainly envision training better next year and attempting to quicken my pace now that I’ll have the experience of my first ride to guide my efforts. If I manage to not only upgrade my bike this year to a road bike, but also get a further head start on training, I certainly would love to attempt the 60-mile ride. The sag support, even on the 30-mile ride, was excellent and would be a welcome safety net on a longer ride. The rest stop was well organized, staffed and stocked to provide all the support necessary for the riders.