(This is a seriously post-dated entry. Deal with it.)
After a great bike-riding start, the weather turned into a horrible mess. Rainy, cold…snowy even! I persevered, but while I don’t mind riding in rain, or riding in the cold, I refuse to put up with both! I managed to get one decent training ride in last week, but even that ride was interrupted when I stopped by the bike shop for what I thought would be a simple derailleur adjustment that turned into a full rear wheel and axle replacement. For the last week leading up to the 2006 Ironman Bike Ride I didn’t get to ride once, indoors or out.
For those that want to skip to the end of the story, I managed to finish the 62-mile ride in the face of a day of rain, cold and wind. Here’s the summary and a link to the MotionBased activity I recorded with my GPS. If you want all the details, read after the break…
As late as Thursday evening, the forecast was calling for cold, windy conditions with no precipitation. On Friday morning, the forecast changed to include a day of soaking rain…and no change in the temperature/wind. Yuk. I don’t mind rain on a warm day…I don’t mind the cold, long as I’m also not getting wet. The forecast was shaping up to be something awful. I continued to cross my fingers, hoping for a change…
Saturday morning I get up and checkout the forecast. No change. I was looking at a high of 50, 20mph winds and rain all day long. I had done the 30-mile route last year; I really wanted to attempt the 62-mile route. I knew I needed to get geared up, so I set off to REI in search of some protection, along with everyone else it seemed. For once, my greater size paid off…I was able to find both a top and a bottom for the inner-most wicking layer, but the water-proof outer-layer was a bit more elusive. Off I went to Cabellas upon the suggestion of a helpful REI worker, and happened to score the last set of outer-layers! I had the main components now; all I needed were the finishing touches.
Finishing touches? A second pair of socks in a Ziploc bags in the saddle bag, plastic bread bags to waterproof your feet, my winter bike gloves (full length), summer bike gloves (3/4 length). All I could do now is wait for morning.
Sunday morning, ride day. I was up by 6am, a good idea, since I needed to put on multiple layers and wrap everything up. I was on the road by 7:30am, had to stop halfway down since one of the straps on my bike carrier came loose, but eventually parked a short distance from the starting point and saddled up around 8:15am. I registered, got the handlebar tag and map and set out on the ride.
The first few miles were just a slight mist…rather quickly I came up to the point where the 30-mile people split off and the 62/100-mile riders continued. Determined, now that I had geared up, to ride the 62-miles I had as my goal, I chose to continue forward and left the 30-milers behind. Of course, not 1/2 mile down the road, the skies opened up and the mist changed into a steady rain. Afraid to stop, I pedaled my way south and west to the first rest stop, around mile 28. As if to add insult to injury, shortly before the first rest stop, I was pelted by a bit of sleet as well.
I pulled into the first rest stop and went into my saddlebag for the new socks, only to notice that my “water-resistant” saddlebag had a puddle filling the entire bottom. I had wrapped my socks in a Ziploc bag, not really to keep them dry, but to give me a bag to put my used wet socks into to protect my electronics (cell phone, iPod, etc). My cell phone was dead; luckily, my iPod was secure and mostly dry in the top of the bag in the tool pocket. I took the whole lot inside, found a spare plastic bag at the rest stop, wrapped the wet socks into it, the remainder of my supplies in the Ziploc, and rolled on my second pair of (dry) socks and wrapped ‘em in the bread bags. The bread bags were the best tip…my feet didn’t get wet the entire rest of the ride, should have worn them from the beginning, but I was concerned about my feet being able to breathe through them. Should have known it was more important to protect my poor toes from the rain than from their own sweat…
I was sore, the sag bus parked out in the rest stop’s parking lot was full but with a new set of dry socks, I was determined to make a run for it. I had determined during my ride to the first stop that the 20mph (gusting even higher) winds were coming out of the east, so I thought I should remind myself of the remainder of the course. As you can see from the map above, almost an entire 1/3rd of the ride is straight east, directly into the wind. At this point, I almost chickened out…but I was confident in my abilities, told myself, “it is only 15 more miles to the next rest stop” and set back out on the ride.
I’m not sure what I was expecting for the next 20 miles, but it almost broke me. Overall, it was downhill, but I didn’t recognize that as I pedaled into the face-pounding rain and winds. Rural rolling hills made up the vast amount of the next leg, up and down, up and down, all into the wind. My speed dropped to 7.5mph…making it a two-and-a-half hour leg. I can’t remember how many times I was asked if I was OK, if I needed to sag in, or how many times I honestly considered giving up. Somehow, I mustered up the strength to make myself ride up that next hill each and every time…eventually.
I rolled into the second rest stop, 48 miles, right about the 6-hour mark. After recharging in the warmth/dryness of the rest stop, my brain started doing the math. 8mph average. I had 12 miles left to go. I told myself I could pick up speed now that I wasn’t biking directly into the wind. Could I bike another hour or so? Everything on my body hurt except my legs. I had come this far…my legs could get me the rest of the way!
I set back out on the mostly northern route back to Lakeville High School. It was, indeed, easier going…’cept I had another complication set in. I had purchased a waterproof pair of pants at Cabelas. Not made for bicycling, the bottoms of the legs were what could best be described as “boot cut”. Biking into the wind meant the extra material was forced safely to the rear of the leg, away from the chainrings. Now, biking perpendicular to the wind, it blew the extra material right into the chainring and chain. More than once it got caught, but out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to wrap it tight around my ankle, all I could do was try and pedal through each time it got caught in the teeth, letting the chainring’s sharp teeth slowly gnaw away at the legs of the pants. Around mile 56, it finally tore itself enough that I was able to use the seam to tie the remaining material tightly around my leg. This let water run into my right foot, but the smoother pedaling more than made up for the little bit of wetness. It was now time to push myself to the finish.
As it is in all of these rides, the stated mileage never agrees with the on-board instruments. Both my GPS and bike computer rolled past 62 miles around the same time, with no finish line in sight. Finally, by both devices’ 64th mile, the goal was attained; I was back at Lakeville High School. I checked back in, got my packet, rode back to my car and went home.
Last year’s ride was awful, cold and windy, but no rain. I complained then, but 30 miles in those kind of conditions are nothing! I guess the explanation behind the purpose of the Ironman Ride’s is true…
“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…”