The weather forecast was promising. Sunny, high around 80. Compared to the last two years (2005, 2006) of the Ironman Bike Ride this year was going to be a piece of cake. I had spent many weeks preparing my new trike for the ride, sometimes to the detriment of my own training, but I felt comfortable that if I just took it easy, I could overcome the metric century (~62-mile course).
The short story is, I did it. Although the weather was much better this year, I was riding a bike that weighed twice as much as my previous ride. Here’s the overview of my ride over at MotionBased as my GPS saw it. You can read more details after the break…
The alarm went off at 6am. I showered, got dressed (feeling awkward while the multi-layer exotic-fabric outfit from last year stayed in the closet as I put on my “sunny/warm” clothes) and headed out. Every test of endurance starts with a hearty meal, which for me included a wonderful bacon egg and cheese meal from the kitchen of McDonald.
Arriving around 7:30am, I extricated my bike from the CR-V (a most touchy, difficult task considering there is exactly ONE way it fits, with only about an inch of margin to fit within). I applied a good deal of sunscreen to the usual spots - arms, hands, neck, ears, scalp, forehead. I knew the sun would be out today, no use getting all red and yucky.
My first big test was simply riding to the starting line. Lakeville North High School’s entrance is located on top of a mighty hill. I shifted into low gear, spun my way up the hill slowly and eventually made it up. After registration, I walked down to my bike and started my test.
Since I had done the 62-mile route last year, I was aware of the basic layout of the route. This allowed me to pace myself quite a bit better than last year, although even after the first 5 miles it was soon apparent why I saw no other rider on the Sun Tadpole. This bike is heavy. Every single hill I had to spin up, usually taking twice as long as upright riders, but the tadpole design sure comes in handy when attacking those hills in the slower-speed spinning fashion. Not having to worry about your balance, you can often spin your way up hills that would foil most upright riders, reducing them to dismounting and walking up the hill. Indeed, at the top of one particularly grueling hill, I was greeted at the top by a group of roadies. They were cheering, clapping and offering high-fives as I passed by them at the summit, impressed by my stamina, still spinning my way as I had the entire way up the hill without pause. I passed by no less than 10 upright riders that were walking their bikes up that hill, I’m sure I would have been one of them on my upright.
While the route was familiar, the crowds were not. Last year there were far fewer long-distance riders (62-mile or 100-mile) due to the inclement weather. This year, it seemed that everyone was going to hit the longer rides. I remember many times last year barely making out the rider in front or behind me due to our distance from each other - this year it was rare that I couldn’t yell at a moderate volume and be able to get someone’s attention.
There were only two “pains” on the trike. The first, mentioned here before, was the dreaded foot falling asleep. It is really easy to want to power up hills since you’ve got a back brace, the problem is with too much pressure your poor little toes love to fall asleep. I’d often need to spin when I could have been powering up hills just to relieve my poor foot circulation.
The second pain was the sun. We were blessed with many instances of clouds obscuring the sun’s strong rays, but the sunblock certainly got a workout. The problem was, it wasn’t until the second rest stop that I noticed that I had missed one important body region from my sunblock application - my legs! On my upright, they would often simply tan due to their vertical position. On my recumbent, they were much more horizontal, I might as well been laying in a field the entire time letting the sun beat down on my legs. I put on sunblock again at the second/last rest stop, and finally applied it to my legs, but it was obvious that it was too late already, my legs were glowing brightly.
As always, the Ironman Bike Ride organizers did a great job with the course and rest stop support. I can’t begin to comprehend the logistics involved, but I was kept nicely fueled with assorted snacks at each rest stop, good variety, even a nice warm pasta dish at the final rest stop, the perfect fuel for that last thrust to the finish line.
I pulled into the finish in just over 6 hours of moving time, giving me a moving speed of 10.7mph over the course. I’m very pleased with my results - considering my bike weighted twice as much as last year, and my lack of riding late last summer and fall, I suspected I wouldn’t be able to get close to my 2006 results, but I surpassed them in every category. (Sure, the weather was helpful, and shouldn’t be downplayed, but I don’t see it as big of a factor as the bike weight or the lack of training) Regardless of the result, just finishing is a great accomplishment - there’s nothing like finally crossing the finish line, loading the bike into the CR-V and being able to say to yourself, “I just propelled my 300-pound self, 50-pound bike and 10-pounds of baggage 65-miles, up and down 2626-ft of elevation in 6-hours time. Muahahahahah!”