Monday, August 24, 2009

7 hours and 1 minute of reflection

When they say that Ironman is a Journey and not a destination, I couldn't agree more. I have sat down to write this post probably a half dozen times. I changed the title four times. Im not really this "specific" about what I put here but this workout was very important to me. I really needed to see progress.

I slept well but was up at 4am. I went and got coffee for everyone and enjoyed the quiet stillness of the early morning. I swear that most of my life is planned out in these quiet hours of the morning while the rest of the world slumbers. I ride, I run, I swim, I blog and I just get my life together in the peacefulness that is the early morning.

With breakfast eaten and bike suited up, I found myself waiting for my riding partner who was just not organized. I have to tell you, this is unusual for Rick. He is usually ready to rock and roll for any workout or race but today I think he was just a little distracted. It's hard to leave your beautiful girlfriend alone on a gorgeous beach on a perfect day to go ride for 7 hours. Wouldn't you rather just be kicked back on the sand??

And believe me, as we rode down the elevator with our bikes and everyone else with coolers, towels and sunscreen, I thought about how crazy my life has become. THIS is what normal people do, I told Rick. Rick looked right at me and said "Your average "NORMAL" person isn't an Ironman! How could I argue with this logic??

We mounted up and with Rick's girlfriend, Lisa, taking photos, we rolled out of the Boardwalk Beach Condos at 7am. I hit my watch and set my goal in my mind. I wanna be back here in 7 to 7 1/2 hours.

We got on to Front Beach Road and you could feel the breeze starting to pick up. I would rather the wind be in my face at the BEGINNING of the ride and not at the end so this was ok with me. As we turned onto the first major Highway (Hwy. 79), the wind hit us head on. This is like an endless mountain climb as you work against the elements. I got my head into a place where I was totally focused and for the first 25 miles, we battled the wind.

Up and over the bridge at mile 12 and I am amazed at my rate of climb. This ability has definitely improved much to my shock. Meanwhile, Rick is climbing like a rider in the tour and blows by me with no effort. All I can do is admire his ability.

Going downhill, however, I have no fear. I get as much speed and gearing going to extend the downhill run as long as possible. As we approach our first stop at mile 25, I am shocked to see that our favorite little country convenience store is closed. The only thing at the corner of Highway 79 and Highway 20 was a Boiled Peanut Stand. We stopped and discussed this first section and then continued on. We have now named the intersection "Peanut Turn".

Out of the wind on Highway 20, we are flying. Some minor rollers in the terrain actually make this section of the course fun. Rick stayed behind me for most of the ride but on this section he wanted to test his ability and gearing so he went ahead as I kept my cadence just where Hector had told me.

Mile 35 and a super quick stop at a BP station that is still open and we are off. Thank goodness for the facilities as I had to really go 10 miles earlier.

The next 15 miles are challenging in spots and fun in others. I race from landmark to landmark so from the BP station, I am looking for the beautiful little river that we cross over. As I went over the bridge and looked down, there were people rafted together on intertubes floating down the waterway. Hmmm...everytime I do this ride, I promise myself I am going to do that someday.

At mile 45, I have my first mental struggle. The one major hill before the Special Needs stop has got me frustrated as I grind my way up. I am talking to myself the whole way. I swear, if you heard me talking to myself like I was, you would have me locked up. They are always positive words but it just sounds funny out in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, I see the major intersection at mile 50 and I feel fantastic. Much to my shock, I pull into the truck stop to find that Lisa, Mike and Vi have set up one of the picnic tables in the parking lot with a huge umbrella and a full array of food and COLD water!! Im telling ya...I have NEVER had a support stop like this on a bike ride before. We had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a rest stop, and topped off our gels and gatorade. If the race stopped right here, I would be feeling amaizng. It is interesting how your body sets barriers. I have been training for half Ironman races for almost 3 years now so my body has gotten accustom to a max of 56 miles. Today, we were gong to rework some physical barriers.

We waved goodbye to our support crew and headed on our way. Onward to mile 60 and the turn from the Highway to Campflower Road. Due to construction, we had to stop and walk our bikes across some serious gravel, mud and debris.

This is where, for me, the struggle really begins. This 10 mile section of road is rough due to expansion joints they have cut into the road to battle the hot/cold temps. Every 10 seconds on this section of the ride you feel like someone is nailing you in the privates with a nail gun. Its very frustrating and it can actually rattle your teeth. We make it to mile 70 and I am in tears.

Why the tears? I wasn't cramping. I am not sick to my stomach. My speed could be better but the biggest problem is my mental game. I am struggling mentally to grasp that I have 42 miles left to go. I have found my mental barrier and it appears right at mile 70. Rick and I talk about this as we ride and I am determined to overcome this feeling of just wanting to call and get a ride home. "I HAVE to do this"

Now its interesting to note here that I have done 7 century rides in my life and several 100+ mile workouts. If I let myself for one moment thinking about the total miles ahead of me, I get totally discouraged and want to quit. If I race from landmark to landmark, I seem to be fine. I just can't THINK about the mileage. As crazy as that sounds, that is the only way mentally I seem to be able to accomplish this distance.

At mile 80, I start to actually experience some discomfort and in, of all places, my neck. I am blessed with a new bike that has been fitted so well I can now stay in aero a whole lot longer than I ever thought possible. The drawback of that is that I don't believe I have trained my back and neck to be in the position for that long. At mile 80, all i want to do is look DOWN instead of AHEAD.

At mile 88, another mental barrier stands before me, and it almost trips me up. My feet are hurting but I am not thinking straight. If I had just loosen the straps on my shoes, I would have probably avoided that pain. I finally talk my way out of this with Rick's help and we continue on.

We return back to the bridge at mile 100 and it was as if someone had opened a door and let the sunshine in. I felt better and I was excited about finishing. I picked up my pace, I enjoyed the views from the top of the bridge. I focused on creating a little more speed (but at this point, my legs are a little fatigued) and getting back the condo. We finally have the wind to our back and we are making great time down next to the beach.

We make the turn onto Thomas Drive and a smile crosses my face. In my mind, I can see the transition area. I can see the finish line and all the people. I can hear the crowd. I even went so far as to follow the chute into what would be T2 and stop my watch.

I practiced dismounting my bike. I couldn't help but smile, and then cry. Never in my life have I wanted to accomplish something as much as I want to complete this race. Today, I felt like I took one more step forward toward that very precious goal.

Hector and I spoke after the workout. I explained to him my struggles and that I felt like I was the only one who must have these mental battlegrounds. He told me I was silly....that ALL athletes at one time or another face fear and deal with the desire to just go home. Today, he told me, I took a sledgehammer to the concrete barriers that are holding me back from attaining my dream. We just need to keep breaking away that concrete because, underneath lies an Ironman!!

105 miles = 7 hours 1 minute = 14.97 mph


Tri Mommy said...

You are awesome! I think you could safely wager that you can finish the bike in under 7 hours because you won't have to get off and carry your bike because of construction!!!

I know it isn't funny, but I laughed out loud when you said the bit about the nail gun in the privates. I've felt that way before... not good times.

But you know what is good times? You and this bike workout! AWESOME!!!

Kendra said...

Awesome! Nice job! And thanks for the details on the ride. I won't be able to ride the course before Nov 7. But now I feel like I've been there.

As for the mental aspect, most of the time I can't bear to have the mileage displayed on my bike computer. Cadence - yes that's fine. But Mileage - ugh. It just seems so slow to move up sometimes.

Markus said...

Very good, you will easily make it to T2 prior to the cut-off time.
Talking of bike computer display: I usually have my Garming Edge 705 set up to show: actual HR, avg. HR last km, acutal speed, Avg. Speed for last km, cadence, total workout time.
That's all I need...


Wow!! You are home free and the "bank" is filling up.

As a side note: My struggles at IMAZ (April version)last year included an 8 hr 10 minute bike ride (under 14mph)and then the "death march" marathon where I literally could not run (huge blisters on my feet from 8 hrs of swamp foot and less than desirable cycle shoes). 7 hour marathon walk later I finished at 11:52pm.

You may not know it, but I do... your home free.


The Running Girl said...

Believe me, you are not the only one who has mental barriers! I like your idea of getting from landmark to landmark. Congrats on getting in the great ride and knowing now that you CAN do it. And I'll be there cheering you on.