We buzzed up to Madison, Wisconsin this weekend for a test ride on the bike course for the Half-Ironman event Sue will be doing this summer. The Half-Ironman course goes south from Madison as compared to the full Ironman course that goes west. But be assured of one thing; there is no shortage of hills to the south.
Which meant the group with which we rode split up within the first ten miles. That was expected. The range of athletes testing the course was quite wide, and it’s generally not the practice of triathletes to draft on long rides anyway.
Sue was feeling good., and we rode together through 25 miles. Then the hills started to take effect on me. Overall, the course offered 2200 feet of climbing. That makes an honest cyclist of you whether you’re male or female, novice or expert. But I know there was trouble in my legs early on. They felt tired the very first climb. Yes, sometimes things improve as you go along and warm up. So I kept up hope. But some days are just not meant to be.
In my case recent events had cost me some energy. Getting married the previous weekend was a blast, but it legitimately was (in a good way) an emotional and physical drain. At work on Tuesday, I literally closed my eyes while typing and woke up thirty seconds later sitting at my desk in a daze.
But like all dedicated dopes, I had a run scheduled that evening, so I dropped off the car at the train station for Sue and ran home. That run did not go well.
For one thing, I got a little too experimental cutting through a forest preserve on my way back home. Somehow I forgot there was a creek bisecting the preserve, and the recent rains had flooded a field I tried to cross. My shoes got soaked. Then I made the brilliant decision to jump the creek rather than backtrack. So I backed up twenty feet and made a running leap to clear the six foot stream. And wound up on my ass in the water. Even with my beloved Saucony waterproof sweats on, the water came right through.
After that little incident, with heavy shoes and a soggy ass too boot, the run turned into a four mile slog home. Somewhere along the way, it got even worse than that. My legs started to ache and the IT band on both legs tightened. I stopped and walked and stretched. It still meant a long way home.
For three full days after that, my legs ached. Bad. Something more than a tired run took place last week. Perhaps the combination of wedding excitement, alcohol and non-stop dancing at the party conspired to eclipse my energy. Whatever it was, my legs were still quite dead by Saturday. Most likely I’d bonked somehow during that run last week.
So I let Sue buzz on ahead. She had the company of a zippy little rider named Suzy who stood no more than five feet tall and could climb like a fly on a wall. So I kept company with the wind and the birds and followed the signs to keep on the course.
At one point while riding on my own, I put my head down and missed a “straight ahead” sign. That meant I followed the main road on which I was traveling. It got awful quiet about a mile down. I could see no one ahead or behind. So I turned around and found the correct course again. At that moment I was caught by a big group of road cyclists. So I tagged on and kept up in the draft for five miles. Then we hit a big climb and I popped off the back. Even with a full pedaling motion during the climbs it wasn’t there.
Still, I finished all 56 miles about a mile an hour slower on average than Sue. I was pleased with getting in those miles without blowing up along the way. My general fitness is there because we’ve already had a couple good rides already, but the popped run earlier in the week clearly had its cost. Something blew up in my system and there was not enough time to recover.
After the ride we gathered our gear for a trip back to the hotel where the late checkout let us take a shower before heading home. On our way to the hotel, the fuel indicator on Sue’s Outlander began blinking. We’d forgotten to stop for gas even though we’d seen the first indicator light blinking on the way to the ride that morning. But now Sue had a warning:
“Okay,” Sue chimed. “That’s the bad one. Get off the road now.”
So we fumed it into a Mobil station just in time to fill up the tank. And I felt like that was a bit symbolic to my situation on the bike. Riding around on fumes isn’t much fun. It makes you tense and takes your mind off the scenery, for one thing. There were a couple of those hills where my own indicator light was blinking. There wasn’t much fuel in the tank, as it were.
But I made it. There’s something to be said for that every time. Knowing your own indicator light can prevent a total bonk. In fact things got a bit better after 30 miles when we all fueled up at the Sag Wagon. It can sure pay to be patient with yourself on the bike. It’s when you’re driving on fumes in the car that you really have to watch out.
Beware the Bad One. That’s the moral of this story.