We traveled to Madison, Wisconsin this weekend for a training trip, joining the crew from Madison Multisport and its coaches Steve Brandes and Cindy Bannink. The purpose was to ride the Madison Half-Ironman course, which loops south of the city into hilly terrain and back again. And from the get-go, I felt great. And grateful.
So many times I’ve gone into rides like these over the years not feeling confident to cover the course on pace with Sue or the crew. This time that was not that kind of ride. I welcomed every uphill climb because we’ve already done a lot of that this year. Our trip to Tucson was a climbfest in February and our ride in Galena two weeks ago was called Ups and Downs. So my brain was liberated from worries about whether I could pedal proficiently.
So I had to laugh when checking in at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel to find the rooms still equipped with dial-up ports for the Internet. That seemed to symbolize how my brain functions when I lack confidence…a long hairy dial tone followed by weird noise and a slow connection.
The only remaining concern was a continuing injury to the muscles behind my knee. It has been sore to the point of avoiding runs for the most part and being extremely judicious while riding not to stay in high gears (grinding) and cause the leg to flare up all over again.
The hurt began after climbing steep hills in Galena without a light enough gear to spin up them. Sue has a new climbing cassette that was specifically purchased for the purpose of handling the Ironman hills both at the Half this summer and the full this fall. She’s been joyfully spinning up those hills since installation of the new cassette.
But I wasn’t riding my Specialized Venge this trip, because the setup created on my Felt Tri-bike is working out well. That frame is light and smooth and being able to get down in aero is saving me precious energy when riding with other triathletes. No longer am I fighting 20% more wind resistance or trying to suck wheels in order to stay in the draft. Frankly that doesn’t work all that well when the person riding in front of you is in aero.
Aero goes well
So I was charmed and excited by the ability to whizz along with the other aero riders out there on the flats. And when it came to climbing, I’ll have to check the gearing on my Felt and see what my gearing actually is. Because it seems much easier to climb on that bike than my Venge. Perhaps a few more teeth on the cassette?
I’m not that sophisticated when it comes to all that. But I do know this: I’m riding faster and more efficiently in aero when in the company of other triathletes. When I ride with my roadie friends, I’ll use the Venge.
Despite the relative joys, the weather did turn wet toward the end of our fifty-six mile, 3:20 ride. We had to ease back on the pace as the roads got slick, especially on downhills coming into traffic lights. By the time we got back to Madison the skies had really opened up and everyone gathered under the MM tent for a mini-feast of munchies. I even allowed myself a few Oreos as a reward for riding well.
Face yourself, pace yourself
Sue was concerned at the beginning of the ride that I’d burn myself out leading the way around the course. After ten miles we synced back up and she advised caution. But I felt fantastic from the start and her goals of riding a pace that would allow her to get off the bike and run thirteen miles meant that we weren’t killing ourselves out there. It was her goal to find out how to ride so that she could apply that experience to her upcoming race. I learned from that too.
So it felt comfortable and fun riding up the hills and coursing down the other side. I did learn that there’s no sense in trying to shift from the drops to aero while going 30+ mph. It’s unstable and not really worth it. Plus deep down the bike wobble experience with that bike more than seven years ago makes me want to be a bit more cautious until I sense how it performs with aero bars on the front.
No rain, no rain…
A massive rain storm was predicted overnight and into the next morning. So we wavered on whether to stay another night and try to run in the morning. To our good fortune, the rain held off until 11:00 a.m. on Sunday (as Sue willed it so) and she got all thirteen miles done in four loops around the Pheasant Branch Conservancy park in Middleton. It was smooth going on the soft surface, and I ran a loop and then parked my butt in the back of the Outlander to write while she did her longer training run.
Sue happened upon a beautiful rooster pheasant striding through the grass. The fields and woods were alive with birdsong. We also spied a massive wild turkey perched in a low shrub along the trail. Middleton does such a nice job of managing that park. And yet a recent hard storm drove the creek to rise and it washed out a fifty yard section of trail while gouging the sides of the sandy creek bed. Nature will not be denied.
On occasion I’d take a break from writing in the back seat of the car to jump out and pet the many doggos being walked in the park. One gentleman led two boxer and a wiemeraner on a walk together. I nuzzled the pops and got some kisses. Gotta love me so dog time.
Every time Sue came by the parking lot she looked smooth and capable. She’s looking so much stronger and lighter on the run these days. Meanwhile my leg is healing up and I’m going to cancel the scheduled appointment with the orthopedist today because the muscles are healing and the tendons are not so tight. It’s all proof that sometimes you just have to wait things out and see what comes next. As in all of life, it’s all uphill and downhill from here.