Last weekend was a great chance to indulge in serious mileage on the bike. While I’m not a mega-mileage kind of guy these days, I still relish the chance to get out there and see the wheels spin beneath the bike.
The first ride was a mutual training gig with my wife Sue and a host of triathletes from Madison Multisport coached by either Steve Brandes or Cyndi Bannink. We enjoyed a great introductory dinner at their home on Friday evening and rose super-early to get in a swim in downtown Madison.
Rising at 4:00 a.m. isn’t anything new to me these days. That’s when our cat Bennie likes to be fed, so I pop up, pop open a can of cat food for his breakfast, and pile back into bed.
On Saturday morning we woke at 4:00 a.m. as triathletes are also wont to do in preparation for a race or early morning practice, but it felt a bit tougher as the day before I’d also gotten up at 3:00 to drive a relative to the hospital in Chicago for a procedure. I was back home by six a.m. on Friday, but it’s always tough to get back to sleep after staying awake to drive 80+ miles.
The water felt cool but not cold as we slipped in following a pre-swim talk about the 500-meter course with its buoys and floatie cones. Sue is a much faster swimmer, so I waited a bit to wade up to my shoulders and start freestyling into the sunrise.
It’s been a while since I wore a full wetsuit and the sensation surprised me. Pleased me, actually. The swim was smooth and relaxing if a bit slow. But I swam straight as can be for most of the course, then climbed out and got stuff ready for the ride to come. We’d heaped our gear in the car haphazardly due to the early rise and sleeping in a bit by accident. I sorted through all the crap to assemble myself as a cyclist with 70-80 miles to ride.
Once we got on our bikes, the morning air was cool and pleasant just like the lake water. The sun was up and Sue’s Zoot suit shone like a blue-green gem as she pedaled ahead of me. She bought me a complementary kit and added this gem of kit for herself for our riding.
We know the Madison Ironman course nearly by heart from “stick” all the way around the 40-mile loop from Verona to Mt. Horeb to Cross Plaines and back. While the scenery is familiar, the enjoyment is balanced by the challenging terrain. My tri-bike does not have a climbing gear on the cassette like my Specialized Venge, and I plan to remedy that soon. So i focused on full pedal strokes as we climbed and pinched my knees on the top bar as we descended. It’s been almost ten years since my bike wobble accident in Spring Green, Wisconsin, but I never want to repeat that adventure.
Sue wasn’t crushing the pace due to the fact that she was planning a two-loop day totaling nearly 100 miles, so we cruised along together and conquered the “three bitches” late in the Ironman Loop and arrived back in Verona with energy to spare. We refueled, traded hugs and a kiss and parted ways as I was riding back into town on the Stick.
As I rode back into town, I gave thought to the fact that Ironman Wisconsin may move from the fall to the spring. Apparently, the Ironman organization engaged the city of Des Moines, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin in a bidding war to see who would gain the coveted September race slot. Des Moines outbid Madison, and that city will likely host a great race, as we learned from the Half Ironman they put on this summer. But the loss of a September slot for Madison is sad. There is a great tradition up there with thousands of triathletes visiting the city from April through fall to ride the course, stay in the hotels, spend money on meals and support the bike shops tied to the September event. It seems like the City of Madison didn’t take everything into account or else succumbed to the raw value of money over the more intelligent choice to invest in the future and consider opportunities for even greater growth. If the conservatives nipping at the State of Wisconsin all the time overruled the liberal instincts that made Madison such a great place all these years, shame on them. The tradition and epic nature of that fall race was not something to dump for a few mere dollars. Perhaps there is something that can still be done. But I also think there’s room for both races in September. Some people would choose an easier Des Moines course over the tougher Madison race. I think they should both go off in September.
The real deal
On the way back into town last Saturday, I got buzzed by some jerk in a tiny white sedan who also roared close to a row of cyclists ahead of me on the road. So perhaps the ugly conservatism of backroads politics is affecting the Madison decision as well. We’ve been harassed in the past by trucks and people filming cyclists far out in the country where it’s easy to pass unless a stubborn strain of selfish jerkism appeals to the driver and passengers. That brand of narcissism is rife in this country right now. Choosing to feel inconvenienced when there’s plenty of room for accommodation through the simplest actions is what half of American seems to thrive on. Hence the pandemic of the unvaccinated and the reality of insurrection.
Wrapping it up
My plan was to finish up 80 miles with a loop around the lake, but the roads on the way back to Madison are so wretched and bumpy that my shoulders were a knotted mess by the time I arrived at the lake parking lot. I switched into running clothes and was about to go out for a run when a couple that I’d seen during the late stages of the ride revealed that they’d lost their car keys somewhere out the road.
We discussed what they planned to do and I offered to drive them anywhere they wanted to go. The two truck arrived and the stuck Subaru they own was dragged onto the flatbed truck and they decided to go with their Crosstrek to the dealership and get things resolved.
Once the vehicle was safely loaded and I knew they had a plan, I drove out to meet Sue at Verona. She was experiencing some new bike seat issues at nearly a hundred miles and was ready to call it a day.
Despite such challenges, riding in Madison is always a treat. Sometimes it comes with a menu of problems ranging from flats on railroad track to dead Di2 batteries, but we always have fun in the end.
Come Sunday morning, I was back on the bike with friends to pedal the Everybody Rides fund raiser loop from St. Charles out into corn country and back. My buddies advertised it as an “easy” 62-mile ride, but I knew better than to expect a slow pace. The group we joined dialed it up to an average near 20 mph and kept it there for mile after mile. My body actually felt great and my legs on the flats were efficient and strong.
When it came to the two big climbs nearing the finish however, the muscle fibers deep in my thighs showed fatigue from the day before. The rest of the riders took off in a “horse smells the barn” finish with five miles to go, but I was content to spin up the hills and tear down the backside in a tuck position to close the distance again.
Back at the park, we chowed on burgers and pasta, salad and sweet corn… washed down with a beer and a hard seltzer or two. The morning was cool and the mid-day temps turned warm and gracious as a summer day can be. After driving a friend home with his bike, I tooled back to our place and showered. Then I crawled on the bed next to my wife who was drained from the day before and enjoyed a nap with the kitty at our feet and the dog basking downstairs in the afternoon sun.
I’d ridden 130 miles in two days and had a good nap to show for it. What better weekend could there be?