I have no idea what any of that means. All I want to know is: Did you have fun?
Just as the title states: I rode the bike leg at ChesapeakeMan, an Ironman-length triathlon (112 miles).
Generally pleased with myself. I've been riding pretty steadily all year, but hadn't really trained specifically for this ride. Had hoped to break six hours, but it was not to be. Ended up with a time of 6:08, which turns out to be just over 18 mph. Considering there was a strong headwind most of the way, and that I was unable to ride in an aero position the last 25 miles or so (my neck muscles failed) while riding straight into the strongest wind of the day, I'm perfectly happy.
I had originally planned to try to stay in zone 2 (endurance) for much of the way, but the wind killed that plan -- it would have made my pace far lower than I would have liked. So I rode zone 3 (tempo) for the first half of the ride, and then held zone four (lactic threshold) for the second half. Average heart rate of 170 for the ride.
Here are the details: http://app.strava.com/rides/23593262
And the further away from the pain I get, the more fun I remember it to be! Guess that's why we still have childbirth....
No tri-bike for me. Just a lowly Trek 2.3 with clip-on aerobars (at least I had them properly fitted).
Actually, now that I think about it, I wrote up a ridiculously long ride report. May as well post it in case anyone has a couple of hours to read :
After a 112-mile solo ride in a brutal wind going as hard as I could sustain for just over six hours, it was my neck that hurt more than anything else.
Now this is saying something, because my legs were toast. Crusty on the outside, but tender on the inside, the only things they were missing were butter and jam. When I finally reached the finish line, where I was told to dismount by eager volunteers determined to separate me from my bike, I could only gamely respond, "I'll try!" And it was, in fact, a challenge to get my leg up and over that seat. A big challenge.
But, still, it was my neck that hurt the most. Which is important, as we'll learn later.
All of this was my small part of the drama that was the Chesapeakeman Endurance Festival on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Now why a sufferfest that consists of a variety of inhumane events -- an Ironman-length triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run), a half-ironman, an aquabike (ironman-length, minus the run), and a sprint triathlon -- is called a "festival" is beyond my ken. Unless, of course, it was a convention of sadists, which it was not. A convention of masochists, however, might not be far from the mark.
Anyway, somewhere along the line this year Andrea decided this "festival" would be a great way for her to do her second full ironman-distance triathlon, her first in a decade. And since suffering is so much more palatable when done with friends, she invited a bunch of people to join her.
While none of us were so foolish to actually join Andrea on her particular quest, we figured we might be able to do at least parts of it with her. Which is how we ended up with 14 people in Cambridge, Md., on Friday afternoon. Twelve of us formed four relay teams, while one intrepid woman did the aquabike event. Only Andrea was brave/foolish/crazy enough to do the full monty. We sat in awe of her moxie/determination/utter lack of common sense.
Friday afternoon was spent doing all kinds of organizational and prepping tasks, far more than I imagined possible for a simple race. Then again, it turns out this wasn't exactly a simple race. The swim leg started and ended at a local park, but while the bike leg started where the swim leg ended its finish line was in an altogether different place a number of miles down the pike at the local high school, which is where the run started. And ended.
Yeah, I was confused, too.
So we had a late lunch together, followed a few hours later by an early dinner together, followed by a race meeting where the organizers went over everything, including how we were supposed to label and use the five bags they gave us to transport our various and sundry equipment from place to place.
Seriously, you don't need to understand how it worked. Just know that it worked.
We went over to the bike staging area near transition one, which is where the swimmers transition (natch) to the bike. Or, in the case of the relay teams, of which I was a member, where the swimmer transfers the timing chip to the biker. I racked my bike there as had been carefully detailed in the 50-page athlete's guide (see "Yeah, I was confused, too," above) and left it there for the evening, where I'm quite sure it felt quite insecure among the hundreds of top-end bicycles, most of which I think cost more than my car.
A quick run to the high school, just so we knew where to go at o'dark-thirty in the morning to catch our shuttle over to the start line, before we returned to the Holiday Inn Express, where we all retired early feeling smarter than before we checked in.
The alarm sounded obnoxiously at 4:30 am, since any alarm at 4:30 am is obnoxious. After a high-carb breakfast, complete with lots of coffee (which doctors now say counts as hydrating), we all made our way to the start line, where the swimmers began to wriggle into their neoprene wetsuits, the bikers began to look over their bikes to make sure all was well, and the runners twiddled their thumbs since their time in the sun wasn't going to come for many hours.
Speaking of the sun, we weren't quite sure to expect for the weather that day. It had rained the previous evening, and it looked to be cooler than the previous day, but was it going to rain or clear? As we watched the sun rise (I told you we were there at o'dark-thirty) one thing made itself clear: it was going to be windy. And it was most likely going to start out cool and cloudy. Which made me worry that I might not drink enough on the bike, so I continued to hydrate.
So, as race time neared, we all looked for large vehicles to hide behind to block the cool wind coming off the water. The swimmers were mostly OK, since by now they were clad in nicely insulating neoprene. The bikers clad in lycra were a little less sanguine. With a temperature in the upper 50s/lower 60s and a steady wind, how to dress for a five- to six-hour ride was a topic of heated (heh) debate.
A quick word about my relay team: for those of you who don't know, earlier this year Andrea had made a comment about how she didn't have a catchy name for her rides -- she just called it Andrea's Ride Group. I believe I was the one who pointed out the acronym was a great name: ARG!!! The name stuck. My team's name was "ARG!!!we nuts?"
Andrea had arranged all the relay teams, making adjustments as people had to bow out and others bowed in.
Our swimmer was Rob, who signed on recently when another swimmer had to back out because of unavoidable conflicts. I had met Rob a week earlier when he showed up for one of Andrea's weekday rides, and promptly rode me off his wheel. A very strong athlete, he is in training for his first Ironman-length triathlon in Florida in November. Based on what I saw this weekend (after he was done with his swim, he went for a quick 100-mile jaunt on his bicycle), methinks he will crush it.
Our runner was Amanda. Amanda described herself as slow. But in casual conversation on our drive over to the Eastern Shore together, she let slip that she has run over 100 marathons. Turns out this one would be number 117. I'll just let that number stand for itself.
And then there was me on the bike. This was going to be only my second century of the year, as previous attempts had been aborted for different reasons. It was also going to be my first century in which drafting was absolutely forbidden. Moreover, it was also going to be a completely flat century, which is very different from the hills I've been seeking out this year -- while the effort of hill climbing would be absent, so too would be the moments of rest and recovery on the downhills. And since there was a strong wind, there would be no rest. At all.
We gathered our swimmers for last-second photographs before race director called the swimmers into the water for the mass start, and off they went thrashing the water into a whitish foam. With the lines at the porta-potties now gone, off I went. More than once. Maybe I overhydrated a wee bit?
Erika was the first ARG!!! member (on the "Lady and the Lawyers" team) to come in, and at that point the vast majority of swimmers were still on the course. I later asked if she had swum competitively in college. Yes, she had. And she had been recruited by Division I schools. No surprise there. Bob hopped on his bike and off he went.
Rob was the next ARG!!!onaut out of the water (he later revealed he had never swum this long before), and suddenly it was my turn. Amanda was on hand to transfer the timing chip to my leg.
No jacket, no leggings, no arm warmers, just lycra with amber lenses in my glasses. Figured I would be working up a sweat soon enough. Off I went.
Of course, within the first couple of minutes on the course, I was passed as if I were standing still by a rider wearing an aero helmet that made him look like one of Sigourney Weaver's aliens riding one of those bicycles that cost more than my car.
Now, I had some strategies going into this ride. I had been warned that this would be a completely flat ride with a good possibility of wind, so I had purchased some aerobars and had been practicing with them for the past month. Since I had not spent extended time in the aero position, I planned to use the aerobars as an alternate position, but not to remain tucked throughout.
I had also taken a VO2 max test a few weeks earlier and had determined my different heart-rate zones. Since this was such a long race, I figured I would try to keep my heart rate at the upper end of zone 2 (endurance pace), which for me was the upper 150s, lower 160s (I have a very high heart rate). Out on the course, until I warmed up I figured I would have an elevated heart rate until my body got used to the effort and I settled in. Then I would bring the pace down and settle into zone 2.
These plans, of course, did not take into account the wind.
The bike course consisted of a 20-mile out-and-back stretch that led into a 46-mile loop to be ridden twice. Going out, we rode into the teeth of the wind. I tucked into my aero position and made myself small, while keeping a good pace (for me). Looking at my heart rate, though, I found I was well into the 170s (tempo, bordering on lactate threshhold). So I kept saying to myself "slow down! reduce the effort!" But every time I did so, it would feel too easy and I would slow down to a pace that felt almost glacial.
I tried singing songs in my head to help out ("Take It Easy" by the Eagles, "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood), but I had serious trouble keeping my effort below the mid-160s. I made a note to myself to do more easy training rides, since it just seemed unnatural to me.
The return ten miles on the out-and-back was a blissful tailwind, where I could up my speed significantly while keeping my heart rate at least somewhat in check. Unbeknownst to me, however, that would be one of the last true tailwinds of the day. And as I entered the loop, nature called yet again. I really had overhydrated.
Fortunately, there was a rest stop at this point and it had a portapotty. Unfortunately, there was only one portapotty and there was a line. Even more unfortunately, whoever was in the portapotty must not have been feeling terribly good. It's hard to know exactly how long I had to wait, but it seemed to be an eternity, especially with dozens of people passing while I stood there, but I knew I wouldn't be able to last to the next one. I'm thinking this was more than a five-minute stop -- possibly significantly more -- by the time I was done.
I finally got back onto the route and started in on the first 46-mile loop, once again into a headwind. I got low on the bars and continued to fight with myself -- I kept finding my effort pushing my heart rate higher than I wanted it to be. That said, I was quite pleased with the speed I could maintain -- I was holding close to 20mph.
There really isn't terribly much to say about much of the ride -- I got into a good tempo, I fought the wind, I got passed a lot, I passed some people myself, I was very aware of the drafting prohibitions (maintain at a gap of at least three bike lengths, when passing complete the pass within 15 seconds), and I just kept pedaling, experimenting with different cadences to see what seemed most efficient. After many miles we finally turned onto another road, achieving a bit of shelter from the wind and actually enjoying some tailwind, where I found myself moving along quite smartly. But this was really only for a short time -- most of the loop had a strong headwind or crosswind, which is almost as bad.
But because the wind was so prevalent throughout the course, I let another strategy slip: I spent almost all of my time in the aero tuck. Whenever I raised myself out of that position, I found I would lose three to four miles per hour while working harder. So I stayed tucked.
Around mile 40 or so, I began to note that I was no longer feeling fresh. Not fatigued, but not fresh either. I was a bit worried I hadn't been pacing myself quite properly,
Around mile 50, there was a stretch of badly broken rode which led to a few miles of pure buckboard riding. Absolutely no fun, but at least it got me out of my tuck for a bit, since it was too rough to ride while steering with the elbows.
At about mile 55 or so, it was time to complete the loop and head to the high school, where at about mile 65 a special needs bag would be waiting for me with extra food (peanut butter jelly sandwiches!), energy drink powder, a spare inner tube, and everything else I had packed that I thought I might need on the course.
Except the roughly ten-mile stretch to the school was through treeless swampland straight into the strongest unblocked wind of the day.
I don't know exactly what it was, but I heard guesses that the wind was holding a steady 15-20 mph. That was really discouraging; it was a small chainring wind. I tucked as low as I could go and said the hell with my heart rate -- I just needed to get through this. It was along here that Brian, from another ARG!!! relay team, passed me. After fighting through it, probably holding about 17-18 mph while keeping a low-lactate threshhold effort, I finally arrived at the high school and got my special needs bag. Amanda held my bike while I got off briefly to stretch and complain about the wind. Brian was right in front of me, and started off before I got myself together.
Then it was back onto the bike for lap number two. The wind seemed to have picked up since I had last been through here, so I just said the heck with it and kept my pace at lactate threshold (between 170-175). I was tiring, but holding steady. I bypassed the next rest stop, where Brian had stopped for a quick break and a quick refuel.
At about mile 75, I noticed I had picked up an unwelcome hitchhiker. Sitting right on my handlebar stem was a yellowjacket, holding on for dear life in the wind. I contemplated flicking it off, but thought that would just anger it and the wind would then blow an angry wasp into my chest. So I let it be. I noted when it crawled underneath my stem and disappeared, so I returned my attention to the task at hand.
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, so in return for me not molesting the little bastard, it repaid me by stinging the inside of my right thigh a moment later. At least I was able to molest it rather badly in return for its ungrateful little maneuver.... Yeah, I still have a welt.
Not too long afterwards came the turn into the brief respite from the wind, where I sat up for a while to ease my back and neck, which were beginning to bother me rather badly.
This is not a new situation for me. When I first got back into riding this winter, before I had my bike properly fitted to me, I found my neck muscles would fail on longer rides. They simply became so fatigued from holding my head up to look down the road that they would eventually refuse to hold my head in that position any longer.
By spending so much time in the aero tuck, at about mile 80 my neck muscles started to fail. I could still tuck for short periods of time, but I could look only a little bit ahead of my front wheel. I mostly followed the white line on the right that demarcated the road's shoulder.
Then the road narrowed and the white line and the shoulder disappeared, replaced by a line of grass. Considering how fatigued I was at this point, I didn't trust myself to maintain sufficient control of my bike that close to the ditch, when I couldn't see more than a few feet ahead of me.
I was done with the aero position. And I was tired. Really tired. But I kept telling myself that while I really wanted to slow down (or stop), I didn't NEED to slow down (or stop).
Then I turned into the swamplands again and straight into the worst headwind of the day. I tried to tuck for a couple of minutes at a time, but by now my neck had so completely failed I could look no further ahead than my front wheel's axle. I sat up and became a sail as my speed dropped to about 15 mph; I tried to stand to stretch my legs from time to time, but every time I did a calf or a quad threatened to cramp.
It was here I hit the wall. I didn't bonk -- I had been eating enough regularly throughout the day to prevent that -- but I slowed down significantly over the last 15 miles or so and simply had to gut it out as best I could. Not letting my teammates down was my main motivator. I played games with myself to try to make the miles pass by more quickly -- I would pick out a landmark in the distance and try to guess whether I would reach that landmark, say a farmhouse, before my computer registered another mile, say from 103 to 104. Then I would choose another landmark. Not the most fun game in the world, perhaps, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It was along here that Brian passed me for the final time. Even if I wanted to grab his wheel I couldn't -- no drafting allowed.
Finally, the high school came into view. At this point, even riding with my hands on my brake hoods, I couldn't hold my head up; my neck muscles had completely failed. As I rode in, I quite literally had to fling my head backwards so I could take a glimpse at the signs directing me where to go before my head fell forward again.
I made it to the finish, dismounted as best I could, someone took my bike from me, someone else took my timing chip off my ankle and put it onto Amanda's ankle, and off she went. I went over and collapsed spread-eagle on the grass, knowing I had left it all on the course.
Now you know why my neck is so sore today.
In the end, I didn't quite achieve my goal finishing in six hours, but I wasn't too far off -- I had a total riding time of 6:08, which translates to an 18.1 mph moving average. Not too bad for 112 miles on a windy day with no drafting. Brian finished about five minutes ahead of me, Bob finished a bit before him, and Rob M. finished a little in arrears of me, slowed by a punctured tire.
Andrea came in afterwards, no surprise, since she still had a marathon to run and had to pace herself accordingly.
Brian, I think said it best. "Even if I were being chased by a T-Rex, I would not have run after that bike ride."
Which makes Andrea's feat even more amazing to us all. Not only did she run after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles without a dinosaur chasing her as motivation, she ran a full marathon. And she came in second place in the Athena division.
Props also have to go out to the ARG!!! Lady and the Lawyers team, which placed second in the coed relay division, and to ARG's Lisa, who swam and rode to fourth overall among women and first in her age group for the aquabike.
After recovering for quite some time, I joined many of the other ARG!!! team members to cheer on the marathoners, since it was a three-loop course, and ultimately to welcome them all in as they finished. Tony and Scott finished together for the first two ARG!!! relay teams, followed by Amanda for ARG!!!WeNuts, while Christine and Andrea ran the entire marathon together and finished together to round out our day.
It was an amazingly challenging day for everyone, made very fulfilling by great camaraderie and attitudes. Thanks to all for a wonderful time!
Nice work, I have an off road tri this weekend! Not nearly as intense but a killer slip n slide at the finish. http://www.redrockco.com/events/even...D3668B89AF8D71