May 17, 2009

Magic in Misery

The current issue of Outside features a quote from ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes saying, "There's magic in misery." I learned the meaning of those words today while riding the Montauk Century, a 100-mile ride from Babylon to Montauk on Long Island. I just decided to do this last Tuesday after encouragement from a couple friends. When my coach said it was ok I was surprised and excited. I haven't ridden a century in a couple years and it's early in my Ironman training to be hitting the 100-mile mark. All indications were that this was a good decision.

That good decision starting feeling rather foolish over the last two days. The weather report deteriorated by the minute and I started wondering just how I'd wake up at 2:45 a.m. to start a very big day. But anything worth doing is challenging, right? So I prepared as best I could and on four hours sleep, got out of bed at 2:45 to make the journey out to Long Island to start the ride.

It was raining pretty hard when we started sometime around 7 a.m. I was soaked by mile 10 and it was hard to see with the water droplets on my glasses. I was wearing a warm winterish cycling jacket with just a sports bra under it, bike shorts, regular socks and booties over my shoes. By the first rest stop at mile 21 I was wishing I had worn gloves and warmer socks. My feet had turned into blocks of ice by mile 15 and I could feel the water squishing around in my shoes. But there was nothing I could do so I had a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich (heaven) and headed back out for more.

The rain had let up and I started to dry, but the wind was brutal. The forecast called for winds out of the northwest so we should have been enjoying a tailwind, but instead we were hit with gusty headwinds that made it hard to ride at times. I hate riding in the wind almost more than the rain so it was miserable. When we reached the 40th mile I was already feeling like I'd had enough. The rain started up again and I was freezing. I starting worrying I'd go hypothermic and have to be carted off in the SAG wagon. We pulled into the 50 mile rest stop and I seriously wondered if I could continue. I went to a porta potty, the only option for shelter, and stood inside for about 5 minutes with my hands tucked against my body to warm up. I could hear the rain beating down and the wind blowing and couldn't fathom riding another 50 miles. But I found the courage to walk back outside and get back on the bike and go.

The rain finally let up and the temperature miraculously rose a degree or two by the 70th mile or so. After a stop at the 75 mile rest area the feeling slowly came back to my feet. There was a Mister Softee truck with free ice cream and it pained me that the last thing on earth I could imagine eating was ice cream. Bummer. So I had two delicious cookies instead. I always eat total junk on centuries, it just comes with the territory.

There is no doubt this was one of my more miserable experiences, but there was definitely magic in it:
  • It's early in my training so I've logged 100 miles way ahead of schedule
  • I did the entire ride with a friend
  • I conquered my fear of biking in the rain
  • I'm more prepared for unfavorable race conditions
  • I met some new people
  • I didn't quit even though I desperately wanted to
So now that I'm home and warm I can look back and say it was fun. At the end of the day, that's all this is - fun. A hobby. A good challenge. It would have been easier to stay in bed, to do another ride on the trainer, to stay within my comfort zone. But easy is never really that fun.

I'm slightly guilt ridden over skipping the brick run I was supposed to do. I was schedule for 6 miles and had every intention of doing it, but I pulled into the finish at 2:15 and the train left at 3:30. The next train wasn't until 5:30 and I didn't want to get home at 10. So I loaded my bike on the truck, had the best hot shower I've ever had in my life, grabbed a bite to eat and just made the train. I know it was the right decision, but I still felt that awful skipped-training guilt.

As of right now, my day has been 20 hours long. I'm exhausted but happy, most likely boosted by a special delivery of four beautiful homemade cupcakes from my friend Debbie shortly after I got home. What a perfect way to end the day.

Distance - 101.69 miles
Time - 6:16:48


  1. Good job Kristin, way to get out there and do it!

    A huge GRATS :)

  2. Cheers, Kristin! Congrats on sticking it out on what sounds like a rough day. It's that kind of resolve that will get you through IM. Really inspiring post.

  3. Awesome for you getting the 100 miler in! We gave it a shot, but where we were, the wind and rain it just didn't happen! You're going into IM trianing strong!



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