Today was a good day. A really, really good day. It was the kind of day that left me with a smile I could not wipe off my face for hours. Just three months ago, a day like today would never have been the source of happiness, but rather a day I just needed to survive. So much has changed for me and I couldn't be happier for it.
I rode the full Ironman Wisconsin course from beginning to end today with two friends who made it seem like it wasn't work at all, even though it was the hardest training day I've ever done. I met Robert at 5:30 a.m. near the Monona Terrace where we'll start our journey on the big day, and we rode out to Verona to meet up with Phil to do the two loops that destroy a lot of legs and spirits. I rode a loop on Wednesday and was wiped so I was worried what two plus an additional 32 miles in and out of Madison would do to me. I wanted to be conservative, but I also wanted to see what my body is capable of doing today as a gauge of what I need to work on over the next two months.
We rode the first stretch at a decent clip but not too fast. It's not overly challenging except for a couple hills and it's a really nice ride. The sun had just come up so it was a beautiful time to be out there. It was also in the upper 60s, a stark difference from the heat wave of the days before. It was picture perfect, I felt lucky to be here and having this opportunity to do a run through prior to the race.
I was testing everything today: (1) My potential race outfit; (2) Nutrition plan (yet again); (3) Pacing on the loops vs. the out and back; (4) Gearing on the hills and pedaling on downhills to save energy and keep momentum. I held back a bit on the first loop and stuck to my nutrition plan. I was feeling really good when we arrived at the halfway point. We agreed to push a little harder on the second loop so I gave it my all. It was interesting to see how I felt 40 miles later on the big hills. There is a lot of pain on this ride due to the terrain. It's not hideous pain that makes you want to quit, but more like severe discomfort that doesn't allow you to get your mind off it for long. I went through phases of feeling really good and comfortable to wishing I could just lay flat on my back for a minute and rest. This went on for hours. But for all the challenges the course serves up, there are also great rewards. There is an incredible downhill stretch on Witte Road where it's smooth and you can see everything ahead so I can get to 40 mph while in aero and not freak out even a little. I love that. Much of the course is scenic and a pleasure to be on. It's the kind of place you want to be on your bike.
As with HHH we talked and laughed a lot, even on the more punishing parts of the course. I remember at one time trying to laugh and not having the energy to get it out, but the feeling of laughter remained with me and it was a motivating power to get up the hill. If I had done this course alone it would have been much harder. I had the chance to see it first with Amy and now with Phil and Robert and it made a huge difference.
I was fading around 70-80 miles in and then had a burst of energy around 100. This tends to happen to me. I felt really solid for the final stretch and was able to keep up a nice pace. I played the mental game of "to run or not to run" for about 100 miles and realized I just needed to do it. I needed to know what my legs are going to feel like after 112 miles of Dairyland hills so I decided I would do it even if I had to drag myself.
After some goodbyes I was on my own and had to move quickly to get out on the run. My Garmin had died so I charged it while I changed and hit the bathroom so I could hopefully make it to the halfway point and then just trace my route back. It worked. I ran along Lake Monona again so I could hit the drinking fountains and not carry anything. The plan called for 7 miles, my longest brick yet. I started out at a great pace, 8:11 and 8:14 for the first splits, then dropped to 8:30. My Garmin died just before Mile 4 so I don't know the rest, but my average ended up just below an 8:30 pace. My legs felt surprisingly good and my HR wasn't through the roof. If I had to, I think I could have run longer. Could I have done another 19 miles? Not yet. But that's what the next two months are for.
Distance - 114.04 miles
Time - 7:14:12
Distance - 7 miles
Time - 59:20