Can’t lie, I was actually a little nervous about this one since the last metric century ride a month ago.
1. I know now how much it hurts to ride 60+ miles. The first one was great because I was blissfully ignorant, having never done more than 35. This time, I knew how hard the end would be. I knew how wasted I would be the next day. I knew I was in for 4-5 hours of biking. It took me 8 months to decide to do a second half marathon after my first one. It’s taking me 2 years to get back to an Olympic tri. But this year is about building a massive endurance base, so my recovery time was one month for this new and challenging distance.
2. While we have most definitely got more bike time this month, it’s all been right around 1 hour or less – which didn’t leave me feeling confident that I was any more ready to be on the bike for 4-5 times that.
3. Feeling much better about the clipless pedals, but was still nervous about how I would do on tired legs.
Gear: blue north face shirt, pearl izumi bike shorts, moving comfort bra, bento box with nutter butters, chips ahoy, power bar caffeinated gel bites (cola and strawberry banana), pb pretzels, sesame sticks, solids, candied mango slices, and quench gum. I even stashed some extra in my camelback which also had my chapstick, biofreeze wipes, an extra tube (we had 4 total), my compression sleeves, and it was full of icewater + grape nuun. Also had an extra b0ttle of icewater on the bike.
-I expect my nike dri fit tanks to take the place of this north face shirt as my faves, but it’s the lightest, comfiest, most wicking shirt I own and I didn’t want to try anything new and be stuck hating life for a long time, so I bit the bullet and wore the same thing. Yes, I do actually think about things like this for the race pics.
-I way overpacked food. This time, I really enjoyed the powerbar gel chews, the nutterbutter cookies, and the orange slices at the aid stations. I think I’ve learned what I love the most are new things and things at the aid stations, not what I liked last time, heh. However, it was really good to have options.
We ended up not being able to fall asleep until way, way too late the night before, so we got a late start. I think I’ve perfected my morning food routine though – the oat-mega bar was great on my tummy and a caff tea late got me going great. We got to the race, which started at a high school, with just a little to spare. After hitting the bathrooms (inside the school, which was really nice instead of porta potties), we got back to the car, geared up, chatted with the couple next to us (they were also doing the 63), had one more potty trip for Zliten, and we ended up starting with the family ride in the back. Bah.
That made for dodging and weaving a lot in the first few miles which was sort of annoying, but kept us from getting out too fast. I did a lot of “on your lefts”. There was a lot of inconsiderate riding, like people riding 4-5 across slowly and taking up the whole road so it was hard to pass, or people riding REALLY slow on the lefthand side (note: it’s like in a car – you pass on the left, then move back to the right). I was really happy when we got ~7 miles up and lost the family 14 mile ride folks.
The first 30 miles were strong as hell. I had to reign Zliten in a little bit from going too fast in miles 10-20, I didn’t want to feel like I was pushing myself at all in the first half since I remembered how FREAKING HARD the second half was last time. We varied each mile but every 20 mins, we were steadily hitting 5 miles +/- a few seconds, rocking our 15mph goal pace. It was great. It was looking like we were going to cut an hour or more off the time and finish in just over 4 hours.
We had determined to take as few stops as possible and keep them short, so we passed the first 2 rest stops and only hit one up at around 26 because Zliten needed to pee. I had been dreaming about orange slices for about an hour and the station had them. Hooray! Speaking of nutrition, I learned the last ride that you just have to keep eating. I took a caffeinated chew at 10 and 30, and popped cookies and pretzels and mango snacks as I remembered. I didn’t feel like I needed it and almost felt bad eating so much so fast but I knew that by the time I was hungry, it was too late. Also, the scenery was GORGEOUS. Beautiful Texas countryside. I look down a LOT on the bike because I’m a scaredy biker but I couldn’t help but notice the awesome.
Then, we hit the wall. A big wall of WIND. Somehow, we kept heading directly into the wind. This is also the section where the most uphill sections were – nothing that would faze me normally, but add ~15 MPH headwinds and 30+ miles on my legs already and the fatigue set in. My hands started to ache, my neck started to hurt, as well as my hips, back, and quads. We slowed way down and kept losing ground. From mile 30-35, we lost a whole 4 minutes on a pace we were easily keeping before. And it just kept getting worse.
I also started getting really loopy. Zliten gets kinda quiet during these middle miles, and I get delirious and talky. It works. I like to sing songs like “I wear spandex and I know it” (sung to Sexy and I Know It) or make new lyrics like “At the Copa, Copa Cabana, the hottest spot in Havana, they dance and they sing and they do lots of things THAT ARE MORE FUN THAN FUCKING BIKING UPHILL IN THE WIND”. I also get the mouth of a sailor apparently. I’m pretty sure my f-bomb count was at least in the triple digis. Fuck you wind, fuck you hills, fuck you bumpy fucking roads, fuck green guy who was going 2 miles an hour on the left… Really, how I keep myself sane on the bike is keeping myself amused. It’s not going to be pretty when I have to ride long distances solo…
We took an aid station around mile 44 and saw our car neighbors. They were holding together well! I was almost out of nuun, so I filled my camelback halfway with gatorade. It was like mana from heaven. We didn’t want to lag too much so we took off quickly. The despair hit then. We were slow. It was hilly. There was still headwind, and it seemed like every time we’d get respite it was for a quarter of a mile or less, and then back in. I kept getting ahead because I just wanted to be DONE and then I’d have to stop and wait. Sometimes I’d get behind. One fork wasn’t marked so we had to stop to check the map. The miles went slow. I just wanted to see the mile on my Garmin change to 50-something, and once it did, I got a little boost.
We had yet to really take a real rest, so we were going to do that at the next rest stop. Well, it didn’t come. Around mile 53.5 there was a nice flat patch of grass, so we made our own. We sat down for about 5 mins, stretched, downed a bunch of gatorade, ate more food, waved at passerbys, and I got my wind back.
After we took off here, I had lots of energy left but Zliten was still pooped. The wind subsided a bit. I kept both shoving food in my mouth (I tried to eat a bite of something each mile), singing silly songs to myself and I kept going fast because I just wanted to be done, and then I’d get so far ahead of Zliten I couldn’t see him, and then I had to stop and wait. Aero position was my friend at the end, my palms felt bruised. My legs actually stopped hurting this late in the game, but my lower back and neck definitely didn’t, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Zliten, however, was having to stop occasionally because of leg cramps. When I saw him get super slow and looking rough I would make him get off the bike and stretch.
When we hit 60 it was even worse. Zliten slowed to a crawl and all.I.wanted.to.do.was.FINISH so I kept speeding up and having to stop. We hit 61, then 62, then 63… then 64…. then 65… finally we saw the turn in to the school (on the back end, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR NOT MAKING US DEAL WITH TRAFFIC ON TIRED LEGS!!!!) and we crossed the finish together, touched down, and DRANK ALL THE GATORADE and ate the crap out of a bag of fritos.
My time biking was about 5:07, I think Zliten’s was about 5:19 (I stopped mine when I was stopped), and total time out on the course was about 5:50. A little faster than the Rosedale for like 4 more miles, and in worse conditions (I hate you WIND). My goal was simply to finish faster, and no crashes, and mission accomplished.
I liked the course, and the support, and it was a great ride on a great day. Next year, perhaps we’ll undertake the 100 miler! If it fits within our training and racing plans next year, we will definitely do this one! A sweet tech tee with the course map on it also definitely helped my favorable opinion… I’ll just hope for less wind…
From there, we went to see my ‘rents (who live up there) to shower, eat pizza and ice cream, and play games. From THERE, we hit up a friend’s BBQ for dinner, although it was very short lived – we both stayed away from sitting so we didn’t crash, but Zliten made the mistake of sitting down for a sec and then realized he needed to get home. We had another invite to the bar, but we just couldn’t hack it. We were totally beat. We sat on the patio, popped some champagne, and enjoyed the evening watching tri videos on youtube.
I’m a lot more confident about the 56 miles of riding for the half iron after this ride. It was less hard than I remembered the first one being, even with the wind. While I didn’t feel like I was ready to run a half marathon, I did feel like I could knock out a few slow miles without dying (and if I would have had shoes with, we would have). And I have 5 months to train from here.
Today, I have sat my ass on the couch besides a trip to the gym to use the hot tub, for a well deserved rest day.
Less than a week until Rookie Tri – the first tri of the season. 300m swim, 11 mile bike, 2 mile run. My goal is to race it hard, so that I don’t have any of the “that’s all I get to do?” feelings I have now… and to beat my time from last year, of course.