Chisago Triathlon hosts several preview rides of their 1/2 iron (56 miles) and sprint bike courses, including a ride held yesterday.
If you are ever doing an event that offers a course preview, take advantage of it. Seeing any course before you actually swim/bike/run/golf or what ever on it is very very helpful. You'll know where the tough parts are, the easy parts and you'll get familiar with locations of hazards (like potholes).
Natalie and my coach wanted us to ride the course twice for 112 miles. The first 56 would be supported by the preview; the second loop would be on our own.
Our good friend Gary, who is also doing the 1/2 iron with us, came to the preview too. One other running friend of ours, Patrick, who is also training for Ironman Wisconsin was there, along with a about 40 or so other riders.
Nat, Gary and I all did Chisago 1/2 iron last year. We thought we were familiar with the course. As I remembered it, it wasn't a terrible course... some really nice, long flat stretches with only a couple of "uh oh" hills.
What I didn't remember is that last year, apparently, the course was altered because of road work....
We were in for a little "schoolin'" about this year's course.
Starts out innocently enough, but then there are some kick ass hills. I will admit that a couple of the hills are really nice DOWN hills, but then you pay for it on the way back up.
At one point, we make a turn on to a stretch of road that looks innocent enough, but is really a slow, sly incline that takes you to some more kick ass hills. The incline is very deceiving. I was pedaling, pedaling, pedaling and going 12 or 13 mph.
What? How can this be? Oh yeah. I suck at hills.
Natalie, who flies like the wind on the bike, was way up ahead of me. At one point, I stopped to take off my jacket and Gary caught up with me. We rode mostly together for the rest of the ride. It was nice to have the company and to have some time to catch up.
We pulled in to transition after loop one and Natalie was there...waiting patiently...The photo at the top of the page is of the three of us after completing the first loop.
We took a bit of time to refill water bottles (using Nunn), go to the portapotty, stretch, take a couple pics, put on some sun screen and to do other general stuff to prolong going out on the second loop.
Then it was just Natalie and me.
By this time, the sun had broken through the clouds, the temps came up and so did the humidity. But, surprisingly, the ride was not too uncomfortable and we were making pretty good time.
Natalie decided to pull her pace back to stick with me. (I think she did it to make sure I wouldn't turn around early... :-) ) We were doing pretty well and feeling pretty good.
At one point, we were out in the middle of nowhere and Natalie was a little bit ahead of me. I saw her slow down. I looked to the left and saw two big dogs running toward her. I was wondering where those two dogs came from when I realized they were deer! Two fawns were crossing the road. One stopped right in front of Natalie and one came bounding toward me. It stopped, stared and then bounded off in to the high grass on my right. I always like seeing deer -- although I was glad that they leaped out of the grass in front of us while we had some time to react. It would not be good to hit one.
I think my nutrition was good: I had some Infinit, water with Nunn, gels and a couple Uncrustables. I just didn't bring enough stuff. I ran out of pretty much every thing about half way through loop two. Natalie also ran out of liquids about the same time.
We were still okay until mile 90. This was just past the horrible hills and only 22 miles to go. By now, we were both thirsty with no gas station or QwikE Mart on the course.
So, naturally, those last 22 miles just dragged. And dragged. And dragged.
At the point my odometer read 110.00 miles, I knew I was more than 2 miles to the transition area. I had forgotten that, earlier, we had taken a wrong turn, so I'd be riding more than 112 miles. That was a little discouraging, but... what could I do...
My pace went back to turtle pace, so Natalie went a head of me. As I turned back in to the city for the last 1.5 miles, I rode up to a motel. I got off my bike, went in to the lobby and filled my water bottle with ice and bought a well needed and appreciated water. It tasted heavenly.
Finally I hit the last turn back in to the park, which takes you under the tunnel, which takes you back to transition.
HURRAH! I survived! We survived! We did it! Awesome!
We walked -- very slowly -- to the beach and got in to the cool water to soak our legs. The water felt great and really helped to start recovery.
The good news: we did it. We got through it. The course was hilly, which should help prepare for Ironman Wisconsin.
The bad news for me: it took me a very, very long time. Now, I did putz around a lot in-between loops and I did stop on the course quite a bit to stretch. Not so sure that I'll do this during Ironman. Still, my pace, especially on those hills, was not stellar and could put me in "not making the cut-off" danger.
Good thing we still have 12-weeks of training left. I see me doing lots of bike work, hill work and brick work between now and September 12th.
In other news:
I accomplished a great psychological challenge by completing a one-mile Open Water Swim in Lake Harriet sponsored by USMasters Swimming.
Why was this such a big deal?
US Masters does not allow wetsuits -- or "help". Meaning all my swimming comforts were left at shore.
I love the wetsuit because it adds buoyancy and eliminates my fear of drowning and sinking like a stone.
I like "help" (meaning being able to hold on to a kayak or a buoy) when the crowd gets too thick or I panic or I just need a little "break".
There was also a pesky cut off (45 minutes) which I was a little worried about.
But I got in to the water, along with friends Angel and Carla, and swam away.
Swimming out to the first buoy wasn't too bad. The water was fairly calm and I kept up with other swimmers.
The turn around to go across the lake was where the rubber met the road. There was a lot of wind over the water, so the lake was very choppy.
When I came up to breathe, I got a mouth full of water. If I lifted my head up straight to site, I got a mouth full of water. Although I never felt unsafe, I did start to really understand how someone who can swim can drown.
Fortunately, a kayaker was never too far away from me, so I thought if I went under, he'd be able to get to me pretty quickly.
I kept trying to swim forward, but progress was slow. I finally started to side stroke, so I could at least see some movement. This took me off course (naturally), so I just flipped back to the crawl and I literally crawled my way to the buoy.
I finally hit the turn back buoy and I just swam to shore.
I got out in 39 minutes and some change (before the cut off!) but was last of the field. I did not care one bit. I got through a tough swim without my "comforts", which was a huge victory for me.
Twelve weeks to go! Lots of fun training stuff coming up. I can only get stronger and faster. Right?