There's a reason the saying goes "it's just like riding a bike". That expression implies that you already know everything there is about an activity and can pick up right where you left off even after a long time away from doing it.
I have been teaching Spin a long time (except for a short time I had to take off due to brain disease). When I trained for my 70.3 and 140.6 races, teaching Spin didn't count toward my bike training at all. It was more of a recovery effort. I would teach 5:30am Spin and then go do my long ride (up to about 112 miles or about 6 hours).
When I first signed up for IMChoo70.3 (like in September 2019) I had plans to actually TRAIN for the race. But then I didn't really ever get into training when COVID hit and I threw in the towel. Then in January-ish of this year when it seemed as though the race would happen, I was REALLY struggling to get started training.
I had an appointment with my neurologist where we actually discussed me doing a round of IV steroids again. I was having a flare of symptoms that really concerned me and steroids seemed to be the best answer. I decided to wait because I had changed my thyroid meds about a month before and the neurologist said it was a possibility that change sparked the apparent "flare". Just after that I got VERY serious with "clearing the muddy waters" of my diet. I did a Whole 30, and then partway through that 30 days I started eating Juice Plus+.
To say I started feeling drastically better doesn't fully capture the transformation. I went from believing I might need another round of steroids to believing I might actually be able to finish the 70.3 (maybe not in the 8.5 hour time cutoff, but if I started early enough in the day I might at least not get pulled off the course-even if I ended up as an official DNF on the results).
I felt confident leading up to race day I would have a decent swim because the current is so fast at that race. Having a decent swim would set me up to have "extra" time on the bike. I was confident if I made it off the bike within the time limit I could gut my way through 13.1 miles (again, even if it wasn't actually in the time allowed I believed I could finish it).
But, in my mind, the bike portion of the race was the make it or break it for my day. Spin class is about an hour long. I did the math before the race...if I rode at an average of about 14mph it would take me about 4 hours to finish the bike. Right at three hours longer than I was used to riding (because I'm sometimes on my bike for 75 minutes including pre-class ride time). FOUR times longer than my behind and legs were used to (and after swimming 1.4 miles*).
I kept telling myself leading up to the race, "it's quite literally just like riding a bike".
I did not expect the swim to be quite so challenging. But when I got out of the water and got through T1 I was feeling SPUNKY! Dwayne, Cedric (husband and brother-in-law) and I all got to transition within seconds of each other but I was about 90-120 seconds faster getting out of transition. I was IN THE LEAD!!!! 🤣
I knew I wouldn't hold it for long, but it was glorious while it lasted! More importantly, I felt FANTASTIC. Except...there's always an "except" isn't there? I had a little annoying rub on the inside of my right thigh. My mind started racing "this is so stupid for you to be out here doing this...you are SO UNTRAINED...that rub is going to be a TERRIBLE chaffed spot, it's probably going to bleed...you are not going to be able to walk for a week-is this worth it". The barrage of thoughts were ENDLESS and UNRELENTING.
Until...I got to the first cemetary.
I remember when I did IMChoo '15. In training I passed that first cemetery and thought "I'm glad I'm on this side of the fence...keep riding". When Dwayne and I drove the course before his race the next year I told him that little mindset switch. When we drove the course the day before the race we talked about it again. When I saw that cemetery, the switch flipped and I was able to refocus on the spunk I was feeling.
The thing I LOVE about the IMChoo bike courses is the rolling hills (the 144.6* and the 70.5* courses are slightly different but mostly the same)! The ups aren't SO steep to be demoralizing and the downs aren't white-knuckle fast. It's a near-perfect mix. If you gear correctly you can really have a fast bike time.
Hold on...I didn't talk about an important thing that happened!
Two weeks before the race we took our bikes to the shop to have them checked out, get our chains waxed, and just general pre-race tune-ups. (My good friend also let me borrow her -super fast-race wheels!) When we picked them up the day before we were leaving, the guy who worked on my bike told me he had fixed a little issue with the shifting.
Now, let me say...this "little issue" had been a THORN IN MY SIDE from when I first bought the bike. In middle gears it would shift on its own-either up or down! I had to actually hold pressure on the shifter in order to keep it from happening. Keep in mind, it's a TRI bike so to hold the shifters I have to be in aero. I had been on a hill a couple of times and had the chain pop off--not because of my own shifting but because the stupid bike would shift on it's own! I had taken it in no less than three times to have them FIX IT! Each time I was told it was fixed but it never was. I finally just told myself that's just the way it was going to be. Well, when we picked up the bikes, we didn't really have time for anything more than a little 20 minute ride to make sure everything was good to go. I was VERY nervous about this shifting issue because I had figured out how to cope with it the way it was. This "repair" might have made things worse! In that little ride it shifted VERY well, but I was still leary about it...until I realized partway through this race that it had not happened even one time!!
I can NOT describe the elation I felt!!! It was as if the angels in Heaven were singing the Hallalueigha chorus! ((For locals I'm talking about Tom at Bicycle Cove! He's a bike repair savant!!))
It wasn't long before Cedric passed me as if I were standing still...then not long after that my honey pot passed me. I figured I wouldn't see them the rest of the day.
But I was wrong. On one of the little hills I saw someone on the side of the road. Thanks to our very bright and unique kits I recognized it was Dwayne very quickly. As I rode by asking if he was okay he told me he popped a chain. A few minutes later, he passed me again. But not long after that I saw him a second time-same issue.
Not long after I passed him I realized we were not far from where our cheering squad would see us!! I could hear them before I could see them. I have to admit-I was feeling on top of the world knowing I was in front of Dwayne-even if it was a result of a mechanical issue, and even if I knew it was very short-lived.
I actually don't remember if that was before or after the "hill". The half iron course turns left before the full course, cutting off two miles compared to the full course (the full bike course is actually 116 miles long instead of 112, making the race 144.6 instead of 140.6). Just before that left hand turn on both courses, there's a nice downhill section. When you make that left turn on the half course it IMMEDIATELY goes up a short but fairly steep hill. That combination makes for a TOUGH climb. I had read A LOT about that climb before the race. Because of how I was feeling on other climbs I decided before I got there I would just get off my bike and walk up rather than fighting to climb it on the bike.
That would have been fine, but instead of executing my plan, I shifted as if I was going to climb it and tried (not for very long) to grind my way up. When I got off I was in good company. Most of the people with me did the same thing. Except this one KID. He looked like he might have been 16; he was riding a mountain bike and was not clipped in, and was wearing a MOHAWK helmet! Everyone cheered for him as he climbed that hill like it was nothing at all!
The cool thing about this climb is that it culminates at yet another cemetary!
"I'm glad I'm STILL on this side of the fence." ...and HALF WAY done!!
In my mind, right after the turn, I was going to be in Chickamauga. I was really looking forward to getting there because in the full that town is HOPPING! That's where special needs bags are and they bus spectators out to that spot and I think there's an aid station. In the full it feels like what I imagine the Tour de France must feel like! Not to mention my good friends (AKA Thunder and Lighting) live there. I knew it would be different for the half (no special needs bags and no buses of spectators) but I wasn't quite prepared for two things.
First, it took FOREVER to get there after the turn. FOREVER. Second, it was pretty dead there compared to the full. And then I heard Thunder and Lighting yelling!! And then I saw my father, and step-mother-in-laws there holding my very own FAT HEAD!!
Gasoline on my fire and wind at my back.
Except the wind wasn't at my back and my tank was running on fumes at that point. And I REALLY had to use the bathroom!!
I slowed WAY down. Up until the left turn where you go up hill (the one I walked) I was averaging 15.9!! From the hill (after I got back on my bike) until Chickamauga I averaged 14.9. From Chickamauga until I stopped to use the bathroom I slowed down to 14. (To be fair, you go up a gradual hill pretty much that whole way, but it was also into a headwind....I got down to like 8mph!) When I stopped I was feeling totally depleted. I had NOT taken in enough calories...what I had decided to use was NOT going down well so I switched to Gatorade. It was the worse Gatorade I'd ever had. We decided afterward it had been leftover from the year before so it wasn't "fresh". I was a bit upset with myself for stopping, but it proved to be a VERY necessary stop indeed! I averaged 14.4 the rest of the time.
Then I heard our cheer squad!! I reached down and took off my shoes incorrectly thinking it would help me move faster. It didn't. I got to my spot and racked my bike, slathered on some sunscreen, put on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and took off. Dwayne and Cedric were LONG gone but I'm proud to say I beat them both soundly with my speedy T2 time!!
And then I headed out on the "run", shocked at how good I actually felt overall. I expected to be completely stove up, but, other than expected fatigue, I felt surprisingly good all things considered!!
Thanks for stopping in and sticking around!
(The bike photo is from the glory day of IMChoo '15 because I can't download the FinisherPix from this race yet...)