That said, I succeeded. Today I rode the Minnesota Ironman, and (so far) have lived to tell about it. It’s just a bike ride (not the other kind of ironman, which usually involves swimming and some other athletic activity). The “ironman” bit comes from the fact that the weather at this time of year in Minnesota is highly variable, and the stated cancellation policy is “never, never, never.” Today, we had rain in the morning and strong winds in the afternoon. A few years back, apparently, there was hail. In 1988, it snowed a metric buttload (to borrow from capital_l).
There are three options for length of ride: 30, 62, or 100 miles. I decided to do the 62 because it’s about twice what I’ve ever ridden in a single sitting before. From time to time, I will take a weekend morning and ride from my house (in Saint Paul, by the Fairground) over to Uptown Minneapolis, around a lake or two, and back. That’s about 30. In preparation for today’s ride, I did that two weeks ago and was *not* emotionally prepared to turn around and do it again. In between, there has been little time for distance training. So why not? 62 miles. Here we go.
Riders were allowed to set out between 6:30 and 9:30am. It was raining pretty hard at 6, when I woke up, so I decided to sleep another hour and see if it let up. Nope. Ended up hauling my sorry butt into the car around 8:30…still with the rain. Since it was about 40 degrees, I layered up: Bike shorts, hiking pants. Long underwear top, t-shirt, sweat shirt, flannel, raincoat.
I was registrant 3972, though I suspect that some of the first 3,000 preregistered and then failed to show.
At the 5 mile point, the 60 mile and 100 mile routes diverged. I had been feeling strong for the first five miles, and seriously considered taking the long way. Right at the corner, I thought “why go for more than three times what I’ve ever done? Why not just double it today?” “Well okay, but no wussing out on the sixty then.” This turns out to have been a very, very good decision. I averaged about 12 miles per hour for the entire ride. Adding 40 miles would have added at least 4 hours (the end was the slow part)…which would have gotten me in to the end at 7pm rather than 3pm.
The first rest stop was about 20 miles in. People milling around. A local bike repair shop offering air for tires and small repairs. Infinite free food (bananas, nutri-grain bars, rice crispie treats, oranges, and all the gatorade you could drink). The rain let up while I was stopped, and the sun even came out.
The next 20 miles were pretty uneventful. Just riding through the country, generally able to see one or two riders ahead of me and one or two behind me.
The second rest stop was 40 miles in, and I got the treat of seeing the “Sag Wagon” picking up the weaklings and losers who decided they couldn’t take it anymore. This was the point where the 100 mile route joined back up, so I can’t testify to the wussiness of all these people. Some might have been tired after 80 miles…which I can totally understand. The Sag Wagon, by the way, was a school bus with a trailer in tow.
That final 20 miles was where the headwind really hit. The sun had been out for a while, and all of a sudden the wind kicked up to 20mph (according to the radio on the way home) and stayed there. This was also the mostly uphill part. I thought for a while that my left knee was going to explode or something, but I managed to modify my form and make it stop hurting. Or else it was still trying to hurt, but my brain had realized that I wasn’t going to do anything about it and stopped passing on those messages. Guess I’ll find that out tomorrow morning when I try to stand up out of bed.
At about 55 mile point, the endorphins kicked in, but HARD. It was sweet. Pain was a thing of the past…I still only sustained about 8 mph (headwind), but there was no question that I was going to make it back to the starting point.
Looked at myself in the mirror when I got back to the car and my hair was very profoundly in what Jen refers to as the “Common Ridgeback” configuration from my helmet. I’ve never actually had sweat *dump* out of my helmet when I removed it before, so I guess that’s a good thing too.