Last year when I started to entertain the thought of competing in the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 this October the thought of swimming 1.2 miles in Open Water didn’t really scare me. I had covered that distance a few times without stopping in Quarry Lake here in Austin last summer. It was more a matter of finding a rhythym and staying smooth and even. I might not be a fast swimmer, but I can knock out 2,250 meters in the pool or lake pretty comfortably. Swimming 1,931? Doable.
Running 13.1 miles to wrap up the Ironman 70.3? As I write this post my 7 half-marathon finisher’s medals hang on hooks less than two feet away. Alongside them are my 8 marathon finishers medals and a couple of team ultra-marathon medals from the past two Ragnar Relay Races I’ve completed. My training log is literally littered with hundreds of runs in excess of 13.1 miles. The run? Bring it on.
It was the 56-mile bike leg that had me nervous about Longhorn. 56 miles just “sounds” like it is a far way to go. That’s a long ride on my Harley, and I don’t have to pedal one bit on the Deuce. Could I really hang in the saddle for 56 miles? Well after the Pflugerville triathlon on Sunday my friends Jay and Ed talked about riding “long” on Thursday. Perhaps out to the general store in Andice, TX and back.
The first thing I though was – 56 miles.
The ride out to Andice is a pretty common route for the triathlete and road bike community in the North, Northwest part of Austin where I live. It is done on a weekend morning usually, most of the time as a group where at the General Store in Andice you can stop and get yourself one of their famous “Turnaround Burgers”.
It was a ride I had always wanted to do, but was not comfortable heading out there on my own for the first time. What if I got lost? Flatted? Had a mechanical issue with my bike? It was a much safer proposition with a crowd. So with Jay and Ed heading out on Thursday morning, I decided to mix up my training schedule for the week and making the plunge. 50+ miles in the saddle.
I rode the 4+ miles to Jay’s house to rendevous with Ed who lives just a few houses down and Jorge who was going to join us for the ride. The solo 4 miles gave me a chance to warm-up a bit, get up over 20 mph to get the legs firing before we settled into a much slower, easy pace for the ride out.
The miles ticked by effortlessly, and before I knew it Ed was turning back to cap his ride at 20 miles. He is racing at the Buffalo Springs Half-Ironman this weekend out in Lubbock, TX and was saving some energy for race weekend. Jay, Jorge and I rode out Parmer Lane, heading up and down the rolling hills out to Andice.
As we rolled into the small town the General Store appeared at the end of the road. We were halfway there.
We got off the bikes, walked into the old cedar plank floor general store for some drinks and saddled back up for the ride back home.
As the miles ticked from 30 to 35 to 40 I felt strong on the bike. Just a couple of days post race, my fitness level really is in a great place right now.
As we hit the big climbs with 12 miles to go to my house we parted ways and I rode back solo at an up-tempo pace averaging over 20 mph for the last 1/5 of the ride.
I crossed that “mystical” 56 mile mark as I turned at the light at Avery Ranch Road and Parmer Lane, making the left turn to our house, the final 2 miles that wraps up each of my training rides. I thundered uphill past our pool, back down the other side of the climb to the last group of rollers before banking hard and turning into our neighborhood.
I kept the cadence high, pounded on the pedals and rode to our home finishing up at 58 miles.
My final 12 miles were my fastest of the morning at 23.9, 18.7, 20.7, 21.2, 20.6, 21.8, 22.0, 16.3, 22.3, 18.1, 19.7, 23.1 mph.
It was a ride at 80% effort, so I am nowhere near where I will need to be to race hard over this distance come October. But it was a solid first attempt at a “long-ride” and just logging the miles and banking that time in the saddle was a big victory.
All of a sudden 56 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal at all. It feels just the same as the first time I ran a 20 mile training run before my first marathon. Until you cross that line you have doubts about doing it. But once you reach it, you realize there is another line just a little bit further out ahead of you that is firmly within your reach.
By October we will have ridden our first 100K Ride, our first 75 miler and eventually our first century ride of 100 miles.
I might need to stop inside the General Store in Andice and get a Turnaround Burger for that one.