|Cheryl & I with Louie, the Troll|
The best way for me to prepare? Experience the challenge. Ride the course and endure. On Friday, we drove down to Louisville for an I AM TRI training day. 56 days to Louisville. Time to test my metal.
We arrived in Louisville late afternoon in time to drive the bike course. Not only to make sure we didn't get lost, but to begin the mental preparation. I've read the reports about the non-stop rolling hills which begin to wear on you. And unfortunately, I have never fully developed a friendship with hills. After driving the course, Awesome Cheryl was pretty quiet. I took a deep gulp and tried to breathe.
Instead of dwelling on what we fear, we decided it was best to get some good food and enjoy some company. We met some otherT3members downtown at a restaurant called theTroll Pub Under the Bridge. Dubbed as a unique underground dining experience, the pub is located under the bridge in downtown Louisville. Typical bar food was the norm for the menu; however, we were able to find a few healthy options as well. I had the BBQ Chicken pizza which was quite scrumptious. Over dinner, we discussed the bike route and our game plan. The overall consensus seemed to be the using your small ring and NOT trying to hammer through. With temperatures expected to exceed 100, we all knew it was going to be long, tough day of training.
|The Mighty O-HI-O|
I jumped in the river feet first. The water temperature was ideal. Not too cool, not extremely warm. I took a deep breath and started swimming in the channel behind the island. Because I wanted this to be a great experience for me, a true confidence builder, I focused on staying relaxed and counting my strokes. Bob from I AM TRI arranged for two kayakers to be available to support the swimmers. We were able to swim as much as we wanted for the hour time frame; however, my goal was to simply experience the muck of the Ohio River and get out on the bike course. I finished 0.42 miles and felt incredible. Very calm and relaxed. I even had a few bumps and jostles to simulate race day. Even though I only completed a quarter of the actual race day swim course, I came out of the water happy and excited.
|Cheryl & I checking out the water|
The first nine miles of the IMLOU bike route are relatively flat, but somewhat torn up roads. About the time you turn on to KY-1694 for an out and back, you need to be prepared to face some hills. As you head out on KY-1694, you get to enjoy a large downhill where I hit almost 30 miles per hour; however, if you take a moment and follow the breeze toward those who are coming the other direction, you will feel reality hit you in the face. Enjoy the downhills. Because what you enjoy now, you must climb on the return.
After KY-1694, we decided to stop at the first I AM TRI aid station. I refreshed my water bottle and had a slice of watermelon before heading out on the road again. Back on SR-42, I remember thinking how I felt pretty good and thought I was handling the day pretty well. Our next turn would be about mile 30 onto KY-393. As luck would have it, I dropped my chain going up a hill a KY-393. I was a little freaked out because I had never had to fix my chain before, but I was able to quickly get it back on even though I wound up with oil and grease on my shirt and hands.
|IMLOU Bike Elevation|
Finally, we were chugging along again when I suddenly had two thoughts:
1) I am hungry.
2) I need to go to the bathroom. No, really, I needed to go to the bathroom.
We were just short of mile marker 40 when I suddenly saw a sign for the I AM TRI aid station. I quickly turned my bike and turned into the aid station anxious for some food. Luckily, they had a wonderful daddy and daughter setting up drinks with bagel and peanut butter. I thought I had found a little slice of heaven. Unfortunately, I didn't find a bathroom, but I seemed to be better with food in my stomach.
As we were going through LaGrange, luck would strike again only this time she hit Cheryl upside the face. This time she dropped her chain halfway up a long hill. Things got worse as she tried to get started again, but fell off her bike. Her chain was on the small ring, but she couldn't get her gears to switch over. Together we decided to walk up to hill until we reached a local business and use their parking lot to get everything back in order. That was actually that first time I thought we might need to call the SAG wagon. However, we are tougher than that. We were able to get her gears shifted and get back on the bike course.
Soon enough we came up on the the next portion of the course I was dreading....Ballard School Road. The turn on Ballard School comes along quickly on a downhill. The road is narrow, twisty and STEEP. There are two major climbs on this road and by the time I hit the top of the 2nd climb I was starting to feel nauseous. Finally done with Ballard School Road, we turned right on Old Sligo Road, but both of us were nervous about whether or not we were going the right direction. We stopped at an intersection to check the I AM TRI map and I felt a wave a nausea take over. Ugh. I was getting nervous about completing the 80 mile ride. The Old Sligo Road portion of the course is relatively short because we turn left on L'Espirit Parkway and then right on 153. Finally, we arrived at the mile 50 aid station.
|IMLOU Bike Course|
All I could do was get off my bike and grab some water. I needed a few minutes to just sit and cool off. We caught up with another T3 member who was struggling with the heat as well. Joe tried to talk to me, but I couldn't seem to say much. The idea of forming words was just too much for me at that moment. After drinking a bottle of water, I went in search of a toilet. It was finally time to purge and purge I did. I was feeling much better at this point. After refreshing my water, we hit the road once again.
Now we were on KY-42 on the backside of the loop which for IMLOU race day, we will have to complete two times. Now that thought was daunting! However, I could only think about what I was doing in the current moment and it felt like I was doing a lot, but going no where quickly. With 30 miles left, I thought I would see the miles click away, but I could not get my speed up and going. My average speed from miles 50-60 was below 10 mph. I even stopped by the side of the road at one point to rest in the shade again. The heat was getting to me. It seemed like forever before we passed the sign for 393 where we have to turn back to start our second loop.
The final 30 miles are mainly downhill when you average out the elevation; however, when you are riding it, you feel every single hill, every single slight include, especially on a day like Saturday where the pavement was 111 degrees.
For my final mistake of the day, I missed the turn on River Road. I heard Cheryl yell behind me. We stopped in a parking lot...or I should say she stopped and I crashed. I fell and dropped my chain. If it hadn't been for the two nice families who stopped to check on us, I probably would have spent the next 5 minutes cursing.
We turned back on KY-42 and found the correct turn on River Road. Unfortunately, it always seems that just when you think you are close to home it still feels like it is so far away. The final 9 miles of the bike course were the longest of my life. I was so thrilled to finally cross over those railroad tracks where Cheryl had dropped her water bottle so many hours ago.
Back at the Yellow Lot, T3 was waiting for me cheering me on helping me cross the hurdle. Because they are such thoughtful wonderful people, they had fresh, cold water bottles waiting for Cheryl & I. I slumped into the shade behind my van and chugged the cold water.
Once back home, members of T3 posted on Facebook about the lessons learned yesterday. Here is what I had to say.
I learned a few things yesterday. 1) I hydrated well. I don't think that was an issue. 2) I need to focus on nutrition. I need to find a way to make sure I am taking in nutrition on a regular basis....maybe set an alarm or something because I lose track of time. 3) The hills are hard, not fun, but they are doable. I just need to adjust my bike expectations. 4) Pride cometh before the fall. I will not be afraid to step off my bike if the heat is like yesterday on race day. What matters most is that I finish and hopefully without a hospital stay. 5) This is an experience, a challenge for me. I've always known it would be about 80% mental and yesterday proved that. I used to say I'll be grinning from ear to ear when I come out of the water, but now I know what I'll be facing on the bike. I may not be smiling quite as much as I'm running through my game plan for the toughest part of the day. 6) Time to hit the hills...over and over and over again.
When I think back about the day, I couldn't remember what nutrition I took in or when. My plan for IMLOU is write out my nutrition plan and put it my bike stem to remind me to eat. Also, I am trying to figure out how to set an alarm on my Garmin to remind me hourly to make sure I am ingesting enough calories. As I've learned, I need to focus on nutrition not only so I can complete my bike leg, but to fuel for the marathon which is yet to come.