Versus the hills, part deux

Yesterday I once again made the trek out to Verona to have at the Ironman bike course loops. The plan was to do two loops, or 80 miles. This would be my last long ride before the race. It wasn’t even on the schedule, but I thought getting to ride the actual course again would be really helpful. Unlike last time, the day started out rather cool. Driving out of Milwaukee, it was 59 degrees and raining. Great. But by the time we got to Johnson Creek, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared up. When we started the ride, it was about 63 degrees and sunny.

The first hill of the loop is about 5 minutes in. Nothing like getting that heart rate nice and high right off the bat. I could tell right away that my legs were not going to fully cooperate with me. My quads were already tired, probably from a combination of 9 hours of training last weekend plus 2 rather fast 7 mile runs on Tuesday and Thursday. The loop starts out with a few hills, then flattens out a bit for a while. Then you hit a literal roller coaster of steep hills, followed by a really nice downhill section. Then there is a bit of time spent on the highways with some rollers, nothing too crazy. The last 15 miles of the loop are where the hills are so big and so many that you want to die. First there is the Mother, winding her way up through a nice wooded road. I think I was averaging 7 mph up this beast. There is no huge downhill after the mother, just a slight reprieve before you hit Mr. Short and Steep. And I do mean steep. At least this one doesn’t take to long. There is a nice little downhill after this one, but some big rollers after that. Soon things flatten out a little, and you think you are in the clear. Mwahahahah.

With about five or six miles left in the loop, you will encounter the Mother Bitch. She is much like the Mother in length, as in never-ending, but she is much steeper. Good God my poor poor quads. I think I topped out around 6 mph on this one. Once you conquer the Mother Bitch, it is smooth sailing back to Verona. Back at the car, I was spent. I couldn’t believe I had to do it all again, and found myself questioning how I would possibly survive this in the race. I had to remind myself that I will be properly rested and tapered for the real deal. I was in my 12th hour of biking for the week, which takes its toll.

So off we went for loop 2. The first 20 miles, I was not in a good mental space. Literally 7 miles in, I looked at my Garmin and was ready to call it a day and turn around, back to the car. I had nothing in my legs, and my training buddy James was constantly pulling ahead. I cursed myself for not being able to keep up, I cursed my legs for being tired, I cursed the wind for blowing in my face. I told myself just make it half way around, and you will only have 20 miles to go. The half way point eventually came, and I started to lift out of the fog. I realized that this day would indeed end, and afterwards it wouldn’t seem as bad.

We completed loop 2, and though it was a tough day, I am glad I did it. I feel like I know the course so much better, which will be a huge advantage on race day. I absolutely cannot imagine going into this course blind on race day. It would be a shock to say the least, and could easily break someone mentally.

I am officially in taper, which is weird. All I have to do today is a 90 minute swim, no running, no biking. Tomorrow I am shortening the scheduled workout of a 3 hr bike 1.5 hr run to a 2 hr bike 1 hr run. There is no fitness to be gained at this point, the goal is just to stay sharp, stay focused. I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around the fact that the race is two weeks away. I am nervous but mostly excited. From here on in, I just need to play it smart, get lots of rest, and mentally prepare.

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