So last weekend I traveled to Madison to get in one last good training weekend before the taper starts for IMWI and I must say that it was quite the confidence booster given what I've had to put up with the last few weeks.
I rolled into town Friday night and met up with a group of people from BT that are doing the race as well. We ate dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant called Bucatini's that seemed to be a hit with everyone. A few of us may be using it for our Saturday night meal come ironman weekend. It was nice to meet and chat with some other people doing the race and I instantly had eight new friends/training partners.
Saturday morning was a 2.4 mile swim race put on by the U.S masters club. I got to the race site much earlier than anticipated so I picked up my timing chip and then headed back to the car for awhile since I had left my water bottle there. After chilling for awhile I made my way back and wrestled my wetsuit on. My middle finger on my right hand is still a little swollen from my crash 3 weeks ago so gripping and pulling the wetsuit on was interesting to say the least. Soon enough they were herding us into the water like cattle.
I floated out a little ways with 200 of my friends. I figured I would be swimming for an hour and twenty minutes so there would be plenty of time to warm up once the gun sounded.While technically this was a race, I had no intentions of racing it. This was merely part of a training day to prep for IMWI. This would be my longest OWS to date and the goal was to simply survive it. Add the fact that due to RAGBRAI, a bike crash recovery, and flooding in my hometown I had swam (swum?) all of 4000 yds in the previous 4 weeks, I really had no expectations.
The gun (or was it a horn?) took me by surprise. Other people started swimming so I figured it must be time to go. I started several rows back and close to the shore side. As a result this was probably the furthest away from the mayhem I have ever been so my start was relatively clean. About midway down the first section someone made up for it by kicking me in the head. The goggles started leaking and I thought I got most of the water out and sealed back up but my eye was really irritated after the race and is still a little red 2 days later.
Sighting was pretty much awful the whole day. I haven't done a long OWS since June, but even so you'd think I'd retain a little sighting skill. Aside from that I cruised along relatively easily, never really pushing the pace. As I got close to the end of the first loop I could feel my right shoulder (the one that, along with my head, took the brunt of my crash impact and kept me from raising my arm above my head for several days) starting to get a little sore. I couldn't tell if it was just normal fatigue or something I should be worried about. Usually it's my left elbow that starts to get sore after awhile so this was new.
I glanced at the clock as I finished the first loop and saw I was around 37:00. 2 minutes slower than my last HIM, but still good enough to keep me on pace for a 1:15, which is my goal for IM. I felt like I sighted better and held a smoother stroke throughout the second loop, but my pace must have slowed some because by the time I scrambled up the ramp I just over 1:17. Oh well. I accomplished what I set out to do and that was survive with enough energy to tackle the rest of the day.
Afterward I chatted with our training group till my dizziness subsided and then found some food and water for a quick refuel before the ride. It was a good confidence booster to get an IM distance OWS in before the race in 3 weeks. Given the circumstances surrounding the last month of my training (or lack thereof) I am pleased with the result.
Next up was a ride on the bike course. I drove out to Fireman's park where the loop part of the course starts and met back up with our group. Ben led us out and it wasn't long until I hit the first of the infamous hills of IMMOO. It was definitely hillier than anything around here by a longshot. I don't mind the climbing. In fact, for living in a relatively flat area and keep a little more weight around my midsection than I should I am a pretty decent climber. What I am not, is a good descender. Give my a hill straight down I am fine. Put me down a hill that curves and I can't see turns coming up I have a deathgrip on the aerobars and am riding the brakes like nobody's business. I doesn't help that I just had a high speed crash 3 weeks ago.
That said, part of the goal of riding the course early was to get a feel for it. I have a better idea of where I need to brake and be cautious and where I can open up and enjoy the speed. I also got to experience the three big hills on the loop and see just how bad they are. They were big for sure, but I wasn't overly impressed. Only once did I wish I had another gear and I'm still debating whether or not to swap out my 11-23 cassette for the 12-25 I bought. I probably will just to have that extra gear on a few of the climbs, but it will mean a lot more switching in between the small and big chain ring.
At the end of the first loop I decided to turn left on Whalen and ride the stick portion of the course. I had plenty of nutrition at the time and figured I'd be more apt to do it now than at the end of the second loop. I did about 10 miles out and then back to the park, putting me a little over 62 miles for the first portion of the ride.
After a quick refuel I headed back out for another loop. At some point early on I made a wrong right turn. The course was marked with chalk arrows designating turns and I swear I saw one pointing toward that turn but apparently not. Pretty soon stuff starting seeming a little unfamiliar and then I went down a monstrous hill and I knew I was definitely off course. The problem was I really didn't want to go back up that hill so I kept on riding for awhile. Finally, several miles later, I summoned the gumption to turn around and head back. Let me tell you, that hill was the hardest climb I face that ride. Ouch!
Eventually I made back onto route 92 and rode for awhile. As I neared Mt. Horeb I saw I was over 90 miles for the day already so I decided rather than complete the loop I would be better off just turning around and heading back to the park. I rolled in at roughly 105 miles, which was plenty for me that day. I was a little bummed that I didn't get a second look at the full loop, but it was a darn good training anyway. Needless to say I slept like a baby that night.
Sunday I made the drive back to Ames. My legs felt awesome that morning, probably the best they've felt after a century ride. I attribute this to a couple of things. I rode the first loop pretty easy, wanting to just get a good look at the hills and how to attack it. In addition, on a hilly course like that, the descents are so steep that often times I was just coasting down. Around home I am pretty much pedaling the entire ride, with my only breaks being for turns. Lastly, I may just be in the best bike shape I've been in all year, I don't know.
Whatever it was I wasn't just content to sit inside for the rest of the day so I went out for a walk. I hadn't discussed it with my PT yet, but I decided to throw in some jogging intervals to see just how the groin felt. I did a 6/1 walk/run combo and felt great. Last night I did a 5/2 walk/run run combo and felt pretty good as well. I can't begin to explain how relieved I am to get in a little running. I know my marathon won't be the speediest ever, but getting to confidence to know that I'll be able to run at least a portion of it has helped immensely.
All in all, the weekend was a HUGE success for me. Just a couple of weeks ago I wasn't even sure if Ironman was going to happen for me, but know the pieces seem to be falling into place at the right time and I couldn't be happier. Just a couple more days of regular workouts and then the taper begins. 18 Days!!!