Ironman Wisconsin 2007 – Part 3
As I rolled down the helix I tried to steady myself in prep for the next several hours that I would spend in the saddle. It felt good to finally be on my bike and rolling towards the hills of Verona. I reminded myself that I was in no hurry and concentrated on finding my rhythm. I figured I might as well find one before I hit the hills where it would be nonexistent til I made the return trip to Madison.
At a steady pace I made my way through the rolling hills to the start of the lollipop. (the double loop of the course) I quickly realized that I had not put enough tape over the top of my aero bottle. This of course caused a splash of water to come flying out of the bottle every time I hit a bump. Not exactly what you want going on with 112 miles to bike. Besides the splash from my aero bottle things were going pretty well. The weather was nice and I was doing my best to just enjoy the ride. Knowing that I still had several hours left on the bike I used the first part to just take in the ride. I took in the scenery and encouraged the other rides that I came across. The point was to enjoy everything before the hills came.
Soon enough I was at the bottom of the hills which the Wisconsin course in known for. I remembered riding them in July, but you never quite remember how steep and long they are. The next hours were all about the grind. Grinding up hill after hill and recovering on the way down. This pattern was on repeat as I covered the miles. The only good part about the hills was the “Tour de France” hill. On the last major hill of the loop the crowd lines the street on both sides in the fashion of the Tour de France. The people screamed, yelled, and ran along with you the entire length of the hill. It was awesome and a great boost heading into the 2nd loop.
The only real reprieve during the ride was passing through Verona. On the first loop the IronCrew was there and waiting. I really needed to see some familiar faces and it again provided a huge boost at the half way point. Soon after I was at the special needs station. I used the time to stop and stretch. I think my body actually cheered when I came off the seat. I refilled my nutrition supplies before heading back out. By this point I was starting to struggle physically. The muscles and tendons under my left knee were starting to give me problems and tightening up. My left side has to compensate for a weaker right knee. The weak knee is the result of old soccer injuries and the long ride was starting to rear its ugly head. At the next aid station I had to stop again and stretch my legs. I figured I’d better do it sooner rather then later if I was going to make it through the hills again.
The ware and tear of the hills were really starting to show on the 2nd loop. There is no rhythm while riding those hills and they just slowly eat away at you. Towards the end it was all just about getting up the next hill and keeping the legs turning. On the second to last big hill on lady was trudging up the hill at about the same pace. Her expression and breathing showed all to well the signs of such a long course. Finally we reached the top and I said something like only one more big one left. She tried to smile as we were all trying to smile. Trying to do something or think of anything that would take our minds off our task. Finally I was back to the Tour de France hill, but my slow pace left a much smaller crowd there the second time through. I was still grateful for the support that was there, but I really could have used the full feature that was there earlier.
After managing the second pass through the hills the course made its way back to Verona. There waiting was my family who cheered as rode by. I was really hoping to see the IronCrew and Ms. R, but they were already on their way back to Madison. I was a bid saddened by this, but I figured if I wanted to see them I best get back to Madison myself. Finally leaving Verona it was back through some rolling hills to get back to Madtown. Finally after hours without having any rhythm my legs found one again. Smooth circle after smooth circle as I tried to relax a bit and note on what I had just accomplished. I had just finished the hardest ride of my life and I was still moving. It may not have been my best ride, but I had done it and soon I would be finished with my bike and a seat that felt like it had made its way up to my throat.
As a saw the city approach I smiled and the feeling that I was actually going to make it through the day started to blossom. I pushed it back as I knew I still had hours of work left to do, but the knowledge sped me forward towards T2 with the thought of “let’s finish this thing.”