I woke up, this morning, ready to put my Ironman game plan to the test. With my swim workout scheduled to begin at six o'clock, I was up at 3 a.m. to have breakfast consisting of a bagel and sports drink. Then, I went back to bed to get a bit more sleep before my alarm went off at 5:15.
I loaded up my gear and headed to the pool for the first big test of the day. I had a 5000 yards straight swim on tap, a long awaited test of just how much my swimming has improved. Things went fairly well, though I felt sluggish in the water. I did complete all 5000 yards, despite my desire to call it a day after about 2500. I talked my way through the rest in 500 yard increments. After getting to 3000, "it's just two more 500 yard sets to get to 4000." After hitting 4000, it was "only 225 to complete a full Ironman swim," at which point "I may as well finish that 500." And then, "it's just one last set to complete the full workout."
It worked. I checked my watch when I touched the wall after 4225. One hour, 32 minutes, and that was with an extra yard. I'll take it, considering my "good day" estimate is an hour, 35 minutes. The full 5000 yards took about an hour, 51 minutes.
After a quick shower to wash off the chlorine, I threw on my cycling clothes for part two of the test. I met some tri club kids for a quick 15-mile loop, and then headed off for the rest of my 7 1/2 hour ride. I had downloaded a map someone local had entered onto MapMyRide, figuring his 103 miles with the 15 I did with the kids would make a reasonable workout. I would come to regret that decision. A lot. Numerous times. All the way to the bitter end.
The ride started out well enough. I had 16 gels taped to the top tube of The Pol-R Express, two bottles of sports drink, and one bottle of water. I planned on refueling along the way as needed. Given Coach Mike's suggestion that I significantly increase my fluid intake, I figured I'd need to stop several times.
It didn't take long to find out just out badly screwed up the maps Google provided for this ride are. Starting fairly early in the ride, and repeatedly throughout the ride, I found myself wondering from just what decade the maps had come. Some roads detailed on the map didn't exist at all. Others seemed to have different names. And sometimes, the maps were right. That was when I would find there were no street signs identifying the road. Luckily, I was always able to find roads that would get me back to where I needed to be, or find a road with which I was familiar.
That does not, however, mean that I didn't pay a price for the poor data.
I don't know exactly how many extra miles I put on due to the confusion, but do know it was considerable. I'm also unsure if there were refueling locations I missed, but through the entire ride, I only came across one gas station, and that was one I got to on my own. I had completely screwed up, as evidenced by the fact that I found a road I DID know. I also knew it was at least 15 miles away from where I wanted to be. I took some roads I knew, and made sure I hit the gas station.
After refueling, I headed out, only to run into one issue after another. I kept on spinning, and eventually got to a point I have biked, before. At that point, I was torn. Head off on my own and find my own route (which would take me off the route I gave my wife), or stay with the downloaded route. I opted to take the planned route.
Hey, I never said I was a genius.
After a few more missing signs and non-existent roads, I went with general directions. You know, "This road takes me in the general direction I'd like to go. I'll follow it, even though I have no idea where I am." That got me to a road I wanted, though I had to take a wild guess at which way to head. Hey, 50/50 chance to get it right.
Did I mention that I was a nuclear operator in the Navy? And nukes are subject to the 50/50/90 rule? That says that given a 50/50 choice, nukes get it wrong 90% of the time. Well, this wasn't a 10 percenter. I went through a little town and said, "Hmmm, which side of the street is that cheese factory on if I'm heading AWAY from home?" And kept on going. Another one in the 90% category. Soon enough, I saw a sign advertising a business in a city I didn't really want to visit for the second time, today.
That made the decision of which way to go much easier. Too bad I'd covered about five miles to get the information. Turn around, and head back. And realize I've run out of fuel for the second time of the day.
At that point, I made the decision to call my wife and find out a few things. No answer. Cell phone, same result. Alright, go to dad. Answering machine. Well, mom's in Florida, but the she's bailed me out, before. A quick call and I learned I was somewhere between 15 and 20 miles from my car.
Nice, since the cycling computer already showed 7:44 and 130 miles. With my hands shaking from the impending total bonk, I called my wife, again, and finally got through. "Hey, I need you to come get me." With her asking the questions, I managed to explain where I was and how she could get there. Then, I told her I'd keep biking toward her and try to get to a gas station I knew should be about five miles down the road.
I made the gas station with 136.9 miles total for the trip. I barely managed to get some milk and pretzels before my wife showed up. Not bad considering I went five miles and she went something like thirty.
Needless to say, I had to scrap my 30-minute run off. Which angered me more than having to call for a bail out. I really wanted that run as a confidence booster. Still, after swimming about 20% more than the IM swim, and biking an extra 20% , I had to think safety.
There is, however, a lot of good news. Despite all the difficulties and including the various stops, I completed the trip in 8 hours 5 minutes, for an average pace just under 17 miles per hour. I passed 112 miles somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30, and nearly all the stops were before that. My nutrition was going well, and one of the reasons I kept running out of fuel is that I was staying well ahead of my normal bottle every two hours pace. And bonking after a two hour swim and eight hour, nearly unsupported bike is not unheard of.
So, despite the brutal finish, it was a good day. I learned a lot, and have some ideas about what is doable in Louisville. And I know that after the swim and first 112 miles on the bike, I could have got off and started the marathon. Given the far superior support of the IM course, today's fiasco doesn't shake my confidence. It does, however, strengthen my resolve. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is going to stop me from getting off my bike and starting to run in Louisville.
And we'll have to wait 22 days to know exactly how that turns out.
Click HERE for more Iron Pol as he gets ready for his big Ironman Day in Kentucky