Thursday, November 21, 2019

After almost four hours of riding, things started to go sideways...both figuratively and literally.

The bike course starts and ends by the run course.

(You mean the marathon course.)

Don’t remind me. We were five hours into the race so no one was running just yet.

(Why do you care?)

Wait for it.

As you bike past the Olympic stadium, there are two signs: Finish and Second Loop.

Some people dread the idea of having to do the same 56 miles all over again.

Me? I’m excited to be that much closer to running. The only problem was, after 56 miles of hills my legs felt dead. There was just nothing in the tank.

(Think, idiot. What do you tell your athletes?)

That I’m never doing another Ironman ever again?

(NO! When your legs are fatigued, spin.)

Spin?

(Put your bike in an easy gear and pedal as fast as you can.)

After two minutes, I began to feel my strength come back to me.

That’s why it was so important to do all those 4 a.m. bike workouts. Spinning fast in an easy gear will help bring your legs back from the dead.

Ok, as soon as I solved one problem, a new one emerged; The sky opened up and we were rained on.

(Did that help?)

Kinda. It cooled me off, but it made the road slick. So now I’m back on that 1.5 mile descent into the town of Keene and I’m going 46 miles per hour on two, 25 millimeter wide pieces of rubber. I was half way down this mountain and the road started to curve. I leaned into the turn. Mind you, at that speed, there is no margin for error. A gust of wind came and I prepared to go tumbling down the hill like Humpty Dumpty. I mean at that speed...

(You would break you clavicle, your hips, femur, your....)

...all the king’s orthopedic surgeons wouldn’t be able to put me back together again.

I’m leaning forward over my handlebars like a bobsleader trying to get as low to the ground as one can and a second gust of wind slams laterally into the bike. 

I’m going 46 mph and I feel the bike move laterally across the lane like a hockey player being checked across the ice.

(Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.)

The bike should not be upright and levitating laterally across a wet street while descending about the speed limit for an automobile.

(All the king’s  orthopedic surgeons...)

No time to worry about that, because 400 feet in front of me there were two cyclists and they were not going anywhere nearly as fast as I was.

(...couldn’t put Humpty back together...) 

It’s protocol that you never pass a cyclist on the right. You always pass on the left, so the slower cyclist has room to pull over if they have a sudden need to stop. These two yentas on bicycles were simultaneously blocking both the right and left lanes of this descent.

“Left,” I call out. The cyclist doesn’t move to the right.

(300 feet.)

“Left!” The wind in my ears is deafening.

(200 feet.)

“Left!!” Six seconds, we’re gonna be meat waffles.

(100 feet.)

“LEFT!!!”

He moved left and I continued speeding forward like a jumbo jet landing on a runway. The rest of the race was a never ending series of hills. I literally felt like Sisyphus on a bicycle.

At 4:52 p.m., I completed 112 miles of biking. I dismounted the bike and and handed it to the bike volunteer.

The significance of this moment can not be understated.

I had been cycling for over eight hours and I made the bike cut off by 38 minutes.

(Bike cut off?)

All riders must compete the bike portion by 5:30 p.m.

(Or?)

Or they will be disqualified. See, this is what makes an Ironman so exciting.

(The chance of being sent home a failure is exciting?)

The Ironman is happening in real time. There’s no pausing the show for a snack break. No retrieving that email you didn’t mean to send. 

(What if you take a break?)

Stop for a potty break? No problem, but the clock is running. 

And so was I. Bag #2 was hanging like fruit waiting to be plucked. I snatched it and ran into the changing tent.

Sneakers on and out into the sunlight.

By David Roher


David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher & a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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