Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Bike

Fort Worth, Texas has a strong bicycle scene. We've got long, windy, and winding roads. We've got parks. Bike shops abound. I've been lucky enough to ride with a group of new friends outside of TNT with much stronger bike legs than I have.

Cyclists seem to age well. I've got something to look forward to, as my hairline recedes, my quick-twitch muscles will continue to develop.

Up until Sunday, the last time I rode more than 45 miles in one-day was back in 2002 when I did the MS150 from Houston to Austin over two days.

Fortunately, this ride at the Lone Star Triathlon in Galveston is flat. The path follows the shoreline for most of the distance. The wind was to be the x-factor. But it applies itself more or less equally to all.

This was not to be my day for a great ride. I got passed... a lot. To be expected, I told myself. "That guy has a $3,000 Cervelo for Pete's sake..." It's a fun game to check out the other bikes as they whiz by. Always shopping...

Our coaches did an admirable job of beating into our brains the importance of race nutrition. Fuel, hydration, and electrolytes all must be maintained in order to maintain oneself upright in the race. So nutrition was my primary objective during the first quarter of the bike. I popped a gel. I drank water. I nibbled on a Clif Bar. I drank more water. Every 15 minutes or more I hydrated. By mile 23, I had to pee. A portable pot parked by an aid station was free as I slowed down to take a bottle of water from race volunteer (an awesome group of people, I must say!).

I made a sudden stop and hopped off my bike. Something in the combination of the inertial forces and the particular chemistry of my legs conspired at that moment to create a cramp. I completed my pit stop. Crap, I thought, as I peddled back onto the road.

I've dealt with leg fatigue before, but never an outright cramp. My left hamstring (I believe) was the offending muscle. It was not very bad though. I could still peddle. Mentally, it was a distraction. I had to work around it. Find a motion that did not further aggravate it. Pull back my effort as it began to tighten harder. Pick up the effort again, but not so much. And so it went for the next 30 miles.

"How is this going to feel when I get to the run?", was my other thought.

I wanted to finish the race in under six hours. I did some calculations. I was still within range if I could finish the bike at the four hour mark. I believed I had a sub two-hour half-marathon in me.

I did all I could to consume electrolytes until the finish in order to help the cramp. It wasn't getting worse. I found a pretty good pace through the last 10 miles so.

Going into T2, I was just under four hours with just a half marathon to go. Plenty of time...

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