Ironman Florida is quickly approaching …. 23 days and counting!

I feel ready and excited.

I’m also tired. My training volume has been incredibly high as we approach the race. Last Sunday, Johnny scheduled a 6hr ride so I decided to do a full Ironman distance. The goal for Florida is to complete the bike portion in about 6 hrs, so I need to test it. Of course, Cruz was up for the adventure. She loves long rides.

A dark and foggy start

Our start times are delayed by 30 minutes to account for the sunrise. This morning, the whole city was covered in dense fog so we didn’t know what to expect on the roads. We did run into four other Pearland Triathlon Racing Club members who were about to go on a 75-mile ride. Gustavo, Lea, and Robert are all experienced Ironman racers and are also preparing for Ironman Florida. We learned that two others, Kohn and Tony were finishing up an open water swim before starting their long ride. So, race energy is building and the race simulations have begun.

As we set off, initially, the fog was very light and I thought we’d dodged a bullet. However, as you can see from some of the photos, we rode right into the thick of it. We slowed our pace and stayed alert to the traffic. Neither of us was happy about the fog. Riding is already dangerous, in these conditions, the danger only increases. We powered on because that’s what needed to be done.

I’ve noticed that my legs don’t really warm up until I’ve been riding for about 45 minutes. They begin to feel lighter and energized. In the past, I didn’t understand the importance of warming up. I treated it more as an inconvenience.  Now, I notice that if I do a proper warm-up, my body performs better, and the recovery quicker too.

Wee-Mart is our typical 1st stop on the way to the marina. In the heat, it serves as a place to refill cold beverages, get some ice, and use the bathroom. Depending on where we start the ride, it’s a 22-27 mile ride and is usually full of cycling groups coming and going. Today it was completely empty.

To the marina

The ride to the marina from Wee-mart is about 23 miles of open country roads. The wind can be with you or against you because there are very few sections with trees along the route. Fortunately, the sun began to burn off the fog and we were able to safely pick up the pace. Beyond a guy on a recumbent bike, we didn’t see any other cyclists which is unusual for a weekend.

The humidity had been high all morning, but the temperature was comfortable, so I wasn’t concerned with dehydrating or cramping…yet.  Also, I was continually practicing “belly” breathing while in the aero position. I have begun working on improving my breathing pattern to deliver more oxygen to my muscles. More importantly, managing power was my primary focus. During the ride I spent a lot of time paying attention to it. Maintaining power, rather than speed is what I’ll need to focus on during the Florida Ironman.

As always, we took photos, ate our sandwiches and snacks, and then hoped that the winds and weather would be in our favor for the remainder of the ride.

The ride back ๐Ÿฅต

During the summer, somewhere between miles 60-70 is where I would experience a significant dip in my energy and begin struggling to stay in a good headspace. The leg cramps would also begin around this distance, perfectly timed to compound the misery and test my resolve. Today, however, I stayed on top of my nutrition and It worked. Cramps and bonking were absent from the ride. The sky was now clear and the sun blazing hot on our backs. I knew that I was threading a fine needle. I did feel fatigued and my legs let me know that they were happy to begin cramping if I let up even a little on my electrolytes or hydration.

Considering the intensity of the heat, we called an audible and changed our route to allow an additional stop for water. Instead of going to Danbury, we went back to the Wee-mart gas station. After a quick refueling we headed back to the dog-loop via the route past Froeberg Farm. Chose to go this way to make up the miles that we lost by avoiding Danbury.

We made one last stop near HWY-6 after we passed Froberg’s to top off our water because Cruz lost both of her bottles and had to rely solely on her head-mounted torpedo bottle.  We rode two laps around the dog-loop then back to the parking lot. The final loop was the most difficult. The headwinds had increased, we were tired and my butt hurt from being in the saddle for more than 7 hrs.

After finishing the ride, I noted a few important factors

  1. My energy level was moderate. I was neither feeling fresh nor was I exhausted.
  2. My legs were not wiped out. I successfully managed my power so that I didn’t deplete my leg muscles. I’m very encouraged by this result. I don’t think that running a marathon right off of that ride would be easy or even moderate, but I think I could have completed one.
  3. I maintained my target race wattage for most of the ride.
  4. I was able to stay in the aero position for long(er) stretches than in the past. I’m getting more and more used to staying in aero position. Sitting upright is less comfortable now.
  5. I may need to find wider bike shoes. I’m developing a callas on the outside of my left pinky toe.

Next week I’ll do another 112 miles except I’ll plan to make only two stops. The purpose is to more closely simulate race conditions and see how close to a 6-hr finish I can get while maintaining my power.

I feel ready.