Day 1 of 3. There is also a preface to this.
The caption under the day’s workout said “Hills today. Ride the IM Wisconsin course”. All I had seen of it was the part from Verona to Mt. Horeb, and I had never seen the second part of the loop back. I trusted in the rumors that the course would be marked with arrows on the ground, but I also did bring a map for insurance. Was on the road by 6am, but woke up with a splitting headache that I figured would go away once I started riding. I had also forgotten how far the course was, almost 2.5 hours away. It was going to be a long day as my schedule called for 5hrs of riding, 1 hr of running. That meant a 11 hour day for me.
With Wisconsin coming next week, a surprising amount of people were still riding the course. I can’t remember what a proper IM taper was, but I remember sitting on my ass a lot the week before the race. Things started off going well enough, passing a rider here and there, stopping to double check the map for turns, etc. I started getting out into the country and needed to take a break naturale, so I pulled over to the side of road to take care of business. A cyclist goes by, so I tuck it back in and wait. Whip it out again, and I hear the sound of another cyclist approaching. I wait. I try to start it up again and once again, I hear another cyclist coming again. I stop. This is the countryside. This is supposed to be easy! Once the rider goes by, I check both directions again (I was at a corner) and try to finally relieve myself. Almost on cue, another rider starts whizzing buy. F* it. I’m peeing now, and I don’t care who sees me. Thankfully it was not a family toting their Burley (this will come into play later). But it was hands down, the most difficult pee in a secluded spot, ever.
The arrows marking the course were painted at the start of the season, before the real training for the IM Wisconsin began. By this time of the year, anyone doing the IM Wisconsin knew the course by heart and no one really needed the arrows anymore. So by the time I did my first attempt at the course, the arrows were very worn out, and only parts of them, like the tail or parts of the head, remained. I had been sort of relying on people ahead of me to give me a clue where the course went, until somewhere I ended up not on the course. I knew this because I passed a family toting a Burley with kids. I thought that kind of odd. I blow by and ride out for a while. Road ends, and there’s no arrows. Map is useless. I turn around and pass the family with the Burley. I get back to my last turn, and the arrows point me back. Where are those damn riders now? Won’t let me take a piss in peace, but where are they now when I need them? Maybe I need to turn somewhere before where I turned around. Ride back out, passing the Burley, find a road and go down it. Ends abruptly. Not it. Maybe I should really take a turn at where I was last time. I turn around again, pass the Burley once more. I get to the original dead end, pick a direction, and it looks like I’m going nowhere. I break out into a tirade of F-bombs, S-words, and curses of Wisconsinites in general. As I’m doing this, the Burley riders go by, trying to avert their eyes from a very angry man cursing, waving his $6000 dollar bicycle in the air, and shouting epitaphs into the wind.
I eventually back track enough to find out that some other organized ride had put arrows on the IM course directing their riders to make a turn, when in reality I should have gone straight. I get back to the car, reload on water, gels, sunscreen, and head back out. My headache still was with me, but I figured I would just have to put up with it.
Things were going well on the second loop. I knew the course now and I knew that I should avoid the Burley people at all costs. Then a yawn. Kept riding, got another yawn, along with a flash of a bigger headache than I had before. Things started not going well. I was fine from a physical standpoint, ie my legs were not done, but I just wanted to sleep and that headache had become pain number 1, surpassing Mr Swollen Toe and Crabby Butt. Might as well quit complaining and hurry back to the car.
Every year I suffer at least one bee sting. It’s sometimes under the helmet (I did destroy a pair of Rudy Projects trying to get the helmet off while I was still moving, dropping the glasses right between the rear wheel and the frame and watch them get ground to pieces), but most of the time it’s when the little booger gets into my open jersey and gets trapped, stinging me. As I’m riding, trying to nurse the increasing headache and fighting off the now ever present yawn, I see this yellow missile spiral directly into my chest. It got me right in that small opening at the collar, which was only open an inch. It was a bee. Of all the places to hit me, the bee hits me in the only place that’s 1x1 inch that it can get trapped in. I can feel it crawling around inside my jersey.
Knowing better (I seriously have had about a dozen stings so far, and thankfully I’m not allergic), I just gently slow down and get off the bike (no freaking out). I slowly unzip my jersey and take it off, shaking it before dropping it on the ground. I then see the bee go under my bib strap. I unbuckle the heart rate monitor strap and gently ease off the bib straps off my shoulders, only to see the bee travel under the line of the straps to my butt crack. OK. Definitely not going to let a bee sting me between the ass cheeks, so I slowly start unrolling off the backside of my shorts, trying give the bee every chance to escape. Just then, another crowd of cyclists go whizzing by. I had just given them a strip show. Fantastic.
Once I figure the bee is definitely not in my shorts, I kit up everything I had tossed onto the ground and start staggering back to the car. I get about 10 miles away from the end and I just can’t take it anymore. I’m weaving like a drunk cyclist because I’m yawning so much. I just need a minute to close my eyes. I find a farm with an orchard by the side of the road whose trees have a lot of shade. I purposely lean my bike against a tree (so other people don’t think I crashed and lying there injured. I DO NOT want them to disturb me) flop down, and pass out. Wasn’t there for too long because whizzing bicycle tires kept on going by. Plus the ants whose hill I chose to sleep on were not too pleased. I figure that some rest is better than none, and finish my Zombie Ride back to the car.
I somehow get back to the car, and I was in poor shape. Time for that run. But first, I needed (which is more than just wanted) a cool drink of water. Unfortunately, the ghetto Honda is a sun house in the summer and all the water bottles in the car contained water hot enough for making tea. Scalding hot. This was not going to cure any headache or zombie-like exhaustion I was having right now. I threw the bike against the car and found that the pavement under the car was actually quite cool. I crawled under the car and I let myself pass out once again. I was definitely out for a while. It was bad enough where I was woken by own snoring and discovered I had drooled all over my helmet. Thirsty. I went back into the car, looking to get a cool drink. Only scalding hot water in the bottles. Oh, yeah. Forgot about that.
I was now in the proverbial hurt bag. I could run, which would be nothing more than a stumble for one really long, hot, thirsty, hour or I could be a quitter and not do what it takes. I made the phone call to Liz, I quit. I so F*’in quit. Screw this Ironman stuff. I’m so quitting Ironman today.
I don’t really know why I called. Maybe I think it’s because I needed permission from someone to fail. I probably would have gone down the phone list calling people to find someone else to tell to quit if Liz hadn’t done so. Plus, I truly think that if I had gone further today, I would have had to find a Motel 6 to spend the night at. I left the parking lot, believing that I should have sucked it up and done the run, but I knew that I physically couldn’t do it today. I just had done too much for the past few weeks and not enough sleep. Jennifer called me up with some direction from Liz and she told me to go eat a big cheesy deep dish pizza. I had for almost the entire year, been eating very healthy with salads, oatmeal, fruits, and fish. No wonder I had started shutting down. I had been eating like a normal person and not like someone who’s burning through 7000 calories a day.
In a strange reversal of fortune upon me getting home, Liz was there waiting for me, willing to go out for pizza on my behalf. She was taking one for the team, as she is not a fan of pizza (or many of the culinary fare I enjoy such as sushi, burgers, brats, pork). I ordered the biggest pizza they made and ate half of it. It never felt so good and I haven’t felt so much better after one sitting of something, and I’m no longer feeling like a zombie. I can dare say that pizza saved my life.