Thursday, June 16, 2011

A big one down, and an even bigger one to go. I finished my 120 mile Century ride. In ten days, I will be competing in the Ironman competition: 1.2 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run.

In these quests, Amanda, Holly and I are the Three Musketeers. (I leave it to you to decide who is Aramis, Athos and Porthos: see attached photo). All for one, and one for all!

The Three Musketeers Conquer A Cardinal:
Fletcher Flyer Century
We Musketeers have been training together for Ironman Coeur d’Alene, which is only TEN DAYS AWAY, and at the same time, for Fletcher Flyer Century through Team in Training. Fletcher was to be our first Century Ride (bike ride of 100 or more miles) and would earn each of us the “Triple Crown,” awarded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to the rare few who complete a marathon, a triathlon AND a century while fundraising to help cure cancer.

When we signed up for the century, I told Elliot, a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society staff, that we were the Three Musketeers. We trained for our first Half Ironman through Team in Training, and here we were two years later doing the Century followed by a full Ironman. I asked him if we should wear our fencing swords during the century ride to signal to everyone our identities. Elliot promised something more practical and less likely to cause bodily harm. He said he had something PERFECT. I couldn’t wait to see what he might cook up. He left LLS just before the century ride, but I was not disappointed to see what awaited us in lieu of the Musketeers’ swords.

Each of us was issued a “CARDINAL.” The Cardinal is the state bird of Virginia, and we were told that by wearing this bird on our helmet, everyone else at the Century would know that we were from the Virginia Chapter of Team in Training. But also, as you may recall, Cardinal Richelieu was the arch enemy of the Three Musketeers. We were riding all day to fight cancer. We would not see our nemesis as we rode, but he would never be far away. I thought it was a fitting reminder of why we were on this quest. 

I am very proud of what the Musketeers have accomplished in training and races this season, but I am even prouder that collectively we have raised thousands of dollars in the quest to help cure cancer.  Many of you have been instrumental in getting us to those goals.  It is so important, and I thank you.  I race in honor of my father, who is in remission from lymphoma, and in memory of my grandmother, who lost a battle with leukemia.  If you'd like to make a donation, the site is still open, and will remain so at least for a little while after the Ironman.

The Seventeenth Century Three Musketeers went farther than most, and the Twenty First Century Three Musketeers are cut from the same cloth. At Fletcher, most people were riding 100 miles, followed by a celebratory feast. We Musketeers were riding 120 miles, followed by a one-hour run. To get it all in before the end of the day, I awoke at 4:15, and met the other Musketeers for an early ride. A man told us “you know you can’t start till the start.” We promised him we’d RESTART at the start at the start time, and were off. After our “warm up ride,” we circled back to the start line, as promised, met the rest of our group and began the official ride.

The ride was gorgeous--mostly rolling hills, with some nice climbs. Most of the climbs were steep but not too long, or long but not too steep.  Goldilocks hills.  But there were climbs here, there and everywhere. There were some technical bits--sharp turns at the bottom of hills, one sharp right followed immediately by a steep climb, and several descents with stop signs at the bottom, which is quite difficult to manage on a bike. The weather was hot--topping out at 90, and extremely humid.

During the run that followed, those who had finished their Century rides kept asking “why are you running? Haven’t you had enough?” After hearing this dozens of times, a woman shouted, “SO, what Ironman are you training for?” I guess she knew that the only crazy people who would run for an hour after a century must be triathletes going long--very long. We told her we were training for CDA, in Idaho, and she said “I’ve been there twice--gorgeous!” We asked whether the hills compared to Fletcher, and she said, “Uhh. There’s some big hills out there!” GULP!


As I have noted before, in races I have to overcome the fact that God did not give me any speed. I am lucky in other respects, though. One that comes in handy as the events get longer is that I have an iron stomach. Everyone around me is always talking about how things don't sit well on their stomach, or they cannot eat this or that, or just generally worrying whether their stomachs are going to get upset. They set timers to remind them to eat, and they force themselves to eat even if they think it might make them puke. I don’t have to set a timer because I am often hungry, when I am hungry I eat, and I couldn’t puke if I tried.

And that’s great because training for a Century and an Ironman means you get to eat a lot. For those of you interested in food, I’ll document what I ate: The night before the Century, I ate a large plate of pasta with meat sauce, plus a boneless breast of chicken, a large portion of roasted veggies and a wheat roll with butter. And I had a brownie. I hard boiled some eggs to eat for breakfast at home and stored them in the hotel fridge. When I awoke, the eggs were frozen solid! Covered in a layer of ice. I tried to thaw one in a cup of coffee, but the result was an coffee scented ice cube. So I ate a banana and some Greek yogurt for breakfast. And my usual two pieces of multigrain bread and jelly. I had a second banana before the ride.

I drank a lot of gatorade on the bike ride. I used my new "double" aero drink holder on the front of my bike and had three other bottles. I refilled my bottles at every stop and downed lots of extra gatorade. Full test gatorade has many calories, but riding a century is no time to go for the low calorie alternative. I ate 3 ½ cliff bars and 3 gels (if you aren’t a runner, I’ll tell you that a gel is a packet of thick sugary stuff that has about 100 calories in it) while riding, and at the stops I ate a total of 4 full peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a banana and an orange, a chocolate chip cookie and two Strawberry Newtons. To maintain my salt intake, I ate pretzels, trail mix, potato chips and some salty boiled potatoes. When we finished the ride and prepared to run, I wasn't hungry, but I knew I couldn't run for an hour with no food, so I ate a gel before starting on the run. I ate half a cliff bar on the run. I had a recovery drink afterwards and when we got back to the hotel, I remarked to Holly that I was not hungry. She looked at me and marveled, “I think that’s the first time I have ever heard you say that!” It took me a full hour before I was famished, and ate a Greek yogurt before we headed out for dinner. Good thing I did that long ride and run: I needed to work off all the calories!

What Lies Ahead

So, my century is complete, and now I am focused exclusively on the upcoming Ironman race. I shipped off my bike, Aanjay, today, and I fly out next Tuesday. We fly out ahead of time to adjust to the altitude and to preview the swim course (where the weather is supposed to be frigid--in the 60s), the bike course (to see if the hills are as steep as people say) and the run course (to see what obstacles that marathon will throw our way).

I have decided on goals for my race, which I’ll share with you. I must finish the race in 17 hours--it starts at 7 am, and I must cross the marathon finish line no later than midnight. Imagine waking up early and starting your workout at 7 am, and continuing all day, literally. But I would like to finish a bit earlier! I hope to finish the swim in 1 hour 40 minutes, the bike ride in 7 hours 30 minutes, and the run in 5 hours. There are transitions between each event, during which I will change clothes. If I take no more than 10 minutes at each transition, and meet my other goals, then my total time would be 14:30. That is right: fourteen and a half hours.

You can track me on race day (Sunday, June 26th) by logging onto and plugging in my name or number. My number is 640. The “athlete tracker” there will tell you whether I have crossed some timing mats along the course--there will be one at the end of the swim, and several during the bike ride and run. If you cannot stay up till I am finished, you can check the next morning to see how I did versus my 14:30 goal. In any event, after I get back home, you’ll hear from me.

Thanks so much to everyone for your support to me in this journey! If you would like to make a donation to help cure cancer, the fundraising site is still open. Thanks!

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