As I believe I may have mentioned yesterday as I did the hard sell on the new Fat Cyclist Trainer (by the way, it’s still available, is beautiful, soft Merino wool, and looks every bit as awesome as you’d expect a Twin Six-designed trainer to look. Order Now !), The Runner and I were in St. George, Utah, last weekend.
Her purpose was simple: scout out the Ironman course, so she’d have a good idea of what she was in for this May.
My purpose was even simpler: to offer support, advice, commentary, and witty banter. And also to see if I could keep up.
The plan was to ride one lap of the loop part of the bike course (45 miles) on Saturday, then run a lap of the marathon course (a 13-mile out-and-back you do twice) the next day.
Along the way, I discovered something incredible: it would be easy to do an Ironman. I could do one right now, in fact.
I will explain.
Day 1: The Ride
We did not pre-swim the swim part of the Ironman, mainly because elevation gain and water density seem to be pretty consistent across reservoirs throughout the area (though I understand the water gets heavier when you get into Nevada).
Regardless, I think I could swim two miles easily. For one thing, anytime I get tired, I would just switch to the sidestroke, which I can do indefinitely. Or at least I could do it indefinitely the last time I tried it, which was — admittedly — about 28 years ago.
And then there’s always the backstroke, which you don’t even have to technically be conscious to do.
Sure, I may not be the first out of the water, but I’d get out. And then just consider what an awesome morale booster it would be for me to have all those people to pass once I got on the bike.
So, anyways, The Runner and I planned to ride one lap of the two-lap course on Saturday: 45 miles, which is not a big deal (the remaining miles for the bike course are made up of getting from the swim staging area to the loop, and then getting from the loop to the run staging area).
Here we are, about to begin the ride.
Seriously, could we be any more matchy-matchy? The answer to that question is, “Yes, if Fatty were to procure a Bento box.”
Which will never happen. Ever.
Back to my description of the ride. Oh, I haven’t started describing it yet? Ok, I’ll start now.
It’s an easy bike course, ideal for an Ironman. You may be waiting for a punchline here, but there isn’t one. Except for in one place (which I’ll describe in a moment), all the climbing is extremely mild — hardly noticeable, in fact. So while you do around 2500 feet of climbing per lap, you only notice it in one place.
That one place comes about 2/3 of the way through the loop, and even that climb isn’t too big of a deal: it’s 320 feet of climbing in 0.8 miles. We cruised up it without difficulty.
“That will probably be harder on the second lap,” I observed, as we got to the top.
“I think we should find out how much harder,” replied the Runner.
Yes, she was proposing changing the length of the ride — doubling it — partway through. To me this seemed like a breach of etiquette, but I agreed without argument, for the following reasons:
- St. George is a magical place in the Winter. It’s a mere four-hour drive from Alpine, where I live, yet it is sunny and warm pretty much year round. This was the first time in well more than a month that I had been on my road bike, and I was so happy to be riding again.
- We had only been riding for thirty miles or so and I hadn’t really gotten my fill.
- A hot chick on a bike had just suggested we ride more.
We discovered, finishing the first lap, why this course really is ideal for an Ironman — the loop ends with a fifteen mile rolling descent. A perfect opportunity to recover, eat, and get rehydrated before the marathon.
I explained this to The Runner, who nodded at my sage advice with an air of a patient parent listening to a toddler explain why it’s a good idea to keep your shoes tied. Yes, it’s all true, but the likelihood of new information being presented is, shall we say, poor.
At the beginning of the second lap, I noticed something had changed. Specifically, I had changed. Instead of easily keeping up with The Runner, I found that I was gradually being dropped by her.
This was not cool.
Quickly, I corrected the situation. Not by going faster, but by coming up with reasons why I was going slower. These reasons consisted of:
- The jacket I had put on at the beginning of the second lap was billowing out, causing excessive wind resistance.
- The jacket was also making me too warm, but I could not shed it because I had gotten rid of my jersey and vest at the beginning of the lap, meaning I had on only a base layer under the jacket, and it is very form-fitting. Perhaps a little too form fitting. As in, it makes me look like a paunchy mime on a bike. Which is terrifying, believe me.
- I had done most of the pulling on the first lap, so was entitled to be tired on the second lap. In reality, this is completely false; I had done no pulling whatsoever on the first lap. But I made a calculated wager that The Runner would see this assertion for what it was — a desperate ploy to protect my fragile ego — and would let it go. Which she did.
I made each of these points out loud. Most of them I made more than once. Except I didn’t say that I look like a paunchy mime on a bike.
As expected, the one difficult climb on the course was considerably more difficult the second time around. I believe it may also have been both steeper and longer, which was both unexpected and unwelcome.
Still, I loved the fact that even though I haven’t been riding much during the Winter, I can hop on my bike and ride a hundred miles without really killing myself.
A fact which I celebrated that evening by eating my weight in steak fajitas, then collapsing onto my bed by 8:00pm and falling asleep immediately.
Day 2: The Run
The next day we did a lap of the St. George Ironman marathon course. This is, by the way, a very peculiar course. It sends you out 6.5 miles, then has you retrace your route back to the beginning. And then you repeat yourself.
So you cross each point in the course four times.
Furthermore, it seems that the race organizers must have come up just a little bit short on distance when they made this course, because they have you turn right onto one street — a cul-de-sac — and run around it.
Meaning, naturally, that you will cross any given point in that cul-de-sac eight times during the course of the marathon. Which I believe qualifies you to apply for residency in St. George.
Luckily for me, this course is almost entirely up and down. You run up a giant hill for 3.5 miles, then you run down the other side for three miles. Then you turn around and run up (and then down) again. Rinse and repeat.
Since I have already established that I am no good at running on the flats, this suited me just fine. It made it possible for me to at least sorta-kinda hang with The Runner.
As we got close to the finish of running our 13.5 miles (we made a couple of wrong turns and added a little distance to the run, and The Runner wouldn’t agree to letting me stop at exactly 13 miles and having her come and get me with the car), I observed, “Wow, that final big climb is going to be a lot harder the second time you do it.”
Then I immediately followed up with, “And I am absolutely not going to find out how much harder.”
We finished the run — I am happy to say that I did not need to stop or walk even once, and am (so far) uninjured — after which we bookended the matchy-matchiness of the weekend with this photo:
Following this, we went to a restaurant where I ate my weight in hamburger, followed by eating my volume in french fries.
Yes, I know the physics of doing this are problematic. But this is my superpower, and superpowers trump physics, as you should already know.
Wherein I Reasonably Assert That I Could Do All Of This And A Lot More In One Day
The thing is, at no point during either of these days did I think to myself, “I’m toast. I’ve gotta quit.”
Nope, not even once.
I think, therefore, that it stands to reason that I could have ridden 26 more miles than I did. And that I could have turned around and done the run again. And that I could have done the swim thing, too.
Besides, I’m pretty sure that the swim is around the edge of the reservoir, so I think I could probably just wade it. And I am an excellent wader.
And I don’t think it’s such a big stretch to think that I could do all of that back-to-back, without resting for 12 hours between each event. I just did all that sleeping last weekend because I was drowsy.
I went to St. George thinking that it would be an excellent wake-up call, demonstrating that I needed to get myself together.
Instead, I discovered that an Ironman is no big deal, and I could do one right now, if I felt like it.
I just don’t feel like it, that’s all.