112 miles is a little more than a nice ride in the car. It's not exactly a hop-skip-and an easy train
ride, either. Trying to cover that distance using two wheels and your own two legs, two lungs, and
heart, well, it can flat-out be a bit of challenge. Throw in a 2.4 swim before it and a 26.2 mile
run after it, and that challenge has a way of turning into misery.
Completing the middle stage of an Ironman is, arguably, the hardest one for many endurance athletes who seem to have an extremely close relationship with mind-numbing pain.
112 miles on a bike. On a hard seat. On a two-loop 56-mile course that takes you through the Adirondack region. No, not one on a flat-as-an-ironing board course one like those in Florida
or Texas. This bear of a course goes through and around Lake Placid, consisting of rolling hills, lung-searing inclines, and a 12-mile finish that goes up, but never down.
Yeah, it's a bitch. And a long one.
A lot of riders have gone further than 112 miles and many of them do it a lot faster than
this 50-something, slow-twitch, 220-lb, boy-in-a-man's body can. Nobody gets a medal for
completing it and I'm not bragging because I've done it three times over. I'm just a guy
who wants to share my experience because there's a lot of things that go through your mind
during a stage that can least nearly seven hours without stopping even once. Not even to go
to the bathroom.
That 112-mile bike ride doesn't begin until after a 2.4 mile swim and a 600-yard run from
the water to the transition area where the man boobs flop with every stride and the brain tries
to reset itself after an hour of swimming in what seems like a blender, with arms, legs, and
elbows flying all over the lake at 6:30 in the morning. Once you slip out of the wetsuit into
cycling shoes, shorts, shirt, and a helmet, reality hits you in the face like a sledgehammer: Now
I have to bike 112-miles. That is a lot of time on the bike and a lot of time to think.
There are only two things that are really important to me when I begin the journey: avoid a
flat tire and hydrate myself enough so I can go the distance. Truth to be told, I really spend
most of my time on two wheels praying to God about one thing. It usually goes something like
this, "Please, God, don't let me get a flat tire." Flat tires suck. They are worse than being forced
to watch a season-long series of the Kardashian's. If you get a flat tire during a race, it'll cost
about 30-45 minutes to repair it---that's if everything goes right.
In the first Ironman I did in 2014, the bike ride started out in a monsoon. The rain pelted my
face like brass needles into a dark board as thunder and lightning lit up the sky. My feeling at
the time was, "Well, if you're going to take me now, Lord, I won't have a problem with it.
There can be worse ways to go than during an Ironman event." I seriously didn't care about
the lightning crackling above me. I had trained for more than six months. There was no way
I was going to quit now.
The downpour went on for the entire first loop of the race. Then the skies opened and the sun
came. So did a litany of thoughts. "What the hell am I doing this for anyway? I paid $750 to
put myself through absolute torture more 12 hours? Seriously?" Yeah, when you have to sit
on a bike for almost as long as an average work day, some crazy things go through your mind.
Another one for me was, "What the hell am I going to do when I have to go to the bathroom?"
I mean, I didn't want to stop and get off the bike. If that happened, I feared my legs would
cramp up and I'd have no desire to finish the race. But during a race where you consume more
than 20 16-ounce bottles of Gatorades, countless gels, goos, bananas, and orange slices, you
have to go to the bathroom, right?
For some reason, I had the urge to go to the bathroom, but never could. I'd see riders ahead of
me standing up on their bikes to relieve themselves and others squatting in the woods, but I
could never go. Ever.
The 112-mile bike ride wasn't completely filled with pain. Riding in the Adirondacks offered
some amazing scenery with rivers, mountains, and beautiful trees. It was easy to lose yourself
in the scenic ride.
But the pain was never far way--nor were the prayers about making it through without
blowing a tire. That would be a total buzz kill.
I've been lucky in all three Ironman events I completed. I never blew a tire. Thank you, Lord.
When I approached the end of the 112-mile stage knowing I wouldn't have to fix a flat tire,
I always let out a big yell, celebrating my luck and ability to avoid jagged edges, potholes. or
anything else that could've ruined my ride.
And after I changed into my running shoes, visor, and sunglasses, it was finally time to relieve
myself after six and-a-half hours on the bike. Yep, almost four minutes standing up next to
a trough-like, make-shift urinal in the transition tent. I'm not going to lie. It felt amazing.
A little relief before a 26.2 mile run does the body and mind good.