For me the one workout that incites quaking in my boots while prepping for Ironman is the 180 km ride. This is where you hope your sports nutrition works well for you because it is too late to figure something new out. You hope that your bike shorts are comfortable and won’t cause chaffing in unfortunate areas. You hope your bike is comfortable. And boy oh boy, you sure hope that both your brain and your body are on board for this workout. If not, it will be a really long day. Also, a crummy 180 km ride can really make you question the success of all the training you’ve put in up to this point.
For my 180 km ride my friends and I decided to take the first Friday in August off of work to ride. I had a wedding to go to on Saturday which would make getting a ride in tough (along being a good wedding guest who doesn’t fall asleep during the reception). I also didn’t want the ride hanging over my head all weekend if I left it till Sunday. Luckily I had some great partners in crime willing to ride on Friday instead.
The day did not get off to a good start. It looked like this as we drove towards our starting point near Canmore.
It was a veritable monsoon out there and it was only 6°C out. You couldn’t even see the mountains we were driving towards! I also realized that I’d forgotten my aero bottle at home. Without it I have a tough time drinking enough so we had to turn around to grab it, putting us about 30 min late of our start time.
As we set up our bikes in the cold rain, putting on as many layers as possible, we talked about whether we could do this ride another day. Right now was really our only option so it was time to put on our big girl panties and just start riding. We started from Harvie Heights on the edge of Banff National Park, then rode along the Banff Legacy Trail towards Banff, then on to the Bow Valley Parkway. Being a cold and rainy Friday the Legacy Trail was pretty empty. It gave us a chance to ride as a bit more of a group and chat along the way.
I remember thinking to myself that it was cold and yucky out and I really didn’t feel like drinking my Infinit. Luckily the other side of my brain had the presence of mind to tell myself that it would be a really long day if I didn’t start drinking and keep on top of nutrition.
Finally about 60 km in I think the rain stopped. We did a long out and back for the first 100 km. One member in our group only needed to ride 100 km that day and since we were riding through Vermillion Lakes (where there was a bear warning) we wanted to stick together as a group all day. This also gave us a chance to drop off jackets and such as it started to warm up. We then rode the same route out and back for the last 80 km. It was easy to break the ride up in to chunks – Canmore to Banff, Banff to the Bow Valley Parkway to Castle Junction. This really helped mentally as I didn’t focus on the entire distance. On our second time through the Bow Valley Parkway we even spotted a couple of elk (although I only managed a picture of one).
The ride went really well. No mental low points during the day and for the first time I was as squirmy and uncomfortable around the 90 km mark (usually when things start to feel uncomfortable for me). The brick run wasn’t very fun but we got it done! Boy it felt good to get that big bike ride done!