Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 17

Week 16: Mon- 30 mile bike ride
Tue- 4 mile run
Wed- 2,000 yd swim
Thu- 10 mile bike ride
Fri- 20 mile bike ride
Sat-7 mile run
Sun-65 mile bike ride

Total: 137 miles

Total mileage so far: 1,881. 

                It's about to be taper week! To kick it off, I decided to do a 65 mile bike ride as the last big push before taking it easy this coming week. This bike ride was one distance offered at the Livestrong Challenge that happened on Sunday, October 20th. I didn't plan on doing this until a few weeks ago, when the Livestrong Foundation offered a Groupon for the ride entry fee. Rather than $70, they were selling them for $35, which was much more affordable.
                Since I was fundraising for the ALS Assocication,  I was not able to do so for this ride, but still wanted to participate. In fact, I heard about the race in the same week my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, which made it all the more important.
My ride bib. This fight IS personal.
          I got to the Palmer Event Center in Austin (free parking at the DAC- woo!) around 6:45 and prepped my bike and myself. Although fall is not in full swing yet in Austin, there have been a couple of cold snaps, and apparently that morning was one of them. I was so thankful I had gone to Academy and gotten a really great pair of running tights and a cold weather running top the day before. Their brand, BCG, is really affordable and just as high quality as other things I've worn, such as Nike. I put on layers- my bike shorts and bike jersey (stuffed with gels and a granola bar) and then the tights and running top over that. Since it was a very chilly 43 degrees, I also added gloves! Thankfully, my face and ears weren't too bad since it wasn't very windy, and my helmet kept my head warm. All I could think as I waited to check in was, "please, pleeeeeease don't let it be this cold before the swim next weekend!

           Check in was quick and easy, and we got great dry-fit t-shirts in bright yellow that I really liked. After that, I had about 20 minutes to mill around so I rode back to my car to store the tshirt and then came back to look at the marketplace. My favorite thing was the memory wall they had set up. People could choose a card to either pin to the wall or on their jersey that said "Survivor," "In Memory of" or "In Honor of." I chose an "In Honor of" for my dad and pinned it to the wall, mostly because my fingers were too icy cold to pin it to my jersey and my camelback backpack was covering my back anyhow.

I made a card for my dad on the far left. Next year, he will get a survivor tag!
           I took a picture of the course map- just in case. Bike rides and races tend to not be as thoroughly marked as running courses. There are very few mile markers, and the aid stations are obviously further apart. I also knew there were several options- 10, 20, 45, 65, and 100 mile rides going on, so I needed to make sure I took the correct turn. Thankfully, there were small signs that marked course directions so that, as long as you were paying attention and not chatting too much or speeding on by, you could follow the course without a map.

The 65 mile route is in purple. It basically went from downtown Austin past Buda, out to Wimberly, and back.

             Before we left, I took a panorama of the Austin skyline as I shivered in my bike cleats. The sun had just started coming up as we lined up in the bike stalls under our appropriate mileage markers, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I am a country girl who likes peace and quiet, but Austin is one big city I really love. It's a beautiful, (mostly) clean place that takes pride in itself, and I take pride in being able to call it home for the last 8 years. It is home to so many wonderful, worthy causes and businesses, including the Livestrong Foundation, which has been calling my dad personally to help with whatever they can since his diagnosis.

A little shaky panorama- it was 43 degrees when the ride started!
          Once the ride itself started, things were smooth sailing. The first five miles of the course were pretty steadily uphill, which wasn't a lot of fun, but then it was nice and easy all the way to Buda. I did not know anyone on the ride, so I was by myself most of the way. It's never smart, especially on a group ride, to have headphones in because you need to hear other people calling out if they are passing you or listen for cars. Typically, if I want music, I will put just one ear bud in on my right side, so passing traffic is audible, but I have noise to keep me company. For the Ironman, I am not allowed to have anything, even my phone, on me that is electronic for these safety reasons, so I've been trying to wean myself off music for a while. (It's still hard for the runs!)
            It was a beautiful ride course, and once the sun got up, beautiful weather. It was still cold, but pretty pleasant, and it was nice to not feel like I needed gallons of water to stay hydrated. Once the route got past The Salt Lick on the outskirts of Buda, the "Hill" part of "Hill Country" was in full swing, and there were some doozies! Around Austin there are lots of rivers and creeks that may be dry most of the year, but once it rains, they can come up as high as 5-6 feet. Smaller county roads, usually don't spend the money on bridges, and instead put in low water crossings that are about level with the creek bed. These were not wet, but the lay of the land makes them incredibly steep which is fun going down, but not going back up! One portion of the trail had 3 of these in a row before hitting a very steep climb up the side of a hill. Even the experienced riders who passed me were having trouble.
         Cycling definitely toys with your emotions. Within a span of 5 minutes, you can go from absolutely loving life, to hating yourself more than anything, and back again, depending on the terrain. It's much more mental than physical (my thighs would argue otherwise) and requires an appreciation for how far you've gone, rather than how far you have to go. There is probably a metaphor for the fight against cancer, or just life in general in there. However, another beauty of cycling and endurance sports in general is although the reasons many people get in to them can be universal, they are always deeply personal and introspective. I've ridden and trained this hard for my dad and cancer patients, as well as for those struggling with ALS. I've also ridden for me, to show myself how far I can go. All it's taught me is that I want to go further.
           We will see if that's still the case after I finish next weekend! One more week!

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