With Ironman Canada only 7 weeks away, we are ramping up our workouts to places they have never been before. Sunday, we did a 100 mile bike ride to Mt. Saint Helens. From what I heard, it was 50 miles up and 50 miles down. I was nervous about this for a few reasons. Our bikes are less than a week old to us and this is the longest ride I've ever been on. The longest we went on our old bikes was 70 miles. This is longer. I was also concerned about the uphill for 50 miles. If it got too hard, the only option is to turn around and come home. I didn't want to do that. Finally, this was a good indication of where we stand for Ironman and I was nervous I would find out that I was not in as good of shape as I have been training to be.
Well, nervous or not, the ride started at 7:30. We drove up to Toledo (about an hour north) and met up with Doug and Ron. The sky was overcast and a bit rainy. Doug and Ron attempted this ride on Monday and had to turn back because it was so cold. We were hoping that wouldn't happen today.
Away we went. The beginning of the ride didn't seem so bad. We stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, then at rest area around mile 25. After that, the climbs started. From mile 25 to mile 37 was uphill. All uphill, smallest gear, no stopping on the pedalling, no taking a break, no flat road. Just. Up. Hill. I was going at a comfortable pace. My heart rate never spiked, I was able to control it. I didn't feel like I needed to stop or couldn't keep going.
We hit a flat and some downhill and then started to climb again. This climb took us through the clouds and the sun came out. We hadn't seen the mountain yet, on this 7 mile climb, we came around a corner and there she was - Mt. St. Helens - bigger than life. We all said outloud "WOW". It was beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky, they were all below us. We had climbed to 3800 feet (from below 1000).
From about mile 40 to 45 was downhill. Then it was time for the final climb to the top. The last five miles were way more uphill than anything else we had done. There was one point when we turned a corner and I saw how much further we had to go and I just laughed because it was SO far.
We reached the top and it was the best feeling ever. We did it! I did it!! I knew the 50 miles back to the car would be easier, but we did have one long climb and I was not looking foward to that.
We took some time at the top and refilled our water bottles, had a snack, took some pictures and hit the road. There were some people eating Subway sandwiches and I could have beaten them up for them!!
We got back on the bikes and headed back to town. The downhills were so steep that it was scary, I rode my brakes so that I wouldn't be out of control. We got to the bottom of the first hill and then started the last long climb. I kept reminding myself it was the last long climb.
We made it to the top and then it was really all downhill from there. Around mile 70, I had a bit of a lull and it seemed hard. Then I got comfortable and that the miles went fast. We hit mile 90 and I didn't think we would ever see 100. Wow, those last 10 miles were mentally difficult. It took up 5 hours to get to the top and only 3 to get back down. 8 hours on the bike...yes, that is a lot.
We got done and I felt great. Everytime we ride with Doug and Ron, they take us on an amazing adventure that really builds my confidence. I can't keep up with them, they are very strong cyclists and at first, that always bothers me. Then I remind myself to do that best I can do and I settle into my pace and it all works out.
I think the thing I love the most about training for the Ironman is that I have so many opportunities to do things I never thought possible. It is a great feeling to go out and do something you have never done before. We have a few more of these long rides to go on our training schedule. And then, of course, on long one sandwiched between a swim and a run on August 29th....can't wait.