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Ironman World Championship Nice 2023: Part 8

14 mph was a huge confidence boost.
(Credit: David Roher)

30 Days to go (August 8)

With four weeks to the Ironman World Championships, I had two benchmarks to see if I was ready.

(What if you weren’t ready?)

It didn’t matter, I had paid for the trip so I was going.

The first “benchmark” was Bike4Chai. This was my sixth year riding with Bike4Chai and my second as the team coach.

(How long a race is it?)

It wasn’t a race. Bike4Chai is a two-day charity ride. We started the ride in the Poconos and rode 100 miles on the first day. On the second day we rode 75 miles to Camp Simcha. Camp Simcha is a sleep away camp for children with life-threatening illnesses. The camp provides all the medical support that each camper needs.

I was still haunted by the fears of the 13 mile climb that was waiting for me at the Ironman World championship. I had let the anxiety get to a point where I didn’t want to ride my bike … but I knew that I had to.

Pickle juice shots at a rest stop with Shlomo Rosenzweig. (Credit: David Roher)

(You had to take your medicine.)

I had to face my fears.

I started riding with Bike4Chain in 2016 with Shlomo Rosenzweig and I rode this year again with Shlomo Rosenzweig.

Shlomo is a strong rider and that was going to help me to push myself. There were over 700 guys in matching bike outfits. Some were faster than we were and some were slower.

(Not a race.)

Exactly. The goal was to challenge ourselves. You don’t race the guy next to you in a triathlon, you race the clock.

(But aren’t you trying to win?)

Always. It’s human nature to want to pass the guy…

(Or gal.)

…who is in front of you. That is great if you are near the end of the race. If you surge too early, you run the risk of “blowing up.” At a triathlon that would mean walking.

(At Bike4Chai?)

At Bike4Chai the goal is to complete the whole ride. Surge too early and you will need to take an extended rest or a ride in the SAG wagon.

(The what?)

A “SAG wagon” is the “Support And Gear” car. There are over 30 of them assigned to the riders. Each of these vehicles can load several bikes and riders inside. Many SAG wagons also carry drinks and everything you need to change a flat tire.

Note the two climbs. (Credit: David Roher)

The first 50 miles were mostly downhills…

(Which meant that the ride back was going to be…)

Lots of climbing.

(But that was good. You needed that.)

The real test came at mile 70, and at mile 90.

The climb at mile 70 wasn’t very long, maybe half a mile, but it was at 14%.

(Is that a lot? I don’t speak bicycle.)

That is a very steep climb. To a cyclist, it can feel like you are going straight up a wall. You can fall over if you are in the wrong gear.

(Did you fall over?)

No, I relaxed my pedal stroke and shifted to my easiest gear.

(Years of experience?)

That and I saw the guys in front of me slow down as they started to climb.

(OK, 14% is harder than the “mostly 4%” of Ironman World Championships.)

Yes, but this was less than a mile, the Ironman is 13.

(Admit it, it felt good to climb without stopping.)

It did and when I hit the three-mile climb at 4% I relaxed, feeling that I just might be able to climb 13 miles like this.

(What did you do to celebrate?)

I parked my bike at check in and went for a 5K run.

David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6. He can be reached at [email protected].

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