8:44 a.m. (+2:01:36 since race start.)
Now it was time for the main attraction on the Ironman Lake Placid bike course…the descent into Keene. I have spoken about wet conditions and downhills. It was time to embrace one.
When triathletes speak of Keene, they are referring to a five-mile downhill on the Ironman Lake Placid bike course.
My first time on this course was in 2016 and that year I reached speeds of over 46 mph. This year I wanted to push it up to 50 miles an hour on the descent.
I looked at the right handle on my bike where the brake and gear shifter was located; the handle was wiggling.
(Is it not supposed to do that?)
NO...IT IS DEFINITELY NOT SUPPOSED TO BE WIGGLING!
I’m in the middle of the race I spent six months preparing for and I’ve got a mechanical problem...and I’m about to head down a mountain.
I went into “Apollo 13” mode.
In the movie (and book) “Apollo 13,” Gene Kranz, the man in charge in Houston said, “Let’s work the problem. What do we know?”
That has always been my approach in a crisis.
The right bike handle houses the entire assembly for the brakes and the electric gear shifters.
If the assembly gets yanked forward it could rip out the brake line or the gearing.
(I assume that is bad.)
Yes, very bad.
(How bad is “very bad”?)
Lose the gear shifters, I might be stuck in whatever gear I was currently peddling in. Very bad for the many hills ahead.
Lose the brakes and all that would be left would be the front brakes. Using only the front brakes could cause me to be launched over my handlebars...while descending down Keene.
Currently, both worked.
So, I gripped the assembly a little farther back, where it junctioned.
(Huh? You lost me. Is “junctioned” even a real word?)
Think of it as gripping a child’s arm where the winter glove meets the coat sleeve and try to hold them together with just your fingers.
(Children wear mittens, not gloves.)
THAT’S NOT THE POINT!
It took most of my hand strength to hold things together this way.
(Good thing you practice guitar and do finger exercises.)
As the road slanted downward, the bike picked up speed until I no longer needed to pedal.
The speed increased exponentially as the road slipped down.
When I reached 34 mph, I said,
“The road is still wet; this is fast enough.
If I take it up to 50 a gust of wind cuts across, I will tumble down the road like a bag of trash.”
All I could hear was the wind in my ears as I tried to hold the right bike handle together.
In my head, I kept saying to my hand, “Please don’t cramp, please don’t cramp...”
I coasted from mile five of the course to mile 10. As my speed dissipated, I decided that it was time to get down to business. I had enjoyed the free ride, but now it was time to consult the race plan.
(On your phone?)
No, in my mind. I spent weeks mapping out when and where to eat.
Nutrition is the often-forgotten fourth part of a triathlon.
With the overcast cool air, I hadn’t consumed anything.
At 5 a.m., I had some lox and two cans of Starbucks espresso shots as “breakfast,” so it was time to start fueling.
(Solid or liquid food?)
My bike holds four water bottles.
Bottle one was four scoops of protein powder mixed with water and a cup of coffee.
Bottle two was blue raspberry Gatorade although I think they call it something else.
Bottle three was a bottle of water.
Bottle four is not a bottle.
(When is a bottle not a bottle?)
When it is a canister of tire-changing tools.
The real fun began at mile 40.
(What happened from the bottom of Keene until 40?
Very manageable rolling hills.
Now, hill climbs that didn’t have a dessert of a downhill at the top, just more hill.
That took a little out of me.
The same at mile 48.
The same at mile 53 when I reached a series of climbs called The Three Bears.
By themselves, not difficult, but after everything I had to pedal through to get there, it was a challenge.
So big a deal that there’s a party of people at the very top of The Three Bears.
There are people blasting music out of a boombox, holding motivational signs and a guy dancing in a tutu. No matter how hard the race felt, I couldn’t help but smile. Then it was a right turn down the road towards the point where this ride all began.
Being a two-loop course, there were two options at the end of the course:
“Second loop this way”
I rolled past the bike exit that was marked “bike dismount”
and chose the “loop two” path. It was back onto the course again. Like a bear sitting in your campsite as you return from your walk...loop two was usually where the problems waited for me when I rolled through...
12:06:22 p.m. (+5:23:51 since race start.)
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]