In my world there is no such thing as a perfect race.
I’m sure there are other people who have perfect races, but I live in a world where something always go sideways. While I imagine it would be nice to see everything go as planned, it’s how I am able to manage those situations that makes each race memorable for me.
(At what point of the race did things “go sideways?”)
This all started the night before the race.
At 12 midnight I was still prepping. Bags to pack, devices to charge.
My sports tracking watch, my bike computer and the bike itself. All three had rechargeable batteries that I was depending on.
(Didn’t you need to be sleeping?)
I figured I would be asleep by 12:30 a.m. Then I got hungry. Mind you I had already eaten that day:
One plate of lox
One 1 box of cookies
Two bags of chips
Two pints of ice cream
A full sit-down Shabbat lunch of cholent, kugle, ribs and cowboy steak.
(How were you still hungry?)
Darned if I know.
(What did you eat at that hour?)
I ate more cowboy steak.
No, by that point it was 1 a.m.
(What time did you get to sleep?)
(What time did you get up for the race?)
So with two and a half hours of sleep, I was off to a wonderful start of my day. I got down to transition around 5:30 a.m.
Normally at an Ironman you have to bring your bike in the day before.
(Why not on race day?)
Having 3,000 athletes check in their bikes can be chaotic. I was able to bring in my bicycle on race day because I had special Sabbath observant permission.
(What does bike check in consist of?)
Roll your bike onto the field, find your number and “rack” your bike. On race day your put your water bottles on your bike and pump up your tires.
(Why not do all that the day before?)
Leaving your protein shake in the sun for over four hours is not recommended.
(Why is it not recommend?)
Because it’s protein. Wanna guess what that would be like after a day in the sun?
I walked down the road to the lake, where I said my morning prayers.
I love praying at sunrise and my hope is that if I am publicly open about my Jewishness, I will inspire others to not be afraid.
The swim is a 1.2 miles loop in the lake.
I got kicked, I got elbowed in the face. I got through the swim. All par for the course. Out of the water, out of the wetsuit, I ran down the carpet towards bike transition. Mind you, I’ve only finished the swim portion, but the crowds that line the path were cheering, even screaming for the athletes. Above all of this I heard my wife Janet. I stopped for a good luck kiss. Any outside help is grounds for disqualification, but I don’t think this counts.
Then I ran to grab my bag of stuff and into the changing tent. Getting changed in a hot smelly tent full of other men is a chaotic event. It’s best to focus on what you’re trying to do.
I tossed my wetsuit down. Got dressed, stuffed the wetsuit, goggles and cap into the bag that had moments before held my bike clothing. I emerged from the tent, tossed the bag to a volunteer and ran to my bike.
At the “bike mount line”, I turned on the bike computer, but I forgot to switch the watch from “transition” to “bike”.
(Why run both at the same time?)
I was using the watch to track my total elapsed time...which becomes important when you are racing a midnight deadline.
(And the bike computer?)
That would give me real-time data for my ride.
The last thing you want to do is look down at your wrist when you’re trying to steer a bicycle.
(What could go wrong?)
Your bicycle goes where your eyes go. Using your wrist watch will cause you to veer off to the side and crash into another rider.
Four minutes into the ride, I tapped the button on my watch.
(So you had the slowest “transition” time of the day?)
At 16 minutes, I doubt it.
Ironman Lake Placid is the bike course where in 2016, I was on the bike for only seven hours, 55 minutes.
This was no longer that bike course.
The changes they made increased the amount of climbing I had to do.
An Ironman bike course comes with either wind or hills.
Lucky me—this one had both!
Thirty minutes into the ride, I reached the descent into the town of Keene.
(How much of a descent?)
One and a half miles straight down.
(How fast did you go?)
Forty five miles an hour.
(So this was a good thing?)
Until the wind came along. That descent is not straight. Try controlling a bicycle, at 45 mph, coming around a turn with cross winds.
(How did you not crash?)
In practice rides I realized, the more I relaxed my body, the greater control I would have over the bicycle.
(That is why you look so relaxed in the photographs.)
I was so relaxed that I almost forgot to eat.
(How do YOU, forget to eat, “Mr. Sushi Boat?”)
I still felt full from the steak, but I knew, if I waited unil I start to feel hungry, I would be in real trouble. Two hours into the race, I started sipping from my protein shake. Three hours into the race, I grabbed a cold bottle of water from a volunteer. In my head, I’m thinking, ‘I’m biking in the Ironman. Life is great.’
After almost four hours of riding, things started to go sideways...both figuratively and literally.
David Roher is a USAT certified Marathon & Triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher & a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: [email protected]