Yesterday I completed my last 6 hour ride. It was a great feeling knowing this was the last time I would ride for so long. The training has been long and hard and with the rigors of work it is good to let my know body rest before the race.
The training during the week was also tough with a ride to Windsor in the big gears (hard work on the leg muscles) and 10 hill repeats in Richmond Park as fast as I could go. I pushed hard and in both training sessions felt my calves spasm because of the shear exertion and amount of time I continued to push hard.
I did not know how I would go in the long ride and often with these rides I tell my strength by how well I climb the hills. I went out on the 6 hour ride with my coach and another ironman athlete. I was tired at the start of ride because I had not had enough sleep all week. I was not sure what my energy levels would do through the ride. I decided to test “Zero” by High5 to replace electrolytes when I ride in hot temperatures. The tablets dissolve in water and have a slight fizz to them.
We had about 6 hills to climb and we had a slow start in the first half of the ride. It was like we were warming up but that soon changed as my coach led us out for the middle section of the ride. He lifted the speed and it was a matter of keep up or fall far behind.
My legs got stronger as the ride went on and I rode hard up the hills. Training in the United Kingdom is very different to the hills in France but I used the fast hill climbs as a way to strengthen my legs. I felt more and more confident as the ride progressed and my body was coping well with the fast sprints and change of pace. I could tell how strong I was when I could accelerate and pull away from the other riders along the straight and hill climbs as we returned back to Richmond Park. My legs actually felt powerful and I had plenty of energy left in the “gas tank”. The Zero tablets were good and apart from making be burp did not upset my stomach.
The Ironman athlete riding with us was a true inspiration. He has kidney disease and has only one kidney working. What is more he has only 20% of that one kidney functioning. He has been training for an entire year for the Ironman and he is 2 weeks away. His condition was good when he started training however in the last few months his condition has got worse. His production of red blood cells is less than normal which has reduced the transmission of oxygen to his muscles when he exerts himself on the bike. When we climbs hills he has 30 seconds to 1 minute of strength and then he fades badly. He has continued to train and with two weeks to go is determined to succeed. I look at his attitude to training and his self belief and I honour his commitment to completing his Ironman challenge.
When I talk to and follow the journey of first time Ironman athletes it is guys like my friend above who inspires me and are the true stories of this wonderful sport. When I know he has crossed the line I know a man has conquered a massive personal challenge.
I have one last week of serious training. It involves a 2 lap time trial around Richmond Park, Fast ride to Windsor and a slow ride for 2 hours. I so look forward to the 2 hour slow ride as I will know I have finally completed all my training. Next week will be some easy 30 minute rides in the gym as my bike is heading to France carried on the roof rack of a car. I will use this time to pack, sleep and prepare my body for the onslaught.