Race Report: Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride

April 28, 2014

When I signed up for this ride, I had hopes of an early century ride. Last year, it was the very first ride of the season (snow just refused to go away), but maybe this year would be different.

Nope.

Snow lingered for a long time and I was stuck on the trainer.

I finally got the bike out the day before the ride. It was cold and windy. Rode for 30 miles. That was the only prep I could get for the group ride.

Ride day weather was forecast to be worse. A lot worse.

2800 people pre-registered. 1200 showed up. I would have bailed as well, but I have had no bad weather bike training. None. Ironman Wisconsin could bring some crummy weather, and some practice would be a good thing. What better chance than to get some miles in with rest stops, tech support, patrolled intersections, medical, and meals. Besides, I would get a free T-shirt…

I woke up to thunder that night…maybe this was a bad idea. Thunder was gone when I got up…replaced with torrential rain. And cold. And wind. This was gonna be hell.

I look at the map. This is a great ride since you start at a central staging area and there are multiple possible loops…some longer then others. If you do them all, you get a century ride. I opt for the shortest…which happens to be the hilliest. It would be the toughest 27 mile bike ride of my life…

The drive out shows the rain slowing down, then almost stopping. This is good. The thermostat reads mid-thirties. This is bad.

I am decked out in multiple layers. Bags on the outside of the socks, latex gloves inside 2 other pairs of gloves. Garbage bag between the windbreaker and inner insulation. 2 skullcaps inside the helmet.

I was still gonna freeze.

I get to the fairgrounds…it’s a swamp.

Get my wristband and map. Rain is holding off (the ride commissioned an exclusive event forecast which said that the rain was gonna hold off until after the event. They lied…and we all knew it).

The first 14 miles were hard. Cold, and windy. The crosswinds that could knock you off your bike windy. Rain came down a little at a time. It came horizontally. And then there was the sleet.

This was awful. I didn’t know it, but it would get so much worse.

I stopped at the rest stop, and talk with a few others. The course is mostly deserted (duh!). I literally didn’t see anyone on the road…car or bike, for 10 miles. The aid station folks were cold and bored. But they were eager to chat and provided a nice little moral boost.

I knew the hills were coming. Figured I might as well get it over with. Climbed back on an headed out. Spent the next few miles in granny gear and frequently standing up. Even though I had a tailwind, I rarely cracked 8mph.

Then I heard thunder. Thunder bad. But it was distant. That got me moving. Never saw lightning.

With 10 miles to go, I was doing OK. I thought about doing a second loop. That’s when the floodgates opened. Within 2 miles I was drenched. I was freezing. I was going into hypothermia and I could not feel my left foot anymore.

If I had seen a support vehicle, I would have flagged him down for a ride…but none came.

So, I just kept going…and going…and going.

By the time I got to the car, I could not even grasp my car keys. It took me 2 minutes to open the car door. I was shaking uncontrollably. I Cranked up the heat and Made good use of my dry towel and change of clothing. Took me 30 minutes to get warm.

After this 27 mile ride, I can comfortably state that I got in some awful weather training.

A few things I know. If the weather is like this on Ironman day, I won’t finish. It took 2 miles to destroy me. I managed another 6-7 miles. No way I could do 100+ miles.

The weather for the day was impressive. In the 48 year history of the Ironman Bike Ride, it was the 3rd coldest. It had the lowest windchill (mid-twenties), the worst winds (21 mph average sustained winds with gusts into the high 30’s), and the third rainiest day (of the other two, one had torrential rains overnight, but was over by ride start. The other had temps in the 60’s). We got 1.7″ of rain. It was the windiest day in over a year. It has been named the worst weather in the history of the ride.

I got the shirt. I can wear it with pride! I survived, which is about the best you can hope for on a day like that…

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