By Team Trainright's Bill Plock
Riding south from Hygiene on Colorado Highway 42 a wall of tumbleweeds crashed against my face as I pedaled about as hard as I could to go a mere 10 mph on a flat road. It was my dream of Kona that kept me from calling for a sag as I battled 60 mile per hour winds for over two hours. But, somehow I know this gut check ride will be a debit of mental strength I can cash in at some tough moment at Ironman Cozumel (November 27th) that may be the difference in earning a spot to Kona.
If you read my posts from a year ago (at Coloradobikeaholics), you would read about similar dreams of Kona as I prepared for Ironman Arizona in 2010. Well, those dreams have only intensified as I get ready for Cozumel in six weeks. It doesn't hurt to dream right? I doesn't help that Kona was last Saturday and my Facebook and Twitter pages were jammed with posts and news of friends competing, drawing me ever more to the annual pilgrimage of the world's greatest triathletes. A lot has changed for me since my first attempt at an Ironman last year. First and foremost was joining Team Trainright, where I have had the opportunity to experience some of the best coaching on the planet. My times have dramatically dropped from a year ago and I feel stronger than ever. While still a long shot at going to Kona, my dreams are more vivid than ever.
I have no doubt that Chrissie Wellington called in some mental debits as she passed Miranda Carfrae with just a few miles to go at the Ironman Championships . Chrissie was in the unusual position – for her – of having to pass someone on the run. It wasn't her best day, statistically, but she battled hard and found the energy store to pass Miranda. She tweeted, "But I hurt like I never have before, and had to dig into the depths of my body and soul." I don't know how she came to be in this unusual catch up position, but I do know that she crashed in a training ride not long ago that left her banged up and apparently kept her from swimming for several days so I can only imagine her relatively slow swim (I'd take it of course) was due to this injury. I suspect she is extremely proud of this effort, I only wish I could congratulate her in person. I can't imagine the pressure she feels as a returning champion. Everyone wants to beat her! Luckily for her, she seems so nice and genuine that people still cheer for her and want her to win.
As I continued my ride, depositing pain debits for future races, I kept relishing at how this asset was growing by the second. The wind never let up as it raced due North in the exact opposite direction I was traveling. Occasionally I had to head West which meant I had a fierce crosswind. Here, I made another deposit in the form of bike handling skills. I had to lean into the wind which meant leaning into traffic. Luckily there weren't many cars, but when one did pass me, I lost the wind I was leaning against for a split second and would have to adjust to keep from falling. I had to be focused and ready for anything as I couldn't hear the cars and occasionally gusts knocked me off the shoulder into the dirt three times. Luckily I didn't fall as I negotiated the gravel to get back on the road.
The wind is a tough competitor. It's subtle in its attacks. While very obvious it is also cunning and delivers infinite jabs looking for just the right time to throw a knockout punch. Statistically, my ride didn't look hard. My average heart rate wasn't that high, but I felt like I was working as hard as I could. Wind simply takes its toll both mentally and physically and demands extreme concentration or it will strike and bring you down.
I kept reminding myself that Cozumel can be very windy, as can Kona and somehow, someway, this windy ride will come back to help me!