Well, the Florida Challenge Triathlon is fast approaching and I have to make a decision. The race is September 12th, and as of today I'm not 100% committed to racing. I'm pretty sure I'll do it, but I have to make sure I'm ready for it mentally. Physically of course, but the mental aspects of these races can NOT be overlooked.
I've done this race several times before, and each time it takes me to my limit. Some races were better than others, but what makes it so tough for me is the bike portion. Florida isn't known for hills, but Central Florida has A LOT of hills.
Here's the bike course description for this race:
Bike Course: A 56 mile course consisting of one loop along rural country roads. No major elevation changes, but you will experience a few rolling hills and a steep but short climb up Sugarloaf Mountain. Support/aid stations will be located aproximately 10-15 miles apart. The official bike course cut-off is at 2:00 pm. All participants still on the course at that time will not be allowed to continue and will be removed from the course.
Now the race I did earlier in the year had some small hills, but this race takes the hills to another level! The description above spoke of Sugarloaf Mountain.
The 1st time I did this race, I was STUNNED at the sight of Sugarloaf. I wasn't ready for it. Even now, years later, I get nervous thinking about it:
These pics don't do the hill justice. It's a steep hill that comes at about mile 30 of the bike ride. The heat of the day and the other hills before this one make it for a very challenging bike course.
Bike riding (especially over hills) is generally speaking easier for lighter cyclists than heavier ones. The less weight you have to lug over the hills, the better! That's why many of the top riders in The Tour De France are skinny. But at the same time, their weight to power ratio is high.
Seeing how I weigh 210 pounds, it takes a lot of energy to climb hills. Luckily for me, this race has a division for the heavier athletes: Men over 200 pounds are called Clydesdales, and women over 140 pounds are Athenas. That way, we're not competing against athletes who weigh significantly less...
Like I said, I'm not fully committed to the race as of yet, so I need to test myself a bit to see if I'm ready. The bike ride is the key. If I don't feel my bike is up to par, I won't do the race, because the last thing I want to do is start a race then quit because I wasn't ready to race!
So to get ready, I have to ride on hills or bridges I can find in my area, and here they are:
The Sand Key Bridge:
I ride this bridge first. In order to simulate rolling hills that I'd see in a race, I ride over the bridge, ride about 2 blocks, then turn around & ride it again. Over & over. I try to ride at an even pace, using the least amount of energy. Try as I might, I have a VERY hard time accelerating or riding fast uphill. It's just not my strong suit! Everyone has a weakness and riding uphill is mine.
But I don't use that as an excuse to slack off or give up. If anything, it makes me work harder!
Yesterday was my 1st ride on the bridges in a couple months. My goal was to just see how my legs would respond. I practiced sitting down and riding up the bridge, and standing up periodically.
Hereare pics at the top of the bridge:
(An old pic)
I rode the bridge back & forth for 90 minutes, then rode 10 miutes over to the other bridge (Clearwater Bridge:)
Here's an old pic from the top:
The key for me when riding uphill is to go at my own pace & stay calm. Over time, I've discovered that if I'm using too big a gear my lower back will hurt, specifically my right side. The reason being is my right leg is my dominant leg, so I'm over-compensating. (When I strained my back a couple months ago, it was on my left side.)
When riding a bike, the muscles used are your abs, calves, glutes and calves. When my back starts to hurt, I ease off and go down to an easier gear.
All in all, I had a good ride yesterday. I rode a total of 2:55 minutes, with a 20 minute walk for a cooldown. It was pretty hot out, but I had plenty liquids and electrolytes. I'm going to train pretty hard for the next 2 weeks and make my final decision at that point as to if I'll race or not.
Seeing how I completed a half ironman already I feel pretty good about my probability of doing this race. But the key is the bike ride. Struggling over hills is NOT FUN! It's pure torture. So the bike is my top priority. With that said, I'm going to lift weights only once per week for the time being and ride the bike instead by doing intervals.
I'll know within 2 weeks if I have enough gas in the tank. Tme will tell!
Thanks for reading! Till next time, Peace!