Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Boldly Going Where No Man (Well, At Least THIS Man) Has Gone Before" A 172 Mile Bike Race?

It's been a very long time since I raced a distance that was so long that I'd not gone that far before. I did my longest triathlon back in '97, repeating the Ironman distance two more times. I did my first 50 mile ultra marathon back in '80, doing three more ultras after that. I swam 3 miles once back during the summer of (about) '98 in a lake in Minnesota. Longest bike ride ever was a training ride of about 120 miles for the '97 Ironman.

Everything since then has been just trying to race faster, not longer...until now. My wife, who is a Realtor for Landmark Group, here in Omaha came home one day to tell that the company was going to put on a 172 mile bike race that covered three states - Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. The route goes from Omaha to Rock Port, Missouri and back. Yes, there is a 2 person relay division and a 4 person division, but...time for a new challenge I think. Check it out at

How do you train for a 172 mile bike race? I don't know. Ride your bike a lot I guess. How do you pace yourself for such a long race? I don't know. Go real easy the first 120 miles I guess. What kind of nutritional plan should you use? I'll stick to 300 calories/hour of Hammer Nutrition products which has always worked in other races. What about saddle sores? offers "Slather" which works great for that potential problem.

Biggest challenge for me (besides the distance which is ridiculous, and questions about pacing) is the lack of time to train for such a race. I'll no doubt be under trained. It's May 14 but I'm out of town for a week in March so no riding, and then, two weeks in April, I'm out of the country, so no riding then. That leaves less than 8 weeks! Man, wish I had about 4 months, but I don't. So, what will I do?

I'll try to get in as many long rides on my days off, as I possibly can. I might be able to get my longest ride up to 110 miles which, seems woefully short of what is needed. But, all I can do is to do what I can, then, try to be really smart on race day. If you ride a bike but are not interested in the solo 172 or the two person relay, get three friends and do the 4 person relay - 43 miles each. Or, if that's a bit too much, do the Family Ride of 17 miles. There will be an expo and some cool stuff going on that day besides the races at Midtown Crossing which is the start and finish line for all races. So, check out the website and join in the fun if you live in eastern Nebraska or western Iowa.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Climbing The Mountains Of Life

Last weekend I was in sunny, warm Tucson, AZ for the ICTN ( annual camp/retreat. Besides seeing old friends, making new ones, listening to some great speakers and attending fantastic triathlon workshops, there is the annual Mt. Lemmon bike climb for those who want to tackle it. Mt. Lemmon is a 27 mile climb taking you from about 2,000 ft. above sea level where it starts, up to over 8,000 ft. It's pretty much relentless with very few reprieves from the grinding ascent.

This was the 6th year for the camp and the 3rd it's been held in Tucson. Two years ago, I approached the mountain with little respect for it. I had NEVER climbed a mountain of any type. Omaha and Phoenix, where I've lived the last 29 years, have hills, yes, but no mountains. Still, I figured, how tough can this really be? Ok, so, it was tough enough to wipe me out after 14 miles of climbing both previous years, just halfway up it. Why? Bad mindsets, bad pacing and a bad nutritional plan. Last year I took the first 8 miles WAY too fast and bonked at about 11 miles, barely hanging on up to 14 where I called it quits.

So, I was zero for two going into the climb this year. I'd had 365 days to think about this. I decided I'd climb slowly but steadily. Didn't care if anyone passed me...even an elderly women on a recumbent bike - I'd just let her go. I would ride my pace, stay very hydrated and fueled up, and know it would take me awhile so patience had to prevail.

We start up the mountain and, sure nuf, some folks started to come around me as I made my way up the first half. I was tempted to go with a couple of them but..."Don't do that," I told I didn't. 27 miles of climbing at about 9 mph means...well, you do the math. My only goal was to get to the summit, not to get there quickly. My hydration was good and by using Hammer Nutrition's products, I never had a major energy let down - emphasis on "major."

On we rode with snow on the sides of the road when, a couple of miles from the top a few buddies passed me, coming down. Man, those guys can ride. John Shelp, who I was riding with, and I keep moving upward feeling worse and worse the closer we got to the top. There is a small community at the 25 mile point called Summerhaven and we pulled in there thinking we'd grab a cookie and coffee at the shop there...but...then...John said, let's keep going. Seriously? I really didn't think I could go up two more miles to the ski lift. I was completely spent. But, the summit beckoned us, so, we made the turn and headed further up the mountain.

We made it! 27 miles of mountain climbing. Did I respect that mountain now? Yep. And, I'd climbed on a bike with gearing perfect for flatland racing, not geared to climb, which, made it even tougher, but also more satisfying. We went into a shop and ordered blueberry pie with ice cream and coffee. Man, did that taste good! Then, we bundled up cause it was cold up there and headed down. An hour or so later, after screaming down that hill, we hit the bottom and headed the last 6 miles back to the host hotel, completely exhausted and spent, but very happy.

We all face mountains in our lives. Financial, vocational, physical, relational...there are many and each season of life seems to bring new ones. We can choose to look at the mountain and not take it seriously, only to have it kick our fanny. We can try to overcome it without the necessary "nutrition" that we'll need to fuel us on our journey. Or, we can start up it with the right mindset and supplies. That ride only made me stronger after I recovered. The mountains of life can be looked at from a positive point of view.

David of the Old Testament said, "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Psalms 121:1.
God is the One who knows best how to deal with the mountains of life. Focusing on Him, we draw the help we need to make it up and over every mountain we face, or, just watch Him move it. What mountain is confronting you currently? How are you dealing with it? God is right there. He knows the way up and over. Look to Him.