I went riding outside on my road bike for the first time in nearly six months. My wife was in Winnipeg at a Yoga workshop for the weekend so i'd taken the boys down to my in-laws place - a lake cabin near Vergas, Minnesota. I'd dragged the bike along, hoping to get a weather window that would allow a ride. Sunday looked perfect - temps in the forties and only 10+ mph winds - so i planned a 32 mile route, thinking it should take me somewhere between an hour and a half and an hour and three quarters.
Within five minutes of turning off the quarter mile of dirt leading from the cabin to the main road, i was exhausted. My lungs were burning from the cold air and the wind and my legs - particularly my right one - was a sea of lactic acid. The terrain was a continuous roller coaster, and my initial belief that i'd be able to power up the short hills was dispelled almost immediately as i watched my speed drop below 15 mph a dozen pedal strokes up the third one.
I tried to settle into a pace but found it impossible. I convinced myself that i was riding into the wind (i was) and that this was the reason i was struggling so much (it wasn't). I spent much of the first 11 miles trying to stay positive, with some success.
Then i turned 'out of the wind' and my pace improved a bit. I hit some great sections of road squeezed between picturesque and still frozen lakes (12 inches of ice!). I almost started having fun. But as the time dragged on i started to imagine that i'd gotten lost - i was so far behind schedule i must have missed a turn. But then i hit the turn, after 90 minutes of biking. I'd only gone 24 miles.
This is where the fear started. I've seen the hill profile of the Silverman. The hills around Vergas are speed-bumps in comparison. If i'm able to maintain 17 mph after a 2.4 mile swim, i'll finish the bike section of the race in 7 hours. At my current average pace it'd have taken 7.5. I'd only been at my pace for 90 minutes and it didn't feel easy by any stretch.
I headed back into a crosswind for the last 8 miles, which were filled with loathing. I nearly stopped to pull out the cell phone to request a ride but had too much pride to make the call. I stopped pushing entirely - climbing the gentle rises sometimes at less than 10 mph and not even pedaling on the descents. It took 40 minutes to get home, and by the time i did i was so demoralized that the idea of completing the silverman seemed ridiculous.
Thankfully, after a shower, food, and some serious stretching i felt a bit better and have decided not to give up. After all, fear and loathing are part of the game - their occasional presence is a good indication that i'm sure not to be disappointed with the level of the challenge. And this type of disappointment, in my opinion, is much worse than the disappointment of failure. So with that i say "Bring it on!" Even if it does come on rather slowly, at say 12 miles per hour.