Saturday, June 7, 2014

Eating to win on the ride to the Clyde

The plan called for a four-hour bike ride and a 35-minute run, so I mapped it out and set my sights on Port Clyde, with an Owls Head loop on the way back if I had time. My challenge for the ride was to run the first test of my preliminary nutrition plan--in short, to consume 250-300 calories an hour on the bike. I loaded up my bars and gels and filled my water bottles with sports drink, counted up the total calories and thought, this is my kind of challenge, baby. Consume 1200 calories by 10:00 a.m.? It's a noble goal.

I've got liquid nutrition on board in the form of EFS Electrolyte powder (three 32-oz bottles), plus Vega raspberry flavored gels, and Vega energy bars. I love these Vega products because they're all natural, they're tasty good, and they give me the nutrition I need. 


I head out at 5:30 a.m., the sun already strong and warm. After weeks of riding in cold and rain, it's heavenly. The air is silk scarves on my skin, and everything is gold and smells like clean clothes. I'm riding fast, and I'm pretty sure I'm the happiest person on earth.

I turn down Route 131 and pedal down through St. George. At one point there's a huge dark object in the middle of the oncoming lane, and I see that the fishermen who just passed me in their pickup truck have pulled over next to it. I slow the bike and circle around to investigate. The passenger gets out with a lit cigarette between his teeth, and says, "Gotta move that turtle or he's gonna get himself hit." As he picks up the 18-inch snapping turtle, it unleashes a violent stream of urine. "HA!" he snorts through his cigarette. "Little fuckah pissed on my sneakah!" He gently sets the massive creature down next to the roadside pond. I tell him he gets big points for stopping, and he informs me that after getting pissed on, he deserves a goddamn award. I thank him for saving the little fucker and roll on down the road.

I'm not in the habit of eating during exercise. On long bike rides I'll bring a snack, but I don't eat it until I'm really hungry. Today I'm sipping sports drink and taking a gel or bar every 45 minutes. I make Port Clyde village earlier than I thought I would.

I leave the Clyde feeling strong, a little amazed at how un-tired I am. Is it the nutrition? Am I really this fit? Last week was a "recovery" week, with a scaled-back 12 hours of training vs. this week's 16--is that it? I get back home and run for 35 minutes, and it's one of my best runs to date.

Honestly, I'm a little flabbergasted. Of course I'm thrilled, and proud, and so, so grateful. But mostly I'm stunned--am I really capable of going for a 4-hour bike ride like it's recreational? Like it's what I do before 10:00 am, just for fun? YEP, yep I am. YES. Part of me says, well, yeah, what did you think? You're working hard for this. Another part of me is still this big insecure lump who can't believe it's all really true, like there's a catch and my true pathetic self will be revealed.

While sometimes I feel like kind of a hot shit on the bike, I am always really self-conscious when I'm running. So much so that (for example) when I'm running today--even after I kicked so much ass on that bike--a dump truck driver pulls in to the parking lot at Rankin's and parks in my path, fairly close to another car, and the driver leans out his door and very kindly asks, "did I leave you enough room?" And my first thought is HE THINKS I'M FAT. HE THINKS I CAN'T FIT. HE THINKS I'M TOO FAT TO RUN. HE IS MAKING FUN OF ME.

OK, yeah, right away I get how ridiculous, and how sad, this is. My grownup successful Ironwoman self steps in almost immediately, and she laughs and she cries a little for that little girl who somehow got that horrible idea in her head, and she sweeps it all away and runs three and a half miles at a ten minute pace after a 62-mile bike ride and she feels proud all day. It's all in there, and this training program is a microscope (or a magnifying glass, too tired to dissect the metaphor) trained on all the weaknesses, all the flaws, all the strengths. It's all turned up to eleven. 

Later in the day, I run into a friend and his 7-year-old daughter. Her eyes grow wide as I explain what the race would entail: first I'll swim for more than an hour, then I'll ride my bike for 7, maybe 8 hours, then I'll run a marathon for I don't know how long, maybe 5 hours.

"Will you get money at the end?" she asks. 

"Nope, no money." I answer, watching new layers of disbelief mask her face.

"Well, cake, then?" she asks. "Will they give you cake?"

We all agree that I can probably get some cake at the end. Now that's my kind of race.

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