Weeks 11-12 - Final Build Week and Taper {Steven’s Ironman Experience}

Last week was my final week hard week of training. I totaled about 15 hours of workouts over 5 days (Monday and Friday off). The week culminated with the annual National MS Society ride from Frisco to Fort Worth. This is a charity ride that I have participated in the last 5 years to help raise money for the MS Society which provides funding for research as well as helping those living with the disease, including my sister. My step-dad has done this ride “with” me every year, my wife has attempted day 1 twice (both times day 2 was rained out) and my brother-in-law decided 4 weeks ago he was going to do it this year. I say “with” because I usually only see them at the start and finish line as I have no desire to sit on my bike any longer than I have to over the 2 days.

The ride starts out with 3000 riders Saturday morning at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, travels north to Aubrey, then cuts west towards Sanger. After a quick lunch at Sanger High School, we then turn into the wind (10-20 mph this year) and ride south through the towns of Krum, Ponder, and Justin and finish at Texas Motor Speedway. Last year, we joined up with a team with makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. Rather than finishing the ride and going straight to the hotel, we now have a team tent for everyone to hang out, eat/re-hydrate, and tell stories about how hard the ride was that day. I managed to stay with a couple of guys from my team who were much stronger cyclist throughout the day. We ended up covering the entire 86 miles in about 4 hours and 15 minutes. It helped that we joined up with a 22 person pace-line to help cut through the wind. For those that are not quite sure what that means, think of it as two revolving lines. Each person makes his way to the front of one line, moves over, and then drops to the back of the next line. This repeats for as long as you can stay in the group. By doing this, each person takes the full force of the wind for only a few seconds at a time. I came in at just after noon and showered and changed to wait for my step-dad and brother-in-law. They ended up having a much rougher day than I did. My Brother-in-Law ended up making it only about 62 miles before he had to pull out with muscle cramps (a pretty good distance considering he had been training for 3-4 weeks and was riding a mountain bike) and my step-dad ended up coming in at just before 6:00PM. His group spent almost 10 hours (minus rest stops) out on their bikes. The wind had slowed them down to around 10mph or less over the last 30 miles.

Day 2 begins with FAR fewer riders and gives everyone the chance to do a lap around the speedway before heading out. Since I will be unable to use a draft (as I did day 1) during the Ironman, I decided I was going to ride day 2 by myself. After the optional lap around TMS, we head back to Justin before turning west to ride towards Decatur. Although day 2 is much shorter at only 66 miles, there are a lot more hills to climb. After what seems like a long 30 miles to lunch at Decatur high School, the toughest part of the ride begins. Not only are we riding into the wind, but there are more climbs on this section than anywhere else. Out on my own, it just turns into a mental game to keep pushing and counting down the miles. With about 7 miles to go, you can begin to see TMS, which provides a boost of energy. This is quickly ripped away from you when you pull into the track parking lot and realize you still have almost 4 miles to go.

Our team was split into several groups over the day with some riding the full distance, some riding 30 miles, and others somewhere in between. However, everyone grouped back together before the final turn in order to come in together. It was a very cool experience to cross the line with a group of about 30 riders.

This week begins my taper heading into Ironman Texas. A taper is basically designed to cut down on your workload to allow your body to completely recover before your “Main Event”. After about 15 hours of training last week, I will drop to about 5-6 this week. However, my plan has already changed as I woke up sick Tuesday morning and had to go to the doctor with severe chest congestion. After a steroid shot and a z-pack to knock out what ever hit me, I’m just resting as much as possible to make sure this illness does not extend any longer than it needs to.

Later this week I will probably get back into it for my last brick workout on Saturday. Then I will start going through my last minute checklists to make sure I have everything ready to go by the time I leave for Houston next week.


Steven Harben
Recreation Programmer
City of Wylie