Saturday, June 23, 2007


Imagine my surprise on Wednesday when I received an e-mail from Well-Fit Triathlon Training that they would be sponsoring a bike clinic to ride the Steelhead course on June 23. Hey, that's this weekend! I checked the signup details, but couldn't find a link to register. I did read up on other things they offered, and I particularly liked the tri outfit they are advertising. I just might be adding that to my wardrobe!

I decided I was going to do it, but because it would be on the actual race course in Benton Harbor, MI, about 1.5 hours away, I figured I would go down on Saturday afternoon, after my long run at home, spend the night, and maybe go to the beach for a swim the night before the bike clinic, and maybe swim again after. So I looked around for a hotel close by, found one in St. Joseph, about 10 minutes away from Benton Harbor, and reserved that at the very affordable price of $39.99 for the night (plus tax of course!). I hoped it wasn't a dive.

Friday morning, a couple of things then started my day off wrong. First, we were distinctly told by the gym manager that the pool would close for a month on June 23, Saturday. We would also be issued pass cards to another reciprocal club before this happened. Friday morning, however, I go to the pool for one last swim, walk down the steps to the pool with goggles in hand to find yellow tape across the door with a sign saying it is closed. One day early. I was steamed and let the club manager know. When he got back to me later that morning, he said he "thought" he had called me "and" had left a pass card for me for the other pool. Yeah, that's probably why I came here this morning to swim. By this time, it was too late to swim in the morning, and I knew I wouldn't have time to do it later.

No worry, I can always swim Saturday afternoon. Except when I got to work and actually thought about the June 23 date, I suddenly realized with a shock that June 23 was Saturday not Sunday. In a way, I was glad for the change, but it also changed all my workout plans for the weekend. And I would have to now drive down on Saturday morning, because by the time I actually got out of work, went home and packed, got things ready for a guy coming to clean the windows (I'm in training, after all and can't waste the time or energy on those type of chores!)Saturday morning, it would be 8 o'clock at night or later, so it wouldn't make any sense to drive down there then.

So I cancelled the hotel reservation and just planned to drive down in the morning, meaning I would have to leave the house by 5:30 am. Yawn.

I didn't get to bed until after 11 and then slept fitfully throughout the night, hearing a siren blast by the house at one point, hearing a loud banging noise I couldn't identify, having the phone ring twice with no on there. The last time I woke up, it was 3:30 am, and by the time I actually got back to sleep, it was almost time for the alarm to go off.

I was very tired when I got up. With my training going into overdrive, I am starting to feel the longer and more frequent workouts. And I'm hungry. All the time. Which I figure is also leaving me a little more tired, not getting enough calories.

So I got ready to go, packing up stuff for the ride and food for later, figuring I would be swimming after. It actually was a nice drive there, not much traffic, and light out most of the way. When I exited the freeway at the Benton Harbor exit, I began to remember when I had come to watch the race last year, and was reminded now of the bike course, a lot of which is on the highway through town. I couldn't help feel a little apprehensive, noticing there was absolutely no shoulder anywhere, which meant if we followed the actual course, like they said we would, we would be riding on the highway--a lot. I wasn't liking that thought at all.

Another car had exited the highway at the same time I did and was right behind me. As I went around a curve, I noticed he had a bike, so I figured he was going to the same place. We turned right into the road where the park is, and the bike transition area is the parking lot, so that's where we headed. There were two other cars there. It was almost 7 am and we were the first ones there. Hmm, were we even in the right place??

We parked cars and got out and discussed this fact, and figured we were just early. A couple of other cars pulled in then, and everyone was just as puzzled as we were. We all set off to find the bathrooms, and I was happy to see they were open, particularly since the porta-johns were very dirty and actually full of food trash! Ick.

It is a very beautiful venue. Unfortunately, the camera isn't working right now or I would have pics of the Big Lake. The water was very calm, but it was also hazy and windy, so I wondered what the water temperature would be later.

By the time we got back to our cars, the parking lot was filling up, and the group leaders were there. The one guy had an accent, which I couldn't place. Brazilian, maybe? Could have been Middle Eastern too. Hard to tell. He looked very much the studly athlete though.

Looking around at the group assembling, I was noticing there was a large group from Chicago, which is where Well-Fit is located. Lots of men, a few women around my age, and a lot of 20 something women. I was feeling a little out of place.

Sharone, the group leader, was giving instructions about riding, emphasizing over and over to ride single file as much as possible because of traffic. "Its dangerous out there. You'll be riding on the highway, with cars going by at 50-60 (or more) mph. And sometimes they're not so nice." He lost me at dangerous. I really didn't hear a whole lot else that was said, because now the little prickle of fear I felt driving through part of the course was becoming almost full blown panic. It would be one thing during the race riding on the highway, when I knew there would be some traffic control, but today we would be out there on our own.

Nevertheless, I decided to do the best I could--after all I had gotten up at the butt crack of dawn and driven all this way, it would be okay. I kept telling myself this to calm my fears. But something just wasn't sitting right with me. I was finding myself extremely fearful, not just nervous or a little worried. Fearful. For really the first time since my close encounter with a not to friendly auto, I was really afraid.

There were to be two pace groups, one 17-20 mph and the other 15-17 mph. That alone was leaving me worried, knowing I might not be able to hang with them for that far at that pace. So to me that meant I would be out there alone a lot, just me and any car that might not see me.

Still, I started with the group, as they wound their way out of the park and onto M-63, the main street/highway through Benton Harbor. By the time we actually were in the traffic lanes, my fear was really getting the best of me and I basically choked, and couldn't pedal any faster than 10 mph. It was like I was paralyzed with fear. There wasn't much traffic yet, but later?

I can't do this, I told myself. I just can't keep up or even stay close enough, and I feel extremely unsafe out here. And I could see the rest of them pulling farther and farther ahead. So I made my decision after a couple of miles. "That's it. I'm turning back and going home." Which I did. No one even noticed I was gone, and no one was in the lot when I got there. I packed up my bike and left. I figured when they saw my car gone when they all got back they would realize I wasn't still out there. And I didn't know anyone, so I doubted anyone would even miss me.

I was mad about this, mad that my fear was getting the best of me, and angry that someone had put me in this position to be fearful. It wasn't anything I could control. It was like after all these months, that fear finally needed to escape, and it took this event to trigger it.

But I resolved to fix the problem and go back home and finish my ride on the path. It didn't have quite the same appeal, but the end result would be the same, I hoped.

So by the time I got back home and then to the path, it was late, almost 10:30. By the time I got ready to ride and got something to eat again, because by now I was starving again, it was 10:50. That meant I hoped to be done in 4 hours, which meant around 2:45. Good thing I didn't have anything else planned for the day.

And to make a long ride story short, I did more than the 50 and went 56, like I would have had to do had I stayed in Benton Harbor. I also pushed myself as much as I could, having to deal with the all flat course and a headwind at least half the way. The total time was 4:09:11. That also has to take into account all the stopping and starting at the cross streets and getting back up to speed all the time. I am slowly making some progress, in that the time out there isn't as overwhelming to me, and I am hoping by race time I will be able to get under 4 hours, which I feel I need to do to feel comfortable about making the cutoff.

Bike total for the week then was 131 miles. This has to be worthwhile for race training, right?


Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

That's a lot of miles so far this month.

It sounds like things worked out okay for you in the end.

I cannot stand riding 'with a group' because inevitably I get dropped and am out there all by myself. I totally refuse to put myself in that position anymore. I envy you for giving it a good effort before deciding to turn back. I never would have gone in the first place.

Fe-lady said...

Great bike mileage! And great total! Keep up the good work!

bunnygirl said...

Congrats on getting in your ride, anyway! It sounds like you've been living a regular Comedy of Errors the last couple days!

Cindy Jo said...

There is nothing about the Steelhead course that makes it necessary to ride it in advance. As long as you get the miles in you'll be fine!

Cindy Jo said...

P.S. If you ever want to swim on the Steelhead course, drop me a line and I might go with you!

Fe-lady said...

I got caught up in a "moment" and entered two the 1st and one the 14th....! (Workouts for bigger things coming down the road, hopefully!)

WADDLER26.2 said...

Great story of hanging in there and getting it in. Your mileage is really up there.

I know that I would have been dropped too. You used your head and left for a safer place.

Phoenix said...

Wow! That's some big mileage, girl! I'm right there with you on the fear on the bike - especially in traffic. I get so nervous before I get on the bike that I have to keep running to the bathroom -every single time I'm going to ride in traffic. And I haven't had the horrific experience you have! Its a testament to your courage that you gave it a shot anyway. Race day will be much better with traffic control and people all around you -You're really getting it done out there!!