Ironman Blues and Emerging from a Dark Place to Tackle Haute Route

By Bill Plock

Do you have the Ironman “blues”? Do they happen or even exist? I’ve decided the blues are a result of losing a very predictable slice of life in the form of calculated training replaced by general life with full unpredictability. Now we are left with a void of something known transformed into the unknown and the anxiousness that happens. Is it that??

Each race, each event teaches us something. For me, Ironman Boulder came with a few surprises and one dark moment that almost resulted in a DNF next to my name. An unusually relaxed and well navigated swim led to a good start on the ride. But then the wheels fell off.

About 65 miles in, I just wanted to lay down and sleep. I kept looking at each shady spot on the side of the road like it was the most amazing bed to ever greet my eyes. I became obsessed. I slowly crawled into a dark space of quit and craving sleep. Just quit. Go away. Be quiet. Rest for another day. The bike is where I usually do my best. My legs wouldn’t push, my heart began to slow. My speed dropped.

Then my guardian angel, and as it turns out, a baby was born to her only 7 days after, saved my race.

 

303’s long time ambassador and Kona qualifier Kirsten Smith, obviously quite pregnant, stood on 65th just north of Nelson road. She greeted me with a cheer and uncharacteristically I stopped to say hi. Just an excuse to stop, I was looking for any excuse. She crossed the road and grabbed my shoulders felt my gritty hot skin caked in salt but with no moisture at all and told me to get going—emphatically! I think she wanted to slap me noticing I had a bottle and a half of water on my bike that could’ve been used to douse my body. The next aid station wasn’t that far so why have so much water? She urged me to continue and use that water. She shook me from delirium and onwards I went. I clipped in and continued, head pounding and feeling frustrated but so thankful for Kirsten’s intervention.

This is where the dry air deceives you. I was hydrated, but with humidity of less than 10% and 96 degree heat with a hot wind blowing in our faces, our sweat immediately evaporated starving our bodies of any way to cool naturally. I decided to stop in the shade and took all that water and drenched myself. Then I started to ride. I started to cool and feel more normal. The next aid station, an oasis only a couple of miles ahead greeted me. I loaded up, drenched myself more and continued on regaining my normal pace. I had done it, I crawled out of the hole and knew, even if I had to walk, my day would finish hearing Mike Reilly proclaiming my name as an Ironman.

 

I’m confident I now have more confidence when adversity strikes. Now I have Haute Route in three days with its daunting week long, 523 miles and 52,000 feet of ascension staring me in the face. The ride starts in Boulder, heads to Winter Park, then to Avon, off to Breckenridge with a final stage riding up Pikes Peak.

Seven days of early starts, possible cold rain, steep roads, and who knows what else will greet us. I’m hoping my “dig out” from Ironman’s pain cave will push me through any difficulties and hopefully I won’t need a guardian angel, but if so, I hope there is one somewhere. Kirsten is a little busy being a first time mom, with all kinds of unpredictability!

 

 

We at 303 send her our best wishes of course and I’ll sprinkle those with an amazing amount of gratitude I’ll never forget!

Onwards….and upwards! Stay tuned for daily coverage of the Haute route and a course preview in the next couple of days

Haute Route SFO

by Bill Plock

I’ve never raced a bike outside of a triathlon. I’ve dreamt often of racing Tour de France style with the long stages, epic climbs and riding in a peloton of colorful kits on amazing bikes in beautiful places. All with the entourage of team cars topped with bikes and wheels while mechanics hang out the windows tweaking derailleurs. The image in my head is a perfect blend of romance, adventure, perseverance and adrenaline. Who would’ve thought this next week I get to experience a race like that—in San Francisco, doing the Haute Route.

Today I received my official program of what to expect; the logistics, rules, reminders and some amazing photos of our 3 stage timed ride in the Bay Area—the program is 30 pages and this is going to be an adventure every cyclists will want to put on their bucket list!

For me, many things set the Haute Route apart from a typical multiple day ride. I am also participating in Haute Route Colorado in June, which is a seven day event. The intrigue lies in being “treated like a pro” and competing for times on parts of the route but allowing time to just relax and enjoy the camaraderie and scenery. Downhills are not part of the timing and having multiple timed sections, it allows me to hammer one hill or all, or none, depending on how I feel and compete.

Haute is the French word for high. The routes at all ten worldwide Haute Route events, take riders up the steepest hills and the highest vistas and most stages cover a 100 miles or more. In San Francisco, stage 1 and 2 total a 190 miles and 19,000 feet of climbing and stage 3 is a time trial. Each day finishes with a massage and a gourmet lunch. Your bike is taken at the finish line, cleaned up if necessary, and stored overnight. At night we all gather for a briefing of the next day’s ride and a podium ceremony for the day’s top finishers.

 

Our first day begins with a high speed ferry ride from Fishermans Wharf to Oakland and then a ride to Mt. Diablo. This route follows a popular stage on the Amgen Tour of California and covers 100 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing.

The second day takes us over the Golden Gate to explore Marin County and navigate Mt. Tamalpais (arguably the birth place of mountain biking) before returning to Fisherman’s Wharf. This route is 90 miles and climbs a total 8,500 feet.

Our third day is a time trial and a first experience for everyone. Until now, no cycling event has been allowed on Angel Island, once a military destination and now a state park home to sea lions and otters. The time trial follows the road around the island so we will be treated to 360 degree views of the Bay Area. It’s 9.8 miles of rolling hills and some sharp turns.

The final awards and lunch will be served on the Ferry, which reminds me to pack some sea sick pills—just in case!

This article is the beginning of a series of articles and social media posts to share the actual experience and tell you more about Haute Route, including some fun recipes from their award winning chef!

Once back from San Francisco, I will have roughly a month to finish up training for Ironman Boulder and then two weeks after that, I will be participating in Haute Route Colorado with its 523 miles and 52,000 feet of climbing, with the last stage climbing Pikes Peak! More on all of that soon, including a podcast with race director Micah Rice detailing this seven day event! Let me tell you, I’ve never been more excitably nervous than for these two Haute Route events!