A Humbling 56 Miles

So, I went on the ride.

I laid in bed this morning at 4:30 staring at the weather forecast for Middlebury, CT; inconveniently located two hours away from me. (Dang it, WHO put Middlebury there?!) Weather.com told me it was NOT raining. I analyzed the pattern of “rain percentage”. 60% at 6AM, 50% at 7AM…so, it was going down, right? Perfect. I knew I would hate myself and would probably have to ride alone tomorrow if I didn’t go on the preview ride today, so off I went, coffee, bagel, and anxiety in hand.

The whole car ride I was freaking out. OMG it’s drizzling. AHHH stop raining. IT STOPPED, YES. Is that a raindrop?? STOP. I felt like Jim Carey from Dumb and Dumber with the weather. 60% chance of rain…SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE it won’t rain?


I made to Connecticut with no downpours to report. As soon as I arrived, I noticed there were a lot of people with really nice tri bikes. I don’t like this. It scares me. Cervelos scare me. They are so intense. But hey, anyone can buy a nice bike right? It’s the engine that matters. (YOUR HEART, PEOPLE. THE ENGINE IS YOUR DETERMINATION! See how clever I am?) After a quick run-down of the morning, about 25 of us brave souls headed out for a 56-mile jaunt through the Connecticut countryside.

My view upon arrival. Creepily taking pictures.

Let me start by saying…remember when I thought that measly 2,800ish elevation gain ride was sooo tough? That was hysterical.

This was so hard.

I think it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Harder than any race I’ve run…harder than both of my marathons. I can’t even blame it on the weather…it was fine, minus some drizzling. Around mile 52 (of 56) I think I hit my breaking point. I think I said out loud, “why is everything so hard right now!” I’m pretty sure I whimpered. I had to keep reminding myself that it would end…eventually. Middlebury kicked my butt. This is humbling.

The majority of the course was so beautiful. Reminded me of home in Iowa!

The majority of the course was so beautiful, though. Reminded me of home in Iowa!

What made it worse was that I was literally the last person. The LAST person. This was extremely discouraging from the beginning, which I think set the tone and made this more of a mental challenge. I sort-of stayed with one lady the entire time, but I’m fairly certain she could have left me in the dust if she wanted to. At the beginning of the ride I was already saying out loud, “why do I suck so bad?!” and she said “Don’t worry. Unless this pays the mortgage, don’t sweat it. Just have fun.” (A mortgage? That would mean I could afford a house in the first place. LOLOLOL.) She continuously reminded me to have fun and gave me tips on the gears to use, which was nice. (News flash: shifting into the second ring helps you fly on the downhills!) She said “people like you and me really need to make up time on the downhills; shift into the higher gear and pedal, it will help!” It sure did. Thanks, lady.

I’m pretty sure “people like you and me” meant “people who suck as hills”. So I guess I’m officially in that category now.

Side note: there were cows in a forest somewhere along this route. WHAT is that about?! I have never seen that. A FOREST.

Side note: there were cows in a forest somewhere along this route. WHAT is that about?! I have never seen that. A FOREST.

Here are the stats:

No significant flats. Nada.

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 4.35.12 PM

GAH! They robbed me of my 56 miles.

At least I’m getting braver on the downhills…35 mph!

I can’t’t shake a feeling of embarrassment, even though I know, logically, that’s silly. (Funny, I think I’ve posted about this before…) That’s the overwhelming feeling I have right now. But I finished this seemingly never-ending ride and that’s something to be proud of. I kept reminding myself of the people I’m doing this for; the people who can’t be out there and who I’m sure would love to be. Let’s focus on the positives, shall we? I’m still a beginner and I can’t forget that; I have a lot of hard work up ahead but I’m ready for the challenge! I can’t expect to just walk into the sport of triathlon (or cycling in general) and keep up with the people who have been working hard at this for years. That’s ridiculous and I need to give them more respect.

I’m still so glad I went. Having previewed the course will definitely help me on raceday; knowing what to expect and how to frame the course in my head (does that make sense?) is always beneficial for me.

I'm coming back for you, Quassy.

I’m coming back for you, Quassy.

I chased the bike ride with a 20-minute run, which actually felt okay. The hills felt much harder than the flats and my heart rate really jumped on the uphills, but I guess that’s to be expected. (I really need to look into the heart rate zones I should be at! Suggestions for links/books welcome!)

My glutes hurt a bit, but my quads and hamstrings feel fine. I’m wondering what specifically I need to work on to get better at hills. Endurance? Strength? Everything? (Probably just RIDE ON MORE HILLS. So smart.) Is it possible that because I haven’t been running as much due to this injury that I’m just out of shape? All I know is that I need to improve. There are no excuses.

Here’s the big reason I’m worried…the cutoff times. I’m positive I could finish this race without cutoffs, but with them, I’m nervous. I apprehensively looked them up when I got home:

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 4.41.32 PM

Let’s hope I’m at least in an earlier swim wave. What have I gotten myself into?!

Send motivational stories, please! Tell me about that time you rode 56 miles in 4 and a half hours and then won an Ironman or something. K thanks!

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!


  1. runfatboyrun7
    May 11, 2013 / 6:55 pm

    My first tri was the Syracuse Half-Iron last June. I was woefully under prepared, due to nobody’s fault but my own. However, wanting to prove something to myself, and give me enough confidence to get through IM NYC, I decided to toe the start line.

    The Friday night on the weekend of the race, I took my mom’s car and drove solo to Syracuse. I checked into the hotel around the same time as a few “serious” triathletes, and I immediately got grouped as one of them due to my fancy tri bike. You quite accurately point out that it is truly the engine that matters.

    I checked in, and the next day I went to T1 to prep. At that time, I had my first view of the lake that I was swimming in, and immediately felt the anxiety and panic. Did I mention I have a HUGE FEAR of open water swimming? I actually had a panic attack in the middle of a lake during a training camp the month before, and had to be rescued by a half-drunk, rather large gentleman. Quite embarrassing when you look like you’re in shape and wearing a fancy new tri wetsuit and you’re flapping around the middle of the lake like a blathering idiot.

    Luckily my teammates were there, and they supported me and encouraged me and took me out to lunch to distract me. One of them even called me that evening to encourage me, and to remember that I can do this, and that fear and doubt is all a fabrication of our mind.

    The next morning, my one sole focus was to get through to the swim. I didn’t care if I doggie paddled my way to T1, I just wanted to not drown (logically, I know you can’t drown in a wetsuit) and die. In short, I wanted to get to the bike.

    To make a long story short, I successfully fought through my fear of open water and got to the bike. At that point, I thought I would be OK, but little did I know how woefully under prepared I was. That bike course was brutal, and your elevation profile reminds me of what I went through. The Syracuse bike course also took me about 4-4:30, and I was one of the last people to get through it. I wanted to quite so many times, specifically at miles 10, 20, 30, 42, and 50. There were times when I found myself, quite literally, by myself with nary a cow in sight. I literally rode for hours in the farms of upstate New York, and the only people I saw were the cops who directed me where to turn. In fact, I doubted I was going in the right direction a few times, and almost turned around because I was by myself.

    The only thought that kept me going was that I’m here by choice. I’m doing this because I want to, and no matter how hard this is, this is nothing compared to what some of our teammates have gone through or what their family members have gone through. I thought about the Mission Moments we’ve heard during practice, and I thought about our Honored Teammates who inspire us on a daily basis. I used their stories, their energy, their inspiration as my motivation to push through.

    As I approached T2, I saw the other triathletes out on the run course and even saw a few teammates running. Every one I saw cheered me on, and told me what I great job I was doing, even though I was one of the last people out on the bike course.

    Going down the hill to the bike dismount point, I saw my entire team there cheering me on. This is what triathlons are all about – as individual as they are, we are all in this together, and we all support each other. Don’t ever give in to doubt and fear while out there. You are trained for this, and you CAN do this. You also have a large team supporting you, both on your team and in the race.

    Oh, and one piece of advice – don’t forget to unclip at the bike dismount line. I was so excited to see my team, and so energized by them, that I completely forgot to unclip while dismounting and crashed on the bike. One second I was fist pumping my way to the dismount line, the next I was laying on my side with my bike wheels parallel to the ground.


    • May 16, 2013 / 9:43 pm

      This is quite possibly the best comment I’ve ever received. You are the best!!! Thanks so much for the reassurance. You’re such an inspiration to me! And I can promise you I’ll totally forget to unclip at the bike dismount line. It’s just inevitable.

  2. May 11, 2013 / 7:17 pm

    Hey, who cares how slow you were? You did it and that says something, I have never rode 56 miles on a bike and never will… bc I don’t bike! But, this is so awesome that you did it and you pushed through even at mile 52 when you wanted to quit and with all the crazy hills!

    • May 16, 2013 / 9:43 pm

      Thank you Amy! I don’t know how I did it!!

  3. May 11, 2013 / 9:30 pm

    Umm you are amazing!! Get that negativity out of your head, girl! From a running standpoint, I always face hills one step at a time and don’t think about the entire challenge because otherwise I get really overwhelmed. You are seriously going to rock this race!

    • May 16, 2013 / 9:44 pm

      I know, you’re right :) I’m feeling better about it now! Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  4. May 12, 2013 / 6:04 am

    i think thats amazing what you did. i have always wanted to bike/run a 50 mile race! I know every single one of my track meets are very long, and mostly im just waiting to run, but when i do run, i try as hard as i can. I think thats all that really matters. Good luck!

    • May 16, 2013 / 9:45 pm

      Do it!!

      I remember track meets…so much waiting! I was always sooo nervous though. But you’re absolutely right…trying your best is what’s important. Best of luck to you!

  5. Beth @RxBethOnTheRun
    May 12, 2013 / 10:13 am

    You are incredible! End of story. I want you to get the negative out of your head. You are strong, determined and inspire me every day with your will to never give up! Just remember, no matter what race days brings, you have given this all you can and and the end of the day THAT is what matters! I’m so incredibly proud of you. YOU CAN DO THIS! I believe in you! Just believe in yourself!!!!!!!

    • May 16, 2013 / 9:46 pm

      Thank you for always inspiring me, believing in me, and reminding me that I’m “more” than I think I am! You’re wonderful!

  6. May 13, 2013 / 1:44 am

    You can’t get stronger if its not HARD!! I am so glad that you went!!! I am almost guaranteeing you will have a better race because you already know what to expect on race day!!!
    You are doing so good. There is no time for you to be negative. Positive thinking!! ALWAYS!!!
    I know I have asked you this before…but how is the nutrition? You need a lot more calories on the bike then you do while you are running. I just want to make sure you are getting enough calories in. :) I ask that because when I do not have enough calories I get tired, very negative, and ask myself why this is so hard?!!!
    Keep kicking ass!!

    • May 16, 2013 / 9:48 pm

      Yes! You’re right. What was I thinking, that I’d improve without doing anything hard?!?! I think I need to kick my training up a notch if this is the first super, super hard thing I’ve done…right?! Anyway thanks so much for the advice…and for the guarantee I’ll do better, haha! :)

      You bring up a good point…I’m sure I can improve when it comes to nutrition. I need to find something that really works for me…

  7. Lee
    May 14, 2013 / 9:46 am

    I recently found your blog and have enjoyed reading your adventures with tri training. I just had to comment on the tip you received from lady on the 56 mile ride. She gave good advice and it is not for people that “suck at hill climbing”. That is how to properly tackle a hill. Work your gears!!! Using both your big ring and small ring will make hill climbing better. If you have a downhill, use your big ring in the front and gradually shift in the rear to use your gears. As you hit the up hill, you can use this momentum to help you on the uphill. Gradually work your front gears to make it easier and shift to the small ring if it is a very steep hill. Be very careful not to cross chain though. Do you have a cadence meter? This was a very helpful tool when I started biking. Work to keep your cadence around 90 ( plus or minus a few generally speaking-this changes on extreme up and down hills) and that can help you gauge on when to shift gears. I can totally relate to the ups and downs of tri training. The bike is my favorite leg, but I have received lots of help over the past few years to improve. Keep up the good work!!!

    • May 16, 2013 / 9:59 pm

      Hi Lee! Thanks so much for reading and for leaving me such a helpful comment! I really appreciate the tips about using my gears…it’s something I’m still learning but am finding helps a TON as I’m practicing more and more. I do still need something to measure my cadence. Maybe I’ll work on getting that this weekend :)

      It’s so fun to talk to people who have different “favorite” legs…mine is running (obviously) so I could talk about that for hours…but then I learn the most from people like you who excel in the bike (or swim). Love it!

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