I was a little bummed heading into this weekend because my initial plans were to head to Lawrence for an unofficial training camp on the Kansas 70.3 course hosted by the KU Triathlon club. However, the triathlon fund is running a little low at the moment so I didn't have the money to make a long weekend trip. I opted instead for the next best thing I could find and headed southwest to Meers, Oklahoma, for their annual Tour de Meers ride. It's about an hour and half drive from OKC and is on the edge of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I ran a half marathon down in the area a couple of years ago as part of my prep for my first marathon and had a great experience. This event proved no different.
For starters, the area in the refuge is relatively untouched and the scenery is a nice backdrop for a bike ride. Roaming buffaloes, longhorn cattle, turkeys, and prairie dogs are common sites along the roadways. I took every moment I could to enjoy the natural beauty and appreciate the quiet. Most of my rides in OKC have been on fairly well-traveled highways so the buzz of cars are always in your ear. Out here it was different. Traffic was very low. The wind was relatively calm. The sun was blazing hot. It was just you, the road, and whatever cyclist you happened to be around at the time. The great thing about this ride is I spent most of it alone. The official start time for the ride was 9 AM, but they encouraged people to start whenever they could to avoid the heat of the day. Temps were forecast to be in the low 100s so the earlier you could get off the roads, the better it would be for the volunteers and participants. This led to a pack of riders that were spread out all over the course and no big packs trying to draft. I spent the majority of the ride in my aero bars and only made one pitstop to refill the bottles. The rest of the ride was me working on my nutrition, pacing, and enjoying the scenery. The quality of the roads were excellent and the little traffic made the ride very relaxing. I wasn't constantly worried about cars, glass, potholes, and dogs. It was a perfect ride for my last race prep workout.
The first half of the course was mostly rolling hills through the refuge and then you hit a stretch of flat highway with wide shoulders that allowed me to get in a groove and coast through about 10-15 miles. The last 15 miles or so was another rolling hill section into a 15 mph headwind which is light for Oklahoma standards. The nutrition plan seemed to work really well. I still felt pretty decent at the end of the ride and if it hadn't been for the 100+ degree heat I think my run would have been acceptable. The run ended up being a sufferfest. I'm not ready for 100 degrees yet. This is the first really hot weekend we have had all year. I know it's the first time I've been out training in triple digit heat. I got in some work in the 90s last weekend, but not 4 hours worth of it. By the end of my run, I was ready to do anything but be in the heat. I found some shade at the fire department where I was parked and waited for about 30 minutes before I made it to my car. While I was cooling down, I met a few other triathletes from the OKC area and chatted with them for a bit. We're all signed up to do an event at the Route 66 festivus next weekend so I'll have a few new faces to chat with while I'm waiting on my swim wave to start. All in all, I was pretty happy with my day but definitely need some more work in the extreme heat. I'm hoping with all hope that Louisville isn't 100 degrees, but if it is, I want to be ready. I know I'll have ample opportunity for training in it here. The forecast looks hot and nasty as far as the eye can see. Time to push the excuses aside and get ready to face my demons. Ironman Louisville I'm coming for you.
This weekend I also signed up for Oklahoma's first official aquathon coming up on Tuesday. It's a 500m swim/2 mile run out at the race site for the Route 66 Aquabike I'm doing next weekend. The entry fee was only $12 so I figured it was a good way to get in some open water swim practice with a group. The fee to get into the lake I usually swim at is $8 so the small premium was worth it for some race experience. I'm hoping the weather holds out and the wind isn't blowing 40 mph like it is today. I really could use some open water practice. It's been almost a year since I've hopped in the lake. I know it will be an adjustment after only swimming in a pool for 12 months. Come on good weather! Time to sign off for now. It's a dinner and a movie kind of night since tomorrow's a holiday. Run happy friends!