About 1 year ago, I joined up with a group from Triathlete Within for an open water swim and a ride along part of the Calgary 70.3 course. Unlike most of the people in the group, I was not actually doing the 70.3. I was doing the Banff Olympic distance race, another race that usually has extremely cold water.
The swim went well that day. So far, I've found that, despite the initial shock, I do fine in cold water. I kept up with the group, some were faster, some slower. Then we did the bike ride. I felt great through the first half of the ride. At the halfway point, we were stopped at our "aid station" and when the group found out I wasn't doing the race, they pointed out that there was still time to sign up for it. I could still do it.
Then, we did the rest of the bike.
With a distance of about 65km (40mi), it was 20km (12.4mi) longer then the longest ride I'd done at that time. As luck would have it, we also had the joy of doing the last 15 or so km into a brutal headwind. It sucked. It was probably one of the hardest times I've ever had on the bike. My shoulders ached, my back and neck were going numb, I hurt all over. Multiple times, I considered calling Jill (the coach) on her phone, and asking her to come pick me up. In the end, I got through it, but it taught me two things:
1. I needed a proper bike fit.
2. I was not ready to do a half ironman.
I got a proper fit done soon after that, and not being ready for a half ironman was fine. I wasn't doing one - yet.
Two days ago, I joined up with the group again, some of the same people, some different. This time, I was more in the back of the pack on the swim, but it isn't that I've gotten slower, rather that different people were there. It felt good.
When I got on the bike, I was feeling strong and confident. Rather then having done a longest ride of 45km (28mi) going into it, my longest ride was 110km (68mi). Going up the hills, I knew to gear down and spin (last year, I specifically remember mashing up the hills in a higher gear.) The crosswinds were nasty, but I was able to maintain control and keep going, at a high enough average speed to do well on race day. Going up Cochrane hill (one of the bigger climbs on the course, past the halfway point) was work, but I didn't feel like my legs were fried like I have at times in the past.
When I got to the point I was turning around, I knew something more clearly then I have at any other point in this training cycle.
I am ready to do a half ironman.