The Bike (112 miles)
I trotted out of the tent to the racks and ran up the line. I had walked the route a couple times in the morning, figuring out the right combination of counting and landmarks that my swim-addled mind would be able to remember. “Two racks past the big tree, far side… two racks past the big tree, far side.” I found my bike and got it out of the rack without knocking anyone else’s bike over, and ran with it out to the mounting area.
I went a couple bike length’s past the line before trying to get on, as there were quite a lot of people also trying to get on their bikes at the same time. Once mounted, I set off up the chute, waving to Alida and my sister who were cheering from the sidelines (the rest of my family may have been there too, but I couldn’t see them).
My jaw didn’t stop clattering until at least mile 10, and I didn’t feel warm until mile 20. During this time I stuck to my nutrition/hydration plan of a salt tab at every :15 and :45 minute mark, gel at every :30 and :00, and a bottle of Cytomax throughout each hour.
The bike course was gorgeous, and the weather perfect, but I couldn’t enjoy it yet. Around mile 8 or so was the eastern turnaround, where they had the Special Needs bags laid out for our return (by which point it would be mile 65). I eyeballed the setup and saw it was spacious and well staffed, which assuaged some concerns I had over it being a chaotic mess.
There’s a part of the course downtown called the “hot corner”, which is where both the bike and run courses make several passes each, so the spectators can camp out and see their athlete’s fly by multiple times. I was in my aerobars as I came down the hill towards the corner, and I was about to overtake someone, but judged the corner a little too tight to do it there, so I moved my right hand over to tap the brakes a bit.
Just past that point I heard a roar from the left and glanced back to spot a sea of yellow shirted hooligans yelling their heads off. My fans!
They had made some signs that I was going too fast to see during the race, but I got to see them later, and they’re totally awesome:
Shortly thereafter we were out on the highway and starting into some serious climbing. I was finally warming up now and having fun. I got into my usual rhythm of getting passed on the uphills (because I’m heavy) and passing them all back on the downhills (because I’m heavy, and love going fast).
At mile 25 I ate half a clif bar, as planned. A couple minutes later it was time for another gel. I had second thoughts about downing that much food all at once while also pushing hard on the hills, but dismissed them and stuck to my plan. Not long after that my gut cramped up very painfully. It didn’t effect my climbing much, but I couldn’t get my speed up to more than 14-15mph on the flats, where I should have been doing closer to 20mph. This also resulted in cramp face:
You can see that by now I’ve chucked my first Cyto bottle and replaced it with plain water from an aid station. I was figuring that the gallon of lake water I’d swallowed plus too many calories too soon on the bike were what screwed my stomach’s pooch. I figured I’d try to flush things out with plain water, while not eating any more gels or bars, but sticking with the salt schedule. Then if my stomach felt better I’d start eating again, which would hopefully happen soon enough that I wasn’t starting the run on an empty tank.
I reached the SW turnaround and went through the timing gate, which I’d later find out didn’t actually register my chip. This meant that my family was left worrying for a couple hours that I’d crashed or something (if the chip had registered it would have shown my split in the iPhone app they were using).
I pulled over at mile 38 to use the Porta-John. I mentally tipped my hat, er, helmet, to the race organizers for having bike racks next to the aid station toilets. That was excellent.
I set out again and, starting to feel a bit better, got my speed up. Before cramping (and the hills) I was averaging 17.5mph. At the SW turnaround that was down to 14.5, and then back up to 15.5 by the time I got back to town.
I started taking in some Cyto here and there, and got back into the gel routine. As I came in to the turn-around at mile 65 there was a volunteer on the side of the road with a megaphone, calling out the bib numbers to the people crewing the Special Needs bags. By the time I’d turned the corner and got to the 1400s, there was a volunteer standing there with my bag held up like a torreador. I stopped, she opened the bag up and held it for me while I restocked with gels and Cyto bottles, thanked her and sped off.
About a mile down the road I realized I’d forgotten to grab the extra salt tabs I had in the bag. Oh well. I had enough to last 6 hours, and even if, as the math now predicted, I took 7 hours to finish the bike, I should still have enough salt in me to last without the tabs until I started the run.
I waved at my family again as I blazed through town, then got back into the hill climbing groove. My gut was back to normal and I was able to keep my speed up on the flats, the sun was out, and I was finally having fun again.
I made it to the SW turnaround for the second time (mile 88), and a huge weight lifted from my mind. All I had to do now was make it back to town, and I was two-thirds an Ironman! It was here that I started having gaps in my energy. I would start to really feel the miles and fatigue, then that would pass and I’d feel great again, then fatigued again. It was weird. To alleviate some of this I started singing “99 bottles of beer”, out loud. That only lasted about 3 miles because I was going uphill, but it sure as hell helped me get up that hill.
There were a couple sections designated as “no pass zones” because there wasn’t enough room to allow a safe pass. Just before one of these zones, on a downhill, on which I was flying along as fast as I could go, I got passed by three pros in a row, Zip Zip Zip!!! Then I was into the no pass zone, and started to worry that there were more pros piling up behind my slow ass. I glanced back and was relieved to see that wasn’t the case.
I crossed mile 100 and started thinking “Almost there! Almost there! I can smell it! I can taste it! My ass hurts!”
I crossed mile 110 and I was finally back in town, just 2 miles to go. I could hear the rumble mumble of the music and announcer, and I started mentally rehearsing what was going to happen next. I would ride in to transition, hop off my bike, hand it over to the volunteers who would rack it for me (free valet parking, how nice!), find and grab my run bag, and head into the tent. I went through this a couple times in the final approach, and all of a sudden it was happening. I was done!
I dismounted at the line and noticed they had that area very well stocked with volunteers, all in a “ready to catch you” stance, in case the bike took everything you had and you couldn’t stand. Luckily I could indeed still stand, so, as rehearsed, I ran for my bag and headed into the tent.
Continue to part 4.