Bike Goal: 3 hours; Actual: 3:08
I just got the Jawa and scream monster to bed after a night of trick or treating and thought I’d write this installment before I come down off my sugar high. This year the dentist is paying the kids $1/lb of candy, so instead of me eating all the stuff they don’t like (basically anything with a nut in it) they are selling it to the dentist. I’m glad because I was about to do serious damage with 15 snack size snickers.
There have been some complaints. Apparently those less patient readers (you know who you are) think I am dragging this tale out a bit too much. Perhaps it should have been a trilogy rather than a mini-series, but bear with me. I’m still processing everything that happened over the almost 6 hours of dragging my body around part of Texas. For those of you who have completed full Ironman events I know this is a mere trifle, but for moi, who used to consider a marathon a full day of work, it’s a LOT.
I think I left off the last installment at the strippers. Free of my wetsuit, I cruised up the hill and into T1. I remembered where my bike was, and noticed that my helmet, sunglasses and bib were not exactly where I’d left them. They must have fallen or been knocked off my bike, but someone had put them back for me, which was nice. I had a smooth bike mount – no falling or missing the shoes, and pedaled away. After I got my feet in my shoes I looked down at my hands. They were covered in mud, I’m guessing from touching my muddy feet. I started trying to wipe them off on my shorts so they’d be semi clean to eat my Powerbar energy blasts. These things are like gummies and very easy to eat. I had 3 packages of them, already open and in my bento box. I needed to eat 1 package per hour. That translates to 9 blasts, so I tried to make things easy and eat 3 every 20 minutes. For the most part, I got that right. There were just 3 blasts left in the bento box when I finished the bike. Along with the blasts I was drinking water and coke flavor nuun.
I think in future long races I’ll drink something with calories in it so I don’t have to eat so much. The reason for this is because I still had the stomach cramp I got in the water, and it was getting worse. I stuck to the nutrition plan, knowing that if I didn’t, my race would suffer, but if I’d had a calorie drink it may have helped.
The bike started out really well. I was averaging 19.8 mph without having to put in much effort, and feeling good. At the first aid station at mile 12, I went to grab a bottle and was going so fast I just pushed it out of the volunteer’s hand. I slowed down as I approached the next volunteer and got a perfect grab. The bottles were the type you can squeeze, so I just squirted the water into my already open aero bottle, chucked the bottle, and continued on. At the second aid station I decided to stop to use the portapotty. The stomach cramps were worsening and I thought maybe a bathroom visit was the answer. It wasn’t. I got back on my bike and carried on.
Not long after that, the wind picked up, seemingly out of nowhere. All of a sudden I was riding into a massive headwind, with gusts that had me working just to stay on the road. And the road, which had been smooth for the most part, was now rocky and bumpy. I figured I could afford to lose some speed, as I’d calculated averaging 19 mph, so hunkered down and kept going. But the wind kept blowing. And the vibrations from the rocky road were really starting to get to me. There was a foot wide patch at the side of the road that was smooth, and everyone was trying to ride there, but occasionally you’d have to move out either because of a crack or to go around someone. I noted that, even with the reduced speed, I was still passing people so used that as positive reinforcement that I was doing fine.
When my speed fell below 19 mph I got a bit disheartened, wondering when I would get a tailwind and when the road would smooth out a bit. I realized that I probably had a tailwind for the first 25 miles but just didn’t realize it. This section of the bike, unlike the first half, didn’t have any major hills in it, so you couldn’t really pick up speed anywhere. At one point we got a nice downhill and I started gathering some speed only to hear someone yelling into a loudspeaker for us to slow down for a turn. At the bottom of the hill another volunteer was yelling, and then I realized that we were coming into a hairpin turn, and slammed on my brakes. I heard that another rider’s brakes failed on this hill and he rode straight through the intersection and into a ditch on the other side.
So the wind kept blowing, the bumpy road continued, and the stomach griped. I completely lost focus and just rode. My speed fell below 18 mph and there was nothing I could do but watch it take a dive. There were a lot of people on the side of the road changing flats and I actually wished I would get a flat so I could stop. My back and neck were killing me, and I kept having to come out of aero to stretch out. I thought maybe I hadn’t put my handlebars back in the right position after I shipped my bike, and maybe I was in a more aggressive, sprint position. Yeah, this was a low point for my race.
When we turned into the park I realized we were near T2, but I couldn’t see it. The crowds were swarming like in the Tour de France, and I was worried I would ride into someone. Then we turned a corner and suddenly the bike dismount was right in front of me. I quickly pulled my feet out of my shoes but didn’t have time to swing my leg over before the line. A volunteer grabbed me, which was great, as I definitely would have wiped out otherwise. I started to run over to my bike rack but the ground was really rocky and so I had to walk. I racked my bike, pulled the bag off the rack, grabbed my socks and shoes, and headed out for the run. I realized I’d forgotten my GUs before I even got out of T2, but couldn’t be bothered to go back and get them, especially as I wasn’t sure if my stomach could handle them.
As I started the run, my pace was 7:45, which was exactly what I’d planned.