I had not previewed the bike course. Instead I went grocery shopping—which had to get done, otherwise my nutrition plan would’ve gone straight out the window. I heard brief snippets from Charlotte and Fred about bumpy sections, but never got the chance to talk to Shawn and Sharon about their impressions. I’m sure they would’ve said the same thing. Like Timberman (where I also didn’t drive the course), I didn’t want to have the suffering to look forward to. Keeping it a surprise would keep it interesting, I thought. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.
Kate G and I headed out of T1 pretty much together. For the first 10 miles, I was trying to settle in, calm my stomach which was just starting to get queasy, and talk myself into eating and drinking. I was able to down most of a smoothie just before leaving the transition tent and knew that would keep me fueled for most of the first hour since goodness knows the Clif bar wasn’t tasting good. I was feeling pretty good up to the turn onto Rt. 20—my speed was around 17 and I was passing more people than passed me.
That all changed after the turn. The headwind hit and slowed me way down. Then the rollers started. Then I got passed by everyone and their dog—and they were all in big pace lines. (Isn’t that illegal???) I thought several times about trying to hop on the back, but was afraid I’d get nailed with a penalty. So I stuck it out by myself. Kate G and I played leapfrog a bit. I tried to conserve time by not stopping for potty breaks (we all know what that means…), and considering how many times I need to go whenever I’m on the bike, that probably saved me about 15-20 minutes in my bike split!
As Rt 20 and the headwind dragged on, and time ticked away, I got more and more discouraged. I know the low point of every IM is supposed to hit between miles 70 and 80, but I was seriously questioning whether or not I’d finish the race before I even got to the special needs stop at mile 50. The brightest point of the bike was seeing some TriGirl zip by in a white rental car honking like mad. Damn, that looked like Heidi, who was supposed to be back in Richmond training for IMAZ. Sure enough it was! She came all the way out to watch and cheer us on—and she was the pretty much the only reason I kept going at certain points. Thank you so much Heidi. I wish I could do the same for your big race!
Anyways, back to the hell that was Rt. 20. I was so hoping I could catch up with Sharon and Shawn—figuring they’d be stopping for potty breaks and uncrustables at special needs. Never did happen. Kate G and I did get caught up again at special needs and making the turn onto 231 felt blessed relief: finally a tail wind! Cranking along at 21 mph was bliss, and I started thinking if it kept up we’d negative split the bike (at this point I think we’d been on the bike for over 3 hrs already). Whoo hooo! We did stop at mile 56 to refill water bottles (why they wouldn’t have water at special needs is beyond me…) and pee in the grass.
I knew too soon we’d be turning to go west again, naively thinking that since there was a headwind east bound, there’d be a tail wind west bound. NOT. This was where it got bumpy. At one point I had to put my bike in the small chain ring to be able to turn the crank at a decent enough pace. At the little (10 mile?) turn around, I did see Shawn and Sharon—looking strong and almost like they were enjoying the ride. Bump bump bump for almost 30 miles. At this point I knew I wasn’t quite keeping up with the nutrition plan: I was taking in all my fluids but was lagging on the solids. Every so often I had to eat one of my ginger chews to keep the nausea at bay. At mile 80 I started in with the gu—one for every 10 miles which seemed like an eternity.
Finally the pavement became decent again, but at this point I realized how far back in the pack I was. When you only see like 4 people strung out for a mile in front of you, you are going S-L-O-W. The game now became “get me home and off this friggin’ bike!” I was never so glad as to see the bridge that we came over at mile 10—but those last 10 miles in were still tough. I started getting very emotional as I passed more and more spectators. I was so anxious to see friendly, happy faces and hear people say “Good job.” Even though many, many spectathaletes said “good job,” every time I heard it I thought how lucky I was to have made it that far, and yes, dammit, I am doing a good job. Just doing the race is something most people (and at one time I myself) would never consider doing.
So, all told, my bike split was 7:13. Not quite the 6:30 that I expected and had told Joe to plan on. Pulling into transition I saw my sister and Joe and the kids yelling like mad. See how I'm smiling in that picture--I'm unclipped, ready to jump off. I think handing off the bike was one of the sweetest feelings of the race. (Yes, take that damn bike, I don’t want to see it again for a while!) Added to which, Cyndi, Derek, and Grandison were all there waiting for me. Hugs all around, “how’re you feeling?”, “good job”, and help in the changing tent. What could be better?! Kate G pulled in just a short while after me, and I waited in the tent to start the run with her. I was a little apprehensive about the run earlier in the week, but at this point I was looking forward to it. A chance to socialize and visit with other racers, and have more support in terms of seeing friends and sherpas along the way. Bring it on and let’s get this thing done!