The bike is like my long-lost love...that I didn't even know existed until last year. I absolutely LOVE riding. I'm not particularly fast or at all talented at cycling, but there are times on the bike that don't quite compare to anything else in life. It's those times when the road feels glass-smooth, your legs turn the cranks in perfect circles, the whirring of the wheels drones out all background noise, and the power builds in the legs as you tuck in just a little further to get that last little bit of speed. This usually happens at least once per ride, and every single time my smile spreads from ear to ear. And it stays with me long enough to get me out the door for the next ride.
Yeah, I enjoy swimming, and I even admit in public now that I like to run. But the bike is where it's at for me. During the latter parts of training, I developed a few rituals with me and my bike. At the end of the work days, my relaxation consisted of locking the Cervelo into the trainer, changing into my comfiest tri gear, and settling in for a quiet ride in the dark. Followed by a hot shower and an early bedtime. I got through the rest of the work week by knowing that on Saturday morning, I got to wake up before the rest of the world, meet up with some of the best people I will ever know, and spend 5...6...7...or more hours with them and our bikes and the awesome Pacific Northwest scenery.
This is a long way of saying that during the 3-week taper at the end of my training cycle, I felt a bit lost without my bike rides. By race week I just wanted to get on the saddle and go as far as my legs would let me. The evening before the race I was filled more with excitement to be reunited with my bike, than I was with pre-race jitters.
As I ran out of transition with my bike, I was elated to be out of the water and only seconds away from climbing on for a 112 miler with my old friend. I waved and smiled at the crowds lining the exit chute, rinsed the TTL water out of my mouth, and settled into the aerobars as we rode out of town. I found a comfortable gear and just spun. Sometime during the first out section, a guy crashed about 15 feet in front of me. He had just passed me, and he veered a little too far to the left and smashed into a tall orange cone. I stopped to see if he was okay, and took off as soon as he was tended to. I only lost a couple of minutes, but I'm afraid that might have been the end of his race.
I kept the computer on cadence-only for the first hour, but couldn't resist taking a peek at my speed during the headwinds on the Beeline. 10-12 mph. Ugh. No worries though, because I was ON MY BIKE and I was HAVING FUN! After the turn around, it was awesome. 25-30 mph, downhill, with a tailwind. Here is where I recovered, caught up on my nutrition, and talked with other athletes. Soon I was back in town, waving to my friends and family, and heading back out for Loop 2. Still smiling.
Loop 2 was pretty much the same story. Headwind on the way out, tailwind on the way back. Lots of dirt and lots of cacti. Numerous bottles of water and gatorade, and through 1.5 flasks of gel. A banana half here and there. I was apparently over-hydrating because I had to stop twice on this loop to pee. 7 minutes total of waiting in lines for the porta-potties. Oh well, better to be comfy. The end of the Loop 2 I was still smiling, though maybe not quite as much.
Loop 3 was not a whole lot different. Except the winds had shifted. We no longer had a headwind on the way out, but we did on the way back. I think this is a faster way to ride the course, but I don't think anyone appreciates a headwind during the last 17 miles of a 112 mile ride. I stopped at the porta-potties for a third time. Not so much because I was going to burst, but more as a quick break to stretch the legs and get out of the wind for a minute or two. Meh, I was still having fun. :-)
I rolled into transition, dismounted the bike, and gave it to one of the 8 volunteers trying to grab it. No doubt about it, Ironman is full service.
Loop 1 was close to 17.5 mph, Loop 2 was about 16.5 mph (bathroom breaks!), and Loop 3 was 17 mph. Total time = 6:38:24. Pace = 16.9 mph. Next time I'll break 17 mph.
I stopped to take off my bike shoes and called out my race number to the volunteers. Just like T1, I got there before they did. I grabbed my bag, ran down the aisle towards the change tent, and just about mowed over 2 girls who were NOT happy to have a marathon to run next. I had an awesome helper in the tent...I did a full change into running shorts and singlet. She didn't even flinch when the stench of my tri shorts and bike feet permeated the air. She had to have been a triathlete!
Last steps were to body glide the bits, get sunscreened outside the tent, and smear vaseline all over my badly chaffed shoulders. I have got to find a different sports bra!
Total T2 time = 3:59. Freakin awesome when you consider that length of the transition area, doing a full clothes change, and loitering around the vaseline station.