After my fabulous swim, I was feeling awesome about my race. They have volunteers to help you get your wetsuit off, which I have never had at a race before, so I was a bit unclear of how to do it. Luckily, they were way better at it and directed me to lay down (which is hard when you’ve just gotten up from swimming) and had my wetsuit off before I knew it. I grabbed my bag and headed into the tent. A bored-looking teenager wandered by, dumped out my bag and wandered off. Another volunteer asked me if I wanted help, but I felt like I was doing okay so I said no. Then a third, more proactive volunteer started helping me (this is how I was last year, so I just let her.) She got me into my jersey, my shoes & socks and had everything all organized. I drank my ensure and ate a banana, then hit the sunblock and the porta-potties before I grabbed my bike and headed out.
Riding down Main street was incredible. There were tons of people cheering and I felt great. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this race, it felt surreal. The first 40 miles of the bike are mostly downhill and have a tailwind. I was told over and over that you need to take it easy on this section and not go too hard, so I tried to do just that and not mind the folks passing me. I figured I’d either pass them back later or they were faster than me. Over and over, all that ran through my head was “Holy crap, you’re doing an f-ing Ironman!” I think that was because it felt so much like just another training ride.
Before I knew it, I could see the Husky gas station with it’s giant Canadian flag that signals the turn onto the first big climb: Richter Pass. Richter is a 6-mile climb, that’s not really steep, but it is long and you still have a fair amount of bike course left to go, so you need to take it easy. There were a ton of people up spectating and cheering up there, so it was pretty cool. I was trying find an easy pace, but in order to keep the cadence that felt good, I had to pass some of the slower folks (Since not that long ago, I would have been one of the folks walking her bike up Richter – this was a major milestone in my training) I actually passed a fair number of people, which was awesome. The crowds loved my Curious George bike jersey and were generally such a hoot. Before I knew it, I’d reached the top of the climb and was able to enjoy the awesome descent.
The next section had what the course description calls rollers, but those of us who actually have to ride it call hills. (Do the people that write course descriptions even know what a roller is? If there isn’t enough momentum from the downhill to go most of the way up the next hill, it’s not a roller. Get it?) It was ridiculously beautiful with bucolic farmland, orchards, etc. I tried to look at the scenery as I chugged up the hills and did my usual math-impaired projections of finishing time based on current pace. When you really suck at math, it can take a surprisingly long time to do this and it keeps me occupied: (Okay, if I’m going 15 miles an hour and I have to ride 112 miles, I’ll be done in 4 hours, no wait… okay 112 divided by 7, carry the one… ) and you get the idea of how long stretches of time would go by.
The section of the course that I’d heard was one of the hardest was the out-and-back section and boy were they not kidding. It’s very mentally tough to go the “wrong way” when you’ve been riding toward town, not to mention seeing all of the people who are ahead of you, headed in the “right direction.” But this was the section where the bike special needs bags were and I was very much looking forward to getting my cold bottle of sports drink. It was a more convoluted section than the usual out-and-back that I’ve encountered before – you sort of went in a big square, but I got to see Erin, who was looking strong and the special needs was closer than I was expecting, which was awesome.
Cheered by my ice-cold drink and pita chips, I finished out the out-and-back and was on my way. I was starting to see some really rough folks out there, so no matter how bad I was feeling, I was doing great compared to them! There was one last big climb at Yellow Lake and I wasn’t sure where it started. I’d heard there was a long false flat leading up to it, but with the headwind we had, everything felt like a false-flat. Finally, we started climbing and I figured this had to be it. There was a rest area that we’d seen on our reconnaissance drive that T had told me they were going to be at, so I was very excited to see them. But when I got to the rest area they weren’t there which was really hard. I tried to tell myself that it was okay and that they might have gotten stuck in traffic or had some other issue and that I was going to be fine, etc.
I put my head down and kept climbing. As advertised, the climb wasn’t bad except for the fact that it was coming after 90 miles of riding. I was tired of being on my bike and ready to hit the downhill part when I heard some familiar voices. I came around the corner and there they were, my own personal cheering section:
They’d made all of these funny signs for me which definitely made me laugh:
M was taking tons of photos of me, so here’s a basic sampling – my approach:
And I’m outta there…
Now, I had about 20-25 miles left to ride. There was a nice long section of downhill, but there was also a pretty considerable headwind, so it wasn’t as fast as it would have been otherwise. I was definitely tired of being on the bike and ready to be done. I tried to go as fast as possible on the descents and keep relaxed. The last three miles heading into town was the hardest part. The headwind was bad, seeing all of the people already on the run course made me feel like I was further behind than I was and it was just generally tough.
I made it into the transition area and a volunteer grabbed my bike, I grabbed my second bag and headed into the change tent. I’d planned to totally change my clothes and I’d packed a wet washcloth in a baggie, which after sitting in the sun all day was warm and awesome. A nice volunteer helped me and chatted with me as I changed. Finally, it was time to hit the road for the final part of the day – the marathon.