Ironman Canada Recap: Bike and T2

BIKE – 5:55:54 // 18.86 mph

The mount line was packed full so I waited my turn and hopped aboard my bike. Riding out of town I did my best to smile at cheering spectators, and I KNOW I smiled when I heard my family’s cheers! I got settled in and peeked a look at my Garmin before I started it. The clock read 8:20; with a 7am start that meant I had swam and transitioned in 1:20:00! My 3rd set of tears for the day. I really HAD completed a solid swim.

Riding out of town my HR was high, but it always is right out of the water so I vowed to keep an eye on it. We rode past the park on Skaha Lake and along the water. Crowds cleared and the roads got quieter, and I felt more and more in my element, like I owned my own day. The excitement of cheering crowds was uplifting, but it’s hard to maintain that kind of high for so many hours so I was relieved to have some time away from the energy. Next up was MacLean Creek Road, which consisted of a short but steep hill. It felt tougher than I wanted it to, but when I crested the top my legs had finally woken up. They were ready to spin and ready to ride.

The long, winding and rolling course all the way to Osoyoos was beautiful. A group of 20 or so cyclists that kept leap frogging each other but it made for good company and competition. Some of us liked climbing and some of us did better on the flats but we all hung together for a number of miles. Being with others reminded me to take it easy this early in the game, but kept me from getting lazy. We made conversation – I caught up with another Seattleite I’ve raced with before – and enjoyed the ride, careful to space out when we heard a motorcycle approaching. We may have been riding closer than allowed but the course was still crowded and we were all respectful and doing our own thing.

It seemed like a blink and we were at Richter.

I tried to remember from our drive how long Richter’s ascent was, and probably took it a little easier than I needed to up the first half. After the turn, flat, and second climb I decided to turn in up a notch and pushed it harder to the top. Victory! I mentally crossed that climb off my list of milestones for the day.

The aid station had just witnessed a crash that looked pretty serious, so I opted to skip the stop and pushed myself into the descent. Luckily the winds weren’t too bad, so I bared down and tried to ride my momentum. On the way down from Richter I hit 42mph, definitely an all time speed high on my bike.

Next up the 7 Bitches, “rolling” hills that are just hilly enough so you can only ride your momentum so far and then have to pedal and push yourself the rest of the way up. The Bitches were bitchy for certain, but not as evil as I had built up in my mind. My body does well with varied terrain and small checkpoints and goals, and pretty soon I had counted to 7 and they were through. Vehicle congestion was tough along this stretch, especially while trying to navigate other cyclists and maximize congestion. But at one point a kid around 9 or 10 hung his head out a car window, rang a cowbell like it was his job, and in a trance watched the group of us pass. He had a glimmer in his eye that was so inspiring. The cyclist next to me commented, “Look who caught the Ironman bug,” and he was right. Cue my 4th set of tears for the day. I was so excited for myself, and for everyone out there, and I felt so lucky to be feeling good. I felt eternally free and grateful.

When we hit Keremeos my feelings shifted and I began to worry a bit. My HR average was higher than I had wanted it to be, and my legs were starting to notice that they had been working for a while. So I made an effort to reprioritize my focus to concentrate on eating, drinking, and staying steady. I had no idea how it would serve me, but I did know that overexerting myself too early was recipe for disaster. My stomach began to get unhappy as well so I put away all signs of “food” and stuck to Bloks and infinit with the occasional gulp of water through an aid station.

Next up the Cawston out and back. Race your own race I told myself. The out and back is the only time you get a look at who is up ahead of you, and I didn’t want to psych myself out trying to scout who was up ahead. The whole area was packed to the brim with cyclists and spectators though so it took every ounce of focus to stay crash free never mind measuring the distance of the competition. Not sexy, but true, I continued to ride easy, track nutrition, and tried to figure out how to relieve the growing stomach pressure that had taken over.

At special needs – mile 80 or so – I tossed my empty bottles, made the U turn, pulled up to the volunteer holding my bag, and grabbed my bottles. A quick “thank you” and “good luck” and I was off again. I had been so hesitant to stop at special needs and with now easy and fast it was I’m not really sure why. At the end of a long flat section, where you have to slow to make a full U-turn anyway it’s not as though anyone was loosing much time by slowing to a quick stop and then cycling off again. And getting fresh bottles was so much less risky than trying to mix my own on the go.

During the last stretch of before getting back out to the main road I spotted Alanna and heard her yelling my name. It was just the boost I needed before reaching the only part of the course that I had ridden, a portion that was much harder than I had hoped for even on fresh legs. I don’t know if it’s winds, a more significant grade than appears, or if it’s just a mind game, but the miles from Upper Bench Road to the Green Mountain Road were the most brutal of the day for me. I felt energy and power getting sucked out of me, and I felt like I was getting nowhere. Yet the terrain looked flat! True torture.

But Yellow Lake? Ain’t no thang. Once I got past Green Mountain Road my legs were burning but I never felt defeated or weak. They were getting progressively more tired, but I knew that was okay at this point in the game.

When I crested the top I heard cheers from Seattle area athletes and for the 2nd time of the day I felt like I had made it. And for the 5th time I cried. I couldn’t believe my day was over half way finished. Stomach pain aside I was pushing through and reached mile 100 with a solid and smart effort and I was proud of what I had done so far. The next 12 miles were nearly all downhill with an easy spin back in to town. With a mile or so left winds picked up and I thought of everyone still on the course. I was so grateful that I had thrown down a solid bike and would miss the rest of what the weather decided to do that day.

T2 – 3:38

The dismount line was another cluster, but I waited my turn, hopped off my bike, and threw it at the first person to reach their hands out. I knew where my bag was, ran straight toward it, and volunteers ushered me in the right direction. They were so helpful and on top of guiding us the right way, but I was glad I had asked a million questions during bike check-in. I knew exactly where I was going.

I entered the tent and had another seamless transition. A volunteer asked if I wanted help, I said yes, and she dropped to the ground to organize my stuff. I told her I really just needed her to spray sunscreen on me and asked her to get my back while I put on my shoes. I hopped up, used my inhaler, she sprayed my arms, and I was off.

As I trotted out of the tent I made a last minute decision to use the porta potty to see if I could alleviate any of the stomach pressure I was experiencing. I celebrated the fact that I clearly wasn’t too dehydrated, but nothing else was going to happen so off I went.

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