Thursday, October 3, 2013
YOU ARE AN IRONMAN (Bike and T2)
I got on the bike and headed out. People were cheering and ringing cow bells, music was blaring. The air was electric. And cold.
The course went from Kings Beach through Tahoe City to Squaw Valley, downhill a good bit to Truckee, UP and DOWN and UP UP UP Martis Camp to Northstar, then DOWN only to immediately go UP UP UP Brockway Summit, DOWN Brockway which leads back to Kings Beach. The whole thing would be rode again 1.3 more times ending at Squaw Valley. There is one little 1K climb (Dollar Hill) between Kings Beach and Squaw that is rode three times. The first time up Dollar I was feeling great. I knew not to push so early in the ride so I took it nice and easy. I played leap frog with a few people, being careful to keep my distance and back off when passed. The turn into Squaw Valley was already hopping with folks and I was excited to see it the first time (calling this the second to last time in my mind).
At that point the ride got really fun. It's mostly down hill for a good section and it felt fantastic, except that it was FREEZING and I was struggling to drink and with getting my food out of my jersey pocket. (I had not practiced this with gloves on and with the tracker belt on over the jacket/over my jersey.) Every time I tried to drink water I felt like I would lose my breath. I knew I needed calories so I did the best I could trying to get to them as needed (I had an alarm set for every 45 minutes-this was not the best plan for this course) but it wasn't working as well as it had in training.
I think my favorite part of the course was riding through Truckee! The whole town had showed up for an IronMan Viewing Festival! There were outdoor eateries and bars PACKED with people who were cheering and waiving signs. The energy from the crowd was palpable! Then the road took us to a narrow bike path...a no passing zone. This didn't really bother me because there was no one in front or me or behind me at that point!
When the course turned into Martis Camp, I knew the climbing was about to start. We had been able to preview the course the day before, up to a certain point, and I knew it was pretty much rolling hills and some interesting wooden bridges (cedar bridges that smelled AMAZING!! enough so I wasn't even worried about the fact the wood ran parallel-it looked safe enough to me). When I got to the section we were not allowed to go into the day before, I thought it couldn't be too much farther to the top. I started climbing and glanced up to my right and saw a long line of bikes WAY UP ON TOP OF A HILL...what felt like 25 switchbacks later I saw the end of a ski lift. That had to be the top--ski lifts take you to the top of mountains! YAY!! Not exactly...there was one more section to go. What kind of sick soul would do this to people??!!
The entire time of this section I kept telling myself I would be going down soon, but I knew that downhill was "a bit technical" thanks to a bike course preview discussion given my Chris McDonald a couple of nights before. (More on this later.) Leading up to this race I was battling a growing phobia of riding down hill. Honestly, it had gotten to the point where I was starting to almost hyperventilate DRIVING down hill in my car!! (I'm not joking...) I had tried several things to get rid of the fear, but I hadn't nipped it in the bud before this ride. So I continued to pray...I had been praying since before the start of the race, about ever detail of the day. I had been taking my thoughts captive and surrendering my fears and worries to God, asking Him for the strength and courage necessary to finish this race. Starting down the first of two FAST descents, I have to say, He was with me like my own heart beat.
At the very bottom of the hill, the road made a sharp right turn and immediately started up a 2.6 mile climb to the highest point of the ride. I shifted into the easiest gear I had and started praying my way up this hill. I was breathing like a race horse but moving like a snail. I thought of every person I knew who would be watching my athlete tracker. I imagined it was their voices cheering me to the top (instead of all the strangers who were stuck in traffic headed the other direction...and all the strangers who knew this was going to be the place we would need their cheers the most who came out to ring cow bells!). I kept saying, "I can do ALL things through Christ...not just the easy things...ALL THINGS, even climb this hill."
In the back of my mind though I was saying, "I can NOT do this again. This is too hard and is more than me. More than I can handle. I will not do this again. Once is enough." Only to have that thought shouted at, "I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME!! Yes, it is bigger than me, but thankfully I have really good 'backup'" Honestly, before I knew it, I was at the top and almost in tears.
I had calculated my times the day before...if I took every minute for the swim and T1, I had to average at least 14mph for the 112 miles on the bike in order to make all the cut off times and to make the final cut off. I was WAY behind. I knew the descent down Brockway was going to be fast and "safe" so after a quick break to eat some food, I hopped back on my bike and went as fast downhill as I could. I would love to tell you exactly how fast that was, but my Garmin has not allowed me to upload data yet so I only know mile splits. (Miles 42-44 going up were 5, 5.2 and 5.3 mph; miles 45-47 were 26.6, 27.7 and 23.7.)
I'm not going to lie, when I got to the bottom of the hill and to the right turn which would start my second loop, I "almost" made a left turn to take me the 1/4 mile to my condo. I could quit now, not have to go back up Martis Camp/Northstart and Brockway a second time...not have to run a marathon afterward. I was still behind at that point. But I knew I couldn't give up! Churchill didn't give up when she was riding on flat tires! God would give me the strength. Period. So I made the right turn.
By the time I got passed Dollar the second time I was feeling better, but I also knew I was very behind on nutrition and hydration. I had refilled my aero bottle once (or was it twice?), but I hadn't really used my back two bottles. A little over one bottle (maybe 2?) in 3 hours was NOT enough. I tried to make a conscious effort to take in fuel/water. I stopped for my special needs bag (ate a Picky Bar, grabbed o out a note from a friend, a picture of Churchill, loaded more food into my pockets...took off my beanie and the sleeves from my jacket. After a shameless application of WhoHa Ride Glide (by cramming my hand down my bike shorts since there wasn't a port o potty open) and I was off again. I knew I had the energy of Squaw, a nice down hill section from there to Truckee, and the town of Truckee to look forward to. It all came and went faster than I wanted it to because before I knew it was I was at the last aid station before those horrible switch backs. I had to use the bathroom and didn't want to pee on the bike because it was still really cold. I knew I was riding less than a 14mph average according to my watch but a gal there said we were about to be at the last cut off and had plenty of time. She said if we had to we could walk up Brockway, but I told her I knew if I got off the bike my day was going to be done-NO WAY I could walk up a hill in bike shoes pushing a bike fast enough to make the final cutoff. So off I went to start the 3rd major climb ....were those switchbacks really that steep the first time?
Down the winding road and ONE MORE BIG CLIMB (and one more Dollar hill) TO GO.... About maybe 1/2 the way up Brockway, I felt like I was pedaling so slow I would fall over any second. I couldn't breath and my legs were on fire. The guy in front of me stopped and got off to push. After and agonizing internal debate, I got off too. My first thought was to stop. But then I told myself, "Never EVER give up...make them pull you off the course--DO NOT STOP!!! RELENTLESS FORWARD MOVEMENT"...my aid station friend was pushing her bike behind me... Several people passed me and I considered trying to get back on but I thought I would waste more time stopping and trying to get started than I would if I just kept pushing (miles 88-90: 7, 3.6 and 3.3)
When I got to the top I knew I had to give all I had to get to Squaw if I had any chance of making it. I did my best to stay off the brakes going down (miles 91-93: 35.5, 32.9 and 30.4). Right turn at Kings Beach and I was on my way to finish the bike...there was just one more climb. When I got to the bottom of Dollar, I had NOTHING left (or so I thought) in my legs so I hopped off again and pushed up the 1k climb....believing with every fiber of my being THIS choice would be the end of my day. But I did my best to give it all I had. When I got to the turn into Squaw I saw runners out on the course already headed back toward the finish. Dangerously close to the ten hour and thirty minute cutoff for the swim/bike part of my day, I knew all the top finishers were already in the shower, having already had a post race meal!! I heard someone yell, "YOU HAVE TWO MINUTES!!!" just as I got to the dismount line! In the back of my mind I believed I had not made it because I knew I had gotten into the water early, so any second someone was going to take my chip.
Bike time: 8:41:58
As I jumped off my bike and started running for the tent (and away from anyone telling me I was done) I heard my husband yelling at me. I didn't want to stop so I ran into the tent where I had a split second melt down. I asked the volunteer how I would know if I made it. She told me I had and asked how she could help me. I was in a daze. I told her I didn't need help and stripped down for the 2nd time in one day! I put on my running skirt, fresh shirt, fuel belt, and shoes. I put my hat on my head, grabbed my race number belt, fuel belt and athlete tracker in my hand and ran out the door putting all my stuff on my body. I heard Dwayne yelling at me again and I turned around to see my sweet husband with his new photographer friend. I managed to smile for the camera and then had another mini break down telling him I had not made it because I started the swim early (before 7am). He kept telling me I had made it but I needed to go so I believed him and headed out for the marathon.
Stay tuned for the Run and Finish...to be posted tomorrow! :D