As I ran out of T1 I spotted my SOAS teammate Amanda cheering for me. It was so awesome to have some SOAS support out there! I mounted my bike and headed out of Chakanaab Park.
Heading out of T1 I spotted Felipe, and the first thing I yelled was, “How far ahead is she?” Yes, my competitive nature was talking for me.
Felipe was standing just before our first right turn, and Chris, Charity and Bill were are stationed at the turn. They were screaming and yelling for me (apparently), but I was completely oblivious.
The bike course is three loops around the island. Laps 1 and 2 are 63km and then the last lap is 54km. You turn right out of the park, heading south for about 19km. At Punta Sur (the south point), you head back up the east side of the island for about 15km. Then, you make a left at Mezcalitos, and that road takes you all the way back in to town, where you’ll make a few turns before getting back on the road heading south.
As I headed south out of Chakanaab, I kept reminding myself of Maria’s advice: Just stay in the present. Soak it all in- you only get your first once. This part of my day was about the bike. Sure, I need to make sure I don’t kill myself on the bike so I have legs to run, but I need to enjoy this ride.
And so I did. I looked down at my computer and saw speeds I was happy with for the most part, but they were dipping a little lower than I would have liked this early in the race. (Reason number 1 I wish I had a power meter.) I chalked it up to just getting my legs warmed up. And then I got to Punta Sur.
Wind. Wind. Wind. Directly in my face. And, a slight incline that I wasn’t expecting. (For those folks who have done this race, don’t laugh. This was a small hill for this Florida girl!) The combination of the wind and the incline made me stand up to get to the top. Sheesh. How pathetic is this?
I stayed positive as I kept moving back up the island. Ok, I can do this. The wind was a cross head (more head than cross though) and I tried to keep implementing Jess/Felipe’s advice for riding in cross winds- keep the gear heavy, relax, and don’t forget to eat. (Btw, that was probably the best and most useful advice I received all training cycle!). I was a little disappointed because all the men from the wave behind me were already passing me. I didn’t seem to be gaining on anyone! At least I was surrounded by such beauty?
I passed the time by trying to remember which bar/landmark would be next, and I was certainly relieved when I made that left turn at Mezcalitos.
It was great to finally get out of the wind, but as I looked down at my speed, I was still not super happy with my numbers. (Reason number 2 I want a power meter. Oh wait, this is the same as reason 1.) And then I realized that yes, I was out of the head wind, but now I was back in a cross wind, this time a cross-tail. Well, let’s try to make the best of this! This road actually was where we started to see locals out in the street cheering for us. There was one part of the road where there were streetlights in the median- that was my signal that we were getting closer to town and the crowds would get even better.
The first time I rode through town I got a little teary eyed again. The crowds were amazing! Locals were blaring music. Kids were yelling “Si se puede” and shaking water bottles full of rocks. This was incredible!
Right as I got downtown, I spotted Courtney! I had finally caught up! I said hi, and I think I congratulated her on her swim, and then kept going. In retrospect, I wish I had chatted a little more, but I was feeling so energized by the crowds, I kept going.
Turn, turn, turn, right past T2 (gah!) and back on to the road heading south. At this turn, there was a band playing and SO MANY people. I had a huge smile on my face. I spotted Felipe (not sure if I yelled anything to him) and waved to the crowd. This is what it’s all about!
However, things get lonely on this ride pretty quickly. On the ride south, you have pockets of fans as you pass the different resorts, but they’re nothing compared to the vibe you get downtown. As I headed south, I realized that I had a bit more of a tailwind than I did on the first loop. This meant that the wind was going to be worse on the other side of the island too. Great.
At this point, I was just about out of Osmo. I had gone through my 16 oz bladder and almost all of my two 24 oz bottles. AND I had been grabbing water at each of the aid stations to stay hydrated- as it was getting warm. I just needed to make it to special needs, which was at 97km, where I had two frozen bottles of Osmo.
I kept eating and drinking, but I started to get a headache, so I downed an electrolyte tab. I took 2 or 3 more over the course of the ride. Nutrition is SO important in Ironman, and I repeated to myself “Sip, sip. Nibble, nibble,” something I took away from a talk with Stacy Sims. Don’t stop eating and drinking!
When I made that dreaded turn at Punta Sur, BAM. WIND. It was worse. I watched my speed drop drastically, (Powermeter, anyone?) and tried so hard not to get discouraged. I did some mental math in my head to figure out if I would still make my goal of 6:00, and I thought it might still be possible, but I wasn’t entirely sure if my computer was reading properly- by the time I got to special needs, I think my computer read 100km. Hmmm…
I arrived in special needs, and was SO happy to have Osmo again (am I addicted??). As I unwrapped it from the bag and paper towels, I head on the radio “197”. Courtney was right behind me! She asked how I was doing, and I remember telling her that this was a hard bike ride. I’m a terrible friend, because I don’t think that I asked her about how she was feeling!
Apparently I’m a slow poke because we pulled out of there together. I wish I had ridden with her for a little- I think we both could have used the mental boost, but I just wanted to be done with the bike, so the faster I went, the faster I would be done.
Mezcalitos couldn’t come soon enough. I made that left turn and breathed a sigh of relief yet again. However, the relief was minimal, and as I looked at my computer again, I let my 6:00 goal go. At this point, it was probably not going to happen, and you know what, that was OK. Again, be in the moment. Enjoy the ride. This is my first, and my only first, Ironman.
I got another boost from the crowd downtown, and enjoyed the only slight tail of the day as I passed the folks lining the water’s edge, before hunkering down for my final lap. Just. Get. Through. This.
I saw Bill for the first time all day on my third lap (even though he had been there on the other two), and I yelled “I’m so glad I’m on my last lap!” I SO did not want to ride on that side of the island again.
The last lap was rough. My rice cakes were not appealing at all, though I forced most of them down. I thought I was on my last salty ball (I actually wasn’t- the other bag was deep in my pocket, not easy to reach, and I didn’t realize it was there until after the race!) so I stuffed it in my cleavage to save for when I really needed it. Unfortunately, sweat makes you slippery, and it slipped out on the road. NOOOOOO! Then, one of my water bottles popped out. Both of my bottles were still frozen when I picked them up, so I was slowly making my way through them as they melted. When it popped out, there was definitely still some frozen Osmo in there. Dah!! Ok, let’s just hunker down and get through this thing.
Another racer made this nifty visual of how the winds were blowing in on race day. By the third lap, winds were quite strong- I don’t know if they were 25mph, but they were probably at least 20mph sustained.
The east side of the third lap was pretty miserable. Both of my feet were hurting, which was weird- that hadn’t ever happened before on my long rides. I stood up a few times, just because I wanted a change of position. The wind was brutal, and though I did pass one or two people, everyone was looking pretty beat down by the wind. I tried to stay positive by thinking at least the pavement was better on this side of the island. (The pavement all around the island was great. The “worst” side was the west side in front of all the hotels, but it was by no means “bad”).
Mezcalitos, again, was the site I looked forward to on every lap. I almost let out a yelp when I made that turn. Yes! The worst part of the ride is done. Now, let’s make it to those street lamps, and then the last blocks into T2!
The cheers of the crowd carried me for those last few kms. Everyone always says they’re so happy to be off the bike. I assumed that it was because of crotch pain, but for me, I just wanted to be out of the wind!! It’s hard to explain, but I was a teensy tiny bit sad that – just like that- the ride was over. It’s not that the ride went by quickly- no, it was definitely long- but that all of the sudden, it was time to switch gears and go run a marathon. I don’t know why it felt “all of the sudden”- perhaps because I was actually trying to take it all in as much as possible? But for a split second I mourned the end of the ride and the fantastic cheering locals- the ones living outside of town- who came out to support these crazy athletes from all over the world, on their island!
Bike: 6:26.40, 15th AG
I gave my bike to a volunteer, grabbed my run bag and ran in to the changing tent.
Throughout the ride I kept wondering “Where is Jess?” She’s a super strong cyclist, so I was expecting her to pass me at any moment. I tried to remember when/where in our 70.3 she passed me to try to figure out where she might pass me on this ride, and it just never happened. I really hoped that she was okay…
I had just sat down and was tying my shoes when Jess entered the tent. She ran over and gave me a huge hug. It’s hard to put in to words the emotions in that moment, but thrilled, relieved, and grateful all come to mind. We both commiserated about how hard that ride was and wrapped up in the changing tent. I told Jess I needed to pee (I had tried so hard to go on the bike, but just couldn’t do it!) before starting the run, so we stopped at the port of potties before setting off. We started our watches, and started the marathon. Together.