Due to the devastating and lasting flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the full-distance 112-mile bike course was changed twice. Five days before the race, it was initially promoted as an "approximate 50-mile" bike course. When I checked-in on Thursday, I inquired the possibility of racing as a "half-distance" athlete, because I wasn't interested in running a marathon if I couldn't call myself an Ironman. Because of the training interruptions and injury concerns, it seemed to be a wise choice. WTC officials unfortunately told me I could not transfer, so I made the decision to race the "full" course anyway. The bike course was ultimately changed again into an entirely different 56-mile course.
I was so happy about my swim time when I exited the water. The wetsuit strippers were fast! "Can I take you to all of my open water swims?" I not-so-cleverely asked. I stood underneath the fresh water shower for a minute, taking the time to rinse the salt water off my skin and face. Then began the long run to the transition area. I saw my friend Chandra, with whom I will be relaying IM70.3 Raleigh next year, and my friends Erin and Brian Leventhal. It was so amazing to see people I knew and it gave me an even bigger boost to keep on going!
The changing tent. First of all - there was nowhere to sit where people couldn't see into the tent. All of those seats were taken, and I knew people outside were just going to have to see my naked butt. Oh well! (Also, seriously Ironman? You can't put up a screen or something by the entryway?) After the bike course changes, I debated whether or not to even change into bike shorts. Obviously I need a new bike fit, but as it stands right now - I can wear tri shorts easily for 56-60 miles, but anything beyond that I need my Pearl Izumi chamois. However, my nice and tight bike shorts that give me lots of compression are a wonderful choice on any given day - except when I am trying to pull them up over cold and slightly damp jiggly stomach skin. I could not pull them up. Not one bit! I tugged and tugged, finally got them somewhat over my gut and then the chamois was twisted. A volunteer helped me, and then helped me get into my arm sleeves (also difficult to put on).
Lesson learned? I should have never changed into bike shorts for 56 miles, and when I do another full, I will either purchase a larger size than normal bike short, and/or practice ways of getting them on to damp skin (vaseline? powder?). I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I wasn't expecting it to be nearly impossible. I was finally changed and even though I had to pee, I decided to just get on the bike.
While on the bike I immediately took two giant swigs of nutrition. I love BASE Performance products, but I had been working with a custom Infinit blend for this race. I navigated around the turns and *gulp* decided to slowly ride over the first bridge with metal grates. Now, when I did this two years ago - I fishtailed like CRAZY over the bridge. I nearly wiped out. I told myself I was going to walk across the bridge this year, but at the last minute I decided to just try. S-l-o-w-l-y. I softly screamed the entire time. "AhhhhhhhhHhHHhHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh - I'm sorry, I am just trying not to fall - Ahhhhhhh - sorry!" And I was across! WHEW. I carefully pulled out my chapstick and slathered it on, and it was time to really ride my bike!
The first road was relatively easy, and then we ride a stretch on I-140. Bikers stay in the left lane, and there are giant divots (sleeper lines) in the shoulder.
The average wind speed in Wilmington that day was 21mph with gusts up to 28mph, coming from the WNW. So, for the west-bound stretch on I-140, there were horrible crosswinds, and sometimes headwinds. It was difficult to remain in aero and control the bike. I was actually thankful for my weight gain at this point, because I probably would have been tossed into the ditch otherwise - or at the very least, blown toward the left shoulder and then crashed my bike after hitting the rumble strips.
When we exited onto US-421, I realized I should have paid better attention to the course changes, because we were going the wrong way! We turned south, then made a u-turn, then back up 421, where we would eventually u-turn again and head back into Wilmington.
The entire section of northbound US-421 was into headwind. When I raced the full course in 2014, there was actually very little wind until the end of the course - and then it was WSW and only 10 mph. So, it made the last section of the bike unpleasant, but it wasn't that difficult. This was horrific. Everything on me hurt - my "parts," my shoulders, my neck, my hands, my back. I refused to look at my watch and rode solely by effort. I didn't care that I was being passed by pace lines - though I longed to grab that back wheel and cruise along with people, I just raced my own race.
I took one water bottle from the first aid station and topped off my Speedfil bottle. I should add that this set-up was amazing for me. A lot of times during races I don't want to take my hands off the bike, so I don't fuel or hydrate properly. It isn't a fear thing, it's just that I am usually hauling butt and don't feel like taking a moment to carefully grab a bottle, etc. For this race, I had my liquid nutrition (two hours - concentrated) in my aero bottle, and 2+ hours of water in my Speedfil bottle (which goes onto my frame and uses a long hose that I placed near my aero bottle straw). I don't want to use this all of the time - but it was PERFECT for a long race. I had another two hours of nutrition on my saddle bottle cage.
Riding into the wind was seriously the only time I considered quitting the entire day. My body just hurt so badly. "Where the "F---" do we turn around?!?! Why did I forget Advil?!?!" I took deep breaths, and just continued my moderate effort cadence and power. I remembered my "why."
Finally we turned around, and I got the push from the wind I was waiting for. My dear friend Preston rode by and said, "hey - you're doing great!" and that gave me another boost. I reached up to adjust my helmet because it had started to slide forward and *DOINK* my magnetic visor popped off my helmet, flew into the air off to the left and crashed on the ground behind me.
Are you serious?
I made a split-second decision to just leave it. At this point, I would have been a major safety hazard to stop and ride/walk AGAINST traffic to retrieve it. And of course, a course marshal rode by a moment later, but I was never penalized or DQ'd for littering. Thank goodness.
The wind at my back was a welcome push, and I kept the same moderate-paced effort, knowing that I still had about six to seven hours of work ahead of me. Unfortunately, the rest of the ride was also very bright and my eyes were watering from the lack of wind protection. I also decided to s-l-o-w-l-y ride across the second bridge, and did my same "ahhhhhhhhhhhhh" quiet scream across the entire section of metal grates. I made it! A few minutes later I saw my husband and kids before the dismount - man, that feels nice to see your family.
Unfortunately, when I started to run down the hill with my bike, my left groin muscle locked up and I couldn't run. So I walked the long walk to the bike handlers and held up a bunch of people. Sorry 'bout that. But the walking eased the cramp and then it was time to get ready for my very first marathon.
T1 (ugh): 16:46 Bike: 3:31:45 15.87mph
Nutrition: Three and a half hours custom-blend Infinit "Bike" blend, ~16-20 ounces of additional water