Saturday, September 16, 2006
IM WI Race Day - T1 and Bike
I jogged and walked my way up the helix. It was awesome seeing and hearing the crowds cheering us on. Wow that was fun. I heard Jeff out there telling me I had a good swim. I entered into the first transition room, yelled out my number to the volunteers, but got to my bag before they did. I thanked them anyways and moved to the get naked room.
When I got into the changing room, it was packed full of people. There wasn't as much nakedness as I expected, but that's okay. I wasn't in that room for the scenery. I decided to just plop my stuff down by the water cooler. I pulled out my towel and wiped my torso dry. I slipped on my tri jersey and slid my arm warmers over my wrists. Clipped my race belt and number around my waist. Helmet strapped on, glasses on, stuffed my sandwich, pretzels, and cookies into my jersey pocket, downed a glass of water. I bent over to strap my shoes on. Then I threw the wetsuit and towel back in my bag, and dumped it in a pile next to a volunteer. And out the door I went.
As I exited The Terrace, the misty rain and cold hit me again. I fumbled a bit trying to zip up my jersey and jog at the same time. I opted not to wear a shell nor an Under Armour base layer. So I had to roll up the arm warmers just a little higher. I was anxious to see Ferrah again, but had to run pretty much the length of the transition zone. It was nice to see that the racks were not all empty when I jogged through.
I heard the beep as I crossed the mat exiting T1. I made a quick glance of the watch that flashed something in the 9 minute range. SWEET!!! I was once again right on target. I eased down the helix and onto the streets feeling good, but little did I know that that feeling would soon fade.
I tried to ease myself into a good rhythm, but with 2000 other riders out there I couldn't get comfortable. My left foot was driving me nuts and would do so for a few miles. I was getting hungry and wanted to start eating my ham sandwich too. So I stayed out of the aero position for the first few miles while I munched on my lunch. I quickly noticed that Ferrah was not all right.
Shhooo Shhooo Shhhooo....no.... it couldn't be. Shhooo, Shhooo, Shhooo....Arrgh. My brake pads were rubbing against my wheel. Noooo...All right just jiggle the calipers and....easy....okay....good it stopped. Let's hope this won't be like this all day.
Once I got past the Alliant Energy Center, things changed quickly. The confidence that I had leaving the Terrace seemed to be washing away. I got frustrated early and often. When I wanted to pass, it seemed like someone was already on my left. When I finally got to the left, I would have to sprint and pass packs of bikers all at once. Damn drafting rules. So if you saw a crazy sprinter out there between downtown and Whalen Road, that was probably me. Boy was I frustrated.
I almost always race with minimal external feedback. No average speed, no heart rate monitors, no power numbers. Just keep it simple and race how you feel. About 5 miles out, I took a quick glance at the numbers from the bike computer and I heard the familiar sound of my brake pads rubbing on the wheel. I looked up at the sky raining down on me, breathed in the cold air lashing at my face, and looked down at the goosebumps on my legs. The discomfort in my foot had not subsided yet either. I knew my body was not accustomed to these kind of conditions. I am a sprinter and I wanted the sun and heat.
I sighed and made what was the toughest decision of the day: I wasn't even ten miles into this race and I threw out my goal time out the window, a goal that I had set more than a year ago.
At that point, it was as if I already been beaten by Ironman. This race was longer than anything I had ever done before. The environmental conditions were very unfavorable to me. My bike was not performing well. I remembered what happened at my first half IM race and knew that this race today would present challenges that I had never encountered before; as a matter of fact, it already had in the swim.
Spirit crushed, I continued to grind on. Over the next few miles, I knew that I could not continue on this way.
Frustrated and resigned I finally reached the loop. I wanted to open things up a little. The bike traffic was driving me insane. As I was pulling out some cookies from my back pocket, a motorcycle drives by and snaps my picture. At this point, I thought, WTF, an official? Did I just get penalized? And for what? There was no effing way I could stay behind anyone for four lengths. Arghh. When it rains it pours, huh?
Now I was totally cursing my decision to ever attempt this race. Not only was my mind betraying me, I was fighting mother nature, fighting my own bike, and now race officials? All I could remember was telling myself to just keep pedaling.
I pushed up the hills with a vengeful spirit. As I passed the second water stop, I pitched my Gatorade bottle. Little did I know that I had just made a bad trade as this stop only had water. Just another drop in on ocean of misery. I pulled up to County Hwy G and saw the penalty tent. I wheeled in and talked to the folks in the tent. They had no clue and sent me on my way. Sigh.....
As I got back on the bike, I had to reexamine my situation right then, right there. County Hwy G was a long stretch with no turns where I was able to search into my soul. I allowed myself the right to complain about the weather, but would never ever let any doubts about my ability to finish this race enter my mind. I reached back to massage my hamstring a bit and realized I had tucked a rosary into my shorts. I remembered that my mom and sister wanted to be here on race day, but I knew that they were thinking and praying for me all day. Today I would have to set a new goal: survive the day.
With the hills still ahead of me, I got back to the grind as the cyclists around me started to frustrate me again. I turned onto Route 92 and sprinted up the short climb to avoid the crowd of amateurs stuck in the wrong gear struggling to stay upright.
I continued to slug through the course, battling the wind and persistent rain. I constantly adjusted my brakes to reduce the rubbing. As much as I tried, I could not resist the urge to power up the hills. Up and out of the saddle, I pushed up the climb to Mt. Horeb as the rain-soaked spectators cheered.
The status quo remained: the hordes of riders, the cold, the rain, the rubbing brake pads. I occasionally popped my feet out of the shoes and wiggled the toes to keep the blood flowing through them. I flew down Garfoot Road and warned the folks of my presence on their left. I had taken this hill on wet roads before in June and despite my issues on the bike today, yes, I trusted my ride. A few minutes past the hill I saw a car coming the other way towards the descent I had just flew down and thought, "thank goodness I wasn't a few minutes slower." Things were still going so so as I got to the Cross Plains aid station. I remember the crowd of hockey fans cheering; this cold probably did not bother them a bit.
Next up was the climb up Old Sauk. Once again I got caught up in the crowd support and powered up the hill. That was awesome blowing by everyone like they were standing still and I hoped the second time around would be just as easy. I was expecting the UW tri team in their skivvies somewhere, but I don't blame them for fearing shrinkage. I do remember the drag queens, especially the one with a sign stating: "First come, first serve." Same thing on the climb up Midtown Road. I made sure that after these uphill sprints I brought my heart rate back in line by taking a bite or two of my Clif bars and taking in some fluids.
Next up was Verona where I flew by the crowds and heard my name shouted out in encouragement. It was hard trying to pick out faces in the crowd while going 20 mph and trying to avoid the other cyclists. I was expecting to get blared at by Dennis and his police-grade bull horn, but a simple cheer was enough as I was ready for another sandwich.
As I turned off Verona Avenue and onto Old County Hwy PB, I cycled through the numbers on my computer and saw that my average speed was 18.5. I thought: "What? No way." My mind was a mess that whole first half and yet here I was just off my goal pace. I hit the special needs stop and was greeted by an awesome volunteer while the rain poured down on us. I reached into my bag, swapped bottles of Accelerade, grabbed my PBJ sandwich, and a few Clif bars, offered the volunteer one of my oatmeal cream pie cookies, thanked him, and went on my way. I was feeling all right.
Ironman was a long day and always ebbed and flowed. Well today things seemed to be flowing more than usual. I knew I had to consume a little more food than I had practiced because my body was burning more to try to stay warm. I also knew that I was right on the edge of hypothermia. My toes were cold and I could see the goosebumps on my quads. "Just survive," I told myself. My initial plan was to take in more fluids than usual, and I succeeded. However, on my second lap I was really struggling with diuresis. I kept thinking WTF? I wanted to stay hydrated, but I didn't want to pee that often. Throughout my training, I would urinate once in three or four hours. Now I needed to pee once every half hour. I hopped off my bike found the bushes and did my business, several times...several times too many.
I knew my average speed had come waaayyy down as I was out there just trying to survive the second loop. The constant dismounting on the bike to pee, the constant frustration with my brake pads, the cold, the wind, and the rain, they all added up to a pretty miserable lap. The chain suck on Marsh View Road really tested my mental stability, but I got back on and just kept pedaling. Just survive. I remembered turning onto County Hwy J and how I almost had a mental breakdown here in June. Knowing that I was stronger today than I was in June lifted my spirits for a while. I was flying down the hills, with a bit of recklessness (my max speed was 42.2 mph), and arrogantly muscled up the hills at the urging of the wonderful crowd support.
After I flew up Midtown Road hill, I once again had to pee. I had wasted too much time off my bike and decided not to dismount anymore. So I slowed down and let it rip. I just made sure my bottle of Accelerade was off the frame at the time. A few minutes later I was finally fed up with the brake pads and directed a very audible "You Bitch" at my bike. I yanked on the brake cable and adjusted the calipers. It is never right to berate a lady, so I quickly apologized to Ferrah and the brakes never seemed to be a problem from then on.
I was relieved as I went through Verona. I had avoided the carnage and flat tires that befell many riders out there, including Cassie, Josh, and Jim, another local triathlete. (It wasn't until later that I found out he completed over 130 miles of this race with a broken clavicle.) But then the wind smacked me right in the face as I headed back to downtown. All I could do was keep pedaling. The long stretch on Whalen Road was torture. But then came the Alliant Energy Center parking lot and I knew I would be off the bike soon. I was counting down the miles, trying to avoid the potholes, and then there it was: Lake Monona, The Capitol and the Terrace. I let out a sigh of relief. I knew I was slow on the bike, but now I had to prepare my mind and body to crush the run.
Finally, I was up out of the saddle, and up the helix. I dismounted with one shoe still on. So I paused to remove my other shoe, passed it to the volunteer, handed Ferrah over to the lovely volunteer, and thanked her as I jogged in to the warmth of the Terrace....