Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Biking Basics && Hungry for Hills!

Flying into T1 I was glowing with pride! I had just kicked major butt on the swim and even though the bike was going to be my most challenging leg, I was ready to take it on. I'd mentioned before that transition was inside for IMWI. So just through the doors and into the women's changing area, I ran down my lane and grabbed my number bag and drop my swim stuff. As I was dashing to change into my bike stuff I was greeted by a friendly face. One of the girls I had met just last night at dinner, Stephanie, luck would have it, grabbed me to assist me. I was fortunate that by getting out of the water a little quicker than the majority there was a surplus of volunteers standing around to help. It was good to have a volunteer I knew though. But both of us were so into the zone it took us a good 10 seconds to realize we knew each other! Hahaha! In my haze of Ironman stupor I almost yelled at her, "Steph! Hey Steph you're my volunteer!" We both laughed and she helped me dump everything out of my bag and grabbed me some water. I didn't have my to change into, I was already in my tri-shorts and tang top, but the morning was chilly and remembering some of my past training rides on the Madison hills I opted for a long sleeve pull over under my jersey. I would later be made fun of for this by other triathlete friends but honestly it was one of the best decisions I made all day because I would in fact of been cold!

After I was dressed, cleated and had my helmet on, I thanked Steph and ran out to my bike. I was lucky that my bike was right by the bike out site, unlucky because that meant I had to run to it. There were even more volunteers in the bike area, and they would run along side of you if they noticed your number (which was on my helmet) was close to where they were standing. And if it wasn't they would shout to the next volunteer " NUMBER 398 COMING DOWN!" Man those volunteers were great! I will probably say that a dozen more times before the end of it, but really they made my race! Finally getting down to my bike area and someone pulled my bike for me, I felt so important, thuse far I'd had someone take off my wetsuit for me, help me get all my stuff going for the bike and have my bike handed to me. That's pro treatment there :) So I mounted my bike and took one listen to the crowds cheering outside of T1 and the Bike Out spot before venturing off for my 112 mile journey. It would be a while before I got to hear this again.

I had never rode the "stick", as it has been termed, before. 16 miles that was a little choppy, with a no passing zone for some of it. And wouldn't you figure, within those first 10 I had an incident happen that could have ended my race. So for hydration I was more than set, I had a speed fill with water in it (which I LOVE!), a water bottle holder behind that for Ironman perform, and an aero bottle that had Ironman perform. Now I liked the whole concept of the aero bottle but during training rides I would often lose it if I hit a bump or went over railroad tracks. So I changed out the bottle that came with the holder and just stuck a normal water bottle that I could throw out, in there. As my luck would have it, within the first 10 miles of my ride, a squirrel runs out in front of me. It all happened too fast and I really had no time to think or act, it was the squirrel who was the one to make the move, and a move that allowed me to keep biking. He dashed out in front of me and before I would have ran him over he turned around and ran back. But in doing so I was mid swig of my water bottle from the aero position so there would have been no way I could have accessed my brakes had he just stayed there, we both would have been road kill. So the squirrel lived, but I dropped my bottle in reaction to all of this and didn't look back. I was lucky an official wasn't in site because I definitely would have gotten a penalty for abandoning equipment. Even so, a woman rode up next to me and in a not-so-friendly voice told me I dropped and left my water bottle. I said thanks and kept riding. It was a casualty I wasn't prepared to go back for.

Finally I had made it to the loop! Or the lollipop as that was termed. I knew this route, I had ridden this route, three times in fact, so I could definitely do this now! I pushed through those first 25 miles like nobody's business! But the best part were all of the people out on the course, dress up or dressed down (with barely anything on!) cheering us on. It made use laugh and forget for a bit, how much longer we would be on that bike. When I finally got to the first "sister" I took her head on! There were people dressed up as devils running up the hill with us, holding up pitch forks. I'm still not sure if this was a form of intimidation or a motivation factor, either way I loved it! I saw a friend here too, so that gave me a boost. The second sister comes quickly after the first and that one is my LEAST favorite because it's not a slow incline it's like, Ok you're climbing now and you're climbing high! There were even more people on this hill than all three of them. They had drums and music makers and were they loud! It made the fact that I was barely moving, feel better. But the best was the third sister. This is were all the Element people were located and I saw my coach's Hubby, Jeff. I flew through this hill though so the first time around I didn't really say much. Just yelled and smiled :) Getting back into Verona I saw the lead rider, he was heading back into Madison and killing it! One more time, I could do this! I had plenty of time and I just ate those hills for lunch. The question was, could I go back for seconds?

I started to slow a bit more on this loop. Special Needs was around mile 70 and I stopped....well I stopped only after I biked past my number. I didn't have much in my bag but I was definitely looking forward to the goldfish and chips ahoy bags I stuck in there. Nutrition wise, I went with bonk breakers. I tried guus for a bit but they actually upset my stomach after a while and I liked the concept of more "real" food than anything else. I was also keeping my water and Ironman perform filled. But the moment I got to eat real food, I was a happy biker! I threw one bag in each compartment of my jersey and just grabbed from them for the next hour. Coming out of the special needs area, one guy came up behind me and goes, "Goldfish and Chips Ahoy, man you know how to party, wanna order a pizza and see if they'll deliver it to us?" Hahaha I laughed so hard that I could have peed myself. But I didn't. In fact the first time I actually stopped to use the porta-john wasn't until mile 80. I tried so hard to just pee on the bike (which sounds both gross and weird but really I didn't want to have to get off my bike for anything!) It became harder to peddle up that first hill at mount Horob (I don't remember the correct spelling for it) but that was my first stop. Someone helped me by grabbing my bike as I got off and wracked it for me. It's a good thing because I probably would have fallen no so gracefully if they hadn't.  Even though I was on top of my nutrition and hydration, I was starting to struggle, no I was probably driving the struggle bus at that point and my mental state was not so stable. My mind started to play tricks with me, telling me there was no way I would make it through those three hills and even if I did, how in the HELL will you run a marathon afterward?

I had hit my dark place. But I peddled through. You have to. You've come this far there's no way you're quitting now, NO WAY! I made it to the first hill and there was a guy who literally ran all the way up it with me. Granted I wasn't moving very quickly but he was encouraging me, making comments about my posture and how I needed to sit up more and it would engage my core more. Looking back on it now I am grateful. In the moment I wanted to SMACK THE SHIT out of this man! I was grumpy, I was 85 miles into my ride that felt like it would never end and you have the audacity to tell me about posture?! But before I could think any  more on it I was at the top of the hill and he was gone. Something about that whole moment was empowering......and then I was at the second hill. I had barely gained any speed on my way down but I saw a guy that was joking around with me on the first time around about how fast I was going, so I called out to him, "Hey I'll race you!" What the hell was I thinking?! This man would definitely beat me up this hill but I took on the challenge and I grinded up that hill like there was no tomorrow. I would regret this for the next few miles but it got me through it, whatever it takes to get it done!

The next few miles hurt but I caught a second wind before I hit the third hill. The last hard hill, you got this! I started to weave up it and as I hit half way I saw my Element folk. I gave them a thumbs up and they laughed at me. Jeff caught up with me and jogged for a minute or two checking in. I told him the last few miles were hard but I felt better now. He told me that he and Steph were SO PROUD! He would see me for the run. I still had a bit to go, finishing up the loop and then the stick. On the way in, the stick went by faster than I could blink. On the way in, it was the WORST ride I can remember being on. 16 miles felt like the entire race. It was a little gloomy and windy and not many people were around me, I was starting to freak out. Not to mention I wasn't paying attention to my gear shifting and dropped my chain! Stupid stupid Sam! But just as I got off to fix it the Trek van was behind me, one of the guys got out and fixed it for me. I was grateful but then I was thinking, "Why are they behind me? Am I the last person out here? Is this going to be the pacer van? 100 miles will do that to you. In reality I still had plenty of time but I freaked out and peddled faster. I just needed to get to transition! Just NEEDED to finish this bike ride!

I started to see more people and I heard the crowds coming into Madison. I remember passing a guy who yelled out, "Welcome back, are you ready to run?" Up the round-about I rode and something in me snapped. I had done it, I had just rode 112 miles but yet I started crying! My system was overloaded with the fear that I wouldn't finish. I had my watch going, but it wasn't anything fancy, all I knew is that I was over 6 hours on that ride, which is what I was hoping for and I couldn't hold in the fear that I wouldn't finish. I dismounted my bike, someone took it from me but I was barely even aware of anything around me. Tears fell from my eyes as I ran into T2 .....

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