If you are just tuning in, check out Part 1 of my race report here.
Bike 112 miles
As soon as I got on the bike I was overwhelmed by the cold. My teeth were chattering and I had goosebumps all over my body. As I rode through town and past all the spectators, all I could think about was how cold I must have looked to them. It was pretty surreal to be on the bike – now that I’d survived the swim start which I was most fearfully anticipating, I had to conquer the bike, the sport that I have the least experience with and the one that I was currently nursing an injury from.
The bike course is two loops in total and each loop is made up of two smaller loops. The first small loop (about 16 miles) goes through town, then winds through some neighborhoods briefly before heading out and back down a gorgeous lakefront road. This portion of the race is on the same road as the run course but it extends a little bit further than the run. There are a few rolling hills on this part that on the bike were manageable (later on the run though they would be torturous!). After the turnaround, you head back through town and then out to Highway 95 for a much larger, longer and hillier loop (about 40 miles). The course in total has 4,600 feet of climbing, most of which is on the way out to the turnaround on Highway 96.
My race plan was to keep my effort “stupid easy” for the first 30 minutes, which was basically the entire little loop and until the turnaround on the larger loop. I kept my heart rate in zone 1 for the majority of the time and tried to ignore all of the people passing me. During the first 30 miles I was passed by hundreds of people, mostly men that I had out swam, but were stronger on the bike. I was also passed by a lot of women, which I expected. I told myself I’d catch them on the run. I was happy that on the little loop I was still averaging about 17 mph without much effort, so I didn’t feel the need to push it any more.
After about 20 minutes, I started to take in nutrition, starting with my CarboPro/Nuun water bottle. As I headed back into town on the small loop I stuffed 1/4 of my sandwich into my mouth. I remember wishing it would warm up because I was so cold from the swim. My feet were completely numb and I was still shivering. In retrospect, I’m glad it wasn’t hot outside, but at the time all I could think about was getting warm.
After a trip back through town, I was on Highway 95 and started the most difficult portion of the loop. The Highway 95 loop has one very large, steep incline but also a very steep decline to coast down, but then there is a long climb for the rest of the way out of town with relatively few declines. While I was climbing the first big, steep hill I spotted fellow blogger Rachel who had just passed me. I caught up to her and got her attention and we rode the entire hill together, chatting about the swim and the course so far. It was really nice to have someone to talk to and keep my mind off of the race for a bit. We both complained that we had to pee and I told her I planned to stop at the next aid station which I knew was coming up. We split up at the top of the hill but I saw her several more times on the bike course which was nice!
At the next aid station the line for the bathroom was about 20 people long so I skipped it. I grabbed a water bottle and filled up my aero bottle and kept going. I kept looking on the other side of the road for Mike and Jeremy, who I knew would be several miles ahead. At the point where I passed an intersection with a fire truck, I saw Mike and made a mental note of the mile I was at so that I could determine how many miles ahead of me he was. When I got back to this place later I realized he was over 13 miles ahead already. I knew he was racing well and I was glad. On my way back I saw Asia around this same point so I knew she was about the same distance behind me as I was behind Mike. I had seen her earlier on the small loop as well and was happy that she had survived the swim – it was choppy and cold and definitely not ideal conditions for someone fairly new to swimming (and with no ‘channel fat’ to keep her warm!).
The next few miles were definitely mentally tough because there was so much uphill and not much reprieve. There were several miles of false flats that seemed like they should be easy but due to the headwind and a slight incline were slow (later a woman I was riding near complained that both directions had a head wind – I heard a lot of complaining about the race course throughout the day! I think people forgot we were racing an Ironman or something…). There wasn’t much in terms of crowd support on this portion of the bike course either. When I reached the turnaround point at around mile 34 (after bypassing yet another aid station bathroom with a long line), I was disappointed that my average pace had dropped from nearly 17 mph on the little loop down to 14.9 mph according to my Garmin. I had been spinning up the large hills at about 8 mph and that really took a toll of my average pace. But I knew the way back would be faster and that I could make up some time since now I was allowed to get my heart rate into zone 2.
Immediately it was easier -no more headwind and a lot more downhill! My legs were feeling a bit fatigued now and this was the longest I had ever been on the bike without getting off, so I was relieved when I saw the aid station ahead had a short line. I hopped off my bike and racked it and was glad to see there were just a couple people in line. The line went fast and it was such a relief to finally pee. It was also extremely rejuvenating to get off the bike. I felt amazing once I got back on. I saw Rachel had also stopped at the aid station and we both agreed that the stop was well worth it!
As soon as I got back on my bike it was downhill. I tend to get passed on the uphill and am usually the one doing the passing on the downhill portions so I enjoyed making up a bit of time on the way back to town. I was cruising down the big hills with my heart rate well below zone 2 at nearly 40 mph, passing people as I went. It felt great to watch my average speed creep up to 16 mph. I had a feeling that I would make it to town and hit the halfway point with a split of 3:30 which would put me on track for around a 7 hour total bike time.
Passing through town the second time was definitely more fun. I was warm now and my feet were no longer numb so I was able to take in the crowds and smile as they cheered for all the racers. My parents had met this couple at a B&B a few hours South of CdA on their drive up from California that were friends with another couple that lived in downtown Coeur D’Alene. The generous couple invited my parents to camp out in front of their course-front house for the race and even gave them a key so they could use the restroom when needed! I knew exactly where they would be and was happy to see them cheering for me and snapping photos as I passed by.
I knew that Special Needs was coming up and it was in my race plan to stop at the aid station just past it and use the restroom and refill my CarboPro/Nuun water bottle. At this point my nutrition plan of 250 calories/hour was right on track – I had completely emptied both my water bottles and eaten my entire peanut butter nutella banana sandwich. Special Needs was at the turn-around of the second loop but I didn’t need anything from it (I had put an extra empty water bottle in case I dropped mine and a salty snack in case I was sick of sweet) so I continued on and then stopped, as planned, at the next aid station. There was a short wait again for the restrooms and while I was there one of the volunteers filled both my water bottles and held my bike for me. When I got out, I added my CarboPro to the cage bottle (which was filled too high so I lost some of the powder when I poured it in), hopped on and was on my way. This stop was longer than the first but like the first, it rejuvenated me for the next leg.
This is the point where I even started to pass a few people on the flats and hills, not just downhills. Of course, strong cyclists that were weaker swimmers were still passing me, but in general I was keeping up with those around me and also passing some. I noticed I was playing cat and mouse with the same few cyclists over and over again so I knew I wasn’t slowing down too much. My watch also told me that my average speed was now up and over 16 mph once I got into town for the third and final time. I saw my family again and looked out for Asia and Jeremy’s families who were wearing the WODS Squad shirts, but I never saw them!
After I headed up the No Pass Zone up the freeway ramp and started on the final of the 4 loops, I started to feel really optimistic. I was feeling great, my knee wasn’t hurting and my stomach was taking in the fuel just fine. Crazy thoughts of a sub 13 hour Ironman started going through my mind. In my head, going into this race, I was hoping for a sub 14 hour Ironman. I had calculated I could swim and get through T1 in under 1:30 (check), do the bike in 7-7:30 and then run a 4:30-5 hour marathon. I never thought a sub 13 would be possible but I started getting optimistic, thinking that I could most likely run the marathon under 4:30 and 1:30+7+4:30 = 13. I knew it might be close but I had it my head that it was a possibility.
Also around this time, I got a sharp pang in my left knee, the one that has been bothering me. It hasn’t been speaking up much at all for the entire ride thus far so I was surprised by the sudden, intense pain. Out loud, I told it “You are not going to hurt today!” Apparently it worked, because my knee was fine for the rest of the race. Mind over matter.
The second loop was less entertaining in the fact that I didn’t make conversation with anyone. I was, however, passing guys up the hills and some of them did not like it and were trying to pass me back. More cat and mouse. The sun was out and it really started to warm up and I took off my arm warmers on the first big hill. I saw Mike and Jeremy and yes, I made a THIRD bathroom break. I have a bladder the size of a pea. Since my bike computer stops when I stop and my Garmin doesn’t, I knew that I had wasted nearly 10 minutes by stopping at bathrooms, but it was worth it to me. At this stop I also grabbed two packs of Gu Chomps because I was making my way through my 3 Stinger Waffles and my Carbopro pretty quickly and my stomach was starting to growl. The Chomps tasted delicious and they rejuvenated me to make the final stretch to the turnaround.
Once I got to Mile 90, the turnaround point, I let out a “wooohoo!” Home stretch! None of the cyclists around me joined in my cheer – I guess they were tired but I was feeling fairly good still. At this point my legs were feeling tired, but not nearly as tired as I had expected. However, my back was aching and my lady parts and bum were screaming for some relief. Aero was getting increasingly uncomfortable but given the significant downhill portions on the way back, I knew I needed to stay there. I didn’t even slow down for the next aid station and just focused on getting to T2. I had kept up my speed but I knew I would be cutting it close on getting back under 7 hours. I decided that hitting some lame sub-whatever mark on my Ironman wasn’t worth pushing myself harder, so I decided just to ride by feel, not race the clock back to transition. I continued to pedal down hills, passing people along the way.
Just before I approached the last aid station, I saw Asia on the other side of the road. I waved to her and said hello. She didn’t seem as spirited as the last times I had seen her, but I just assumed she was tired. Soon after I passed her, however, I noticed that the aid station behind her was shutting down. I knew she was toward the end of the field, but never doubted her ability to make it back to T2.
As I coasted down the final steep descent into town (no pedaling this time – I figured it was the last time I wouldn’t be using my legs for the next several hours!), downtown CdA and the gorgeous lake came into view. A girl in my age group said to me as I passed by “that is a sight for sore eyes!” and I wholeheartedly agreed. Almost time to run a marathon!
Bike Split- 7:03:28, 31 in Age Group, 1424 Overall
As soon as I got into T2, the volunteers grabbed my bike for me and racked it. They called out my number so someone could find my bag, but I bee-lined for the bathroom (yes, again) and relieved myself. After I grabbed my bag, I headed for the changing tent, where a volunteer once again rushed to my aid. I didn’t need a lot of help but she was nice and waited for me to completely change into my run gear. After I grabbed my previously frozen water bottle with a Nuun tab dissolved in it, I ran out and saw Sister Madonna, a famous nun triathlete in her 80s who is often featured in the Kona World Championship television coverage. Great inspiration!
I made sure that my entire body was covered in sunscreen before I headed out of T2 and then ran down the chute and began my 26.2 mile journey to the finish line.
Part 3, the run, is here.