Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Bike Ride
Once you finished the swim you had to come out of the water via a set of very steep metal stairs. By the end of the swim your legs are like rubber, so this was going to be a bit of a chore. But, there at the bottom of the stairs, were our heroic volunteers, who pulled you up, got your hands affixed to the railing and literally pushed you up them. From there it was to the "strippers", to get your wet suit removed. These folks are professionals! With a tug like a magician pulling a table cloth out from underneath a set table, the suit is off you and in your hands. At this point your head is still a little fuzzy and it seemed difficult to get focused. I'm almost thinking I need to start wearing contacts or something as it took me awhile to get my eyes focused and I was just running with the crowd not really being able to see where I was going. From there it was a couple hundred metre run to get your swim to bike bag. I found my stuff quickly and hustled off to the tent to get my biking gear on. The tent is full at this point and I stood around trying to find a seat before I started dressing standing up. Helmet, socks, shoes, glasses, more sunscreen, load up my pockets with gels, grab my cycling gloves and I'm off to the bike racks. Row 40, far end of the row, is where my bike is located and I run a little awkwardly as it is not the easiest to run in these shoes. From the rack I have only 60 metres or so to the mount line and before you know it I am on the bike and wheeling out onto the course. T1 was 7:09 which was over 3 minutes faster than last year.
If you will remember from my previous blogs this was to be my first ride outside since October 2007 and I must admit I was a little concerned about whether the trainer would have sufficiently simulated the road and also the fact that there are riding skills that just don't get practiced on a trainer. My first of the fears was eliminated almost immediately as I found myself cruising up a slight grade into the wind at over 30 km/hr and my legs were feeling like I was sitting on the couch! This is great I thought as it was my target pace and the wind seemed quite light at this point. Unfortunately things were going to change soon and I would get into the grind for the next 6 plus hours!
The course meandered through some built up areas and then you found your way out to the desert. Now the wind was blowing full force directly into your face and my speed dropped to between 24 and 26 km / hr. I realized I was going to have to get into my small chain ring and probably around 17 - 19 on the back. No use trying to hold a big gear and trash the legs. As it was my legs were feeling just excellent.
Right from the start I was carefully monitoring my intake of fluids, calories and electrolytes. It didn't feel too hot on the bike as the wind somewhat cooled you, although it did feel like someone was blowing a hair dryer in your face! The nutrition plan was to drink my two bottles of Carbo pro during the course of the ride, a few bananas, gels and I had filled my special needs bag with a bagel, some Reese's snacks and some pretzels. I would get these at the half way point. Unfortunately with the onset of the heat, the drinks were warm and didn't taste too great but I knew that was my fuel and they had to get consumed. In addition I was taking two thermolyte capsules every hour to get my electrolyte levels up. Amongst all this I had water in my between the bars bottle, and Gatorade on my front cage. So I was loaded up with everything I needed and I was watching my time to ensure I took something every ten minutes.
Once we got out in the desert we had a long hill to climb to one of the turnarounds. Even on the first loop my back was starting to ache and I got out of the aero position to do the climbs. At the turnaround there was an aid station where I grabbed water, bananas and a power bar. From here there was a long section where the wind was at your back and I went back into the big chain ring and my 13 on the back and started hammering. It was great as my speed jumped up to between 45 - 49 kms / hr. Now this is more like it! Unfortunately it was short lived and before long we were back into cross winds as we made our way back to Tempe to the turnaround and the start of loop 2. Going through the crowds was a lot of fun and they were a very enthusiastic bunch. It was also amazing the amount of police officers along the course who were directing traffic and ensuring that no motorists strayed out amongst the cyclists. These guys are decked out in full State Trooper gear standing in the heat and encouraging us on. That couldn't be too comfortable.
Onto lap 2 and it was virtually a carbon copy of lap 1 with the exception that now the heat is beginning to take it's toll and people are starting to drop out. As well the flats and mechanical issues are becoming an issue with quite a few riders on the sides of the roads doing repairs. I have my fingers crossed that I am not going to have to get off and repair a flat. My major issue happened the day before when my bike computer crapped out totally. When I assembled my bike prior to the race, I had noticed that the computer seemed to be acting a little weird. Initially I thought it was just misaligned sensors from having had everything all apart but then it was giving error messages and suddenly flipped to German. So I figured that it was a battery and got a new one. Once I installed the new battery the frickin' thing wouldn't work at all! I brought it to one of the technicians in the bike transition area who worked on it for awhile before pronouncing it hooped! Damn it! This is not what I wanted a day before the race. The options are to go without or try and get another one and install it. I went with option 2 and bought a $60 model without cadence and put it on using my existing sensors. So that was my panic before the race.
Here I am prior to race day contemplating my options.
Back to the race. By now things are becoming robot like, drink, take my capsules, eat, up and stretch, back down and focus. My back is really beginning to tighten and I am having to really contort myself to get it stretched and relieve some of the pressure. After the turn we pick up our special needs bags. The bagel tastes good even though it is just plain. It feels like normal food. I stuff the pretzels in my back pocket and leave the Reese's snack as they are a melted blob and will do nothing but make me a sticky mess. Once I leave the special needs bag area I get right back on pace as this is the down hill, wind at the back, section. Within two minutes, the pretzels I am looking forward to, go flying out of my pocket onto the road. I am not stopping at 45 km / hour to turn around and go back.
One more loop through town and now it is the final lap!
By this time the heat has started to hit me. Even through my sun glasses I can see my thighs are a bright red. This is going to hurt tomorrow. But more than that I am getting a slight headache and I am concerned that I might be starting with a heat problem. More fluids, more fluids, more fluids! I grab stuff at every station and refill everything I have. My back is killing me but I only have one more loop. Stay focused and you will make it.
Every once in awhile I shake out my hands and even take my feet out of the clips to get some blood flowing through them. My new saddle has been very comfortable and nothing down there has gone numb yet. Again that is a good thing! On this loop I am seeing people laid out on the side of the road. At pretty much every aid station there are a few cyclists who appear to have packed it in and there are a lot of folks coughing up their cookies! It is now getting close to 2:30 PM and it is just smoking hot!
Once I make the turn to head back to Tempe for the final time, I am still surprised with the good legs I still have. I pound down the fast section again and then settle in for the last few miles. I am thankful that I have had no issues on the course and at this point I am feeling confident that I have good legs for the run. Once we turn into the transition area the riders stay in single file and wait for a volunteer to grab your bike.
As soon as my feet hit the ground my legs feel like spaghetti! This is normal I say to myself, your going to be fine, or will I...................
Have a great day!