Ironman Race Report pt. 2 of 5- (Bike)   1 comment

A century ride is a daunting task. An Ironman consists of a 112 miles on the bike. And that’s just one leg of the damned thing. The first section is a 24-mile loop that heads east out of town, up and over a ridge, and through farmland. I don’t know about you, but when I think “Boulder, CO,” I don’t think farmland. Lesson learned. The few hills we hit are little short, sweet things, like a couple hundred foot steep climb over a mile and half or so. Short. The kind of thing I’m used to. There are some loooong rollers, and lost of easy-cruising-not-so-steep downhills that make for super fast mile times. But not so fast that you’re freaking out because you’re rocketing towards your death. No, these are fucking FUN. THIS is my kind of riding. I need to find a race where the entire 112 miles is THIS. (I’m pretty sure that Ironman doesn’t have a race like that, but a girl can dream, right?) I am holding a pretty comfortably fast pace through this first section, and chatting away with people who are riding around me. Not like “we are having intense conversations” (impossible in a tri; you can’t ride that close to people for very long), just playing leap frog and commenting on kits, bikes, helmets, riding styles, whatever. We’re out there for a while, so you might as well be friendly with those around you. It was fun! People were pretty cool, and because this is a mega-long-haul style race, no one was really being a dick and jockeying for position. Anyway, we cruise back into town, and start the 40-mile loop that we will take twice.

I start to buckle down and pay more attention to my riding style because I know what’s coming my way. Oh, I know. My goal is to survive this thing, and I have studied the elevation profile enough that I know EXACTLY what is coming at every turn. Just because I know it, doesn’t mean I’m necessarily ready for it, but I at least am not in for any kind of shock. There are others who have done this course who believe that it is easy. I think that’s cute. It might be easy for some, but long slow climbs are my nemesis, and they destroy me. I spent all summer riding the longest, slowest hills that I could find, just so that I didn’t hit these buggers and have my soul completely crushed. I’ve never been great at climbing, but I did improve a SHIT TON over the summer. Anyhooooo, heading into the first of the 2 40-mile loops, I put my head down and start focusing. The first climb is 400 feet over 3 miles. It’s not quite soul sucking, bit it’s close. It’s just long enough to piss me off.

As I crest, and start the sweet, sweet downhill, I see that there is a LOT of backed up traffic, and cyclists are slowing way down. Someone yells “RIDER DOWN” and I practically freeze. These are words you NEVER want to hear. NEVER. Se we all slow down, and we all go around the cyclist that is down.

***Don’t like to read about shitty shit? Skip the next couple of paragraphs.***

 

I make the mistake of looking over at the woman. What I saw will forever be etched on my brain. I freaked the fuck out. Mind you, I did not know what had happened to this woman. There was another woman kneeling by her head, just touching her hair and talking to her. And the cyclist was completely non-responsive. And the whole scene was bad. Bad bad bad bad horrifically, horrifyingly FUCKING BAD.  I didn’t know if she had been hit by a car or if she had just had a mechanical failure on her bike. Hell, for all I know, she just wobbled and lost control of her bike (did I mention this was on a super fast downhill stretch), and went down.

All I know is that the moment I passed her, my race changed. I burst into tears. I rode as far to the right as I could safely get, and rode the next 3 miles of downhill riding my brakes. I hyperventilated. I thought of ways that the doctors would be able to fix her. I thought about how she would have to go through therapy, but goddamn it, she would be okay. She was competing in a fucking Ironman, and nothing bad happens in an Ironman (these are words that I had to tell myself over and over and over again, even before the race. “Nothing bad happens ever at Ironman.”) I started riding a FUCK TON more conservatively, and just really was not comfortable letting everything fly on the downhills. What if it was a mechanical failure? Fuck, oh fuck, that could happen to ANYONE. It could happen to ME! It took me about an hour to get my brain back, and to focus on the task at hand again. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever did. But back to the actual ride.

 

 

***Welcome back! Here’s what you missed: shitty shit.***

After the downhill that I rode my brakes on, we go through a little valley, and some fun rollers (which I had been warned to not blow up on because The Hill From Hell was immediately following.) Then we turned west again, and started the hill that I had been dreading. Nelson is just under 6 miles long, 600 feet in climb. Again, it’s not that it’s a terribly steep climb, it’s just that it never. fucking. ends. Never. It just keeps going on and on and on. And you get to a rest stop, and THINK you’re at the top, but no. Oh no, that would be too easy. You still have a mile and half of climb to go. And then you get to the glorious top of that long slog, and *WHOOSH*, downhill. This course was a fucking roller coaster. Again, I was still holding back on the downhills (who am I???), so I wasn’t able to make up a ton of time. I did try to talk myself into going faster than I was currently comfortable with. I did a lot of convincing, like, “you know, a bike failure at 28 mph will be just as shitty as one at 38 mph. It’s all gonna hurt. You might as well open up and enjoy the ride.” The self-encouragement didn’t always help, but it did at least give me something to think about. And I was able to open up a few times. (By the way, 112 miles takes a long time. And by this point, I was pretty much by myself out there. So yeah, all those hours of riding by myself over the summer helped. I was quite used to riding out in the open country with nothing but my own thoughts and some occasional car traffic to keep me company. Paid off, that solo training did. Although, I’m pretty sure that I was having conversations aloud with myself. That might have taken it a little too far. Meh, whatever.)

The back half of the 40-mile loop was pretty uneventful. A nice long false flat downhill, then some long, sloggy, false flat up hills. Gorgeous views, some lakes, a weird cone like mini-mountain (I’m guessing dormant volcano), lots of tall, wavy grass. It was fucking gorgeous. Passing mile 50, I hear “GO CC!!! TEAM USA!!!!” And realize that my 2014 Duathlon TeamUSA teammate, Jennifer Borie, was out there. I knew she was volunteering as a sunscreener at the swim exit, but it was pretty cool to hear her yell at me out in the middle of nowhere. At that time, some idiot family decided to cross in front of me. Which is all fine and dandy, except they had a small kid (4, maybe? I don’t know these things) who was dawdling and LOOKING AT A FUCKING CELL PHONE while crossing the road. The family wasn’t paying attention, so I start yelling, “RIDER COMING! GET YOUR FUCKING KID OUT OF THE ROAD!!!!!” The parents got all offended and yelled something at me as I pass, but fuck them. Seriously, yo. If you’re crossing a road where cars are coming, you pay attention to your kids, right? THE SAME GOES FOR BIKES. Eye roll. That little burst of anger pushed me for a while, which was pretty nice.

Mile 60-some odd was the special needs bag pick up. So, during Ironman, you pack a bag that has things you might need in the middle of your race. Those things can be pretty much anything. A new spare tube and CO2 cartridge (in case you had a flat in the beginning of the ride), food, sports drink, a treat, Wet wipes, Advil, etc. etc. etc. I have heard of people who have subway sandwiches in their SN bags (ew. Those sit in the hot sun for hours. Gross!) For me, I was looking forward to only one thing I had stashed in my SN bag: Fig Newtons. I don’t know why, but midway through a long ride, I always crave Fig Newtons. And mid-run, I always want Oreos. So imagine my dismay and horror when the first thing the volunteer hands me are fucking Oreos. My first thought is “Oh sweet Jebus, I mixed up my bags!!!” Turns out no. I just mixed up the one treat that I had given myself for the middle of the long ride and long run. So no Fig Newtons. I did have sunscreen, I had wet wipes, I had all kinds of shit, but I really wanted those fig newtons. And Oreos just sounded horrible. (There’s a weird thing that happens when you run and ride. Some food works for cycling. Some for running. Sometimes, those are not the same thing. For me, they usually aren’t. For some reason, the idea of eating Oreos on the bike is just wrong.) All in all, special needs was quick and efficient. I gotta say, to this point, I’m nothing but CRAZY impressed with the volunteers. They are AH-MAZ-ING.

Fast forward to the beginning of the second of the 40 mile loops. On the southern end, we go up Jay road, then take a right onto Hwy 36, which is that 400 foot climb. I’m slogging up Jay, and I see my brother, Bill, and his girlfriend, Tasha, for the first time. Tasha takes 10000000 photos, and Bill yells and cheers, and I’m all happy bunnies to have seen them. I knew they were coming out to cheer for me, but I didn’t know when or where I’d see them. YAY!!!! That was a nice pick me up. I slog up Hwy 36 and crest the hill again, and start that same downhill where I had passed the downed rider before.

*** More shitty shit***

Only this time, there were a ton of sheriff cars. And there was tape in weird patterns on the ground. And we were slowed waaaaaaay down to weave through the mess. And sheriffs were measuring between points on the road. I knew right then that this had been a car v bike collision. Sheriffs don’t measure shit out if a bike had a mechanical failure and just crashed. I went into some weird jacked up PTSD bullshit and had some crazy flashbacks to MY encounter with a vehicle. And then the worst part of it hit me. Even though I had spent miles and miles and hours trying to convince myself otherwise. The cyclist didn’t make it. She couldn’t have. *Note: I would find out later that she had swung out into the lane where cars were passing (thus out of the safety of the race lane) while trying to pass two riders, and hit a truck. She made a grave mistake, and it cost her her life. For the love of all that is pure and holy, PLEASE… Don’t swing out of the race lane. Slow the fuck down, and wait for the cyclist you are trying to pass to get over to the left. The extra 5-second gain is not fucking worth it.

***Welcome back***

Again, this affected my ability to ride. That weight pressed so fucking hard on my heart. I didn’t know her name. I didn’t know her situation. I didn’t know her at all. I cried for about 30 minutes for this woman. I cried for myself and for anyone who has ever been hit by a car. I wept for those of us lucky ones who made it and those that didn’t. I grieved for her. She was any one of us. Whatever happened to her could have happened to any one of us. I felt rage at the world that this woman was out doing something fucking EPIC and she died doing it.  PTSD much? Yeah, I think so.

The back half of the ride was pretty uneventful. I saw Bill and Tasha again at the top-ish of Nelson, and they captured a marvelous video of me yelling something like, “20 MILES TO GOOOOOOOoooooooo!” Those were the longest 20 miles of my life. My undercarriage hurt. My pelvic bones were bruised. I couldn’t find a comfortable position. My shoulder was sore. I had aches and pains all over my fucking body. I stopped for more sunscreen at a rest stop, and realized that the back of my neck had chafed to all hell and back on the swim (oh god that hurt!) I realized that I was getting some MAGNIFICENT chafing in very uncomfortable places that pretty much told me that I had given up any kind of core strength and had spent the last 40miles basically laying on my bike instead of sitting on it. (Front pubic mound chafing. Seriously. What the fuck???) And it felt like the ride was never going to end. I wasn’t even trying to think about the fact that I still had a fucking MARATHON to run, AFTER this next 20 miles. Nope, nope nope… Not gonna think about that. I come back around to the road that had taken me out to the 40-mile loop twice, and finally, blissfully, miraculously, I get to slide into the left lane that is marked with an arrow that simply says, “to finish.” Oh good GAWD. I couldn’t believe it. I was on the home stretch. And that last bit was a little faster than I expected, and WHOOOOOOOSH! I was in downtown, and the high school is right there, and BAM! I was off the bike. And it just all kind of… happened, you know? But I have never been so damned happy to be off a bike in my life.

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Posted August 20, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

One response to “Ironman Race Report pt. 2 of 5- (Bike)

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  1. When I heard about the woman who died on the bike leg, I worried for you. What an awful damper to your day. Your reaction shows what I tough cookie you are. You were saddened and horrified for both women, but you were able to focus on your task and get the got done.

    Dang, you’re a tough broad. 🙂

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