(continued from IMLP: The Swim)
Suddenly, I was on the bike leg. My least favorite and the most anxiety-inducing leg of the Ironman in my eyes. I always thought I was a great cyclist, but much to my dismay, I learned quickly throughout training that I simply have a lot of work to do to get to the level I would like to be at. I can blame my entry-level road bike as much as I want, but truth be told, I just have to work harder. But instead of focusing on my worries, I stayed positive.
The first ten miles or so getting out of Lake Placid consisted of rolling hills, which I took super easy. It was pretty crowded so I was just trying to stay out of the way. As I got out of town, I rode by the most beautiful mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. It was absolutely breath-taking. I kept repeating to myself ” I GET to do this AGAIN! I GET to do this again!” referring to the fact that the course was two loops. Instead of thinking, “Ugh…I have to do this twice”, I convinced my brain that I was extremely lucky to GET to do that loop again….which I was. (My brain must be gullible, because 112 miles is no joke, beautiful scenery or not!) Anyway, I started believing it and toward the end was looking forward to the second lap, calling it a victory lap. (Let me tell you, you find the strangest ways to entertain yourself during 7+ hours on a bike.)
In no time, I arrived at the “screaming downhill” into the little town of Keene. This was no joke – it was 6+ miles of straight downhill. The quality of the roads on this section wasn’t the best, so I didn’t go as fast as I would have thought – I think I topped off at about 37 MPH. If I was the type of person who hollered and screamed out loud, I would have. Out of happiness and excitement. Instead, I let out a meek “woohoo!” to myself. That downhill was AWESOME. I was flying. I think my face even got wind-burnt. It was SO. MUCH. FUN.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…flying down a hill on a bumpy road at 35+MPH doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs…but I was giggling like a little girl. It was as if all my senses were suddenly heightened. I could feel the cool wind on my face, smell the trees and the fresh lake water in the valley below, and hear the zipping sounds from my bike and those around me. I couldn’t feel more alive than I did in that moment.
Just as quickly as I crested the top of the hill, I was at the bottom in Keene, making a left turn for a 5 mile-ish out and back portion of the ride; a very flat portion that allowed me to cruise along at about 18-20MPH. ME?! 18+ MPH? Who am I. What have you done with my clunky little Penelope?
After a long period of flat riding, you turn a corner back into some hills. There a slight detour – a one mile out and back – and then you’re off to the last 11 or so miles of tough, rolling hills. This was the hardest part for me on both loops, although you’re riding alongside a river that cuts through the mountains and it’s one of the prettiest sections of the ride. Right before you get back into town, you hit one last short, steep hill called “Papa Bear”. (There’s also Mama Bear and Baby Bear, but I was unimpressed.) I felt awesome on the hill because it was lined with spectators cheering you the whole way up – it goes very quickly. I think this is where I saw a sign that said “happy dancing gay guy up ahead”…and the guy holding the sign yelled “you’ll know who it is!” It was hysterical – the guy was in his underwear, dancing around to music. I also saw my TNT buddies here, which gave me a huge boost.
At this point, I knew I would be at my special needs bag in a few minutes (with those Pringles and a fresh bottle of my carb mix!) and then just had one more 56 mile loop. (I left the Snickers bar treat in case you were wondering – was disinterested.) I crushed the first loop (for me, anyway – I was happy with it) in about 3 hours and 55 minutes. This is about 27 minutes faster than my 56 miles at the Quassy Half. (I KNOW there is a stronger cyclist in me somewhere…I just need to get her to come out!) I knew I should have slowed down and pushed the second loop instead of the first (although an Ironman isn’t exactly the place to crush a bike ride, but whatever), but I was too excited and at the same time, too nervous to slow down…just in case.
After I got my special needs bag and saw my family…
…I headed back out for 56 more miles of fun.
What really got my through each loop were the mantras I repeated, and the fact that I would NOT allow any negativity. Only positive thoughts allowed.
I continually played this scene from Remember the Titans in my head (starting at 2:25ish):
I could not stop thinking…”HOW STRONG AM I? I’M TOO STRONG!” and “WHAT IS PAIN? FRESH BREAD!” and “WILL. YOU. EVER. QUIT? NO! WE WANT SOME MO’!”
I also couldn’t stop saying another quote from the video Tommy and Sam sent (as I mentioned in the first IMLP post) “I’LL SHOW YOU HOW STRONG I AM!” This amped me up SO MUCH. I was thinking about the people who said I couldn’t do this, the people who made me feel inferior, the people who made me think I was crazy for trying. I’ll show YOU how strong I AM!
I genuinely believe that these few mantras got me through this.
So, I uneventfully got through the majority second loop. I kept doing calculations in my head and knew I had an absolutely obscene amount of time to finish the second loop and make the cutoff. At this point, I started thinking…I’m well on my way to becoming an Ironman! If I stay strong and nothing crazy happens, I’LL BE AN IRONMAN TODAY!
But before I got ahead of myself, I tried to just focus on my speed, cadence, form, and hydration. It was a fun little distraction to watch the other participants ride by on the out and backs…people watching at it’s best! I liked counting the number of people who were also riding road bikes without aerobars, like me. We were in the minority. I felt a special bond with them. I’m sure they totally felt it too.
The one issue I had is that at some point, it got hard to take a deep breath. Anytime I took a deep breath, it made me feel nauseous. I also felt this at Quassy, and after some research, I think it may be from being hunched over on my bike for so long – it can cause you to breathe differently. (Perhaps I need another bike fit?) That was honestly what bothered me the most. My legs were tired, but I really only felt it on the hills. AKA those last 11 miles again. I was struggling after mile 100. I wanted to be DONE. I was so over biking. I had to really dig deep in those last miles, and was wondering how I would EVER run a marathon. I wondered if I would be able to run at all.
All the volunteers and spectators were fantastic. I made sure to smile for every person. I ended up not eating as much of my “real food” (AKA granola bars, Waffle Stingers and Clif Shot Bloks) and found myself eating a lot more Gu that I thought I would. During training I never really wanted Gu, but I guess this time around I needed the sugar. I also ate halves of bananas, drank my carb mix, and eventually ate some of the Pringles I stashed in my special needs bags. I needed salt. My face was caked with it, so I knew I needed more. (Next time I’m training, I’m definitely going to try salt pills.) I had so much nutrition left over at the end, which I wasn’t expecting…that’s probably the reason that I sort-of bonked on those hills at the end (but I mean come on, I rode over 100 miles…that’s gotta play a part in it too, amiright?!)
So, I climbed Papa Bear one last time, with everyone shouting “EASY as 123!” at me. (My race number was 123 – spectators just gobbled that up!). I zoomed down the last hill (complete with LLS and Team In Training signs – made me so happy!) saw my fam and some more friends, and headed into transition. With a SEVERE positive split, I might add. Oops.
And I know you were wondering about one last little detail…and the answer is no. No I did not pee on myself on the bike. I stopped at a porta-potty like a lady. I was not about to be riding around with pee-shorts, ya hear? Guess I can never be a pro triathlete! (Yes THAT IS the SINGLE reason why I cannot be a pro.)
I dismounted, took off my shoes, and walked through the grass to grab my run gear bag. No urgency whatsoever. I just wanted to change into some dry clothes and start my favorite event: the run.
A Goal: 7:45 total
B Goal: 8:10 total
C Goal: 8:30 total
It did NOT seem like I was out there for 8+ hours, but the clock says otherwise. So, in the first loop I was almost on pace for my A goal, but obviously did that all wrong by positive splitting. Whoops. Oh well. I’ll take my between-B-and-C performance. Freakin’ slow, but do I care? Nope. I finished. I can worry about getting faster and pacing myself later.
A really sweet volunteer helped me out by dumping out my bag and handing me everything I wanted. I asked her, “can I run a marathon in seven hours?!” (I had seven hours left to finish at this point) and she excitedly said “You can run-walk a marathon in well under seven hours!). Fab. Thanks lady!
As I walked out, I was thinking…uh…I can’t run. That’s crazy talk. But then I saw my coaches and figured, “ugh, I guess I should pick up the pace as I pass them. I mean, they’re out here cheering and all.” So I started running. And suddenly, I got a little more pep in my step. “What’s this?! I feel GREAT! My legs don’t feel tired at all! I could run for days!” (Well…maybe not days.) I kept running, smile on my face, Gu in my hand, dead Garmin on my wrist (I SWEAR IT WAS FULLY CHARGED THAT MORNING.) Ah, oh well. It’s probably for the better that I can’t see my pace, I thought.
And just like that, I was off to run; one of my most favorite activities in the world. I knew was 26.2 miles away from seeing Mike Reilly up close and personal.
Click here for IMLP: The Run