Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chapter 4: Carnage

T1: I started by running out of the water and grabbing my Bike bag from the volunteer. This took slightly longer than I expected. Then I found myself in the changing tent-- with a bag-- and no volunteer. For some strange reason, I couldn't get my fingers to open the strings on the bag. I pulled. I grabbed. I started to panic. Then it hit me (no, not the humidity-- that comes later), but the Big Idea-- I could simply rip into the plastic bag and pull my bike gear out! Pull and rip I did and out tumbled my bike shorts, socks, shoes, helmet and, the most important ingredient, Chamois butter. I pulled off my bikini bottom, remembering to put it in a separate plastic bag, and pulled on my bike shorts. I pulled on my shoes, snapped on my helmet, and applied vast quantities of chamois butter to the insides of my shorts.

At that point, I was ready to enter the sea of bikes in transition to find mine. As usual, about 80% of the bikes were in transition. Fortunately, they were racked by number and 446 was right where I'd left her-- ready for a ride. I walked to the mount line-got on my bike and headed out.

I was off. I reached down to start my Garmin--which I probably should have done earlier-- and was met with my first surprise--I'd forgotten to switch it out of run mode after the Falmouth Road Race. Duh-- So, with one hand, I started fiddling with it--trying to get it to 1) go into bike mode and 2) display my pace--i.e. I knew I had to average at least 15 mph, and I wanted Garmin to let me know how I was doing. Well, I did get it into bike mode but I never did get it to display my mph.

As I was fiddling with Garmin, I came across the remains of the first accident of the day. Somehow, someone's bike was lying in the ground in 3 pieces. Not sure how it happened, but the front wheel was in one place, the handlebars were in another and the remainder of the bike was in another. The cops were on the scene and the victim was no longer there so, taking my fingers off my Garmin, I kept rolling. No speed and more importantly, no every 15 minute reminder to take in nutrition.

Rolling. . . now that I mention it-- that is what the hills in Kentucky were supposed to be. Although, after training in San Francisco, I wasn't particularly impressed by the hills, many of my compatriots on the bike course were not agreeing with the description of the hills as "rollers." Maybe it was the heat? Many thought they were mountains.

I probably would have preferred mountains. It has always been hard for me to ride rollers-- I don't really like to go fast on the down slopes so I find myself with some creative shifting in order to make it back up the hill--- if I'd just let myself go faster on the downhill it probably wouldn' t be as much of an issue. . . That being said, I felt pretty good out there on the bike.

I'd set my watch for 1:00-- figuring that it would give me ample warning that I had an hour and 20 minutes to make it to the start of the second loop of the bike course. . . turns out-- I didn't need it. By the time the alarm went off, I was well past the beginning of the second loop of the bike course-- and well on my way to making the final bike cut off time. That being said, compared to many of my fellow competitors, I was standing still. The official statistics show that I was passed by 880 bikers during the time I was out there-- and it felt like more than that. Every time someone would pass me, however, I would think to myself (or say if it was a fellow TNT'r), "Why are you in such a hurry? We only get one day to actually be out here doing this. How lucky are we?" I was soon to find out what the hurry was all about.

That being said, all was not particularly well in Paula-city. I was getting hot. I was having a hard time choking down my "magic" potion of Cytomax and Carbo Pro. Warm, grape, sticky, sweet Carbo Pro and Cytomax is not something I'd wish on my worst enemy (you know who you are). I was waiting for the Special Needs station.

And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. For some reason, I thought that the special needs station was going to be right around the beginning of the second loop of the bike course. NOPE. In fact, it wasn't at the 1/2 way point of the bike. It was more like Mile 70. I finally got myself there (to replace my yucky bottles) and met my Special Needs Volunteer -- Wayne.

Wayne kindly held my bike (and chatted with me) while I switched out my water bottles (more yucky warm grape potion) and electrolytes. He watched me scarf down my Pringles-- high level Iron Man salt delivery system. He watched while I used my baby wipes to wipe the salt off my face and splashed water down the backs of my legs to rinse off the salt-- a little trick I learned after chafing at the triple brick behind my knees. He even managed NOT to tell me I looked like garbage OR that we were all crazy for being out here. Wayne, like many of the Special Needs volunteers were members of a Church that had cancelled Sunday services to come on out and support us aspiring Iron Men. I thanked him kindly, and, not having another reason to procrastinate, it was time to go on my way.

That was when I started noticing things. Like the heat (96 degrees) and the humidity (86%) and the heat index (103+). Not to mention the people sitting on the side of the road. The people lying on the side of the road. The people splayed out on the side of the road with their helmets thrown to the side. The folks who were lying in the hot sun-- to tired to drag their bodies to the nearest shade. The ambulances. Multiple ambulances. The sirens. The guy passing on ON HIS BIKE and, as he fell to the ground, knocking another participant (and his bike) to the ground.

It looked like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Bodies, Bikes, Helmets and other assorted equipment everywhere. No one looked good. No one was smiling anymore. Maybe this was why they had all been hurrying? They wanted to get done before the heat index really climbed up there. Funny thing though, even though I didn't really pass anyone on the bike-- I must have passed a good 200 people sitting on the side of the road.

Those rollers had turned into mountains for some and I passed people walking their bikes up the hill. When I recount this story-- people are shocked. Walking your bike? In an Ironman? I think I was too tired to really think about it. But yes. It was true. I, on the other hand, felt pretty good. I was excited that I was going to finish the bike portion of the race well ahead of the 630 pm cut off time. I was tired; but was still feeling pretty strong. I was even hoping (up until the last 5 miles or so) to break 8 hours-- which would have been a great ride for me given the heat and humidity (my best 100 mile ride was 7 hours 41 minutes in much cooler weather).

I didn't break 8 hours-- I pulled into transition in 8 hours and 4 minutes. Little did I know it, but it was time for the real Iron Man to begin.

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