I really hated writing the last blog post.
There's a part of me that feels like you just have to suck the drafting up and should be able to overcome it. Of course, the reason the rules are there for the merely human is that you absolutely cannot overcome a thirty-man (person) pack. They will beat you. The math is inexorable.
I also don't want anyone reading this to think that overall, I didn't enjoy the race. I did. If my friends or my wife had been willing to go back I would certainly have signed up for next year.
The last two runs I took at the packs were on a stepping stone series of hills (yes, there are hills in the race), which was an easy attack for me, and at the special needs, which is in the first half of the race. I had determined not to use special needs because it requires a full stop in this race and that's right out, and because it's on a hill. I was amazed to see many of the serial drafters stopping at the special needs bags, so I rode the hill hard, made the turn as another athlete I went by said he was looking forward to the tailwind.
It was there. You turn, you come off the climb onto a steady slight downhill and the wind is at your back. I jacked it up, got going, and urinated at 20+ mph, which is definitely the way to go.
That stretch goes on for a while and I started slowly losing ground on the guys in front of me, some of who were working in twos and threes. I just wanted after a while to get into what we call 'the neighbourhood.'
Before you get there, you pass the halfway point, and I did at about 2:37 or 2:38. My stomach was already a little skitchy. I decided to expand the next feeding point from 30-45 minutes and take water at the next stop, but I kept with the gatorade, took some race caps, and worked on spinning. My left hamstring was very sore, which I had expected. I'd gotten a massage a week before the race and was told that was 'very tight.' It just plain ached, but I was still able to stay aero and keep my knees into the top tube (thanks, Coach Troy).
The neighbourhood, as some of my Force 5 teammates and I call it, is not exactly a neighbourhood, given that a double yellow line runs down the middle. The road in this area- 60-70 miles, sucks. I mean, it sucks. there's a crease in the road every 20 yards, some of the creases have angular potholes- our friend Michael flatted in here- and kudos to him for walking 20 minutes after his repairs didn't take.
I was dying to get out of this rumblestrip of a road, and did, only to find myself on a slight incline and teeth into the wind.
There's a point in every Ironman, in the back half of the ride, where you are riding hard into the wind and you start to feel like, well, like shit. You either feel sorry for yourself, or you remind yourself the bike course will change direction a bunch more times. I went with that.
I got onto the out and back and there was a lot of jockeying. I was going back and forth with a group of five guys. They would pass me, string out, I would pick them off in ones and twos and then they would come at me in a group again. Talk about self-defeating.
But I was riding well. I finished off the out and back and before I knew it I was at the bridge. Once there, I saw Ian and Margit as I climbed the bridge. I got some separation from some people and ratcheted it up a notch on the way back. I did try to pee for the fifth time briefly, but decided to get as much time shaved off the bike split and hit a porta-potty in transition.
When we turned back towards PCB, the wind was in our face again, and people started to come back to me and I took every advantage to pass people on the way in. The ride back in only seems to take forever, and slightly longer when it's windy. I know that stretch of road better than any part of the bike course as it's how we drive in to PCB at the beginning of the trip and back out at the end.
I came in under 5:20 and felt good about my ride. Unlike last time I did the race, I was able to walk when I got off the bike. I'd ridden 112 miles, done it clean, and I was ready to run. Really ready.
Except I had to pee...