Friday, November 18, 2011

Ironman Florida Bike

So, I headed out along what I think is Route 98, or Old Route 98. Whatever. I hadn't done the race in 3 years, but having done it twice, so I figured I knew the bike course pretty well.

It was a little windy, but not bad, and to be honest I felt the drafting on this stretch wasn't bad. I was passing people, and there were clumps, but everyone was going at their own speed and it was mostly just congestion and not organized groups. Before I knew it I was going out past the new open-air mall, including zipping by Margaritaville, where we'd had lunch the day before.

The thing I noticed that I thought was odd was the number of non-combantants, some of them old people, who were 'on' the bike course. I mean, I know people have to get from point a to point b, but um, sometimes timing is everything and I'd hate to see someone's Ironman dreams end when they crash into some retiree on a cruiser.

There were definitely crowds out watching us and it was pretty cool, because unlike some courses, the one loop IM Florida course is not spectator-packed. Which is fine with me. I'm not out there to wave to the crowd, I'm out there to race.

Once we got off the shore and were heading north it was obvious that the wind was going to be a factor all day.

I was out there in just a cycling jersey, bike shorts and bike shoes with no socks. People were wearing jackets, booties, arm warmers, and so on. I could see the arm warmers, but seriously, booties ?

I felt like the first ten miles of the race was really clean as far as the drafting, and then I started to come up on packs. At first it was no big, because I was still passing people, although I was starting to feel like I was working hard into the wind. I was also forcing myself to drink heed, and by the twenty mile mark I I'd drained one of the three bottles I was carrying, getting in a lot of fluids and hopefully energy. I was also taking shots of vanilla EFS.

Because I was on Margit's race wheels, I had no computer. I remember seeing the 20 mile mark, peeing on the bike, and between that and the thirty mile mark the drafting got serious. It was somewhere in here that I first lost my patience, sitting up and throwing my arms up as people went by in a clump. I get grief from drafters sometimes, lighten up, it's just a race, hop on....

I do chirp back but I hold it in check and what the people giving me a hard time don't understand is that throwing up my hands and muttering sarcastic comments is not what I want to be doing. I'm not going to even say what I'd like to do, but it doesn't involving talking.

I will say that I only remember attacking a pack after it passed me once. I settled in and got my 5 bike lengths and then I went after it. I buzzed everyone as I went by, staying in as tight to the pack as I could. I'll be honest. I don't understand how, when you are in the middle of a pack, you go by a guy who throws up his hands, exhorting you not to cheat, and you go ahead and do it anyway. In that vein, I'll share an email exchange about that I had with another athlete at the race. I'd never met this person, but I was intrigued as to how they could ride basically 100 miles sucking someone's wheel. They answered me, and I think some excerpts from it will make a great blog post. Another time. That's all I'll say about the drafting.

With no computer, and using only the time of day, I actually got a bit confused. The wind was brutal for from miles 10-50 and it was after I thought I'd missed the 50 mile mark that I rode by the forty mile. That was soul crushing. It was such a slow ride and that continued until around 50 miles. The out and back that used to be in the 70-80 range is now in that 50s range.

On the out and back, my bike's front wheel, or so I thought, went from making some small vibration noises, to a lot of noises. A LOT of noise. I knew right away what it was- broken spoken. The out and back was unbelievably rough, and I was milking the bike now. Broken spoke ? And on the rough road, the noise started getting louder, to the point where I was sure I had two broken spokes. I started having visions of me blowing up the front wheel and ending up in ditch, and I was mostly thinking 'Can I possibly finish with a bum wheel.' Then at the aid station I took a bottle of water, poured it over my head, and in the resulting clarity, though to reach down to my up tube. I put my hand around the cables, and sure enough, there were no broken spokes. I'd had some adjustments done, and the cables had loosened up slightly after the bike sat outside all night.

I started riding harder again, exiting the out and back.

A guy went by me as we turned out of the wind and said 'Did we just get a tail wind?'

Indeed we did. It lasted all of maybe five miles.

At sixty miles I peed again. I could tell I was not drinking as much heed as maybe I should be. I was doing well with the EFS.

The bottom line on the bike is I never got into a great rhythm. I was down on the aerobats, in a good position on the bike, but I was putting a lot of grief into my legs, riding alone into the wind and the occasional crosswinds. The packs would get broken up in the turns and twists and hills, then re-form. I continued to ride trying to go at about 90%, nothing dramatic, and keep eating and drinking.

The highlight of the bike ride was getting a thumbs up from an official.

I saw Margit and Ian on the bridge and climbed the bridge solidly. I peed just before 100 miles a third and final time.

The big surprise was waiting for when we finally got onto the oceanside drive that takes you back to the transition.

I though the wind going back towards Tempe Town Lake in Arizona in April was the worst I'd ever raced in, however, this was worse, and it's maybe 10 miles back into town. This was some of the slowest riding I have ever done in a race and I was passing people. I was going slow enough that one car pulled up aside me and the people inside started trying to chat with me...

It was the most brutal part of the ride, and all I can say is I was- as often is the case- terribly glad to get off the bike. When I got into transition I initially couldn't find anyone to take my bike right away. I picked the shoes I knew I could run barefoot in, and I was off....

(next: the run)

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