I was most nervous about the bike leg on this race. I’m not a good climber. This course is full of hills and climbs. I had come down and ridden it three times, and never had a ride on that that made me feel awesome. I knew I was going to have to go out and be really smart with my pace and energy on the first loop, so I didn’t burn out and lose it on the second loop, and/or the run. I decided to set my Garmin and cover the majority of the screen so I could only see my cadence, and the distance. I knew if I could see my speed and overall pace, I’d start obsessing, so I just decided to ride by feel.
I swam in my bathing suit and wetsuit, so I did a full outfit change in T1, and I was very glad to have dry clothes on for the start of the bike. It wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t exactly warm either. I grabbed my bike out of transition, and headed out. I got to the mount line, and the guy in front of me was screwing around and blocking traffic, so I let out an exasperated, “Come ON.” He gave me the offended “Sorry!” but he moved over, so I walked a few steps up ahead of him, moved next to the barrier, and mounted my bike. I had just started moving, when I looked to my left and saw Kenny holding up a sign, his phone, and waving. I waved and smiled at him, and headed out.
The first part of the bike is flat, and false flats. I settled into a gear that was comfortably moving. Not pushing, per say, but not easy spinning either. When we hit a hill that was more than a false flat, I backed off a little, and spun easy up the hill. I let people pass me, but I also passed a few people. I didn’t worry too much, as more people were passing me.
We turned on to 42, and soon the hills and rollers began. I kept my strategy going of riding to feel. I used the downhills for momentum, and kept it easy on the uphills. I never attacked a hill, and just tried to keep everything easy and comfortable. I was enjoying all the people on the road who were spectating and cheering. At one point, I passed a group of kids who had their hands out for high five’s. I reached out, and the first one I got was a little girl. I heard her yell “I got one from THE GIRL!! THE GIRL gave me one!” I started to cry. It was so sweet. I hope she got more high five’s from other women besides me.
Before I knew it, we were turning on to 393, which I thought was the hardest part of the course. The climbs on this road felt never ending to me during the training rides. I dropped into my low gears, settled my weight as far back as I could, and went easy. About halfway through that portion of the road, I realized the magic of taper. While the hills weren’t easy by any means, I wasn’t struggling on them like I had during training. I smiled and laughed at the signs. One of my favorites was on this road. It said “Think how great you’re going to feel tomorrow” with ‘tomorrow’ crossed out and ‘next week written under it. On the biggest hill, there were two signs that got laughs as well. The first said “Welcome to Grandma’s Hill.” Right behind it, the second one said “She’s a BITCH.”
To my surprise, 393 ended quickly, and I turned on the road heading into LaGrange. This road was long, steady climbs, and some nice downhills, so I knew I had a good section to relax on and gear up for Ballard School Road, aka Bastard School Road. I kept my pace by feel, backing off when I felt myself starting to push, and riding comfortably the rest of the time. I didn’t really pay attention going through the crowd in LaGrange, as I didn’t expect anyone to be there that I knew. Made it through, and turned on to Bastard School Road.
This road was hard. It’s short, quick, and mean. But it’s short, and it’s quick. I’m so thankful that I rode the course prior, so I knew how to ride it and not burn myself out. The most nasty hill came from a lead in of a huge down hill, then a over a bride, then up a short, steep hill that turned into a long climb. When I came down, there was absolute chaos through the area. Water bottles all over the road. Bikes on the side of the road. People walking their bikes up the road. I didn’t see anyone crashed, thank goodness. Hopefully no one after me hit a stray water bottle. The name of the game here was low gear, easy spinning, and not pushing.
The road ended, and we moved into the heart shaped section. I knew I had some time to relax again, until the turn onto L’Espirit. I settled into my aero bars, enjoyed the scenery, and gave my legs a break whenever I could. Made the turn onto L’Espirit, pushed through the final climbs that I didn’t care for. At the top of this road, the Cincinnati Tri Club was stationed, and I have to give them a shout out. On loops one and two, they were a phenomenal cheering group. They were so funny, so encouraging, and such a welcome mental break.
Soon, I made the turn back on to 42, and I was super excited for this part. In training, this was the section of the course that I always rode the best. These were the types of rollers that I ride well, and I had always been able to gain time back that I had lost on the hills. Well. Mother Nature had other plans today, because as soon as I turned, I rode right into a headwind. The wind never let up. I felt like I was struggling so hard during most of that section of road. It was such a bummer, considering how well I had been feeling up until that point. Suddenly, I felt like I was fighting everything, and dammit, this was the section that was supposed to be easy! The wind was no joke, so I just held on and did the best I could. I was super disappointed, because I knew there was no way I could have gained any time like I wanted to.
Turned back on 393 to start the second loop, and even the second time around, the hills weren’t awful. I felt pretty good with my nutrition, but I was looking forward to getting my special needs bag. I pulled into special needs, the amazing volunteer helped me sort through my stuff, and pick through what I wanted. I overpacked, and had way too much stuff, so I had to forfeit my spare tubes, a can of cheese-its, and a bottle of Powerade. I had no place to put them! Switched everything out super quick, and headed back out. I looked at my data at that point, and basically had a “Holy shit, I am riding WAY better than I expected I would” moment. I decided that the riding by feel thing was working out for me, so I covered my Garmin back up and decided to run with it through the end.
Also, peanut butter crackers were the BEST THING EVER.
Went through LaGrange again, and didn’t really pay attention to the crowds. I don’t know what made me look when I did, but up ahead, I saw a sign being waved that said “FSU” on it, and my first thought was “Ugh, Florida State fans.” Then I realized that FSU is our unofficial motto amongst my friends, so I looked again. Sure enough, there were Tara, Lorena, and Amy screaming and waving. I think I screamed back and waved? I was SO happy and excited to see them. That was mile 62, and it was a great boost.
The rest of the loop, I rode a little harder. Not hard enough to burn out, but where I knew I had some ability to push, I did. I went a little harder on the hills the second time around. I figured I’d try and push harder when I got back to 42 as well, as it should have been a net downhill for 32 miles back in to Louisville.
Oh, Mother Nature. Right as I turned on to 42, I saw the clouds in the direction I was heading. They were black. I knew there was no way I was going to finish the bike without getting rained on. I crossed my fingers that we wouldn’t see any lightning, and wouldn’t get pulled from the course. Thankfully, we did not, but if I thought the wind was bad the first time around? HAHAHA. Joke was on me.
I have never ridden in wind like that before. I was getting blown all over the road. A woman almost crashed in to me thanks to a gust of wind that blew her sideways. I had no idea how the people riding disc wheels were doing it. Then the rain came. So it was raining, and the wind was tearing through, and I was holding on for dear life. I didn’t even care about my pace at that point – I probably went harder than I intended because I just wanted to get out of that mess. It lasted probably a good 60-70 minutes? I think the wind finally died down when I hit mile 95, and the rain pretty much stopped after I passed the 100 mile marker (where, by the way, I cried again).
Made the turn on to River Road, and basically just started grinning like an idiot. I had lost my Garmin cover, but I looked down at it, and realized I was still exceeding my bike expectations. I had one training ride where I averaged 13something miles an hour, so I was convinced it would be a miracle if I could manage to hit 15mph on the ride. When I looked, I was at an average of 15.6, and I was about to come off the bike in just over 7 hours. I put everything I had into the final few miles of the bike, and finished it out, still grinning like a fool. I wanted to let out a scream of joy, but I settled for laughing when I crossed under the final bridges. I made the final turn, and right up ahead of me was Kenny. I can’t remember what I said to him, but I know I was grinning from ear to ear.
Thrilled. Just thrilled. Bike time: 7:04:53.