With the swim behind me I was anxious to get on the bike. There is a good little run getting from the swim exit to transition but it goes by quickly with the hundreds of screaming spectators that surround you as you move through the 10 foot wide chute. I saw some of my family in the masses of people which is always great to be able to do.
Thanks to my well placed transition bags I was able to easily find mine and make my way to the transition tent. 112 miles is a long way so I took my time to make sure I had everything I needed. After getting my socks and shoes on I doused myself in sunscreen before getting my helmet on. That’s when the first annoying pain of the day hit. The velcro around the neck of my wetsuit had apparently left a pretty good section of irritated skin, which burned as I put the sun screen. But, I shrugged it off, continued with my preparation and made my way out to my bike.
I walked briskly out to the bikes. There was a heavy downpour during the swim and the grass in the bike area was pretty soft. No need to twist an ankle on the unstable ground by trying to run out to my bike.
One of the nice treats of Ironman is the volunteer support and organization is awesome. My bike was waiting for me at the end of my row and I made a point to thank the volunteer as I grabbed it and made my way to the bike start.
Just before the bike mount line I saw my wife and son. It would likely be 6 1/2 to 7 hours before I saw them again so I took the time to give them both a quick kiss and made my way on the bike.
The first 2 miles of the bike course is a mix of sharp downhills and false downhill flats making for a nice way to start out the bike. After the first two miles the climbing begins, lots of it. Drafting is a always something race officials try to discourage, which in Ironman means a distance of 7 meters between you and the bike in front of you. It is comical to try and comply to this rule when there are hundreds of other athletes, all going 12 – 15 mph uphill. I didn’t see any race officials but I suspect they would be lenient during the first several miles as the race begins to spread out.
I felt really comfortable on the bike. My goal time was 6 hours 45 minues but even more than that I wanted to have similar lap times over the two lap course. A drastically slower 2nd lap would most likely mean I pushed too hard early on and was setting myself up for a very tough run.
I was determined to take it easy on the first lap. I kept close eye on my heart rate and tried to keep it under 135 on the hills and under 125 on the flats. The first 40 miles start out with several rolling hills, a fantastic 5 mile downhill and several miles of flat section along a river before getting to the serious climbing. When I got to this point I was still feeling very good but wasn’t quite sure how my body would respond on the upcoming hills.
My coach had me doing quite a bit of bike work, particularly on hills only 10 – 14 days before race day. While doing the training I was nervous that I might be doing too much too close to race day, but, my fears were overcome as I navigated the hills. I felt strong and steady and by the end of the 1st loop I had posted a time of 3 hours 10 minutes, without pushing very hard. This was well ahead of the 3 hours and 20 minutes I was shooting for.
Making my way through town after the first lap, I was able to see most of my family, except for my wife and son. There are so many people in that 2 or 3 mile stretch and your moving at 20mph so it’s tough to try and make out faces as they whiz by behind the barriers. I know they were around but as I made my way back out on the 2nd loop I wished that I was able to catch their faces.
There was some incredible support out on the course. Thanks to Tom’s crew (Tom is a GSTC teammate), whose enthusiasm was incredibly helpful out on course. I actually had other racers who were around me at the time we passed Tom’s crew comment what great support the GSTC had. Quite a compliment to be noticed out of the tens of thousands of spectators out on course!
The 2nd loop went smoothly also. I was riding into a pretty strong wind coming up the climbs that dominate the end of each loop which made the end more challenging. However, for just having ridden 112 miles and close to 6,000 feet of climbing, I thought I was in good shape. My total bike time was 6:33. Eight minutes faster than my 2006 time and only about a 10 minute difference from loop 1 which I was happy with. Plus, aerobically I felt in really good shape.
I would soon find out that I had made some hydration errors while on the bike that would seriously cost me later in the race….