Monday, May 7, 2012

Ironman St George: Part II: The bike

Alright.  I think I've decompressed enough from the swim, wrote my peace, and can move onto the bike.

The Bike:

If you read my piece on the swim Part I: The Swim, you probably can appreciate how tired I am getting onto the bike.  Just when the relief and jubilation of surviving such a difficult swim, we rode maybe 3 minutes out of the parking lot and ka-BOOM.  Hit with 50mph+ winds.  All directions except that of the tailwind.

Are you kidding me?

This was funny for about 2 minutes.  Then it wasn't funny anymore.  I was almost blown down onto the road many a time.  A painful red dust was whipping through this wide open & exposed section of land.  I knew how much energy I had used in the swim so was desperate to start getting in calories, but could not let go of my bars.  Oh my.

Really, it was so hard in parts that you didn't even bother about thinking ahead, you just had to deal with getting through that very moment at the time.  To be fair, there was some relief in pockets coming through town, but once you started the loop sections, the wind was fierce.  I just got in as much nutrition whenever it was safe to, that was all I could do.

The top pro's both reported their lowest speed at 6mph.  Both male and female pros got blown off the road and onto dirt & gravel.  I now consider myself lucky to have stayed upright and on the road.  There were people just lying in the middle of the road in sections.  It was also my first time seeing people walk their bikes up a hill in an Ironman.  This was craziness!

As I was biking along in my first loop, solidly at the back of the field, I had been doing quite a lot of self talk, pepping myself up by allowing myself to feel proud about the swim, to feel proud about never giving up, and that as difficult as this wind was, that I could just keep peddling until the end when I was allowed to get off it and run.  At the same time, I'd be lying if I wasn't thinking just a little bit that doing another loop of this would be truly impossible.  Not kidding.  I was wondering whether they would pull us at loop 1 and put us onto a 50km run course.  Obviously this didn't happen, but the sheer difficultly of two laps was so daunting it wasn't even worth worrying about.  Just peddle on...

And you know, the easiest part of the bike course?  The infamous "wall".  Piece of cake.  Goes to show what kind of a race it is when an 11-12% 1mile climb is your 'rest' period.

I now know what those old guys were talking about when they said they walked to school uphill both ways.  That's really what this felt like.  For all the climbing you do (I think about 32 miles of climb) you get a downhill that was so fast (with wicked tailwinds people were flying down 8% grades at 50mph+).  I bruised the inside of my knee pushing it in so hard to the frame to stabilize my bike.  It's the only time I wished I was 200lbs so that I could weigh down the bike and not be so affected by crosswinds.  I'm sure I gained some water weight drinking half of Sand Hollow Reservoir, but not quite that much.  When I could eat, I stuffed my face, only imagining how many calories were ticking off the tape on this one.  I've never done anything this difficult, so I really couldn't assess what I needed, but I knew more was the better option than less.  A Bonk Breaker never tasted SO good.

A lot of this bike race was really a blur, because so much of it was just spend moment to moment, and not thinking about what was ahead or behind you.  The main commentary of the age group men I was biking past was that people were just happy to be alive.  And that was that.  Because it was a two lap course I also saw people heading out on lap 1 when I had already completed lap 2.  Some people had just simply stopped on the side of the road, announcing their retirement from the race.  There was a lot of heartbreak out there that day.

But for me, I pushed on.  I had heeded words of advice from previous winner Heather Wurtele, who advised people to leave a little something for lap 2, so with whatever I had left, I was able to continue on and just get work done around the loop, grateful for every passing landmark I remembered from lap 1.  I think, at best, I maintained my pace, really I have no idea as I don't have a bike computer, but if that is the case, and I managed to stay consistent for the two laps, I'm ever the more impressed that I could hang on.

The top women's bike of the day was done by Jessie Donovan at 5:55.  Yep, 5:55, well over an hour slower than most women's bike splits in most races.  Meredith Kessler came in at 5:57.  I finished in 6:20 and I'm pretty happy with that because that was everything I had to give on the day.  At this point, I'm just approaching the 8 hr mark.  My best Ironman time was 10:01 at IMC, not an easy course by most standards.  I was getting off the bike at 6:45 to start the marathon then, and it's at 8 hours now - incredible.

But, I love to run.  I had been knocked down at my knees to my very roots where I started in triathlon, survive the swim, finish the bike, and get running.  And run I did.

Onto the run: see Part III: The Run !


  1. Love it Gillian! Great to hear your story.
    We're proud of you for being a CHICKED girl!

    1. love it!! thanks!! i knew i would chick a few guys that day, but i didn't know i would have to chick 540 guys...phew. big day :)