I ran into transition looking for the balloon on the bike next to mine. I stripped off the wetsuit, and realized I hadn’t really thought about what to do with it. Luckily, being a copycat doesn’t carry the same penalties as drafting. So I hung it on the bike rack with the rest. After drying my feet, I threw on socks and shoes, strapped on my helmet, and grabbed my gloves and glasses. I jogged down to the bike out with my fastest T1 ever, despite it being the first time with a wetsuit. Again, many thanks go out to George, as his guidance on taping gels to the bike led right to wearing my tri-top under the wetsuit. T1 time, 4:06.
The bike mount area is a bit tricky as it is grass. I took it easy for the 50 feet until the road, then picked up speed and prepared for the hill that was only a couple hundred feet away. It was a short time later and I was out of the saddle and working it to keep forward momentum. I benefited greatly from having climbed this hill several times during training and knowing what to expect.
After getting up the hill, I settled in for what I knew was 55 miles of gently rolling hills. While none of the hills climb to dizzying heights, the constant rollers keep you from getting into a true rhythm. Luckily, the winds hadn’t picked up and it was easy to stay in aero position.
Around mile three, I decided that a longer T1 might have been beneficial when my bladder started to let me know how effective my hydration plan for the past 24 hours had been. It wasn’t too urgent until around mile seven or eight. That’s when I started looking for a convenient grove of trees near the side of the road. And yes, I realize there are alternatives to stopping. Until I’m competitive enough that a minute or two matters, I’ll keep The Pol-R Express free from that solution.
Around mile nine, the race director had the solution to my problem. An aid station (actually the mile 33 aid station that is passed at mile 9) with a porta-let was just what was needed. I may have lost a minute, but I’m sure I gained it all back in improved pace.
After that, it was simply a matter of spinning away. The race plan called for 10 miles in low zone 1. Then, 10 miles of high zone 1 heading toward zone 2. Miles 20-40 would be mid-to-high zone 2. After that, pacing would be dependent upon time. If sub-3 hours were possible, I would push into zone 3. If not, I would stay in zone 2.
Well, from the first miles, my heart rate was WAY high. I’m talking well into zone 4. Only I didn’t feel zone 4. I felt zone 2. I figured it might be the hills, so I gave myself some time to settle down. I eased up a bit, and felt my effort go down. But the heart rate really wanted to stay high. Biking along, I waited for my legs to seize up at any moment. Spending hours in zone 4 isn’t a great recipe for success.
But the legs never seized. I continued on, throwing the heart rate plans out the door. I went on perceived effort. My nutrition was good, and I was staying hydrated. It was only my heart rate that was at odds with everything else. Well, one of these things doesn’t belong…
Another hint from George was to tape my gels to the top tube of the bike. Let me tell you, if you don’t do that, start. That method is genius on many levels. First, you don’t have to use the clubs that your hands become after hours on the bike to retrieve nutrition from a pocket. Second, with the top taped down, the packet opens if you pull it off correctly. It is much easier than trying to open the gel with your hands and/or teeth. For the race, I had five Gu gels (Tri Berry and Orange Burst), two bottles of Gatorade, and one bottle of water. I had one Gu left at the end of the bike.
After 2 hours 56 minutes, I headed back into transition. My average pace was right around 19.5 mph, and I felt great coming off the bike. Given an expected time of 3 hours and 7 minutes at about 18 mph, I was very satisfied with the bike leg. As with the swim, I felt strong enough to do a second loop and complete the full 112 miles. After coming out of the water in 224, I was 168th on the bike.
Check back for T2 and the run in the next day or so.