Eddie Rabbitt: can you think of a better name than that for a singer? Especically this time of year? Kind of a bubble gum pop like song but it gets in your head and you can't get rid of it once that happens.
56 miles is a long way to do anything, and biking 28 of that into a howling headwind is not going to be the best part of my race. My intention was to average at least 14mph and I was really planning for more, as that is a slow pace for me, but I also wanted to end up with some legs left to do the run with.
As I came out of the water, I tried to duck into the fresh water cascade they had pouring down in order to just rinse off my face, but a short Asian chick bumped hard into me as she ran by and knocked me out of the area. I shuffled on to my transition spot and spent 6:41 in T1, 41 seconds longer than planned, but it seemed to just take a while to get myself organized, plus the distance from the water exit to T1 was pretty far.
I dumped my wetsuit and goggles and cap under the bike, took a quick swig of water to rinse the salt bayou out of my tonsils, re-applied some sunscreen on my face and arms, staggered one legged into my socks (always a fun thing, but on longer rides, I worry about blisters so I only go sockless for sprint distances), snapped on the helmet, put on the sunglasses, tugged on the gloves, don't forget the race belt, bike shoes on, and now grab the bike and trot to the mounting area. I ran a bit past the mounting line, lowered the bike and managed to clip in on the first try as I swung onto the bike and headed straight into the wind. In ten seconds I was down on the bars, and pretty much stayed there most of the time other than when stretching or eating.
The first mile was frustrating. I was headed slightly uphill and straight into a 25 mph wind and could not get any speed going; I felt like a turtle and was averaging around 13 mph for the first mile. I said to myself, this is not going to work. As I hit the turn onto the seawall by the Gulf, it didn't seem to get any easier. Finally, around mile 3, I was able to push it up to around 14-14.3 mph without exhausting myself. However, sometimes I would drop lower on a slight incline or an area with a big wind blast.
I shook off my worries and told myself how much fun it would be when I was headed back with the wind at my tail. I settled into a groove, pedaling in one gear mostly and hunkering down as low as I could comfortably go. Every mile on the dot I drank a big gulp of Gatorade from my water bottle between the bars and every 2.5 miles I stood up in the pedals and stretched for 10 seconds.
The course was mostly flat, with some very small inclines, and a couple of medium climbs when I got to San Luis Pass at mile 22, but nothing major. There were a lot of bikers coming back on the opposite side of the road. Because I am a slow biker, I didn't expect to pass anyone, but I actually passed a lot of people. Having another irrational fear, this one of being called for drafting, I would hesitate just outside the draft zone and gird my loins, and then hit the gas hard to pass the slower biker. I found a couple of frustrating moments when bikers would pass me and then SLOW DOWN, forcing me to back down to 13.8 or so to keep out of the draft zone. I always keep the gas pedal down for about a minute after I pass someone so they don't feel crowded but apparently not everyone follow this rule. One gal would pass me, and then I would pass her, and vice versa, but sooner or later I finally left her behind for good.
I saw lots and lots of flat tires, maybe 15 or so. I was worried about sustaining a flat, as I knew I was pushing course time (or thought I would be). I had to be at mile 48.2 at 1:18 p.m. and I had started the bike around 9:25 a.m. Plenty of time, unless I had a flat.
One girl passed me and then immediately slowed down to 12 mph. Irritated, I backed off as much as possible, but then I saw she had a flat and was pulling over. That could have been me.
I actually also passed about 4-5 guys, whose swim waves went off way before mine did. One looked pretty fit but was riding very slowly. I convinced myself he was a basketball player and had signed up for this on a lark.
I started eating every 5 miles. I started with a couple of candy corns, then went to the gel bottle, and then dug into my Bento Box for my PBJ sandwich, which, even though sealed in a baggie, was a soggy dough ball. I ate it anyway. I also saw that my Luna chocolate sports bar, which I had carefully cut into bite sized pieces and stored in another baggie, was now fused back into a solid bar. I grew up in this humidity. You think I would remember. Anyway, no problem to just bite off a tiny piece now and then. I tried to alternate snacks so I would have something different to look forward to each time. I was not terribly hungry, but I knew I had to eat, so I kept ingesting, and everything seemed to agree with my internal system just fine.
At mile 26, I stopped at an aid station to use the portapotty (no, I am not ever going to be able to go on the fly). It felt good to hop off for a minute, but so far, nothing hurt and I was feeling fine. I got back on quickly and was eagerly anticipating the turnaround to put this wind at my back at mile 28.
It seemed to take forever to get to mile 28. First, I had the climb up the San Luis Pass bridge into the wind which slowed me down a lot. Second, the road turned to harsh chip seal that rattled my teeth. Third, a small sandstorm started to blow since out here, there was hardly any rebuilding done after Hurricane Ike did its thing, and sand was mostly what was between me and the Gulf. I kept thinking I saw the turnaround but I kept being mistaken.
FINALLY the turnaround came, it was very narrow as the road was only two lane here so I turned slowly on the mats not wanting to get this far and crash, and then yes! the wind was behind me and now I was cooking between 15-16 mph without even working hard at it. I decided not to work too hard at it as I knew know I would make the cutoff times and wanted to save my legs for the run. It turned out that was a good decision.
I came up behind a lady that looked like she had a funny outfit on, when I got closer I realized she was riding IN HER WETSUIT, at least the bottom half, and the arms were flapping around her waist. She was weaving a bit and I passed her and said my usual "good job; good luck." I wondered. Was she training for Kona and trying to get really hot (it was already a very warmish day)? Did she forget her bottoms and this was all she had to wear? Did she just forget to take it off? I will always wonder.
Another lady passed me around mile 35 and as she passed, turned and threw up onto the roadside, barely missing me. I guess she preferred not to throw up on her downwind side and get herself, but this side nearly blasted me. Uck. I was so grateful my stomach was happy and resting easy.
I was focused on getting to mile 46, which meant 10 miles left, and then mile 46, where my cutoff time aid station was. I was cruising and comfortable until mile 43. Then both feet started to go numb, despite all the wiggling and stretching I was doing every 2.5 miles. At mile 45 my right foot went into full "hotfoot" mode, feeling like someone was cutting off my toes with a sharp knife. It was agony. I had experienced some numbness before on long rides, but not like this.
I debated whether to stop and walk around to get the blood circulating in my toes, but I was only 10 miles from transition and hated to stop. I kept telling myself to go another mile, another mile, and the pain got worse. I reached down and loosened my shoe to the max and wiggled my toes like mad, but it didn't help. The pain was so bad I thought I might throw up myself.
Still, I gritted my teeth and kept pedaling. My speed dropped to about 14.5 mph average but all I wanted to see was transition and to get my feet out of the pedals. I passed the 48.2 mile station with lots of spare time and kept pedaling.
Again, it seemed to take forever to reach the turn off the causeway onto the side streets, and I could not believe how long it took to get through all the side streets and into Moody Gardens. I waved at Patient Spouse who was waiting for me at the roadside and tried not to let him see the pain on my face. Several more turns--am I ever going to get there?--and THERE was the dismount line at last.
I catapulted off the bike and the pain immediately ceased. Sweet relief at last! I trotted into T2 and nearly stumbled as a wave of dizziness went over me, but then it was totally gone and I felt fine. I had survived the 56 miles of windy bike and now just had 13.1 miles between me and the finish line.
Next up: the four loop run, some interesting people and spectators, and the finish.