Ironman Arizona 140.6 - The Bike
Updated: Mar 24
Part 1: The Anticipation <--- Click here to read all about the anxiety I felt leading up to the start of the race.
Part 2: The Swim <--- Click here to read about the long murky swim that I absolutely hated but survived nonetheless.
Part 3: T1 & the Bike
Goal: 9 minutes + that run
IM NOT IN WATER ANYMORE! I celebrated by running straight towards a crowd of strippers. But they’re wearing clothes because their job is to strip me. I had a legit fear I’d lose my bike shorts with the wetsuit, but they were experts and worth all the dollars.
On to the 4/10s of a mile jog to the transition tent and I felt broken. My ankles were weak, the thin carpet felt like pins and needles on my feet, my vision was still hazy and I felt naked in bike shorts and a wet sports bra. But then I saw Blake, and Billy and his crew, and hundreds of strangers cheering me to keep moving forward.
An eternity later (4ish minutes) I got to the thousands of T1 bags and a volunteer rushed towards me holding mine like I was VIP while another volunteer ushered me to a seat inside the tent. We ran right past the porta-potties that I still very much needed, but no, just hold it in, then for a split-second I actually considered peeing in the seat, that’s gross Autumn.
I emptied my bag on the grass and let a volunteer stuff my wetsuit and swim stuff back inside. This kind of celebrity treatment wasn’t offered at the half Ironmans and what a time save! She asked if I needed more help but the rest was just a choreographed dance of dressing myself.
Towel off, powder my feet, roll on socks, shoes, heart rate monitor—
WHAT IS GOING ON ACROSS FROM ME?!
An older woman plopped on the chair and asked my helper to finagle her top off and WHOA, THOSE ARE HER BOOBIES. Then she asked for help with her bottoms and WHOA, THAT’S HER WHO-HA!
I’m a kid when it comes to nudity and I felt like giggling but also kind of jealous of her self-confidence. I heard the volunteer say nicely “don’t worry, everyone’s busy, no one’s looking” so I immediately looked down and got back to my dance.
Bike jersey, roll on arm warmers, fill pockets with nutrition, chapstick, and lidocaine. Tie hair in a low bun, helmet, Goodrs, go!
On my way towards the sea of bikes a volunteer yelled “13-oh-4! Your bike is over here!” and man, this event is turnkey! He pulled my bike off the bar and I tap-danced to the mount line.
Official Transition 1 time: 00:13:32 (solid!)
Distance: 112 miles
Goal: 7 hours/16mph average
At the first turn, I saw my father-in-law and I know it must be disappointing to wait around for hours just to see me for a split second and a short cheer but know that it fueled me for miles! My spirits were high. The swim was done! And I almost forgot how full my bladder was because female pros and motorcades were passing me and it had me pretending I was at the championship race in Kona. What other sport to you get to race right next to professionals? So cool!
A mile in, I saw Brent cheering pretty enthusiastically, until I realized he wasn’t cheering at all. He was yelling STOP.
He said a guy up ahead needed the bike pump, so when I saw the down rider, of course I tossed it to him. I asked God to spare me from a flat and felt comforted knowing that if I was willing to help a stranger, then a stranger would probably help me.
Further ahead someone was chanting “ONE-THREE-OH-FOUR! ONE-THREE-OH-FOUR!” And man I just love the comradery of this sport! I thanked every volunteer I rode past. Especially the kids picking up empty water bottles and nutrition wrappers. Mental note: I’ve gotta volunteer for IMAZ 2020!
I approached the infamous 5-mile long false-flat and my iron bladder was reaching maximum capacity, but I forced myself to drink 25 ounces of Nuun Endurance every half hour anyways because getting behind on nutrition was scary. Also scary: grabbing a water bottle with my non-dominate hand, opening it and pouring it into the Speedfil hydration system while moving and clipped in. Awkward too. But I survived!
That’s when I heard Greg yell my name from the opposite direction and that got me thinking: Greg pees on his bike, maybe I should too? It would save me a ton of time. All the pros do it. I don’t have to tell Brent and I’ll promise myself to deep-clean his bike before giving it back. I’ll squirt my crotch so it won’t smell. It’ll shave 10-15 minutes off my bike time! Just do it.
So I try. And nothing.
I’m pushing up through this false-flat and slight headwind and I start to fall apart because I trained in a flat desert and my bladder is on the verge of exploding. I try again and again and again and it’s useless. I cannot pee on a bike. I look down and see 11 mph and it angered me so I vowed to never see that number again (and I didn’t)!
I made it to the furthest point out (18 miles, the lap’s half way point!) and my back started to hurt. I hopped off the bike and slow-ran-waddled to the porta-potty.
Feeling so so so much better, I had a volunteer apply the life-saving, game-changing, illegally-bought-in-Mexico lidocaine patch and hit the road. (Side note, apparently the sensor didn’t catch me at this check point and everyone was freaking out that something happened to me without a bike pump #firstworldproblems).
All that fight uphill meant 5 miles of downhill! Yay! Plus my bladder was empty! And my back felt better! And everything was awesome! And nothing could slow me down!
And then my bike chain fell off. sfgkdfjhoi.
Fixed that and back on the road. With greasy hands.
I’m flying 30 mph and everything is awesome again! It’s almost cold I’m going so fast. The momentum is empowering and then I see my family at the base of the false-flat (North Gilbert & Beeline Rd) and that gave me energy too! They had huge cut outs of my face and everyone was cheering!
Or were they…? Here we go again…
Brent is shouting “STOP!” and my mom is yelling “HUG YOUR KIDS! YOU HAVE TO STOP AND HUG YOUR KIDS!!”
Don’t they know this is a race?!
I pulled over and squeezed Crosley. I’m aggravated. My kids aren’t even huggers, why did I lose all that momentum for a hug they won’t even appreciate?
But that wasn’t enough…“BLYTHE! YOU HAVE TO HUG BLYTHE! SHE’S IN THE STROLLER!”
Are you serious…No one even got her out of the stroller??
I awkwardly tap dance towards Blythe while straddling my bike. I leaned in for a hug. She was on her tablet and didn’t care about me, and suddenly my mom’s at my ear whisper-yelling “GRAAAAB THE PUUUUUMP!”
I see the bike pump near Blythe’s back. I grabbed it and rode away laughing at their sneaky plan.
It was pretty boring for the next hour, but then lap 2 happens. A third of the race behind me and the gastrointestinal issues begin.
I don’t want to talk about this. But I have to. Because it plagued the rest of my race.
Poop problems. From here on out I had a relentless urge to go big potty, but close to no capability to actually do it. Sure, it could be gas, but is that something you really want to risk with an audience this big? Code name: GI issues.
By the time I was back at the false flat, my bladder was uncomfortably full again, the GI issues were frustrating, and my butt was in pain from seat chafing. But thanks to Brent’s strategic planning, my family was in the most perfect, lack-luster location to give me an extra boost of energy right where I needed it. (You guys must have been so bored out there alone but it sure helped us on the course!)
With renewed confidence, I entered the false-flat and tuned out all of the discomfort by maintaining a steady cadence while repeating “step, step, falingo” in my head (Crosley had been practicing her new flamingo gymnastics move on the repeat and it was stuck in all of our minds). And before long I was back at the lap’s half-way point.
It hurt so bad to get off the bike. And in the porta-potty: GI issues. Absolutely nothing. How could I feel like I was barely holding it in and then nothing!? Sorry you’re reading this.
Back on the bike, headed downhill. Chain stayed on. Rode past the cheering family at 30 mph (no one telling me to stop) and raced past the special needs bags because I didn’t submit one. Wish I’d packed some Chammois Butt’r, but oh well. Ignore the fact that I had chapstick in my back pocket and never thought to use it on my butt! Bad mental picture.
Last lap and the course was thinning out. Everyone left looked like they were in a lot of pain, and I’m one of them.
I’d exhausted every possible way of sitting on the saddle and the chafing pain was nearly unbearable. Plus the GI issues and a new pain on my pinky toe. These were the limiting factors holding me back from tapping into the full potential of my legs and heart.
I looked around and wondered what everyone else’s limiting factor was. And that got me thinking about Blythe and her Glycogen Storage Disease. Will she be able to do an Ironman? Or even a marathon? I don’t know, but if she asks me to do it with her, it’s probably the only way I’ll find myself back on the Ironman course.
I was approaching my family at the bottom of the false-flat. Mile 88. And wanted to keep smiling because I felt like I owed that to them, but that conflicted with my 30-week promise to be authentic about my experience. I had about 2 to 3 seconds to exchange words (an insane thought if you think about how many hours they’ve waited to see me pass by).
They shouted wereleavingtowatchGregrun! I yelled everythinghurts!
But I guess that wasn’t totally true. If I could, I would have told them that the chafing in my butt hurt because I really should have gotten a new saddle a few months before the race. My bladder was full. Again. And my left pinky toe was rubbing on something that had me pretty scared for the run. But I still had energy in my legs to push up this incline one more time and hopefully the smile on my face conveyed that.
I was getting through it. Then mile 90 happened. Greg warned me about mile 90.
This is when the race truly got mental. At mile 90 I hit a physical and mental wall and needed off this bike. I tried perking myself up, at least you’re not swimming, but that distant memory didn’t work anymore. You almost get to run. But that didn’t help either because I still had over an hour left on this painful seat and tired legs. So back to repeating step, step, falingo until I reached the top of the false-flat for the last time.
In the porta-potty, still practically no movement in the bowels department… but a miracle happened! Someone left a half-used sample of Chamois Butt’r! I thanked the Lord for answered prayers and got back on the bike to finish this thing!
At mile 100, the closest person was 50 yards away so I yelled “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST CENTURY AUTUMN!” like a weirdo. But it made me smile when nothing was making me smile.
Entering town, I started to worry about the run. Would my toe rub in different shoes, would these GI issues get worse (likely) and will this butt chafing rub more during an entire marathon? I’ve never run more than two hours in bike shorts. I was scared, but my energy completely changed when I could see the transition tent. I was smiling again and almost cried because FINALLY I could ditch this bike and get to my favorite part of triathlon!
With over 7 hours until the cutoff time, there was no doubt left in me.
In just a few more hours, I would be an Ironman.
Official Bike time: 7:19:10 (I expected more from myself)