The day was far from over! If you’re just joining us, my story picks up as I exit Lake Okanagan after finishing my Ironman Canada SWIM.
I entered the Transition Area with a lot of confidence, ready to take on the bike leg. I was already ahead of the game from where I expected to be and that put a little extra spring in my step. I didn’t even have my wetsuit down to my waist when I got to the Wetsuit Strippers (<– great job title). They ripped that sucker off of me as other volunteers were grabbing my stuff from the Sea O’ Bags.
I had my bag waiting for me by the time I was back on my feet. I opted not to go into the tent (not knowing if it would be a madhouse) and completed my transition just outside. I could also see more of what was going on this way and continue to take it all in.
I’m not fast in transition and I don’t necessarily care about it during a long race (70.3+). Especially on this day, I wanted to enjoy what I was doing and make sure I didn’t forget anything critical just for the sake of moving fast. I expected my transitions to be 10 minutes or so, just leaving time to have a minor meltdown. I quickly put on a thick dose of facial sunscreen, my helmet, sunglasses, and gloves. I had also packed and donned a second pair of tri shorts to give that extra padding that I knew I’d want and need. I downed a 5-Hour Energy and ripped open a single-serve packet of Chamois Butt’r, squeezed it into my hand, and did the ladylike thing of jamming that hand down to my pants to apply it liberally. So glad I did!
Official T1 time = 5:04
Greg’s T1 time = 5:21
Kidder’s T1 time = 13:59
112- MILE BIKE
I left the transition area on top of the world. I had a great swim, a great transition, and I knew I had what I needed for a great ride — food, fresh-ish legs, and a good attitude. Just after getting on my bike and pedaling, I heard part of my support crew yelling my name (the other part was busy taking these photos!). I already had a big smile on my face and it was great to see and hear my friends heading into the longest part of the day.
I was on my way! And I love seeing that genuine smile on my face! Looking back now, I can tell you with total honesty that this 112-mile bike ride did not totally suck the life out of me like I thought it would. My training rides were REALLY sucking and I was scared. My shoulders/neck would be so pinched by ~40 miles that I’d involuntarily cry in pain to look over my shoulder for traffic. I was dehydrated, despite stopping at every known water fountain and/or convenience store for refills. You can imagine my anxiety going into this race because of issues like that.
Couple that with the doubt I had going into the taper about not being well-trained, as is often the case with the “taper crazies.” As it turns out, I am very satisfied with the training I did. I came to dread weekends because Greg and I purposely chose long and brutal routes. We’re talking 6500-7000 ft of elevation gain over ~80-90 miles, with a massive headwind for at least half of it. That punishment paid off. As miserable as I was every Sunday leading up to this one, I felt awesome on August 26.
Based on how my training rides had gone, I expected to finish in 7 hours or just over that. That pace is slower than my usual (shorter) race paces, but not slower than my long training rides had been. I had to “shift my paradigm” on the whole matter and get comfortable with a slower pace that would accommodate the situation.
It was ~40 miles until the first climb (Richter Pass), and much of that was on a flat road with a tailwind. What’s not to love? That section travels alongside three beautiful lakes, and then we wound around into the orchards and vineyards. It felt very much like California, and the people certainly made us feel at home as well. I couldn’t believe the number of spectators along the entire bike course.
My average speed going into Richter Pass was 20.6 mph. I knew I’d had the benefit of a tailwind, but I was using it to my advantage. I never let my heart rate get above 145. I was saving my legs. I was enjoying myself.
Everyone had to wear our race bibs on our backs during the bike ride; our names were written on them. I thought it was a good thing because you could let someone specifically know you were coming around them — “John, I’m on your left!“. And you could get to know the people you were riding with most of the way. I was happy to make friends with people, specifically one guy from Colorado named Tory. We’d play cat-and-mouse, chatting when we were riding at the same pace. Having trained largely by myself, it was so great to just converse with someone for a mile at a time. This was his first Ironman also, and we were comparing notes on training and such. On Richter Pass, I talked with a woman named Fiona who had a small sign on the back of her bike indicating she was a Bride-To-Be with a wedding date of August 28. One guy crashed about 100 yards in front of me, rolling over a CO2 cartridge or a water bottle. It was intense in those few seconds to see a bike and cyclist on the ground with 10-15 other cyclists trying to make way for him at the same time.
See that blue mark across Greg’s bib? He got a penalty! Drafting is illegal on the bike and there are several rules about what that means and how to handle it when you are passing someone or being passed. A rider started to pass Greg and was having trouble getting around him. The rules state that Greg had to drop back and allow the other rider to overtake him. He did this, and continued riding at his constant speed. The rider that had just passed him slowed down enough that Greg could easily pass him back. So, he came around the other rider and the officials on a motorcycle monitoring this sort of thing came by and gave him the penalty. You can imagine how pissed he was! He had to sit in a penalty tent for four minutes. No water/food/bathrooms there. Just idle time. His average speed going into the penalty tent was 25 mph and it dropped to less than 24 by the time he was allowed back on his bike. The four minute penalty cost him 8 places in his overall finish. Yeah, pissed.
Let’s talk about bodily functions for a minute. I needed to pee starting around Mile 30 on the bike. I peed twice while swimming with no problem. I tried and tried and tried peeing on the bike, with no success. I need to be able to relax enough (meaning no pedaling) to do it, so I thought I’d be golden (<– see what I did there?) on the descent from Richter Pass, but I couldn’t do it. SO FRUSTRATING.
I saw my new friend Tory again on this stretch of road, who had been successful in peeing on the Richter descent. Bastard! I caught up to Kidder at Mile 65 and it was nice to ride with him for awhile, and that’s where I learned about his less-than-stellar swim experience and the trouble he had in transition. We rode back and forth together (to not get called for drafting/aiding). The Cawston out-and-back was the worst part of the ride for me — other than seeing Greg on his way out and Caryn on my way out. I knew it was the course directors’ way of adding distance. I knew it was where the Special Needs bags were. And I knew it was where I’d have to stop to pee. As in, get off the bike. Along with the Special Needs bags, there were several porta-potties. By this time, my kidneys were aching and my bladder was sloshing so much I was afraid of a UTI or other infection. Time to take care of business. While in the stall, I ate the rest of my sandwich and swallowed a few more salt pills with a full bottle of fresh water so I didn’t feel like it was totally “wasted time.”
Back on the bike, I felt somewhat refreshed and ready to take on the most challenging climb of the day: Yellow Lake Road. Richter Pass is a long, slow climb — about 7 miles all told. You just get in a gear you can handle and grind it out. The road snakes along the outside of a mountain pass, so you can look down at the valley below and marvel at your awesome strength to climb this behemoth. Yellow Lake is a little different. It’s shorter and steeper, especially at the end. Melanie and the boys were spectating there, and we were going slow enough that they could see us and we could exchange a hello. That was nice! After one steep climb, the road flattens out a bit and then pitches up again for a very steep finish at the top. You just have to remind yourself that it’s all downhill into the finish from there.
Yep, all downhill from there. Except remember that tailwind we all enjoyed for those first 40 miles? That meant a nasty headwind for the last 20 miles. As much as I couldn’t really imagine the idea of running a marathon next, I wanted to be off the bike. My shoulders were pinching. My lower back hurt. This position was not relaxing anymore.
We got back into Penticton and were meeting the runners on their way out of town. The crowds were thick and there was a lot of excitement in the air. This made it easier to forget how tired I was and what lay ahead of me. I was on the lookout for my friends and was thrilled to hear them cheering for me! I was also thrilled as I looked down to see that I was going to finish more than 30 minutes faster than I had intended. Just like in the swim, this gave me tremendous confidence going into the marathon.
Official bike time = 6:26:43
Greg’s bike time = 5:29:07
Mike’s bike time = 6:45:31
Finish this race with the RUN recap.