Thursday, June 3, 2010

WTHalf: The Ride

The first seven miles of the race's bike leg basically retraced the route we'd taken earlier that morning from T2 to the starting line - only this time, instead of soft-pedalling downhill, we were hard-pedalling up, and up, and up. The way back was long, twisty, and steep.

My first thought on the bike was, "Holy crap, my lats are screaming." I suppose adrenaline (and wetsuit-doping) had masked the hurt I'd put on my shoulders and upper back. It felt like I'd just done a 4,000-yard fly set.

When people started passing me, I had my second thought: "Ride your own race." I had spent most of the week agonizing about my ability to even compete and even at that point, I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish. Pedalling out-of-the-saddle really stresses your calves/achilles, and I wanted to shy away from any activity that'd cause any hint of a rupture. When those bad-ass dudes on their slick triathlon bikes whooshed by me, it was all I could do not to rev up and latch on - but I knew I needed to go at my own pace if I wanted a shot at the finish line.

Then came my third thought: "Eat something." I made sure this thought repeated frequently throughout the race's 56-mile ride, and tried my best to take long swigs from my water bottle on a regular basis. I had a few gels on me, and a Power bar, so I unwrapped it and began chomping.

Once the initial 7-mile climb was out of the way, the next 25 miles were rollers. Not little, fun rollers: big, steep, nasty rollers. It was like forced intervals - three minutes on, one minute off for an hour and thirty minutes. At the end of the outbound stretch came a short climb, a long, twisty descent into another park. A lot of people passed me on that descent. It was more than a little embarrassing.

Fortunately, what goes down, must come up, which is to say, the long, windy descent ended in a long, twisty ascent and most of those time-trialists who'd hammered by me downhill were left in my wake when the grade flipped.

The remaining 20 miles were back over the same rollers I'd come out on, only this time, the elevation trended downward. After that long climb, I felt good. Ten miles out, I still felt good. Five miles out, I felt freakin' fantastic.

The final mile of the bike course was lined with cheering volunteers and townsfolk, and it was only then that I began to believe I had a chance at finishing this race. My calf wasn't bothering me, per se - it was just tight enough to keep me from going full-gas up hills out of the saddle. I cranked up the final roller and swept down an around into the finish area; dismounting and dashing to find my sneakers and hang my bike.

I laced up, crossed my fingers, and jogged gingerly out of T2, not entirely sure if I'd even make it through the first lap (of three).