We rode out of town and went up and down and up the first few big hills, then turned around and came down and up and down and up and back into town. I was pretty happy when I (finally) looked at the map of the bike course Saturday night and realized that we had managed to ride the biggest hills on the day, and they weren't that bad at all. I've spent all spring hunting down the biggest mountains I can find, and I think it prepared me well. These hills were a little long but not steep at all. The good kind of climbing where you can spin at a not-horrendous cadence and keep your heart rate low and it doesn't take an hour to get to the top (I'm looking at you, Skyline Drive). Not only that, it was absolutely gorgeous riding. Being on the side of a highway was a little nerve-racking during the descents, but I knew on race day we would have more than 6 inches of space between the rumble strip and the ditch so I wasn't worried.
In all of my long rides this spring, I've had the best days when I keep my heart rate super ridiculously low the first hour. Like under 125 low, like barely break a sweat low. And it means that I spin pretty easily, but it has also meant that when I get off the bike six hours later, I'm happy as a clam. I decided (with Sonja) that I would start my ride the same way, even if it meant I was giving away free time, because it was the execution I knew I could count on to feel like a million bucks off the bike.
So I roll out of transition and through town and I am pumped up to the max. In my head I start telling myself to settle down, but on the outside I am hollering and fist pumping and waving to little kids all through town. Every time I went by a quiet group of spectators, I waved and waved until they started cheering. I just felt so happy to be on the bike, my speedy sexy CD.01 that I love so much. I thought my face was going to split right in half.
Once I got out of town and onto the short lake loop, I calmed it down, but I couldn't stop grinning like a fool. I was almost coming back through town before I realized that I hadn't touched my nutrition, so I started working on my bottles and trying to rein in my happiness. The bike is about brains, I told myself. Brains. You can be a whooping moron at mile 24 of the run, but it's time to think or you aren't going to make it there.
I had just turned back into town when I heard someone yell, "Go Katie!" Whenever I hear that (even at track workouts), I just yell, "YEAH GO KATIE!" right back because I am part idiot, so I did, but I couldn't find whoever was yelling. She yelled it again, and I went, hmm, that sounds like my mom's voice.My mom is a kick-ass photographer, you see, and she has a lot of serious heavy equipment so she looks pretty legit. Somehow she managed to talk her way into riding the back of one of the media motos that was idling in town until the pros came back through.
I'm sure the guy driving her around expected me to be floored, and I was for a second, but this is my mother we are talking about. She raised ME. So all I could do was laugh. It was amazing.
Around mile 20 I realized that I had to pee pretty badly. I had peed several (6?) times before the race started. Once on the beach waiting for the cannon, twice in the water while swimming and once in transition. That's about right for me, maybe a little high, but I almost never have to pee on the bike in races. But then I did. I decided that I didn't want to stop, because there was no place to pull over and the lines at the portapotties were extremely long. When we hit the downhill after mile 20, I tried to coast and let go, but I couldn't get anything moving. I spent about the next ten miles trying to release, all the while becoming increasingly uncomfortable in the aero position. I was able to get a few squirts out (sorry if this is incredibly disgusting), but it wasn't even close to how full I was. When I went past the mile 30 marker and compared it to my watch, I realized how much time I had given up by keeping things easy and fighting with my bladder. I decided that I would stop at the next rest stop, no matter how long the lines were, and go. It was worth it to be comfortable for the rest of the day.
Sadly, I had just passed a rest stop when I decided this, so I went through the turn-around and back to the same stop. Garmin says (and we all know Garmin is oh-so-right) that I lost 14 minutes here - probably 12 in line dancing and yelling at everyone to pee faster and then 2 straight minutes of full-speed pee, I was THAT full. I managed to get my bottles filled and ate a pack of chomps someone handed me while waiting, and I felt a million times better as I got back on my bike and sped off towards town with the wind at my back.
When I came back into town, I did another round of whooping and fist-pumping, but was starting to feel a bit flat. I started looking forward to my special needs bag which had fresh bottles and a treat. I had just turned onto the road back to the lake when I realized that my bladder was again uncomfortably full (the downside of liquid-only nutrition being I can't stop drinking because I need those calories). I rode only a few miles before I saw some volunteers setting up a run aid station with a single porta potty - no line. I stopped and asked if I could use it, and someone held my bike while I ran up the path in my bike shoes, went, ran back, and got rolling again. Master Garmin says three-ish minutes here. I rode another few miles to special needs, swapped out my bottles, stuffed my snack in my pockets and rolled out. About a minute here.When I came back into town (roughly mile 70), I was feeling rough. It was really important to me that whenever I saw my family and friends that day, I was happy and smiling for them, so I whooped it up a bit more, but I was a little worried heading back out of town. I decided that I'd start grabbing gels at aid stations and suck a few down with water on top of my planned nutrition (which purposely did not include caffeine on the bike). I've taken gels before on the bike so I know they don't bother my stomach, and I was hoping that the caffeine would give me a nice strong wallop and drag me out of me slump. However, it was almost ten miles before I hit an aid station. I had eaten my snack and been pounding down the calories, but I just felt low. I grabbed two gels and stuffed them down right away with some water. I felt a little perked up a few minutes later but the "out" part of the out-and-back had a pretty tough headwind on the second trip. The sun had come out and it's a little false-flat-ish on the way out (which is why the trip back in is so banging) and it was all I could do to keep pedaling. My heart rate was dropping, which I know means I need more calories, but I kept eating and drinking and couldn't seem to snap out of it.
Miles 80-90 felt like an eternity. Several of my awesome friends had decorated water bottles for me to ride with, and I spent some time thinking about each one. Thinking about them cheering and yelling at their computers for me. The poet wrote something on a bottle about each of our puppies, and I spent some time with them. Thinking about how Sofie makes the wookie noise at you when she wants you to play, and how Molly will beat the living shit out of you with her skull if you stop petting her. And my sweet Graham, my beautiful boy who wants nothing more in the entire world than to go outside and chase tennis balls with his bitches until he is exhausted, and how he comes and snuggles with me in the mornings after he has his breakfast. I thought about my family, and how crazy and incredible it was that they raised me to want to do something like this and then they would be here to see it unfold. And I thought about the poet, and all those weekends where I was off molding my crotch into the shape of a bicycle seat instead of hanging out with him, and how he never complains and cheers louder than anyone and it's all for me. And it all helped, it reminded me of what was really important and it got me through a very tough two hours or so on the bike.
The turn-around finally appeared and I realized my stupid bladder was full AGAIN, so I stopped at the aid station that I think was roughly around mile 90. There was a long line and I wasn't moving that quickly, so it was another long stop (a little over 10 minutes), but I managed to eat several gels and another pack of chomps while I waited, and I rotated my bottles around so my magic jet fuel bottle (a scoop of PreRace) was in the prime position. The simple knowledge that I was heading back into town helped (as did the tailwind), and by mile 100 the PreRace had kicked in and I started laughing again. And for the first time all day, I let myself think about the run. I couldn't wait to get off the bike and into my run shoes.
I saw as I rolled over the 100-mile mark that a) I had had a pretty slow day but b) I was going to finish shy of seven hours, which was never a goal but it got me pumping through the last few miles into town. I managed to get my feet out of my bike shoes so I wouldn't have to run around in transition with them, and I don't even know where my bike went but suddenly I was off of it and it was gone.
Bike: 112 miles, 6:56:41
I grabbed my run bag and ran into the tent. There were 9-10 other women in there changing but I had my own volunteer. She stripped me of my arm warmers while I changed into my trusty run shorts - I decided long before race day that I would take the time to do this. When I lifted up my ponytail to let her spray me with sunscreen, I learned that my wet braid plus my aero helmet had chafed the shit out of the back of my head. I undid the braid and ponytail'd my hair, plunked my super sexy elite Punk Rock Racing visor on my head, stuffed my ziploc bag of nutrition into my top, grabbed my water bottle and headed out of transition.
One of the first people I saw was the poet. I headed over to the fence so I could hug him.
I don't know what I said, but I was feeling pretty happy, and I definitely remember telling him, "I'm going to go run for a little while." He shooed me away and just like that, I was off and running.
A little bit of reflection on the bike (you can ignore this part unless you are someone who super duper cares about the details i.e. me and maybe Sonja but probably not even her).
I have to send a big whopping thank you both to QR and Scott Geffre, because I never in my life imagined that I could be this comfortable on a bike for so long. I spent most of the ride down in aero and got off the bike without a cramp or a stitch or a sore spot or an ache. More importantly, I spent hours upon hours on the bike in the months leading up to the race without a problem. My QR is slick and fast and rides so well, my Cobb saddle holds my delicate parts just how I like to be held and Scott put my bike together in such a way that I never dread being on it, not even for a second.
I had two cups of hot tea race morning, which tasted delicious but certainly contributed to the peeing problem (tea is a diuretic). I also drank plenty of Powerade Zero, which I drink all the time in the morning pre-workout, but getting out of the swim into cool cloudy conditions, I simply think I was over-hydrated. I had no other symptoms other than a bursting bladder, and my nutrition was perfect on the bike (thank you, EFS and later on, Gu) but I'm so used to training in hot and humid weather that I never even thought to back off on the morning-of hydration because of the temperature. Garmin (always right above all things including the actual distance and shape of the earth) said that my moving average/time was 17.5mph, which had me spending over thirty minutes dealing with peeing and on and off the bike and all that crap (cue a picture of Sonja holding her head in her hands in despair). I don't like that I spent so much time of this leg dicking around, but I'm also not trying to excuse away my time. It is what it is and I stand by the decisions I made on race day. It will certainly make it easy to improve this time in the future, if nothing else.
I spent almost zero time looking at my watch. I was never afraid I would go too hard - I'm far more likely to err on the side of easy - and therefore rode based on effort, spending almost no time even close to my projected IM heart rate window. I don't regret it at all, because it was my first and I wanted to have a happy day and that meant going easy on the bike, but as I continue to race this distance, I'm sure that is one of the FIRST things that I will change moving forward. My average heart rate for the ride was 125, and it should have been at least 140 based on my plan. Again, no judgement, this is just how I decided to play out my day, but it paints a picture of the decisions I made. Sonja and I had a talked a few weeks before, and she told me that I needed to sit down and decide how hard I wanted to hurt, how important it would be for me to know that I emptied the barn on race day, where my lines were. And I decided that I want to enjoy every second, to smile through every mile, and to hell with the time on the clock. There will be a time in my life where I will want to ride the knife edge on the bike, to flirt with blowing up, to race with my heart in my mouth, and this was not the decision I made for Coeur d'Alene. But I can tell you, that day will come.