I rode out of transition and realized that my Garmin was off. When it loaded up, I caught a glimpse of the time of day and it was 7:54. That made me laugh, I figured my swim time had been somewhere around 50 minutes, what a great way to start the day.
Because of the fast swim, athletes were far less spread out getting onto the bike than they usually are, and getting out onto the course wasn't even a "draft fest" as much as there was nowhere to go, no matter how slowly you rode or sat back. I made sure not to get swept up onto any wheels blatantly, but the first two miles were very crowded. A large pack swallowed me up at one point, and I immediately sat up to make sure I wasn't on a wheel. An official was nearby, and as soon as I sat up, he pointed at me and said something long in Spanish that I didn't understand. I said what? and he pulled out his iPhone, took a picture of my helmet and told me YOU STOP and then rode away. He didn't show me a red or yellow card so I wasn't sure what happened, but I figured I had gotten nailed for drafting. I spent about two minutes being pretty pissed off, and then told myself out loud, it happened, you can't do anything about it, just let it go. I stopped at the next penalty tent and explained what happened, and the official there didn't speak much English but after writing down my number he told me to go, so I went. A few days after the race, I was reading through all the penalties and rules and realized that he had snapped me for not wearing my race number on a race belt. Someone had said to me before the race that we didn't need race belts on the bike, and I hadn't double-checked that fact with the race guide. So, my fault, I should have checked, but better that then a bogus drafting call! (Get used to this face, I'm chewing in most of my bike photos)
I had some situations going on this fall which meant I didn't feel as prepared for the bike leg as I have felt going into past races. Maybe a lot of that was in my head, maybe a little bit in my legs, but the great thing about the bike is that I knew that all I had to do was stay within "my numbers" that my tiny Garmin was showing me. If I did that, I wasn't going to blow up and I would eventually roll into T2 just fine. So I had no time or pace or any kind of ideas about the day. I focused on keeping all those numbers in the right place, laid down in aero and rode. The first 15ish miles we had a gentle tailwind going on, which meant my heart rate was running a bit low, but I knew that the winds would yank it up on the back side of the island. I went through 20 miles at one hour on the nail (not chewing but apparently I got chain grease on my leg in T1 and rode around with it all day, sigh).
Soon after that we swung around the bottom of the island, where there was no bushy protection from the water and the winds were fierce. Everything went up except for speed, which dropped like a rock. I stayed in aero, drank when I could, and tried not to think about pushing through this section twice more. It was a relief to ride over the split mat and make the left turn back towards town (more chewing).
Other athletes with experience doing the race had predicted a strong tailwind coming across the island, but the winds were coming from the north so I didn't feel like we lucked into it there on race day. It was lovely to be out of the headwind. Pockets of spectators started popping up, and I was surprised to make the left-right-left set of turns that brought me back into town. I knew that how good I was feeling wasn't going to last forever, but it was nice to finish the first loop and still feel fantastic. My legs felt snappy, my nutrition was going down just fine, my brain was happy, and I got to see the poet and Allison and give them shakas and thumbs-up before heading out for loop two (yup, eating some more).
We caught a little bit more tailwind heading south and out of town. I kept my eye on my numbers and my bottles and tried to draw in the energy from the spectators and store it up for the windy section on the back side. I wasn't watching overall time too closely, but I did flip over at 56 miles to stamp in my brain the time, 2:57 (huh). There was an aide station right before the turn, and I slowed to grab a bottle of cold water to dump all over me, got some nutrition down, and then settled into the wind.
It wasn't bad crazy gusty wind, it was steady, loud and slow. A few times I got passed by long pacelines of riders literally wheel-to-wheel, and thought to myself where are the officials now, but mostly through this section I just put my head down and rode. I kept an eye on the time when we started the wind, and noted that it took about 50 minutes to fight through before the turn back towards town. It was a relief to stop at special needs and swap out my bottles, eat a bar, and collect myself for a second before pedaling away.
I got some energy back once we headed back towards town. It was quiet, we were coming up on four hours of riding and I was happy that I wasn't hurting yet, but everyone was retreating into their own races. I split 70 miles before we went by T2 and realized that if I rode the third loop hard, steady but hard, I might be able to sneak off the bike under six hours. That was the thought I needed to keep me motivated heading back out for the third time, so I waved at the poet and Allison happily and then tucked back down into the work.
I had just beeped through 80 miles when I head a ffft ffft ffft ffft sound coming from my bike somewhere. I was coming up near the end of the "gentle tailwind with all the bushes" section of the loop, so I sat up and slowed and tried to look my bike over without getting off. I couldn't see anything, so I got back in aero and thought for a few minutes. If it was something caught in a spoke, it wouldn't hurt me to keep riding, but if my brake was rubbing (I could hear it coming from my rear wheel, this is the brake that likes to rub for no reason every so often), I was going to have a tough time in the wind. I finally decided to pull over and check it out. I threw my hand up so riders behind me would see that I was slowing, pulled over well to the right of the dotted white line, and dismounted. I leaned over my rear wheel and then I was flying through the air.
It was loud. That's the thing I keep remembering, the sound of someone hitting my body dead-on with their bicycle at probably 25+mph, it's loud. It was the loudest WHAM I have ever heard. And then I was sitting up, my bike was four feet away, and I was looking at a pool of blood on the ground.
The guy who hit me was kind. He immediately apologized and blamed himself (yes) because he had been refilling a bottle and not paying attention and swerved off the road into me. Most of the blood was coming from my right arm, which had been hit and then dragged across the pavement, along with my right shoulder and my ass. Someone else stopped right away and gave me a bottle of water, and I used it to clean myself off a bit. I didn't realize at the time that I had wiped both my face and my leg with a bloody hand, but it explained the panicked looks of the medics I saw a few minutes later AND the big handprint on my shorts for the rest of the day. The other riders rode off, and I asked them to send a medic back to check on me if they saw one. After they rode off, I pulled myself together, looked over my bike, and then remembered that there was an aide station just a few miles up. I decided to ride there instead of waiting on the side of the road.
I had only ridden a few minutes when I saw a medic ambulance coming towards me. They looked startled to see me (bloody face), but helped me get cleaned up. The big concern that they had was my upper arm. It looked pretty mangled and neither of the medics spoke English unfortunately (this is the last time I go to a foreign country to race without learning more of the native language, totally my bad here), but one of them said very clearly to me, broken.
We gestured and talked for a minute. They wanted me to pull the plug, to get in the wagon and call it a day. I wanted to keep riding, and after a few minutes, they let me go. I know that in the rules, they can override your decision and pull you if it's unsafe to continue, and while they were reluctant to let me keep riding, they did let me go, complete with instructions to check in at medical throughout the rest of the day.
I got back on the bike.
(Picture from earlier in the day, obviously) The bottom of my elbow/top of my forearm was pretty destroyed, so I couldn't get back into aero. I tried to get down a lot of nutrition to help my body deal with everything, which was the only thing that I could think of doing before heading back into the wind. And it was cruel. I hunkered down the best I could under the wind and and tried to keep my head from giving in. When I was standing on the side of the road, letting the medics clean me out with all their bottles of stinging stuff, I looked back at all the cyclists riding up to and past me while I stood there, and I had a moment, just a moment, where my eyes tried to well up, where my stomach sank at what had happened to my day. And then I decided, no. I said, out loud to myself, Yes. That happened. It happened and it sucks and it hurts and it's going to keep right on hurting. But now, you are here. What are you going to do? And somehow, just like that, I let it all go.
I was worried that I was going to see the poet before I got back to T2 and freak him out. I was still looking for him when suddenly I was at the line, it was too fast, I couldn't get out of my shoes and someone took my bike and then I was running into the changing tent. A volunteer came over to help me but I said, no thank you, and went to a small corner. I didn't want to get pulled in T2. I wanted to start the run, at the very least. That was all that was in my head. I wanted to start, I wanted to see what would happen. I didn't want my day to be over, not yet, I wasn't ready to give up, to give in.
Bike: 112 miles, 6:35:13
I got all my run stuff on, dropped off my bag, and headed out. There was a portapotty right outside of the door, and I stopped to pee. The poet and I had talked before the race, it seems that what always happens is that he is cheering and yelling for me while I'm trying to tell him something, so I had asked him that if he saw me, to wait and give me a chance to say something, and then he could go back to being the loudest and most enthusiastic spectator on the planet. When I jogged out of T2, he was waiting at the fence. I went straight to him and he knew something was wrong. I needed to tell him, to tell someone, to release it, to get it out of me, and I said, Look. I was involved in a bike crash. I don't want you to tell anyone. There is a small chance my arm is broken but otherwise I am fine. I want to start the run. Please don't tell anyone. And I can still hear his voice, he said, Are you sure you want to do this? I thought for a second, really thought about it, and then said, Yes.