The day was, as each of the four times I’ve stood on the line before, all about the run. Not the bike, and this mentality is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, there is the saying that falls out of the mouths of coaches and armchair triathlon quarterbacks all over the world: there is no such thing as a good bike and a bad run. Meaning, of course, that all bad runs are a product of riding too hard (or massive nutrition failure). Throughout my entire racing life as an athlete, I’ve had the start slow finish fast mentality absolutely bludgeoned into me, to the point where I am not sure if I will ever be able to get that governor off 90 minutes into a 12+ hour race. But on the other hand, I think that my desire to protect the run has led me to pretty severely undercook the bike. And (spoiler), I did it again in Arizona, but as I’ve let the race wash over me in the last week, I am just fine with it. I think it’s because until I got the ugly monkey of the 5+ hour marathon off my back, there was just no way in hell I was going to be able to talk myself into riding uncomfortably hard, out of my comfort zone, harder than I had ridden ever before. If (or when) I decide to tackle this distance again, I know that will be one of my goals of making the next steps at success in this race. But, for a lot of reasons, that is still a pretty big IF right now and a story, as they say, for another time.
I headed out and up the Beeline. I had been warned about how crowded the course could be on the first two laps, and I was surprised to find myself riding in a pocket of very little traffic. I was surrounded by riders but it was not difficult to pass and be passed, to ride clean, even coming through the second lap and into the third where I was lapping other riders. I did see quite a bit of drafting heading the other direction as I worked through all the outs and backs, and occasionally I was passed by a clump of people working together (and shook my tiny little mental fist at them angrily for a split second, especially in the instance where I recognized a pair of riders) but for the most part I had clear road to ride. (The unhappiest face).
I rode out conservatively, trying to stay near the bottom of the rough window of power that was my goal. The wind wasn’t bad the first lap, certainly no worse than anything I’ve ridden or raced in before, but enough that by the time I got to the turn-around the first time, I already starting to feel worn down. The tailwind was lovely the first few miles heading back to town, and then softened off a bit, I didn’t even bother trying to keep my power up but instead ate ate ate and drank drank drank my way the whole way back. As soon as I made the turn, I noticed I had to pee. I have had a 0% success rate with ever peeing on the bike but I swore this race I would try, and I did. I tried every trick I have ever been told, and nothing worked, and I got increasingly more uncomfortable and annoyed. Finally, when it was time to make the right-left-right-left-right that meant the loop was almost over, I pulled over at an empty line of porta potties, dashed in, and emptied my bulging bladder. I knew that I was about to head back out to the wind and there was no way I had enough energy to try to pee AND fight the wind. I don’t know how long this stop cost me but I guess it was under two minutes, and I reluctantly made two more of them in laps two and three (thanks, PreLoad & Active, you’re a star).
It goes without saying at this point that the wind was much tougher the second lap and exponentially worse on the third. I flipped around in town at 1:54 for the first lap, 4:06 for the second and 6:20 was my final bike time, and that is a pretty good summary of how conditions deteriorated over the day. On the second lap I managed to stay in aero all the way up and out but on the third lap I kept popping up for a few minutes here and there. I’m not sure if the exhaustion was more mental or physical, but the result was that this is one of the harder rides I've made in a race. At some point I gave up watching power and simply focused on maintaining as consistent an effort as I could without getting frustrated or pissed off. On the third lap, the wind was bad enough that I didn’t get a lot of calories or fluid down on the way out, I could tell that I was bonking but it was further down the priority list than let's keep the bike upright and out of the ditch please. As soon as I made the turn, I took a few minutes to put down about as many salty balls as I could stand and get down two bottles of OSMO, in the hopes that they would digest and absorb in the 40-50 minutes I had left on the bike, or at least pull me out of the hole.
Nutrition: 5 salty balls, 4 stinger waffles and 7 bottles of OSMO. 1340 kcal and 162oz of OSMO for 212 kcal/hour and 26 oz/hour.
Bike: 112 Miles, 6:20:06
After seeing my bike split, I was in no hurry through transition and made a quick potty stop (total potty count on the day so far: five) before going into the changing tent. Immediately a very nice volunteer was dumping my bag out on the ground for me. I took off my sunglasses and helmet and my eyes felt like they had been sandblasted and I was still gasping when I said to her, That was so hard. That ride was so hard. She was really nice, I begged for chapstick because the blasting wind meant that everything under my eyeballs was chapped to hell from 6+ hours of dripping and blowing snot with no sleeve to wipe it on, and she found me a big stick of Vaseline which I spread over the entire bottom half of my face and then blurted out, I am pretty sure you just saved my marathon with lube. I took time to make sure I got my socks on the correct feet (dammit Feetures), consolidated all my little bags of nutrition and pills and bottles, considered and rejected changing into the run shorts I had stashed in the bag, got everything on and facing the right direction and jogged on out of the tent and into the sunshine with the hugest happiest smile plastered across my face.