Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 3 - T1 and Bike

If you want to catch up on prior reading first check out
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 1 - Getting There
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 2 - Race Morning and Swim


T1 - Transition from swim to bike


I ran with my wetsuit over my arm through the transition area where a volunteer handed me my bike gear bag, then I ran over to the women's change tent.  I made sure to not go into the first door of the tent because that was the men's change tent.  I heard someone say to another  athlete in front of me, "you are in the wrong side ma'am!"

Funny?  THIS is the funny part...

I was greeted with "Would you like help?" to which I nodded tentatively with eyes wide.  I followed the volunteer to one of the dozens of chairs (mostly occupied) inside where she dispensed with formalities and said:

"DROP EVERYTHING!!!"

I obliged and was so grateful for her help because I was shaking so much and not thinking clearly.  My mind was racing by then.  Even after towelling off, my skin was so wet she had to yank my bike shorts up for me in the back and pull my Cookie Monster bike jersey over my wet sports bra.  She helped me pull on my socks and shoes and bike gloves and handed me my helmet and glasses.  I used my chamois cream and mouthwash.

She gathered all my discarded swim gear and packed it back into my bag, shepherding me out of the tent into the waiting arms of more gloved volunteers who slathered sunscreen on my exposed skin.

I ran to my bike, unracked it, ran out with it past the mount line, past some aero-helmeted boys who had already tangled up with each other and were falling over, to high-five my parents, clip in, stand up and power pedal off!

The Bike

The first bit of the bike course was full of cheering crowds along the turns in town, then the scenery was amazing along the Beeline highway among the Adobe clay and Saguaro cacti as we dotted the highway uphill toward Mount McDowell (aka Fire Rock or Red Mountain because of the beautiful colour).


I had checked the weather network app the day before the race and made a chart of the wind speed, direction and gusts, hourly from 9-5 for both Tempe (bike start and finish) and Fountain Hills (turn around destination) so I knew the wind would be about 20 km/h (12 mi/h) in the morning from the N, NE, or E and that it would die down in the afternoon on my final loop.  I also knew it would be gusting to more than that out in the open on the Beeline Highway.



There were so many comments from finishers about how hard it was to ride in the wind on the Beeline Highway.  There were crashes, ambulances, people fixing flat tires, dozens of water bottles, a couple of bottle cages and tubes strewn on the highway.  I counted my blessings and kept on pedalling.

On the first loop, I felt strong, pacing myself to not burn up on the way out / up into the wind and pedalled HARD downhill with the wind behind me to make up for lost time.  I passed lots of cyclists in aero helmets, beautiful matching kits, expensive red bikes, and disc wheels.  Maybe they were already on their second or third loops when I was fresh just starting out on my first loop. The male pros would yell out loud “LEFT!!!” and after that, I could just hear the zip-zip-zip of their disc wheels and move right out of their way.  Spectators and volunteers yelled out for Cookie Monster to GO GO GO and it was fun.


On the second loop at the turnaround, I had a portapotty stop while a volunteer refilled my water bottles for me with water.  I already could no longer tolerate my Carbo Pro and Ultima mix in my water bottles, though I had finished both of the premixed bottles I had with me.  I switched to water thinking I would need to be extra mindful of my caloric intake from other nutrition.  I took some gels from a volunteer and got two vanilla ones in a row.  I like vanilla, but not the Cliff vanilla gels.  I could no longer tolerate my gluten-free chocolate nut Cliff bars brought from home but luckily the light lemon wafer consistency of the gluten-free Luna bars I brought kept working for me. This is when I started taking the pink Himalayan salt I brought with me:  big crystals for the bike and small crystals for the run.  Gord and Hillary had told me it helps with gastric emptying when you feel full and nauseous.  They were right.  It also made me thirsty enough to remember to drink my water.


I realized then, that I had forgotten to start the bike tracking on my Apple watch so I unlocked it and attempted to push the add or pause button onscreen.  It was non-responsive.  I wiped my hand on my jersey in case it was too wet.  Nothing.  Three stabbing, jabbing, desperate tries.  Nope.  All done.

Every race or long run I have done that really mattered, my technology has failed me.  I was prepared for this.  I had made up a little chart of the cutoff times and worked backward to add in where I needed to be for each turnaround and loop end to make the cutoff times.  Somewhere on the second loop my watch completely died so I couldn't even tell the time of day.  My bike computer was working but I hadn't set the clock back and it only tracks moving time, not time spent in the portapotties so I didn't take it as gospel either.  I asked volunteers and spectators politely what time of day it was every half hour or so, then looked at the little chart I had made of the cutoff times and taped to my water bottle.



I could see that I was an hour and a half ahead of where I needed to be to make the cutoffs so that I would not be in danger of a DNF (did not finish).  My Luddite technology backup worked very well and gave me peace of mind enough about finishing the bike but I was unsure of how it would go on the run.


I debated stopping for my bike special needs bag but decided not to, thinking I would ride downhill and get it after the third hill.

On the third loop, I was really feeling the pain (in my neck, shoulders, arms, back, butt, legs).  I was thinking of that massage Sharon had promised me in T2 if only I could find and request her.  I couldn’t find the extra chamois cream I was sure I had tucked into my jersey pockets.  Gord caught up with me and told me how I was progressively looking less and less happy.

At that point, I looked down and saw it:  the pink and grey yarn Amy had tied to my handlebars during my Calgary 70.3 half this summer.  I told myself for the entire rest of the race “I GET to do this!” and it became my Ironman mantra.  Seven years in the making baby!  I learned to run 7 years ago, added biking in after taking a workshop to build my confidence to ride in traffic in the city, then learned to swim three years ago.  After a few 70.3 races as part of a relay team with friends, this was MY time to shine!

"She believed she could… and so she did."

At the turnaround, I called out my number: “295? … 295?” but was met with a flat “We’re closed” as volunteers packed up.  Hmmmmffffttttt!  I just kept going.  The decision had been made for me not to stop.

By then, my feet were so swollen that I had to loosen the strap on my cycling shoes and wiggle my toes while coasting downhill for a bit.  There were a lot less people on the bike course by then and I worried about my time but just kept going.  By the time I got back into town, I barely had any push left in my tush.  The streets felt deserted.  Lots of vendor stations and volunteers had already packed up or were in the middle of it.


Before long, I was in the bike finish chute, where a volunteer made a hand sign for me to slow down.  I did, and then when I realized the finish line was still quite a ways away, I pedalled a few more times, saw my parents and high-fived them, then dismounted.

I am now grateful for a solo ride during my training (my longest ever at 190Km) that wore me down to the point of stopping and crying.  That day on the ride East along Highway 22x from Calgary to Gleichan and back, the winds were gusting to 50km/hr, it was 29C and there was a lot of smoke in the air from the wildfires in BC that made my throat sore.  I had two bottles of water on my bike and my hydration backpack and I emptied it all.  I had DIY rice balls, gluten-free bars, chews/bloks, and gels with me and I got so nauseous I could not eat any more but I had to keep moving.  My Dad called me that day when I was 15 km away and Keith, Antje, Gord, Katie and Ken texted me.  I poured water on my face and got going with the thought in my mind that Keith had planted that if I could get through that ride, nothing race day could throw at me would get me down.  He was right.  I did that same route with just a little less distance two more times to practice before race day.


Ironman Arizona Series:
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 1 - Getting There
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 2 - Race Morning and Swim
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 3 - T1 and Bike
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 4 - T2 and Run
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 5 - Guest post by volunteer Sharon
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 6 - Finish Line & Beyond
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 7 - Guest post by coach Keith 
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 8 - IMAZ2017 epic trailer (1 min video)
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 9 - Ironman Arizona 2017 - Michelle's Day (6 min video)

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