27 Sep

The Big Day: The Bike

There’s less to say about the bike, I swear.

I was a little slow getting my clothes on in the transition, but I eventually got suited up, checked my pockets for food, and took off. After a couple steps, though, I decided maybe I should take the long sleeve shirt I had stuffed back in the transition bag. I figured I could tie it around my waist if I got too hot. So I walked back to my bag, pulled out the shirt, and put it on as I started running out to the bike. Best move of the day.

It felt great to be on the bike. What with the adreneline and all, I had no problem getting up to speed once the roads straightened out. I passed hundreds of people in the first 10 -15 miles; by the time I got to Verona, my average speed was 20.7 mph, which is too damned fast when you’ve got another 100 miles and a marathon to complete. I tried to settle into a more reasonable pace, but I had some problems.

See, 18 mph would have been reasonable. It would have felt a little slow, but it would have allowed me to conserve energy for the second of the two 40-mile loops you have to complete before heading back to Madison from Verona. But there were all these other people going 19-20 mph, and I could keep up with them, so I had to.

(Does that make sense? “I could so I had to”? It should really be the slogan of the Ironman. It’s really what it’s all about. I mean, people don’t do this stuff for fun.)

Soon after departing Verona for the second loop, I was starting to feel a bit tired. I remembered something one of the guys in my summer swim class had told me: “the 80-mile mark on the bike is, time-wise, the half-way point of the race.” That’s when you want to feel like you’re just starting to kick it up a gear. I was at the 60-mile mark. I simply couldn’t keep up the 19.7-mph I had averaged by that point in the race.

I still sped up the hills, which, I discovered, are my strength on the bike. I never got passed on a hill. On a few of them– the ones lined with spectators — I felt like a real bad-ass as I got up out of the saddle and dropped my competitors like Lance on the Alpe d’Huez.

But on the flats and downhills, I was trying to conserve my energy.

As I came into Verona for the last time, my back tire almost lost traction. And as I was whizzing by the neon orange “Perfect Storm” signs on Main street, I could feel the road a little too well. At the next turn, which I took slowly, I pulled over and checked my rear tire. It was way low. I’m guessing about 60 psi, which is basically half-full.

I could have stopped, replaced it and went on, but I knew I would have lost ten minutes in doing so, and there’s always the risk that the offending particle — whatever it was that caused the flat — would escape my notice and remain in the tire. I also could have just pumped up the tire without replacing it, but I only had one CO2 cartridge (stupidly), so if the tire lost air after wasting my only cartridge, I would have been in real trouble.

So I decided to keep riding. The flat would slow me down, but it wasn’t bottoming out, so I wasn’t doing damage to my wheel. And besides, I probably needed to slow down. After all, I had a marathon yet to run.

I took turns very slowly, and I made sure to get out of the saddle and lean forward whenever I went over bumps. Somehow, the tire remained inflated just enough to get me the 15 miles back to Madison. My average speed had come down significantly, but the forced rest may have helped me in the long run.

Ha. Get it? The long run?

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