Team “This was her idea” completed the Beach 2 Battleship 140.6 on Saturday. I did the 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike, while my husband ran the 26.2 miles to the finish.
Four score and seven years ago…ha, just kidding. My alarm rang at a bright (it was actually really dark) and early 4:00 am on Saturday. I had a list of things I needed to get done before my sister picked me up at 5:15 and took me to T1, where I would drop off the special needs bags, T1 bag, and got my bike all pumped and ready to go.
The time flew, and it was time to head to the swim start via trolley. I was lucky to find my friend, Alisha, who I’ve ridden bikes with and was doing the full 140.6 on her own. And spoiler alert, she finished in a screaming fast time of 12:45! When we got to the start, we came upon several others we knew, so it was so nice to have company while we waited.
I’m so tired of peanut butter. It’s definitely my go-to sandwich topping and I normally eat two pieces of bread with peanut butter before long bike rides. Not Saturday. I hate a BUNCH of small pancakes before I left home, then some Clif Shot Blocks and an Uncrustable at the swim start, probably 20-30 minutes out. My nerves never really hit, even as we made our way to the start line, during the National Anthem, prayer, and as the countdown began with “Lose Yourself” playing in the background. It was windy, and I was nervous about that part, but I was ready to go. I couldn’t believe what 750ish people all ready to swim 2.4 miles looked like. That was a LOT of people to swim with.
After the horn sounded to start, I let many people start and walked across the sand into the water, jogged, then dove in. The sound of so many arms and legs working through the water was cool. We would be swimming down Banks Channel for quite a while, then hang a left into Motts Channel, a right, then head to the finish. I knew the current was strongest in the middle of the channel, and I tried to get to the middle as soon as I could. When I was, I noticed we were flying. The swim was going to be fast. That’s when my head started hurting. Damn. I bet my goggles were too tight. Well, nothing I could do but finish the swim and let the headache go away, as it always did. But first, I needed to experience typical “mass start” swim inconveniences, such as getting kicked in the face by a moron who was cutting across all the other swimmers, probably because he wasn’t sighting. I called him a name, readjusted my goggles, then went back to it. In the meantime, I was kicked, hit, and had others hit my legs and feet while swimming. Nothing major though. Good. I needed to know what that felt like, because I know for sure that Florida is going to be about ten times worse, or more. I stopped several times from a strange sort of bottleneck that emerged where two people were blocking me and I felt it would take more energy to go around them than just keep going and let itself sort out. Soon, we passed by the half start. Then I saw the turn buoy, and it was coming fast. As soon as I passed the orange triangle, I took a left and angled a little left of center since I knew the current would bring me right. Once we got into Mott’s Channel, we flew along again, and the navigation marker pole came up so fast, I think someone actually ran into it. I aimed towards the finish ladders, and was soon there, but stopped kicking to pee 🙂 Twelve years later, I was ready to get out. My friend, Stacey, was working the medical tent at the swim finish and I was so happy to hear her cheer for me as I got out of the water. One thing that made me surprised and happy was that there were tons of people left in the water. For someone who freaks out about being last all the time in group swims, I was just thrilled to be in the main crowd of people. Whew!!! Swim time: 1:05.02 (my normal 2.4ish mile swim is 90 minutes, so that’s how fast the current was).
Two words: Wetsuit Strippers. Then we went through warm showers to get as much as the salt water off our bodies as we could and headed for a little jog to T1. I heard my name called out so many times, I saw my sister, and it made me so happy. Do crowds really know how amazing they make athletes feel? I felt like a rock star as I ran with my wetsuit slung over my arm, dripping wet, and grimacing from the pavement hurting my feet. I grabbed my bag and went into the tent, changed my clothes, put on arm warmers, applied sunscreen and chapstick, said hi to my friend Rebecca, and got ready to bike. I put food in my bag, but I had no time for that and wasn’t hungry. Damn. I had to pee again. But I had already started towards my bike, so figured I could wait until the aid station at mile 21 to go. I found my bike and was headed out for a nice 112 mile ride. I went to turn my watch on, and damn. Battery dead. Oh well, I had my bike computer to go by. T1 time: 9:26
Bike traffic was tricky for several miles. I didn’t want to get a penalty, but I didn’t know how to handle the bottleneck since everyone was pretty much drafting. The vehicle traffic was not blocked off, so it was weird and I wasn’t sure what lane the bikes could be in without getting run over. Hmmmm. Ok, I just followed the people in front of me. Finally, several miles (or what felt like it), the bikes thinned out and we headed out on I-140. We had a good tail/cross wind, so my speed was good. Honestly, wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt good and strong. I did my best to stay back and be sure I could pass the person in front of me before any attempt, and I did a lot of passing. I got passed quite a bit too, but I didn’t care. That meant I beat them on the swim, so I soaked up that feeling while I could! I came upon a few girls chatting side by side, so finally, after a guy tried to pass on the left and hit rumble strips that made his water bottles fall off his bike, I yelled at them to move over and stop blocking. I could have done that in a nicer way, but really, how rude. It’s not like they couldn’t see all the bikes piling up behind them. Another irritating thing was that my headache hadn’t gone away. In fact, I had a raging headache at this point, and no ibuprofen.
Another interesting thing I noticed during this early part of the ride is the “violation police” on a motorcycle going by marking people’s number down for rules violations. They were out in force. The last thing I wanted was a time penalty, so I did my best to not violate the rules, but with the bottleneck, I didn’t know how to actually follow the rules. Something to talk to coach about for sure.
The miles clicked by, and I wish I could have found my “zone”, but I couldn’t since we were using the left lane of an interstate and the right part of our lane was coned off with cars zipping by at 60-70 mph in the right lane. One wrong move, you hit a cone, and bam. Done. When I saw the very large bridge come into view, I knew we were at mile 20 and the bathroom was coming up. Thank goodness because I sure had to pee! I refilled some of my eFuel, went to the jon, and was on my way again. Right into the wind. I’m not sure what the wind speed was, but I felt like we had a straight head wind of at least 10 mph. Someone said it was maybe 15, but I don’t know for sure, but it wasn’t a “light breeze” by any means. I put my head down and pedaled. And pedaled and pedaled. I sometimes get random songs in my head when I bike. I can’t remember the name of the song, and it’s not one of my favorites by any means, but all I know is that part of the lyrics have “when the wind blows”, which I thought was appropriate for the situation.
I am familiar with this route, so I knew of some landmarks along the way. I’m not positive of the speed I was going, but I wasn’t pushing too hard. My legs ALWAYS feel tired when I start out on a bike ride, and they were feeling it at this point. I think we were into the wind for 30 miles? Not sure, but we turned left, where I thought we would find relief from the wind, only to find very minimal relief. Damn. All I know is that I didn’t want it to switch around so we would have a head wind on our way back!
I thought I saw on the map that our special needs was at mile 51 or 53. We passed 53 with no special needs, and I wondered if I missed it? What happened? I didn’t understand, and I was thinking of the Coke I had in there and was anxious to drink it. Along this ride, I learned that I like to eat on the bike. I’d never really done that in training, and I’m not certain why, but I was like a biking food truck. I pulled things out of my bag, put them in the pocket in my bike shirt, and would eat a little here and a little there. Energy beans and shot blocks was what I had first, then I remembered I had some baby yellow potatoes. I dug them out and slowly ate them. Delish! Thanks for the idea, Angela!!
Finally, I saw a commotion ahead and came upon special needs at mile 58. One of the volunteers brought me my bag, and lo and behold, it was a friend of mine, Michelle. That was so cool! Another friend yelled hi to me. So awesome! I was half way through the bike and tired from pushing into the wind so long, PLUS my headache still hadn’t gone away, so I was sort of out of it. I didn’t want to eat the sandwiches I packed to practice with, so that’s one thing learned. I grabbed my Uncrustable, more shot blocks and beans, noticed the line to the bathroom was too long, and headed on my way. A mile or so later, I realized I didn’t even see or think about my Coke in the bag. Damn!!!
We had some tail wind mixed with head wind and side wind the next several miles. My headache was pounding, so over every bump, it radiated up to the top of my head. Oh, it hurt so bad and I could do nothing about it. Mental training was all I could think. A few miles up the road, I passed a biker holding his bloody face while the EMT’s helped him. I said a little prayer for him – that’s nothing anyone wants to see, ever, but especially on someone’s race day. I found out later he was ok and wants to do the race next year, but has no recollection of what happened and why he crashed.
Between mile 70 and 80, I struggled. The road was rough, so every big bump we went over, it felt like someone was stabbing me in the head. I know this is a tough part of the bike anyway, so I let myself cry. Then I sucked it up and carried on, stopping to pee and to get water somewhere along in there. Four stops was all I was going to allow myself.
With about 20 miles to go, I was on a smooth road and the miles clicked off. My legs felt strong, so I started to push a little more. With 12-13 miles to go, we turned south, and had the most amazing reward in the form of a tail wind. I headed towards my finish line, where I would hand off my timing chip to my husband and be done racing for the day. I pushed, I passed, I reveled in our delicious tail wind that was helping me maintain speeds of 21-22 mph. I had my cell phone in my bike bag just so my husband could track me to know when to be in the relay exchange zone (yes, I know I’m not supposed to have a phone, but I didn’t touch it during the race, only having it with me for tracking purposes). He noticed I was coming to the finish pretty fast and got ready to run.
When I headed over the big bridge that takes us to downtown, I got emotional. I did it. My longest bike ride to date, and it was a good one, despite the wind. I had no idea the time, no clue to my average speed, but I learned a LOT, and I had a great experience along the way. Two support crews stuck out in my head – a group of girls dressed as Wonder Woman were following someone, but always had cheers for other racers. There was a HUGE group of people dressed in blue t-shirts out supporting their person at many points. Wow. Those people were amazing to see, the amount of support they provided their person, and they also helped me too. I couldn’t imagine that kind of support!
I rode into the transition, gave my bike to a volunteer, and quickly found my husband waiting for me. I quick gave him a kiss and the timing chip, and he was on his way. I laid down because my head was pounding, and knew I needed to get something for it before I did anything else. The exchange zone volunteer asked if I needed anything, and actually went and got me some medicine so I didn’t have to get up, even when I told her I could go get it when I got some food. The meds came with a medical person who had to clear me before he would give me anything, which is cool and annoying at the same time, but I got my Tylenol and within minutes, my headache cleared. Bike Time: 6:25:27. Crazy fast for me!!!
Wow. I did it. 2/3 of an iron distance on my own. It wasn’t easy, but was filled with a sense of relief for the things I learned along the way and of pride and of confidence for Florida, three short weeks from that very day. I went to the finish line to see if they would let me have food, only to find tons of people I knew, including my coach. I chatted with her for a bit, grabbed some grub, and headed back to get my bike, change clothes, and watch my husband as he ran his race. Things took a lot longer than I planned, but along the way, I noticed that I felt really good. My legs didn’t even feel very tired, and I knew at that point, I got my nutrition and effort level right on my training ride. I knew I could run after that and that I would be super tired (who isn’t?), but that it was doable.
I’ll leave the rest of the details out since this is long enough, but I knew people about three miles from the finish who were watching for my husband. They alerted me when he was on his way back, so I was ready and waiting for him at the finish to cross that line with him. He wasn’t having a great race and didn’t feel great, but he did an amazing job, and we finished the 140.6 together.
B2B Iron Distance Relay Time: 12:09:57