"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."
- John F. Kennedy
As I exited the change tent there was a light rain falling. The grass felt slippery beneath my feet and there was a slight chill in the air. Since my swim is a rather common time, the volunteers were too overwhelmed to get my bike for me, but luckily I was racked just outside the tent so it was no bother. You spend all this time in training fretting about race day whether, especially the first time around. I had barely checked the forecast prior to the race because when the moment comes, you deal with whatever Mother Nature sends your way and it's never as bad as you imagined it to be. The conditions didn't phase me, but they did plant a seed of caution in my brain - sailing down the Keene descent on wet roads would be interesting.
As I settled in and felt the wind on my wet skin I was happy to have my makeshift tube sock arm warmers (highly recommended for cheap, disposable warmth) and aside from the fog and rain build-up on the glasses, was feeling pretty good. There were huge crowds on the course heading out of town, but it soon became quiet. Just the other cyclists and the stunning Adirondack views. It's one of my favorite places on Earth.
I waited about 10 minutes to start fueling to let the system settle from the swim. It works well for me. I wanted to get a fair amount of fluid and one gel into me before the Keene descent arrived because I knew once I rolled over that hill the last thing I'd want to do was reach for a bottle. Despite the rain and road debris pelting my face the downhill wasn't that bad. I passed tons of cyclists even though my max speed was only 37.7 mph. I think folks must have been erring on the conservative side due to the weather. A race photographer pulled up on a motorcycle during one of the more gentle parts of the descent and wouldn't you know it, I found myself posing a bit even though I was desperately trying to keep a steady line and stay upright. Vanity. But in a flash the rain had stopped and the descent was over, dropping me onto my favorite part of the course - the fast, flat ride on 9N from Keene to Upper Jay.
It was around this time I approached a tandem bike with a visually impaired athlete. It only took a moment to recognize him. It was Charlie Plaskon, the 67-year-old grandfather I first saw in the 2007 Kona broadcast. I've always found him incredibly inspiring so it was an honor to share part of the Ironman experience with him. We played leap frog up and down the hills for nearly 50 miles before going our separate ways. It's the little moments like these that make the hours and hours melt away.
I stopped for a nanosecond at special needs and opted only for a sunscreen reapplication and my gel flask replacement. I had spent 20 miles contemplating changing into dry socks but decided to keep moving instead. I would later regret this decision a little. My feet were soaked from the rain and remained soaked the entire ride. They started to feel like bricks toward the end and I couldn't wait to peel the wet socks off. It was uncomfortable, but tolerable. So many things about Ironman are uncomfortable.
I felt strong during the second loop and was especially proud of how I tackled the climbing. I could feel my time in Italy paying off as I passed other athletes on hills I would normally take much more slowly. A woman even commented as I zipped past on 86 that she wished she could climb as well. I am nowhere near the ability of many and have a long way to go, but I've come a long way already.
As I made my way up the Three Bears and final miles on the course, my mind wandered to the marathon. What was in store for me? I really had no idea what to expect. Five hours? Six hours? It was a complete mystery. All I knew for sure was that I had paced the bike well and my legs felt good. I was ready.
Time - 7:06:06
As I approached the dismount line I heard Mark cheering for me and was beyond surprised. I had no idea he would be there and it filled me with a sense of joy that came with a jolt of energy. I was a little too surprised and gleefully dismounted short of the line. Oops. I had to hobble over before officially getting off my bike. I blew a kiss and started heading to the gear bags, but only made it a few steps before I had to strip off my shoes. My poor feet were so brutalized from the 7 hours of soaking that I could barely walk let alone run so it was a slow journey to the change tent. Removal of the socks revealed pruned up, pure white feet. As I slathered them with Body Glide my volunteer looked horrified. I can't tell you how heavenly my dry socks felt. The shoes only made them feel better. As I cruised out of the tent I felt incredible - my legs were fresh, my feet were happy and I was excited to tackle the marathon.
Time - 7:39
Up next... the run.