Part 2 – As easy as riding a bike

So, I spent a little over 4 minutes in transition between swim and bike. A lot of that was simply getting from the exit of the river to my transition spot. With almost 2000 participants, the transition area was huge. In all the excitement I ran past my row and had to back track briefly, but I found my spot where I peeled off the wet suit, wiped off my dirty feet, put on a shirt, bike shoes and helmet and took off.

The bike route was really gorgeous. It was probably 75 degrees with low humidity and we road all around the periphery of Fairmount park in Philly on roads completely blocked to cars. There were 4 big hills spread out through the 12 mile course that we had to do twice. I knew the hills were there but I didn’t know how steep they were. To me, they were pretty steep. Some people even got off their bikes to walk. I didn’t stop on the hills but I did slow down significantly and got passed many times. The first hill was at about mile 1 and was scary because psychologically I didn’t like feeling that winded so early on. I decided to treat myself to a tangerine Powergel at the top of the hill (I taped two to the bike) .

If I could do anything different in my prep for this race it would’ve been to practice more hill climbs on the bike and maybe to ride the route before the race to be psychologically prepared. The second time I looped around the route was much better just because the route was now a “known quantity”. I recognized the hills and knew they would soon end. I also enjoyed the water bottle handoff at mile 14 and celebrated with another Powergel at that point as well. My second 12 mile loop was faster than the first. I passed Mom, Meg, Fletcher and Kristy and their boys on my second loop just outside the Art Museum fairly close to the Rocky statue. I had to yell at them to get them to see me but then they yelled, jumped and screamed and that was so encouraging for me. At the top of the last hill I passed Dave and Eden who were also great cheerleaders. Eden had made signs and was banging two “thunder fingers” together while screaming at me. I know they walked a few miles and spent a lot of boring minutes waiting and watching just for that brief moment to cheer and I was so grateful to see them. Dave asked me if that was the first or second loop because I was ahead of the time schedule I had predicted and I was so proud to say I was almost at the end of the bike route by then and still surviving.

I drank at least 2 full water bottles while on the bike, had two powergels, sang songs to myself and had conversations with several other cyclists who either passed me (more likely) or I passed. The team in training folks (who made up about 20% of the race participants) would always greet each other and cheer “go team!” and many times we would we talk for a bit longer. I traded lead places several times on the bike and run with two women from the SC chapter of TNT and we always exchanged encouraging words at every passing.

I ended the whole bike section in a little over an hour and a half averaging just under 16 mph. In comparing my split times to other participants the bike was definitely my worst leg but I was generally pleased. I didn’t even own a road bike until last March and I’m a very cautious cycler. I know I held back some simply because I was nervous about the sore hamstring (which I could feel a bit by now) and having nothing left for the run. I braked on the downhills because I’m paranoid about bike wrecks. I was so relieved not to have any mechanical problem. I did see several people changing flat tires and at one point I heard a loud noise like I ran over something hard. I held my breath and all was fine. I finished the 24 mile bike strong and smiling. My coach was there at the transition with encouraging words. I was more than half way through with the race and all that was left was the run, but first.. I had to find a port a potty!

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