With the dock start, the Louisville swim is already less chaotic than most swim starts, but because of the changed start of the swim they were only having us jump off one dock, so the swim was anything but congested. I was confused by the buoys though, I saw a red one to the right, and started to swim towards it, but before I knew it, it looked like a boat was towing it away because it was moving away from me and the other swimmers around me very quickly. Hmm. Ok. Well, I’ll just keep swimming. I noticed the other yellow buoys to the right kept getting what I thought was pulled from the course also, because as soon as I got close to them, they were gone. The current was that strong and it had me super confused! Finally, after what didn’t feel very long, because it wasn’t, I saw the final red buoy down far and a little to the left, and kayakers around me were shouting ‘Go Left! Go Left’ and I just kept thinking, we have a while, why are they telling us to cut in so early? However within probably a few seconds I realized how fast we were going and how quickly we were approaching the buoys. I had to swim HARD to cut to the left and just made it inside the red buoy. Yikes. From there we were sheltered a bit from the current and were able to reach the stairs and have the volunteers grab our arms/hands and help pull us out. Phew! When I looked at my watch I laughed, seeing 15:xx. The number meant nothing to me because it was a shortered swim and heavily current assisted one at that! Oh well, I survived the swim, now on to the bike! Side Note: we were supposed to go around the very first red buoy but because of the current I don’t think many, if any, age groupers made it around, as the pros even struggled to get around it before the current kept pulling them away. It turns out that the swim was kind of a cluster in general, between most missing the first red buoys, but even more, a lot missing the last red buoys (not cutting in time) and getting swept past the exit, so they had a NET catching people. I didn’t witness anyone getting help from the net, but there were definitely people that needed it!
Swim Time: 15:58
Once out of the water I ran over to the wetsuit strippers to get my wetsuit stripped, and then jogged into the women’s change tent. It was CROWDED. I was kind of bummed because I thought I was early enough in the swim to beat the congestion in the change tent but because most everyone had a time between 15-17 minutes, it got congested fast. I found an empty chair and dumped out my bag. While putting on my tri top a volunteer helped arrange my gear so I could put it on faster. Next, I put on the ‘vest’, then my 3/4 top, arm warmers, socks, shoes (I skipped the toe warmers thinking it was overkill, I was wrong), and both pairs of bike gloves (skipped the latex gloves in between also thinking that was overkill, but I stuffed them in my bike shorts just in case…so glad I did). Off I ran to my bike while fussing with my arm warmers that had fallen down (why I didn’t put them on UNDER my 3/4 top is beyond me. Lesson learned), and finally I was off!
Off on the bike I went and boy was I wet! I was assessing how I was doing while also being excited that I was on the bike- the part I had been working really hard on, the part I rode pretty darn fast during my training ride several months earlier. As long as I didn’t have any crazy mechanicals, things should be good and PR was within a very reasonable reach. On I rode, feeling ok, passing more people than those who passed me, and distracting myself by seeing everyone’s wardrobe choice. There were a few people in just tri kits and I was shocked, were they freezing?! I hit the first aid station at around an hour, due to my concern about whether my gloves would have trouble gripping the bottles (ugggh nothing new on race day…I know), so even though I didn’t need water, I grabbed a bottle to test it out to see how the rest of the ride would go. It went well! Hooray! On I rode happy that things were looking good. Next during a flat stretch I grabbed my Infinit on my downtube to take a drink but my gloves, which were really stretchy and maybe a tad too big, wrapped around the nozzle so I couldn’t move the bottle around in my hand to drink without possibly dropping it. I put it back in the holder and tried again, but the same darn thing happened. These stupid F’ing gloves. I should have stuck with the cheap $3 stretchy ones that were more fitted. Grr. Eventually after the third try I dropped the bottle and it went rolling across the road. Since that was my nutrition for three hours, I pulled over, ran across the road to retrieve the bottle, and got back on my bike. Sigh. On I went. Then about 90 minutes into the ride, when I was hitting some of the downhills I started to feel the cold. I started to get really cold and began shivering. I also realized that while I could grab the brakes, my hands were so cold and stiff I couldn’t shift gears very easily, oh boy. After more shivering and my panic increasing about the shifting, the first round of tears happened. I was wet, freezing, couldn’t drink my nutrition, couldn’t shift well…. AND it was less than 30 miles into the ride. Mofo. ‘This is not what I signed up for!’ I thought (ok, so, no one had), and my brain went wild… the phrase ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination’, came into my head and I thought, ‘ok, so what if I drop from the race? I had a great journey! I am fit which I am thrilled about, I just won’t get to test it today because I should drop out because this is miserable and also kind dangerous due to the inability to use my hands’. On the thoughts went.
I finally got to the second aid station and pulled over right away. Two thoughts went through my head: 1. Fix my gear 2. Decide if I should call Jimmy to let him know I was dropping and also call my parents to tell them to turn around (they were in transit to get to Louisville to see me race. Yes, turn around on the highway. I was serious.). I spent for forever trying to get my arm warmers up and under my aero top to keep them in place for the rest of the ride (lesson learned, UNDER not OVER). Next I pulled out my latex gloves stuffed in the back of my shorts hoping that they would help solve my cold hand problem (I had no other options anyways). It took two people to help me get them on my hands/fingers because they were that frozen and useless. Such a weird feeling and SO frustrating. I wanted to cry while they were helping because if I couldn’t even put gloves on, what business did I have being out on a course with over a thousand other riders? I was scared but decided I wouldn’t make any phone calls just yet, and I would just focus on getting to the next aid station and assess from there. Once the gloves were on, I took in some nutrition and I headed back out. I felt like I was stopped for at least 30 minutes but checking my Gramin after the race it was only 15.
After getting settled in, around 15 minutes later I tried again to drink from my infinit bottle, and was able to grip it without my glove getting caught on the nozzle (yay!), BUT I COUDLN’T SQUEEZE THE BOTTLE. URGHAHGH. Stupid frozen/numb hands. I was pissed. During that 15ish mile stretch to the next aid station, my thoughts went from ‘just get to the next aid station’, to being really sad that I had trained so hard to throw time away at aid stations fussing with gear and riding slowly to attempt to drink from my water bottle. I also managed to drop my chain on a steep hill (I haven’t dropped my chain in forever, I think my frozen hands were the cause) and had to get off my bike, walk it over to the other side where there was a shoulder I could stand on, and very slowly figure out how to get it back on with non-functioning hands. After what felt like forever, I slowly and sadly walked up the hill and there was no way I was making it up with zero mometum.
I finally made it to the next aid station and decided liquid nutrition just wasn’t going to happen since I couldn’t wait every 15 or so miles to take in nutrition (and at that I could only, barely, squeeze it when I was stopped), and that I needed to start taking in the gels from the aid stations. I was only carrying 4 and only had 2 extra at special needs, I knew I would need to load up on whatever gels the course had, so I ate one gel, stuffed two in my bento box and guzzled more of my infinit. I also had to pee sooo badly, but with my hands useless, I’m pretty sure even if I got my shorts pulled down in the porta potty, they weren’t coming back up. So I casually just peed while standing there with my bike. Except, it was anything but casual. It was like someone squeezed my bladder and pee went EVERYWHERE. Not casually running down my leg with all of the rain as I had envisioned. No. It was like a sprinkler was in my shorts. Ohmyword I was hoping no one could see, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a young volunteer looking at me with his eyes WIDE OPEN and in shock. OHNO. I decided I should sit down and pretend to fuss with my shoes to keep the spraying out of sight. Once my very full bladder was empty, I got up and hopped back on the bike. That poor volunteer.
I was still freezing but now I had a game plan which lifted my spirits a little. 1. I would just eat the random gels that I hadn’t trained with and had no idea how my stomach would handle them, 2. Just focus on getting to the next aid station. Soon I had finished the first loop and was feeling pretty good. The rain had slowed down a little AND I had managed to pee on my bike, in a much less obvious way than had occurred earlier at the aid station, lol. However once I turned to the part of the course with the downhills, where I had gotten really cold the first time, I got cold again. The same crazy thoughts went through my head, the tears happened again, and I just focused on the goal of making it to the next aid station. When I rode by, I waved to the lady who had helped me with my gloves and yelled ‘Thank you for helping me with my gloves, you saved my race!’ and pulled into special needs. The volunteer was amazing (they all were) and helped open my gel, swap water bottles with Infinit (which I hardly drank but I figured I might as well take it in case I could take some sips at aid stations) and even gave me the suggestion of putting the toe warmers in my sport bra, as other girls who had them did the same. Now that was a great idea! I left special needs in really good spirits. When I pulled out, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got this’.
With the goal of just making it to the next aid station, I focused on the 15 or so miles ahead of me, and also made sure to get in a low gear at the bottom of the steep hill to ensure I wouldn’t drop my chain again, and I didn’t, so hooray for that. Soon I was back at the next aid station, grabbing a gel and not stopping, at this point I wanted to keep up the momentum and try to not lose any more time to stopping (if I could help it). More peeing on the bike, more gels, more watts (yeah!) and I finally was finally headed back to town with less than 20 miles to go. And I felt strong, and my legs were still feeling great (probably because I soft pedaled so many miles in the beginning of the ride, oh well). On I pushed, getting my watts up and a little higher than the planned watts and ready to get back to T2. As I rode on river road I focused on avoiding the potholes, taking in my last gel, and just being excited that I was actually going to finish the bike. I REALLY had some dark thoughts during at least the first half of the bike and was happy to have been able to pull out of them. Also, as I looked at my watch, I was still going to have a bike PR! A very mini one at that, but hey, it’s a PR! 🙂
I pulled into transition and saw my parents and JMR! I waved and waddled into transition, so happy to have survived that nightmare. The change tent was a little less chaotic than after the swim and I was able to get a volunteer all to myself who was so wonderful and dried off my feet and put my socks on (my hands were still useless at this point). I pulled off my arm warmers, aero top and trashbag vest, grabbed dry armwarmers, dry gloves, my hat and baggie with gels and other stuff and was off!