It took me a few minutes to get into a rhythm, I was grateful to be in my sleeveless wetsuit, I felt like I had better mobility and less of a claustrophobic feeling, so I was able to focus on sighting/strokes and not worry about fighting back any panic. I turned right past the first buoy and realized how crowded it was, and as I kept swimming it felt like EVERYONE was passing me. Maybe everyone in my corral was really a 1:11 swimmer and there were no 1:20’s, because once again it felt like EVERYONE was passing me. I approached the timing arch we swam under during the second turn and was attacked by lake plants – wrapping around my arms, legs and even over my head/face. Several times I had to pull them off my head so I could see and many strokes I felt them dragging along.
Finally I was past the lake plants and almost to the third turn, which was also crowded and everyone was passing me. At this point I was pretty frustrated, I wasn’t even halfway done and was just over the slow I seemed to be going, and feeling like the entire race was passing me by. On I went, finally getting to the turn buoy for the second loop, having the world pass me by on the back stretch, through the timing arch while lake plants were trying to attack me, stopping to adjust my goggles because water had leaked into them, then making the last right turn for the final stretch. I could hear announcer and could see the swim exit, finally! I kept pushing until I could stand up and wobbled out of the water to cross the timing mat. I checked my watch and saw 1:20:xx and thought, crap and welp, that’s how long it felt, lol.
I ran up the helix while pulling down my wetsuit, feeling like it took forever since we were going up four parking garage levels. I finally reached the top and got my bike gear bag and plopped down on the concrete to put on my bike shoes/socks, helmet and finally sunscreen on arms/neck/hands. I stuffed my swim gear in the bag, dropped it off with a volunteer and then make the long trek across the parking garage lot to my bike.
I grabbed my bike, hustled to the mount line and was off, slowly winding back down the helix. The first several miles were through bike/pedestrian paths and really crummy roads so I took it easy to get settled in. So many bottles were littered around the ground near this part from the rough roads, and I wasn’t looking forward to coming back through at all. Good thing it would be at least five hours from now..ha. Finally we hit open roads with a little better pavement and I settled in and pushed the pace into my planned IM pace. With the course having some flat parts but mostly hills it certainly kept me busy and focused, and sort of made the time go by quickly. We were so lucky that the weather was in the 70’s and cloudy, absolutely perfect weather! I reminded myself this several times when I was feeling blah or ready to be done riding, remembering how hot CDA was and to get to ride in this weather was LUCKY for sure. I am also glad I previewed the course in August since I had forgotten most of the course from when I last rode it in 2015, as it helped me remember what bigger hills and turns to expect.
Around mile 80 I was starting get a little crabby and tired of riding, wondering why I sign up for these long ass races when my favorite part, the run, was 8+ hours into the darn race. Then I thought, man how was I going to run a marathon after this? That sounds soooo long. I think due to the heat at CDA deep down I just had the goal of having a strong bike time (within reason given the heat) and no pressure to run fast on the run, since it would be more about surviving. This time, I had no excuses on the run, it was going to be perfect weather. But deep down I love the challenge of putting the three sports together, the strategies and problem solving throughout the day and that feeling after finishing an IM for me is just a different feeling than finishing a running race, so that’s why I was at mile 80 of the bike, questioning my life choices. However at mile 90 I had a second wind (so funny how things can change back to the positive, you just have to hang on during the lows) and realized that I was going to be close to 6:15 if I kept up this pace, and it was reassurance that since I had kept the pace/effort for 90 miles, I was pretty sure I would for the remaining 22. Knowing I was on pace or a little faster than the planned goal, I was recharged and ready to finish this bike.
It was around the 100 mile marker that I realized either my watch was off or the course was long because my watch had 102 miles… ugggh, of course, the course would be long when I was going to PR my bike time. I kept pedaling away, knowing everyone else had those extra two miles too and I still needed to finish strong. Soon I was nearing the finish, pedaling on that crappy pavement, wondering what would or could fall off my bike from the horrible bumps and finally seeing the helix (past mile 112 by the way…that irritated me). I climbed up the helix and dismounted, hitting my watch and seeing 6:20, hooray! still a bike PR and 17.9mph, I will take it! I actually rode the bike well! Now let’s see how the legs do..
I dismounted my bike, waddled to drop it back off at my rack, took off my shoes, ran through transition (quick stop in the porta potty, still cannot pee on the bike), grabbed my run gear back and sat in an open chair this time to get ready for the run. A wonderful volunteer helped me get my gear situated, I quickly put on socks, shoes, hat, grabbed handheld and my baggie of gels I would stuff into my kit while running. I was off!