Once I started swimming I knew I was in for a short, fast swim with how much the current was pulling me along. Because of the time trial start I had plenty of space around me and never felt crowded (also I think I didn’t do super great at staying close to the buoys which might have also been why). Regardless I felt like I was in a good rhythm, never felt any panic and just kept swimming. Swimming down the river and having sights to see made the swim go by much faster as well as swimming under bridges. I was excited when I hit the orange buoys which meant we were halfway done, and kept plugging away. Finally I could see the red buoy and tried to swim hard to make the final turn to the finish. I could hear the announcer and got so excited! The swim towards the exit was getting a little crowded and I felt a guy next to me hitting my hand and the next thing I knew, he had somehow knocked off my silicone wedding ring 😦 Not that it was expensive or fancy, but I’ve had it forever and was sad to lose it to the Tenneessee river. However seeing the finish so close, I pushed that aside and was ready to get out of the water! I either really need to get faster or stick with current assisted swims (lol) because my 53 minute swim felt like the perfect amount of time in the water. My previous 1:20 or so swims felt SO LONG and AWFUL. So I guess I need to get back in the pool and get some lessons since current assisted swims aren’t the norm!
I was SO HAPPY to get out of the water, they had wetsuit strippers which was helpful as I really struggled at Wisconsin. Then I jogged to the transition tent to get my shoes, helmet, glasses and some sprays of sunscreen on, and headed back out towards my bike. I grabbed my bike, turned on my Garmin and once past the mount line, I hopped on and was off! I saw JMR on my way out and gave him a huge wave and smile!
The day before the race I was chatting with a man about good areas to do a pre-race ride and he mentioned that the first 11 miles out of town were pretty crummy roads. I had no memory of this the last time I did this race, so either they got worse, or I forgot, but boy am I glad he mentioned it because they were crummy but at least I was mentally prepared and knew they would get better. Along with the roads there was another element adding a challenge, maybe five miles in, it started to POUR. The skies were gray and it looked like it was going to be like this all day (spoiler: on the bike, it was). Ugh. Once I hit the smoother roads I was able to get into planned pace/watts and just get into a groove and try to ignore the rain. At least it wasn’t storming, now that would be a problem. I was also THRILLED my Garmin computer was working this time, it had power! Given the conditions it was so much safer to look at those numbers mounted on my water bottle vs. having to look to the left on my wrist and on the small screen.
Two hours in, with the rain still steadily going, I just thought…’After this I’m sticking with 70.3’s’. This is just way too long a of a day…. I STILL HAVE FOUR + MORE HOURS ON THE BIKE (I was screaming this thought in my head). Fortunately there was a smoother and flatter section of road during the third hour and I was able to settle into a good pace until I reach special needs which was almost half way. I grabbed my extra bottle of Skratch and pouch of Skratch chews and was back on the course pretty quickly. I had planned to refill water but due to the pouring rain and cooler temps (I did grab a bottle around the 30mi aid station) I just wasn’t thirsty and didn’t need to refill. In my mind I knew I should probably try to drink more water, and made a mental note to do so, but never followed through. I was sticking with my nutrition plan though, so at least I was sticking to that.
Once I made the turn for the second loop, the skies cleared up a little and my mood changed to very happy and feeling great! Until about 30 minutes later the skies opened up again while I was on the hillier part of the loop and the headwinds had also showed up. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I knew I just had to keep moving forward, but thinking about running a marathon after this sounded.. awful. Also, I had been sticking with my power and not going crazy but my legs were feeling tired and I also felt more worn out (riding in the rain and wind is stressful and tiring!), so I was worried.
When I passed through where special needs again (we can only stop once), I had a third wind and put the pedal to the metal. The headwinds were now tailwinds and the roads were smooth. I was going to finish this bike strong! The rain came and went but not as bad as it was earlier, and didn’t put a damper on my once-again lifted spirits. Soon we were going over the bumpy railroad tracks and I knew I was close! I looked down and saw I had a 112 mile PR by a lot, wow I think I was going to PR the bike despite the extra four miles, I was thrilled!
I pulled into the the bike finish, with tears in my eyes – a combination of sheer excitement of a bike PR as well as being done with that wet, windy and hillier than I remembered bike – and hopped off the bike and handed it to a wonderful volunteer. I took my shoes off, ran and picked up my bike bag and headed into the the change tent.
I was greeted by a kind volunteer to who helped me get my gear out and I swapped socks, put on my run shoes, threw on my race belt, run hat and was on my way… with a quick stop in a porta potty as I had to pee pretty badly. Then I was off!