The wetsuit strippers were quick and efficient! They handed me my suit and I turned back to see my family and they all yelled, “Go, Go, Go!!!” I was off to T1! It was approximately 1/3 of a mile to the Transition tent from the swim. It was lined with red carpet and people cheering everyone on. I was so excited to be done with the swim. I looked at my watch and was happy with my time, but it said I had swam 4525 yards! Whoops!! I knew swimming on the outer edge would add more distance, but I had to protect my arm and it just didn’t matter, I laughed at myself a bit for adding that much extra distance to my day!
I entered the large tent and a volunteer directed me to my bag. I headed into the changing tent and took out my bike shoes and helmet. Then, I put my wetsuit, cap, and googles back in the bag and handed it to a volunteer. There was so much excitement and activity around me, but I stayed focused on getting my shoes and helmet on, then quickly headed out for my bike. As I was running, I realized that I had forgot to put on sunscreen. It was going to be a scorcher out on the bike course and the last thing I needed was a sunburn. I saw a medical volunteer and she had sunscreen and put it all over me, the support was truly amazing at this event!
I grabbed my bike, headed out and walked way past the mount line to stay clear of other people when I got on it. There were people everywhere cheering and shouting encouragement in French! It was so thrilling. The first part of the bike course is up a big hill as I headed out of town. In fact, the entire section was pretty hilly, but nothing unmanageable. Once I got out to the highway, the course was a bit easier. The road was closed to traffic, which was wonderful, but there were a lot of cyclists all around me. Some guy passed me on the right as I was climbing up a slow incline, which totally annoyed me as that is how accidents can happen! I said “Hey, pass on the left!” He turned around and acknowledged what he had done was wrong.
My bike ride was going great! The roads were pristine, not one single pothole! The bike support was also amazing. There was not a period of time more than 10 minutes that went by that I did not see someone on a motorcycle with extra bike wheels on the back looking to see if anyone had a flat or needed help. I had such anxiety about getting a flat before the race, but it was immediately alleviated when I realized how much help was around me.
I was enjoying myself and seeing all of the other athletes and their different bikes. A few people chatted with me at different sections. It was also very cool to watch the Pro Triatletes as they were heading back on the highway into town.
I had to remind myself to take in some nutrition and I ate a Picky Bar at the 1 hour mark and continued to sip on the Lemon Skratch in my Aero bottle. I was so impressed with the number of aid stations! I think there was one approximately every 11 miles. As my fluid was getting low in my bottle, I grabbed a bottle of water and refilled it as I continued to bike. At the end of the aid station there was a big hockey net and a boy with a hockey stick shooting the empty bottles of water and gatorade into the net as cyclists dropped them for him. I got such a kick out of this as my son plays hockey and would love a volunteer job like this one!
I was heading back into town and preparing to tackle the hardest part of the course, which was the last 6 miles of the first loop. My legs felt strong and I was ready when all of the sudden my chain fell off my bike! I had no idea why it had happened as I was coasting down a hill at this point. I stopped and pulled my bike to the side of the road to put it back on. This section of the course was very congested so it was nerve wracking! I got back on my bike and started to pedal, but my chain fell off again. I stopped, got off and noticed that a piece was missing from my shifter! I felt myself begin to panic, but took a deep breath and looked around for help. A volunteer noticed me having trouble and flagged down bike support. I walked my bike across the busy road, as cyclists zoomed by me, to a grassy area so the mechanic could look at my bike. I felt sick to my stomach as I asked for help. He looked at the piece that was missing and said he did not have it. I asked if he could call someone and he shook his head and said “I’m so sorry, but this is a special piece that we do not have, there’s nothing I can do.” I could feel my eyes well up with tears and choked them back as another volunteer asked if he could take my bike? At this point everything seemed to be happening in slow motion and I envisioned what it would look like for me to leave the race and walk my broken down bike through all of the cheering people to find my family to tell them I had to quit. I couldn’t do it, I had to find a way to finish! I told the volunteer No and grabbed the mechanic as he was getting back on his motorcycle. I said “Please, is there anything you can do to somehow make it work?” He thought for a minute and said, “I can do one thing…lock your gears so you will have one to use, but it will be very hard on this course.” I didn’t care, I had to do whatever I could! So he locked the gears so I essentially had one middle gear in my big ring & one in my small ring as I entered the hardest section of the course.
I got back on my bike and continued riding, but quickly realized just how hard it was going to be as I headed up the first hill without any easy gears. I grinded my way to the stop standing on my bike, when one of the Pros passed me and yelled “Use your gears!” I yelled back “I don’t have any!!” I wanted to cry, I was so angry and just could not believe that this was happening. I made it to the top of that hill and my legs were on fire, then flew down the back side to be faced with another very steep incline. I noticed a person off their bike walking up it and I decided to do the same. I saw a different bike mechanic drive by and I thought I’m going to flag him down when I see him come back around the loop. I hopped back on my bike at the top of the hill and saw him and waved frantically for him to stop and help. He stopped and initially told me the same thing the first mechanic did…it was a special part that they could not just “get” on race day. Then he said, “let me think for a minute” as he grabbed a backpack full of odds and ends. He said, “I have an idea!” He took some plastic ties and began to slowly create the piece that was missing on my shifter with them, then he duct taped them together and added more plastic ties on top to secure it. We tested it and it worked!! It did not give me all my gears, but at least I had the middle range to use. I knew it would still be hard, but I needed to do all I could do to get to the finish line! I thanked him profusely and he reminded me to not shift too high up or too low down as it could break the plastic ties.
I headed back out and managed to finish the first loop. I searched for my family, as I was heading out on the second loop. I wanted them to know what was going on and why I had lost so much time, as I had spent over 40 minutes with the 2 different mechanics. I never saw them, but needed to keep moving because now I had a new fear: making the time cutoff for the bike. I made it through the town and out to the highway again. It was hard not having all my gears and my legs were suffering, but I was making it work. I began my calculations of how fast I needed to be going to make the time cut-off at 5:30pm. I had never paused my Garmin so all the data was skewed and my brain hurt as I thought “I need to average x mph to make it” as continuous scenarios played out in my mind. I delicately shifted my gears as I made my way through the section. I was alone a lot on my bike at this point, which was fine because I was talking to myself about what had happened and how upset I was and how “Someone out there just does not want me to finish today!” It was not pretty and I was in a very gloomy state, but trudged forward.
I came to the one long slow climb on the highway and tried to decide how to manage it without my 2 smallest gears. I decided to just grind my way to the top, which was very painful, but I made it. At the top of the hill was an aid station & medical. I stopped refueled and had one of the volunteers reapply sunscreen. They were all so kind! I headed back out, continuing my mental math about the cutoff until my brain felt like it was going to burst. I made it back into town and once again to the most difficult part of the course. 6 miles to go before I could get off my bike and I was confident I would make the time cutoff! Once again, I was faced with handling some very steep hills without the right gears. I powered up the first one, then walked up the next 2. There was a turn around at the end and I headed back toward another hill, I looked at my Garmin, just 3miles to go! My legs were fried, I started to cry and walked up another hill. I got to the top, got back on my bike and began to jut fly down the backside of the hills. I began to hear people cheering and yelling as I headed into T2. I had made it with a little over 30 minutes. to spare!
Next up, The Run! 🙂
(This post was written in August 2015 and is being republished)