I was off to T1, which is quite a distance from the swim exit, but I made it. First, I put on my helmet, then shoes, grabbed my bike and I was out of there! I ran with my bike a bit past the mount line for an open spot. I got on my bike and within 2 miles, I knew something was not right. I could hear screeching from my back tire and all I could think was “What the hell, I can’t believe this!!!”. I biked a bit and it seemed to go away, then I started to climb up a hill and there was horrible screeching, it sounded like metal on metal. An athlete behind me said “Your break is rubbing”. The bike course was very crowded and I knew this noise was intensely distracting, but I wanted a safe spot to get off. I found a break in the crowd around mile 6. I got off my bike and checked the rear brake. My tire seemed tight, but it spun freely without me on it. I looked for bike support, waited a a few minutes but decided I needed to move again, so I opened the rear brake totally. I checked to make sure it would still brake safely, then I was back on my bike. I was frustrated, I just wanted a decent day, but now what I really wanted was to quit. I was so mad that I did not even want to cry, I wanted to throw away my timing chip take off my race numbers and walk back to my hotel. However, I kept biking trying to figure out how I would handle this and as I biked I realized the screeching had stopped. Perfect! I had fixed the problem, I just needed to make it through 48 more miles…
As I headed out to the highway (which is closed to traffic) I noticed the screeching again, but not as bad. This time it was on a downhill, so I stopped again. I waited a few minutes to see if bike support might serendipitously pass by, but no luck. I ended up opening the front break to give my tire some space and got back on my bike. At this point, I looked at my watch and really had no idea what the heck my pace, time, etc. was as my watch was set to pause when I stopped. Of course, I had not planned on stopping during the race, but at this point I had to let it go. I continued my journey on the 117 and I did see bike support pass by a few times, but I was unable to successfully flag them down… not their fault, they were only looking for people off their bikes.
Things had settled down on my bike and I was hopeful that my brake adjustments were the answer, but I knew the true test would be the big climb on the way back on the highway. Fortunately, I knew this course, so I could anticipate where I might run into trouble. As I approached the climb, I saw a long string of cyclists slowly making there way up it. I decided that if my tires started rubbing and screeching at the start, I needed to get off and wait for help. It would be too hard, not to mention a huge distraction to others to climb a hill with this horrendous noise coming from my bike.
As soon as I hit the hill, the screeching started, so I immediately got off, as this was a hill that I had to commit to one way or another. I pulled my bike over to the side and started to walk up the hill, hoping to spot someone from bike support. As I was walking, a few cyclists made rude comments to me, as they thought I was walking because I was unable to climb the hill on my bike. It was this point, that I started to cry a little, I was so angry that I was experiencing all this trouble once Again on this course! After about 5 minutes of walking, I saw an Official slowly driving by and I flagged him down to ask for bike support. He had a mechanic in the truck with him and she got out to help me. I explained to her that I had new tires and that I believed they were the problem; however, she disagreed and said it was my wheel. This took me by total surprise, as I assumed it was the tires, but she was adamant that my wheel was bad and stated “It is soft, you need new wheels, but you will be fine to finish the course today.” She made an adjustment to the rear brake cable and told me everything was fine now! I was very skeptical and quite nervous to get back on my bike with a bad wheel?! However, she reassured me that it was ok and told me to get on.
At this point, I was 1/3 of the way up the hill, so she balanced my bike while I got on and gave me a push so I could start climbing. Starting from 0 mph on a hill of this size was just about one of the most hideously difficult biking experiences I have endured. However, I grinded my way to the top and there was no more screeching from my wheels. At first I felt relieved, I just needed to make it safely through the next 36 miles, but I was nervous about the bad wheel. I was hesitant going fast on the down hill and braked way more than usual for fear of getting into an accident. My confidence in my bike was completely shot, but I didn’t know what to do except continue to plug away in the blistering heat of the day.
I made it to mile 40 without any subsequent noise or difficulty from my bike, other than the sense that I was exerting a lot more effort than normal. I was tired, hot, and quite depressed. I had lost so much time… 30-40 minutes? Who Knows, but I began to worry about making the bike cut-off time. This was something I had not considered and I really did not know what time that may be, but I did not want that to happen!
The last 16 miles of the course are the most difficult, stair steps of short steep climbs, one after another. As I hit this section, the screeching started again and I was having trouble getting my wheels to even turn on the hills. Once again, I stopped, looked for bike support without any luck. I just decided I had to get through it. I had this experience at the Ironman last August with a broken shifter, so finding myself here once again was incredibly disheartening. I told myself to “Look on the bright side, it’s only one loop, not two” as I held back tears. I managed to climb some of the hills with the horrendous distracting sound, but walked some others. I decided to forgo bike support, as there was really no point now.
As I was heading back into the Village, I saw that there had been a bad accident, several cyclists down. There were paramedics with a few cyclists and bikes lying on the ground. I am not sure what happened, but it was on a congested part of the course. I knew at this point, as bad as my day was going, it could be much worse. I finished up the bike course and headed into transition. I felt horrible, my stomach was in a knot and I was exhausted from the emotional and physical stress I had just been through. As I was racking my bike, I saw my Husband and kids. They were cheering me on and I managed a smile and wave! I walked over to them and kissed both of my kids. Then, I told my husband the difficulties I had once again and yelled to him, as I headed on the run course, “Cervelo P2…free to good home”.
Up Next: The Run