Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vineman Ironman 70.3 - Bike Leg: Not Exactly As I Planned It

I got off to a smooth start which is something a lot of competitors can't say. Immediately after the bike mount line is a very short, sharp uphill. In my research, I learned that I should run up the hill and mount at the top of the hill. I did that weaving through people who were toppling over like dominoes on the incline.

I was going well when my shifter broke on mile 5. I was stuck in my big ring for 30 miles of rolling hills. I stopped once to try and fix it myself, but I was losing so much time that I decided to ride in the big ring. Vineman is endless rolling hills though the vineyards of Sonoma County. On every hill people passed me climbing blissfully in their small ring. Irritating. I decided that:

  1.  I was going to ride anyway. If I failed to finish, it wouldn't be because I quit. Big ring? Tough it out cupcake.
  2. I was going to get mechanical help to put the bike into the small ring at the aid station at mile 30. I'd use the small ring to climb Chalk Hill and then I'd manually move it to the big ring for the long descent. I felt good about my strategy, but lost at least 20 minutes at the bike mechanic at mile 30. Ouch. That hurt.

After climbing Chalk Hill, I stopped and moved my chain into my big ring. It fought me and the chain jammed. A really nice man in a tie-dye shirt stopped to talk me through the repair. It meant more to me than I can say that someone stopped their own race to cheer on another participant. As a competitor, you can't accept tools or assistance. Moral support is allowed and greatly, greatly appreciated.

Unfortuately, it was all for naught. As soon as I started pedalling, the bike went right back to the small ring. GRRR! I spent the nearly entire race slowed by using the wrong chain ring - big ring for climbing and small ring for descent. Plus, I lost a good 30-40 minutes on trying to fix it.

But here is the good news, as I was pedaling toward the bike finish, I realized I had conquered the bike leg. No matter what happened in the rest of the race, I was now officially a cyclist. A big part of the reason I wanted to do the triathlon was to conquer my fear of the bike because Steve loved riding. I did it!

As I came into the bike transition, I had to ride past people who were finishing their run. I did start in one of the last swim waves, so some of these people had started the race an hour and a half before I did. However, I also knew that my bike leg was ridiculously long due to the gearing and attempted repairs. It was crushing. Then I heard my friend Melissa cheer my name and it lifted my spirits.  There's nothing quite like seeing a friendly face on the course.

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