After a week of whining, *&^#@ and general moaning, I went to Panama City to attack the bike course that killed me last year. It was on the bike course in July 2007 that at roughly 50 miles, I was not able to continue. I was sick, shaking and dehydrated. I had my nutrition all wrong and didn't have any idea of how to deal with the direct headwind on a stretch of the course that continued for over 20 miles. I found out later I was anemic and my Ironman Florida dream of 2007 was not to be.
Not this year! We are getting it done this year! I understand that the time posted above is not anything to get thrilled over. There isn't a single event in triathlon that I would say I perform in a quick way. I am slow but I am persistent.
We left the Boardwalk Beach Condos at 730am on Saturday morning and faced a perfect day. Light wind, beautiful sunshine and a day that showed signs of being in the upper 90's. We were prepared : armed with endurance drink, gels, sunscreen and maps of the course. Meanwhile, our dear friend, Debbie was armed and ready to meet us at mile 60 with extra bottles, and solid food (what a treat on a long bike ride).
My buddy Rick had gone to Google Earth and gotten satellite pictures of all the major turns on the course. This proved to be fantastic as Debbie made her way around the course. I told her she could sit on the beach and wait for a call from us but she was steadfast in helping us all over the course.
First stop at mile 25 for a rest stop and the first major turn on to Highway 20. The first 25 miles takes you along the beach for about 8 miles then up Highway 79 and then over a rather large bridge. Ive done the bridge several times in training and in the Gulf Coast Triathlon so I geared back and made my way to the top. Being a plus size athlete, hills are DEFINITELY not my favorite, but this is the hardest one ....or so I thought. At the stop we grabbed a bottle of water, chatted with some of the unique locals (who were grabbing their Colt 45 Malt Liquor for breakfast) and headed on our way.
As we made our way down Highway 20, I expected the wind to be major, but it was ok. Compared to my ride in April/May at the Gulf Coast Triathlon, this was not too bad. Could my fitness ACTUALLY be improving?? I couldn't think about it as we continued on to the next landmark. At the second gas station on the course, we grabbed a water and were gone fairly quickly. We realized that our mileage calculations were slightly off and that our mile 60 stop was actually only 50 miles, but we kept moving.
Mile 40 came and went. This is when I start to have some numbness in my feet and pain in my quads..but not today. The course is long and boring but there are several rollers and one nice climb along this stretch that definitely got my attention. I huffed it to the top as I watched a dozen or so teenagers drift down a beautiful stretch of river on tubes. Now that looked really nice. Someday I might get my weekends back!!!
Before I knew it, I looked up to see the Ranger station along Highway 20 near where the Special Needs Bags are set up for Ironman Florida. This was our next major turn and our stop to see Debbie. She was shocked to see us so soon but we explained that this was mile 50 and not 60. We grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana and some water, exchanged nutrition bottles and hit the road.
I had to pause at this point on the course. It was at this stop that I abandoned last year. This year, I felt fantastic. I had Debbie take a picture of me standing the spot where last year Rick took a picture of me crying. Maybe this is my year.
As we turned on to Highway 231, I felt good but realized that was just too much solid food. I was behind in my nutrition (not drinking one of the bottles that I should) so I ate a banana to compensate. BAD idea! I couldn't stay in my aerobars with any comfort and I know this slowed me down. I also switch helmets at this stop. I bought an aero helmet on Ebay because I had read it would help my speed. I found out that it really only helps if you are always in the aero position.
Almost to mile 60, bam....a flat front tire. Debbie was there with the car and helped shield us from the traffic as Rick, Beth and I changed the tire. It took us a little bit but before we knew it, we were on the road.
At mile 60, we left the highway and entered the more rural backdrop of Campflower Road. There are expansion joints cut into the pavement along this road which makes your ride experience a little rough. Rick has always told me it felt like a jackhammer to the privates and I learned first hand, he was right.
John Bingham, a famous motivational speaker and marathon runner, had often referred to mile 20 of the marathon as the "bite me" phase of your journey. It doesn't matter what anyone tells you or says to you along mile 20 and beyond of the marathon, you just want to tell them all to go to hell. My "bite me" phase came around mile 70 as I was hot, tired and not really sure about our turns on the back roads of the course. Rick was certain we were on the route but I was not feeling so confident. One of the reasons I never liked Adventure Racing is that my sense of direction SUCKS. I NEED to know how far I am going and where. In this last leg of the ride, we weren't sure how far it was from Highway 388 to Highway 77. I felt like I was riding into the unknown and my mind was not happy. My body seemed ok..but my mental game was taking me down. I want this DONE, I kept telling myself. After almost 12 miles, we could finally see the intersection of Highway 77 and I couldn't have been happier.
Perfect timing as Debbie came rolling up 30 seconds after we arrived to take us home. Nothing like grabbing a ride in the middle of nowhere on the median. She helped us rack the bikes, gave us COLD water (ahhh..there is nothing better) and we headed back to the hotel.
As we headed down 77, I realized that the next section of the course is the section of road we traveled during the Gulf Coast Triathlon so I have just about seen this entire course from the seat of a bicycle. That gave me some peace. I want to know what I am in for as I approach race day.
A return to the hotel and one ice bath later, I was tired but relieved that I had completed this hurdle. We are planning another trip to Panama City and one more ride of the course. My goal now is to create a little more speed. I think i can get some more speed from all this now that my mind is more at peace and I have a little more confidence.
I had the most amazing weekend with my friends. Rick, Beth and Debbie were a hoot and I don't think I stopped laughing the entire ride home. I will blog about the FUN SIDE of our weekend in another post...
Ok Hector..you were right...85 was the right amount of miles!!!