Last Saturday proved to be an absolutely beautiful day for training. The sun was high, the first morning hours were cool and crisp letting the whole world know that fall and the Ironman is just around the corner. We left the Boardwalk Beach Condos at 7am and hit the road. As I pushed the start button on my GPS, all that was going through my head was "I want to be on this bike and riding back up this road in less than 8 hours!" No rides home. No broken equipment. No whining. No injuries. NO EXCUSES. NO COMPROMISE.
I know I sound passionate about this but this is the THIRD time I have attempted to complete this course. In 2007, I made it just 50 miles. I was beyond sick and was later to learn that I was seriously anemic and it would keep me from racing all together. The second attempt was restricted by my trainer. He only wanted 85 miles. So, reluctantly, I did what I was told. Today was my day.
The first 25 miles were effortless. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that 25 miles on my bike would be easy. We stopped at the first gas station, hit the restroom and immediately got back on the road. At 35 miles, we stopped at the next gas station to inspect my training partner's front tire. He thought he might be losing air, but things looked good and we hit the road. This is the point where you get some minor rollers and one butt kicking climb (by Florida standards...for those of you who live in places with REAL hills...this climb is small). I don't do hills well so I huffed and puffed my way to the top and stayed focused .
Over the hills and onto the flat, my support crew, Debbie and Chad, pasted us in the car and took some action shots of us on the road. It was nice to get some pictures because in all these months of riding, we really don't have any pictures. We pedaled on. I looked ahead and I could see the ranger station and the major intersection on Highway 20. We were close to the 50 mile mark and the area where we will get our special needs bags on race day. We made the turn and had our first major stop of the day. Got our bottles, grabbed a PB&J, drank some water, filled up my Bento box and we were off again.
I figured out during this ride that I can not look at my odometer. The numbers will make me crazy. I have to race from landmark to landmark so we moved from one gas station, to the next turn, to the next intersection. At mile 60, we turned off the major highway and into a rural area on Campflower Road. This is where the road gets tough. The paving is a wreck and its hard on the tussie!! As we made it through this section, I started to feel the first major fatigue of the day. My body started to hurt but I pushed through until mile 80.
Another landmark pasted and it was on to another intersection where we hoped to pick up water but there was not a convenience store in sight for miles. We ended up having our support crew meet us at mile 90 just to be on the safe side with water and extra nutrition. The air temp was approaching 90 degrees and it wasn't worth being without water for the last 21 miles.
At mile 100, there is a large bridge that you cross to get back to the beachside of Panama City. Its almost a cruel joke that after 100 miles of riding, you have this final climb. The bridge was a welcomed sight, however. At this point I knew, I was going to finish.
The mind starts to play tricks in the last 10 miles of a long ride like this. I just wanted to be done. My feet were cramping and I just wanted to be out of the saddle. As we approached Front Street, we were greeted by 100's of motorcycles. Since it was Thunder Beach Bike Week in Panama City, the loud roar of motorcycle engines was everywhere. It did make an interesting ride back to the condo as one motorcyclist challenged me to a race in the bumper to bumper traffic.
The condo was finally in sight as we made the final turn. In my mind, I could see the finish line. In my heart, I had cleared a hurdle that had haunted me for months. I looked at my watch that read 7.5 hours. That will make the cut off time at Ironman Florida. Is it fast?? Of course not but I couldn't be more proud of the fact that I finally completed the course that I couldn't finish a year ago.
Now..about that 26.2 mile run!!!!