After I cleared the “no pedal” zone of the transition area, I began to pedal toward S.O.B hill #1 (there are 4 S.O.B. hills, and a handful of lesser hills, that have to be dealt with twice during the race), which is the shortest but steepest hill on the race. I knew that I was going to walk at least part of this hill, but I decided to see if I could make it half way before I started walking.
At the base of the hill, I looked up. There were about 15 other cyclists ahead of me and several coming close behind me. Three cyclists were already walking. One woman was weaving dangerously, coming close to the bike of a volunteer. I started pedaling. Other bikes flowed around me, like I was a rock in a stream.
I was already feeling sick to my stomach from the swim and I could feel myself getting more and more breathless with each revolution of the pedals. I made it to half way up the hill and hopped off, starting to push.
Ahead of me, the woman weaving back and forth was now all the way on the left hand side of the road. She seemed to be moving in slow motion, which was good because as I watched she ran right into the back of the volunteer on the bike. As she tipped over, I thought “yep, keep walking”.
I made it to the top of the hill, panting. When I did the tri workshop, the downhill of S.O.D hill #1 terrified me. I clamped my brakes the whole time. This time, however, I was ready. I had practiced. I got back on the bike, pointed my tire straight ahead and just went. The wind screamed in my ears and I held on, not braking until close to the bottom, where volunteers were yelling out safety reminders about the loose gravel on the spillway.
After the first hill, was about 50 yards of flat road and then S.O.B hill #2. I made it up 3/4ths of the way before I walked. The top of the hill is a road over the dam, which is blessedly straight. I spun my wheels, staying in a low gear, trying to catch my breath. After a much too brief time, it was time for a smaller hill. I made it up with out stopping. Breathing hard (again), I checked my Garmin.
Less than a freaking mile. Kill me now.
I started peddling again, vowing not to look at my wrist for as long as I could stand.
Overall, the first three miles of the bike course were the hardest physically and mentally for me. Most of the people who passed me passed me in the first 3 miles. The hardest hills were in the first three miles and I, this is bad, didn’t drink or eat a damn thing in the first three miles.
One quick side note: by far the biggest mistake I made in this race was the nutrition. I barely drank anything on the bike course and as far as nutrition, I ate half a handful of Skittles and two Sharkies chews and that was it. For the whole race. That took me close to 3 hours. And I was hungry when I was started. BAD, bad monkey.
After the first 3 miles, things got better. The hills became less S.O.B and more rolling. I was by myself mostly, except for the people flying back on the return course. At mile 5 I thought “I’m 1/3 done. I can do this”. At mile 7.5, I saw the most beautiful sign ever- the one that said “Turn around here”. By mile 10, I was feeling good. I was seeing a few riders behind me, so I knew I wasn’t in last. I knew the last two miles would be tough but I had survived them on the way out so I knew I could survive them on the way back.
By mile 10, it was starting to sink in that I was going to finish this race, that I was going to be able to mark this off my life’s to do list. I checked my watch and realized that, depending on the swim time (which I didn’t know at that point), I might be able to finish in the less than 3 hours. I started breathing a little easier and joking around with the race volunteers as I passed them on the turns.
Miles 13-15 I also thought a lot about Michael and Miles, about how much I loved them, how much I wanted to see them, about how proud I am to love them and be loved by them. As I came across the top of the dam, I could hear Michael yelling “Go Wendy, you can do this” from the beach below. I raised my arm and gave a little pump. I knew I’d finish the race at this point.
I walked the backside of S.O.B hill #1 and then coasted down into the transition area. I was so glad to see the bike racks again. I was less pleased to discover that the person next to me had, once again, but her bike over my towel. Grrr. I ended up knocking her bike over as I racked mine and had to waste time fixing her bike again.
I took my helmet off and started toward the transition exit. All around me were people relaxing, people who were already finished. I was jealous. I moved toward the start of the race course, knowing I was one of the last to get started. I tried to run. I couldn’t.
Suddenly the 3.1 miles felt like a long ways to go.