Anyway, onto the bike. My legs felt good right away, and for me the bike was really a big question mark because there the terrain is so different from home. I like the course there, as I ride well when I can go into what I call "metronome mode" - just pedalling a steady cadence and holding that rhythm. There aren't any big climbs there and no technical, twisty stuff. As fun as rides like that are, the Arizona course just lets me settle in and maintain.
|I'm definitely not on Vancouver Island anymore...|
There was a headwind heading out on the Beeline for the first of the three loops, and I kept my effort feeling cruisy and comfortable. It wasn't too crowded on the course, but I did see a couple of packs of cheating drafters all riding together. I saw an entire pack (about a dozen athletes) all get red-carded, so the officials were out there doing their job, and the first penalty tent I went by was jam-packed.
At the first turn-around I decided to pick it up a notch and take advantage of the tailwind and false-flat descent back to town. "Hello 11", I said as I switched into my 53-11 and hammered back to town, and ended up riding that section at 40 km/h (25 mph). I didn't have my Garmin set to show how fast I was going (some things I don't want to see when I'm racing...), but I could tell it was fast. It seemed to take no time at all to get back to town, where I was greeted by my awesome cheering section of Jason, Candace, Kirsty, Tim (and Tana!).
|Coming into town...|
|and heading back out.|
Another turn-around at the transition, and back out of town. The second loop was pretty crowded as by then everyone was out of the water, and the winds had shifted. Instead of a headwind out and tailwind back, they were pretty much all over the place and not a factor at all. It was definitely strange, however, when I went past a sign with two flags on it, and each flag was blowing a different direction. Didn't matter, as I was rocking a brand new set of Hed Jet 9's and they are awesome! We decided not to use the disc cover because the wheels were so fast on their own.
I stopped at the Special Needs on my way back on the second loop, and I want to give a shout-out to the amazing volunteers that took care of me there. It wasn't very busy in my number area, and the guy who grabbed my bag pulled everything out of it for me, took away my empty bottles from my bike and stuck my new ones in the cages, handed my sandwich to me and I think he even opened the baggie it was in. He and another woman gave me a push-off and I was back on the course, I don't think I was there for even a minute.
Once again it seemed I was back to town in a flash, and back past my awesome cheering section at the turnaround. It's almost like this race is the movie Groundhog Day, as you keep repeating the same over and over... once again I was headed back out of town on my bike. The third loop was uneventful for the most part. I stopped at a porta-potty just past the drive-in theatre (thanks to the volunteer there who took my bike), had the same fluky winds as the second lap, and turned around to come back to town for the final time.
One thing about an Ironman bike course, it's pretty lonely. Sure, there are 3000 people racing, but because of the drafting rules you have to be 4 bike lengths apart at all times (except a 20-second window to pass someone), so you never get to really chat with any of the athletes. As a result, you're just kind of on your own for the entire 180 kilometres.
And just like that again, I was back in town. But this time I wasn't making the turn to head back out, and instead peeled off to head into transition. A volunteer grabbed my bike, another handed me my run gear back, and it was onto the run. My bike time was 6:00:49 (26th place in my AG) which I'm super happy with! I wanted to be under 6:15, and figured if everything went perfectly I'd ride close to six. But as I said, it's always an unknown with the terrain so different, and whatever race-day magic shows up... and I definitely got some race-day magic out on the bike that day.