I was shivering uncontrollably for about the first 5 miles. It was overcast and drizzling but it really wasn’t that cold out. But for some reason, I was shaking. I was glad I put my long sleeve dri-fit shirt on. It helped but it really didn’t matter because I was in a daze. A good daze. Al these people were cheering me on and the feeling was just unbelievable. I kept checking myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I’d wake up soon and realize that I never pushed the final button to register. It was Sunday morning and I was lying in bed. But I was actually doing this! I was a participant in an Ironman event. That fact alone kept a smile on my face the whole day. I tried to say thank you to as many spectators and volunteers as I possibly could. It was their support and encouragement that carried me through and made this day special.
The first part of the bike course is rolling hills. I had heard that the first 6 to 7 miles was straight downhill but that is not true. You don’t reach that until mile 10. But when you do? Pure joy! If you are a speed junky, you’ll love it. I got the bike up to 40 MPH but there were people passing me so I know they were pushing 45-50. The road was mostly dry but I just didn’t want to push it too hard. All I needed to do was crash 10 miles into the bike. After that rush, the course continues on with a mix of flats and rolling hills. The scenery is just breathtaking.
My two main goals on the bike were to stay in my HR zone (65-75% of Max which was about 132) and to hit my nutrition targets. I was targeting 400 calories per hour which I pretty much hit. I drank Gatorade Endurance exclusively with some water mixed in. The goal was to down one 150 calorie bottle of Gatorade Endurance per hour. As I would approach another hour, if I wasn’t finished with the previous bottle, then I would guzzle it so I could start the new one on time. It took longer on the bike than planned so I ended up running out of my own nutrition. So, I started substituting bananas from the aid stations. This was definitely helpful to me later in the race. I think they helped prevent any muscle cramping. In terms of the target on the HR, I finished with an average of 138. Did I push just right and save enough for the run? Or could I have pushed harder? My time was about 45 to 60 minutes slower than I planned.
There were two big challenges on the bike course. First, the road into Wilmington before the out and back is a long steady climb that just gets tougher and tougher as you go up. I tried as best I could to stay in the HR zone but still slipping above my target quite a bit. The advice that was wringing in my ears was don’t attack the hills. So, I didn’t. On the 2nd loop, Jim and I pretty much climbed together and kept each other in check. It was also much more painful on the 2nd loop. The legs were getting weary. The second challenge was the last 10 miles into town. These were a series of tough, successive climbs that just were killer. Again, especially on the 2nd loop. Jim and I were pretty much together on this part as well. We both remarked how we couldn’t wait to run which sounded crazy because we had a marathon ahead of us and that was still the great unknown. But as you know, when you are in the saddle for such a long time, it’s good to do something else. Anything. I was just ready to get off the bike, plain and simple. That last 10 miles into town just beat me down.
As I came into the transition area, my wife Sean, the girls and my father in law Al were there to great me. Jim was right behind me. It was the furthest that I had ever ridden! My longest training ride was 105 miles. The feeling of finishing that ride was like being on top of the world! And it’s not bad that someone is there to take your bike from you as well. Special treatment for everyone! As I made my way to the changing tent, I was psyched to be off the bike and into my running shoes.