Monday, July 13, 2015

the bike :: IMCDA

disclaimer: from here on out, the race recaps will get pretty real. and by real, I mean a lot out there happened that I'm not really proud of. hindsight: could I have done it better? different? I don't know, and I'll never know. The day is done, I handled everything it threw at me how I did, even if it was often times with pessimistic, panicky dark hole despair. 

Once I was on my bike I was pretty overjoyed. I certainly felt a little wobbly from the swim, and I knew it would take a few miles to get my bearings. I rode easy out of transition, trying to listen for family members, and checking my watch for my heart rate-which was sky high after the swim! I trusted it would come down some, though it would remain higher than the norm for any bike ride for me.
just getting onto the bike course! 

The nutrition plan: My bike was stocked with 3 bottles of Osmo Active, and 3 bonk breakers in my bento box, plus a bag of licorice in my pocket. This was my standard training fare for every long ride I did, and it worked very well for me every time. I never battled GI issues, I never bonked when I used it steadily. My plan with the new forecast was to get the bonk breakers down early (there were an additional few in my SN bag) and then switch to more licorice, and add GU chomps from aid stations if I needed a change of flavor. I would also sip away at my aero bottle of Osmo and then refill it from my rear cages, swapping those out with water bottles. I also had 3 more Osmo Active bottles waiting at special needs, and a total of 5 single serving packets to be mixed on the fly. I carried BASE electrolyte salt as well, shoved in my top. I typically wait 60 minutes to start eating, and for race day with a swim beforehand, I planned to start eating at 30 minutes into the ride. I began drinking immediately.

The first small loop was effortless. I've ridden (and run) out over Bennett Bay to Higgins point more times than I can count. I kept a close eye on my watts and was hovering well under target to keep it easy at first. I don't display speed on my watch so I wasn't aware until after the race what I rode for any particular section. I just settled in, pedaled away, and watched everyone fly by me. I hollered at a few friends as they blew past me, and just rode on. I started my eating, and worked on hydrating. I came through town, apparently early because I had to yell to get my family's attention as I went past heading for the highway! I grabbed a water bottle on the second aid station, wrapped my cooling towel around my neck and splashed a bunch of water on myself. I wasn't super warm, but I was being proactive. I tucked the remainder of the bottle into my back pocket and headed up over the no pass zone and out to the big loop.
Still having fun!! photo credit: Nick Weiler

Off to the highway!

Climbing Mica for the first time was definitely warming up. Without wind (because climbing) I was dripping sweat-of course I drip sweat just looking at a warm forecast so that's not saying too much. I carried on with my eating, drinking, and taking licks of the BASE salt. Everything was right on schedule. The volunteers were amazing at every station, and I was cheerful and chatty with other cyclists. I had one minor snafu grabbing a water at an aid station to find the protective cap hadn't been removed or even cracked. As soon as I grabbed it, the woman ahead of me decided she needed to stop. Abruptly. Right in my path. I braked and unclipped quick with a minor panicked curse word, and the guy behind me had the same reaction. But we all moved on quickly and safely. I spotted a Coeur Fleet Foxes top, creepily stared at the athlete (and her bike) a bit and realized it was Ashley! We chatted a bit as we rode, made the turn around just past Setters and headed back to town. I had to stop for a second as the new water bottle flipped upside down in my rear cage (?!) and I discovered that waters would have to be in my pockets, not my cages.
Climb climb climb! And still smiling!

On the way back into town, I was taking advantage of the fact that we had more downhill than up, and it was free speed. I was watching miles tick by on my garmin and feeling decent. That quickly changed. I had tried, sort of, to pee on the bike but I didn't REALLY have to go... which unnerved me. I never don't have to pee. Half my spring training was spent seeing if I could make it further between restrooms. I was drinking a lot, but not too much, to avoid the slosh and overdoing it. Why didn't I have to pee? I carried on, and then the nausea began. I had finished one bonk breaker, and allowed myself a reprieve of 'just have licorice' before the next bonk breaker. The nausea was so intense I was filled with panic. I wish I could say I kept positive but the major thought was 'I am in trouble. I have so far to go, and I can't keep my food down' as I started experiencing acid reflux, food, and stomach bile creeping up my throat repeatedly. I sat up, only took a few drinks of water for a few miles, and tried to take deep breaths and tell myself it would pass.
trying to calm the nausea

 I came through town with tears in my eyes (which my family and friends saw, despite my sunglasses) and a head full of fear. Not what you want in an Ironman. I hit halfway around 3:26 on my watch, and well under watts. I focused on getting to special needs where I had rolaids waiting for me. I stopped once at a porta-potty though I didn't have to go badly-I just wanted to see if I could determine my hydration levels.

"don't cry don't cry, oh crap I'm crying"

Around the special needs turnaround, I made a command decision to ditch my nutrition plan (NOT what you should do mid-race, but I felt I had no choice. Vomiting on the bike wasn't what I wanted to do, so I knew I had to revamp). I grabbed my bottles (still slushy!) got doused with water, sprayed with new sunblock (no sunburn anywhere on me! Major win!) grabbed my rolaids and a few gels and chomps. I've eaten these most of my endurance training career, and decided they might be easier to get down. Calories were calories at this point. I felt renewed. I had a plan. It would be okay. I rode back into town shoving a couple chomps down (barely chewed, chase with water as quick as possible). I had gels in my tank top with the ice they dumped in which made them cooler too. I never took a full gel at once, just small 'nips' at intervals. I continued working through my Osmo and water and began to tackle the big loop. Just one more out and back.
headed toward special needs, trying to figure out my plan of action

And shit. hit. the. fan. I slowly climbed the hill in the heat, feeling worse and worse. The rolaids had knocked the nausea out for a bit, but then it came back just as hard. And then the cramping began. I have never experienced cramping in racing or training. In hindsight, I don't think I would/could have done anything differently. I was drinking a lot, as much as I could without chugging bottles recklessly, and taking my salt at regular intervals. But it happened anyway. Fast, and intense, and I wound up unclipping from my bike and getting off in the road. If I hadn't, I would have crashed it. As it was, I still immediately cramped so badly I was in tears and another athlete stopped to help me hold my bike as I crumpled to the asphalt (which was a pleasant 147 at this point). He waited a few minutes encouraging me to take repeated hits of salt until I felt like I could at least move forward. I walked my bike a bit, until my legs calmed down enough that I could get back on safely. I rode on to the next aid station, stopped to grab a water and mix a new Osmo and I cramped again. A volunteer grabbed my bike and another put me into a chair in the shade. There were SO MANY athletes in chairs, on the ground, oh, and the aid station was out of water. They had dirty ice water they poured over us, and I was given a gatorade while a medic took all my stats (I could still spell my last name so I had to be somewhat coherent). My BP was high, and my HR wasn't coming down quickly but he kept asking what I wanted to do. I truly didn't know. My body was rebelling against me, despite my plan. I must have sat there for nearly a half hour before he felt I could continue, though he was reluctant to let me go. I even asked around for a cell phone to call Jordan, who was out ahead of me on the highway, waiting for me to ride by. The volunteer's phone was dead though. I got up, got back on the bike and continued with the 'please stop if it happens again' warning.

A few miles further I found Jordan and JJ. I stopped for a second, informed them of my condition, asked what my swim time was because I was dying to know, and then kept riding on. While I was making solid progress overall, my body only got worse from there, and I can't imagine the stress Jordan felt every time I got back on the bike. I made it to the next aid station (WITH WATER!!) proposed marriage to ALL the volunteers, got new water, new gatorade (any calories) and continued with my salt. I turned around, headed back toward town still doing my best to get in fluids and any calories I could. I found myself chatting with more athletes, including a guy who knew it was my first IM and I told him "Mike Reilly is going to call me an effing ironman, I am GOING to get there" (this guy would call me out later on the run with this reminder).

I passed another aid station, stopped for a water and BAM cramping again! My legs wouldn't hold me (if it sounds dramatic, it probably was. I was a staggering cramping mess). My friend Alyssa happened to be here at this moment, amazingly, and she did everything she could to perk me up and get me back on my bike. I was so defeated at this point, but continued to ride. The nausea was so intense, and now I had a pain in my back that in my delirious mind seemed like a kidney problem. I wasn't peeing, despite all the fluids, I was nauseous, and I was hurting. My body and mind were so bleak. Even if I made it back to town and off this bike, how... how would I continue. Shortly before the last climb I found Jordan and JJ one more time. I got off the bike, paced back and forth telling him my body felt wrong. A race official stopped to check on me, with an athlete already in his truck, and several bikes in the bed. He assured me it was okay that I wasn't peeing, but made me sit in the shade for a bit. I was pacing, bending over with my hands on my knees and when people asked what they could do, or what I needed, I just mumbled 'I don't know' but I got back on the bike yet again. One more climb, and then the descent into town, a mere 8 miles stood between me and transition. Just. Go.
Holding onto my focus, a little

I made the last climb, shockingly passing other people. When I was riding and my legs weren't cramping, or were at least moving with cramps, my riding was so strong. It was so frustrating to be fighting my body and mind so hard. I crested the hill, struggling hard to keep moving. My hands were weak and tingling, how would I hold on to descend this final, scary descent? I had to. "Just get home to Ben" became my mantra as I headed for the descent. I didn't brake nearly as much as usual, I just let it roll-new max speed 44.3! I made the descent, and knowing I had very few miles left, I just pushed my body. The cramps were hovering in all my muscles, and I passed a guy dry heaving on the side of the highway and had to fight the urge to start gagging myself. I followed a man through the "no pass zone" on the bridge, and as we headed down the on-ramp for the last mile to transition, he admitted defeat that he couldn't finish a run in 7 hours. Well damnit, we have to try right? That's what I told him, and then I dropped myself back into aero, down the empty NW Blvd, saw my sister (who cheered without realizing it was even me) and made the turn into the park. Thank. God. I have never felt so relieved. I grabbed my Garmin off the quick release and dropped it into my bra top, grabbed my remaining ice water bottle (smart!) and saw a few friendly faces of Ronnie and Kellee! I barely registered her but managed a smile as they took my bike away. She told me later she knew once I made it off the bike I would make it. I was so relieved I had made it home, and even though the run felt unsurmountable, I was ready to try.

I grabbed my T2 bag, headed into the tent, and right for a chair with a fan. Again, a medic snagged me, checked my HR and put icy towels on my groin to help cool me quickly. She helped me get my shoes changed, told me I looked strong. I mumbled at her that 'running is USUALLY my thing' and she assured me I could do it, that I would be an ironman that day. I didn't grab my nutrition from my bag, as I knew I wouldn't be able to eat it (and it had melted into a puddle anyway) but grabbed my 24 oz thermal bottle, which I had never intended to carry, but it was sort of a security blanket. I came out of the tent, heard so many friends cheering for me and was so relieved to see their friendly faces as I started the run.
Headed out to run with my freaking polar bottle that I HAD to carry

Actual Bike Split: 8:40:34  Moving Time per Garmin: 7:32:59.

This just goes to show how much time I gave up with the medics and the 'nausea stops'. It was a tough pill to swallow because I KNOW I had a strong bike in me. I'm sure I could have done things differently, but at the time, I did everything I could to keep moving forward. Even when quitting seemed like the only thing I could do, I continued on.

Actual nutrition: 1 bonk breaker plus a bite of a second, 4-5 pieces of licorice, 1 pkg chomps, 1 GU Roctane lemonade gel. 5ish bottles Osmo Active, 4-5 bottles water, 1 bottle Gatorade.

T2 time: 8:17


  1. I'm sorry I didn't see you! It was the tandem distraction I tell you.
    Riding in an oven, bike creaking, you DID do all you could with the circumstances. And you weren't alone. So few athletes could have really prepared themselves for such an extreme forecast.

    1. Its forgivable. Blind vets on tandem bikes are distracting for real! I could have yelled but I wasn't sure I remembered how. :)

  2. Wow...I can't wait to hear about the run. You have serious guts and it shows so much that you got through that bike despite the terrible conditions and horrible illness! You're an inspiration in my eyes! What you did took serious commitment and perseverance!

    1. Thank you Nicole! That means so much :-) Honestly, had it not been my first ironman, I probably wouldn't have finished. I'm still not entirely sure how I actually did.

  3. Heart and courage lady! Great job keeping your head on and one foot in front of the other!

  4. You are incredible. Holy shit, woman.

  5. Biking scares me!! With all you were going through you did amazing on the bike. That long, with cramping and the GI issues is VERY impressive!! I don't even have the words!!

    1. Thank you Bry! It's kind of a bummer because I was SO EXCITED to ride my bike on closed roads for the race, and by the end I was hating on my bike so bad.