After overcoming a mental meltdown and flirting with the idea of quitting during the swim, I entered transition 1 with a renewed sense of purpose. The focus was to have a solid 56-mile bike ride and then be ready for a breakthrough half marathon 🏃🏾.
Coming out of the water I felt calm and relieved. Before putting on all of my bike gear, I ran to the bathroom. Initially, the thoughts of just rushing out of transition flooded my mind, but on the way to the Port-o-John, I took a few breaths and understood that taking a few moments to calm myself would be even better than rushing. As luck would have it, I ran into Anthony, a member of PTRC, my triathlon club. The extra few minutes in T1 were exactly what I needed to mentally prepare for the remainder of the race.
Once on my bike, the road leading out of transition was uphill. Rather than punch it, I stuck with the plan and put the bike in a smaller gear, and maintained my cadence. My first priority was to take 15 min to allow my legs time to “wake up” before moving into race pace. Last month at the CapTex Olympic triathlon I attempted to smash the pedals immediately after getting onto the bike and my legs felt very sluggish and heavy. I realized that they need a few minutes to transform into “cycling legs”. So, this time, I obliged them and am happy that I did. However, after 15 minutes on the bike, I wasn’t mentally “settling in” like I’m used to doing. My mind was still racing and needed more time to let go of the swimming debacle. Consciously and physically, I was ready to ride, however, subconsciously I was still processing the events of the swim.
Instead of fighting or trying to brute-force myself into bike mode, I relaxed and allowed the feelings of confusion and anxiety to run their course without resistance. After all, I was on a bicycle in the country, the perfect environment to burn off anxiety. I knew that once those emotions passed, I’d be good to go and there were at least 5 more hours before I would cross the finish line. Allowing the anxiety to be released early in the bike course would free me to focus on the primary objective of this race – defeating some of my doubting self-talk that serves to inhibit my running performance.
The course was flat and almost entirely farmland. The lake that we swam in was at the edge of town, so we essentially rode from the lake and right into the farms. All of the roads were flat and the wind was blowing moderately strong from the northeast. Once in my groove, the ride felt wonderful. One benefit of not swimming very hard was having a pair of fresh cycling legs. I noticed fairly early that I was pushing a lot more power than I expected with very little impact on my perceived effort or even my heart rate. Normally, during training when I’m pushing 230 Watts or more, I feel it. Today, I was often pedaling at 250 watts with zero effect on the perceived effort. I even began questioning the accuracy of my power meters. My target average power was 140 Watts, not 200+. I “want” to ride at 230-250 watts, but If I’m going to run hard after the bike, I must manage my effort while on the bike.
Rather than be frustrated, I chose to focus on the goal…the run. The first two parts of the race were a setup to tackle the run. Besides managing my effort on the bike, I had to stay up with my hydration and nutrition. The calories and electrolytes will be essential for remaining strong throughout the ride and managing my fatigue while running. Last month, in Austin, I completely neglected my hydration and nearly blacked out after crossing the finish line. I even had to slow down at mile 3 of the run because I’d developed tunnel vision as a consequence of dehydration. There would be none of those mistakes during this race. My mind stayed focused on looking ahead, taking drinks from my bottle every 10 minutes, maintaining a cadence between 85-90, and ensuring that I didn’t jack up my heart rate. If at the 25 mile turn around I still felt fresh, I’d begin pushing harder and enjoy some speed while riding into T2.
One unexpected set of events was having to pee seven times on the bike. Generally, when I do a 50-60 mile training ride, I pee two to three times. Today, I was having to stop every 7 miles or so. Initially, I was embarrassed and aggravated that I couldn’t hold my bladder. Then, I realized that I was racing an Ironman Triathlon 6 months after undergoing a radical prostatectomy. Gratitude for the physical ability to even be out there flooded my mind. I relaxed, looked around at where I was and all the racers going past me, and smiled. I was happy and calm. I would finish when I finished. I would pee when I had to pee. I began to flow with the energy of the moment rather than judge it or force it. Observed many people on the side of the road with broken bikes or flat tires reinforced the idea that I was doing just fine. I was still able to ride, so I kept riding. Simple.
Just before we made the U-turn to head back to the run course, we were on a fast strip of downhill road. I got into aero position and rode that bitch for all she was worth. I got up to 28 MPH and then saw every local triathlete’s favorite professional photographer, Scott Flathouse! I was in position, already pushing hard, so I hoped that he was able to get one of his signature bike shots.
He got it and it’s a glorious shot!! I will put this on a wall somewhere.
The back half of the bike went fairly quickly. I upped the speed with the aid of a tailwind and it felt wonderful. My mind was focused on the run during this part of the ride. Imagining what my feet would feel like as I found a running rhythm, how quickly I’d breathe, and visualizing my form were how I began the mental preparation. Also, having the intention of running fast enough to make it hurt required me to practice my self-talk beforehand. I needed to have a response to the pain that would inevitably develop. Pre-loading my nervous system was the goal.
The final miles of the bike were very technical as we wound around the streets of downtown Lubbock. Fortunately, Robin and Kai were able to find me at three locations along the bike course. I always find that my energy level gets a power boost when I see them waving.
In summary, the bike leg went very well. I felt strong the whole time and didn’t make any mistakes with my nutrition or effort. I was slower, on average because I stopped so many times to use the bathroom.
A few notes about the execution of this leg:
- the left/right power balance was way off 71% Left / 29% Right <=== I’ll keep an eye on this in training.
- 203 Watts Average power <=== significantly higher than the target of 140 watts.
- 231W normalized power
- 84 Average cadence <==== right on target
- 653 Watts max power <==== cool.
The next post will review the run and finish of the race.