Hey! You're back for more. Cool!!! O.K., the last post took you right up to my swim exit and getting my wetsuit ripped off. Now, for your reading pleasure, we slip past the glistening wet bodies of some of the fittest humans on the planet and enter into a secret world that only the athletes are allowed into...The Transition Area.
As I entered the Transition area, hard cold pavement gave way to hard, wet astroturf. Little did I know then, but my swim was pretty darn good at seconds over 35 minutes. I had decided that my best strategy was to run down the far left side of the gear racks rather than down the middle row because of traffic congestion. the racks were set up in a large L-shaped configuration with ample room at the bend to go down any of the rack aisles. My bags were on the outer left aisle after the right hand turn. All of the blue gear bags were gone from the first racks that I ran past. That is the only bad thought that goes through a triathlete's head, "Dang! those people are way ahead of me on the bike."
As I made the turn to grab my blue gear bag off of the second rack, who do I see standing along the fence but Johnny Tri! He had his camera out and was ready to catch me, Geoff, and David as we came running through.
I grabbed my bag and dashed into the Women's Change Tent and with the help of one of the super-star volunteers, got my sock on and grabbed my race number, sun glasses, and helmet while she stuffed my wetsuit, cap and goggles in the bag. I was outta' there! There were volunteers ready and waiting to slather on sun screen but I had done that earlier so I ran down the astroturf carpet to the second row as I buckled my helmet and race belt on and dashed to the 5th rack on the left for my bike. It was a grab and go moment and I was making a run for the Bike Exit. My shoes were already on my bike so all I had to do was get past the bike mount line and I was off! Total time in T1 was 3 minutes and 42 seconds.
Once I got past the bike mount line I realized that all the spectators were cheering for us and ringing cow bells. I picked up some speed, slipped my feet into my shoes and took off. I had to keep my heart rate under control because as soon as I got past the first mile marker I would be climbing "The Bridge". I had filled my aerobar bottle with water so that I could get that nice briny deep taste out of my mouth and dilute any sea water in my gut that I had swallowed. I was passing some people, but lots of people were passing me on the bike. My goal was not to get any drafting penalties on this tight course. And then, there it was... looming larger than it did when we approached it in the car. It was "The Bridge". Some used the strategy of coming up and out of the saddle to attack it. Others geared down to spin up it. I built up as much speed as I could approaching it and was going to rely on my fading knowledge of high school physics to use momentum to get as far up that sucker as I could before I really had to hammer hard on the pedals. I am lucky that my light weight and my good climbing legs from all of those rides around Lake Tahoe make me shoot past other riders who really should be leaving me in their wake. Photographers at the top of the climb! Smile and look invincible! After rolling over the crest, I shot down the other side of the bridge but with care as there was a left had curve at the bottom of the causeway.
The course took another left hand turn and we zoomed past the Pinnaelus County Courthouse and the downtown storefronts of Clearwater, Florida. I had some free space so now it was time to dig out my Power Bar fruit and nut bar and start chowing down the calories. I had been smart and pre-opened the wrappers so all I had to do was get the bar out of the Bento Box and keep moving down the road. Riding hard, breathing hard, and chewing a Power Bar is not an easy task! I was slipping by some more riders already out on the bike course but now the hard core men from the 40-44 age group were coming up on my rear. Just the sound of their disk wheels let me know that I needed to get as far to the right as I could to get out of their way. I kept my concentration on the road, drinking my bottle of water and chewing on my fruit and nut bar. I wanted to empty that bottle and be finished with the bar by the time I hit the first aid station on the bike course. A right turn here, a left turn there and now we were begining to roll through a more residential area. The locals were all along the street here with painted posters, cow bells, flags, and lots of cheering for us. That was really cool! Whole families were out with their kids in wagons. Older spectators had set up their law chairs and were settled in for the show. Other cyclists and triathletes from the area had ridden their bikes over to watch us and encourage us. There was even a couple who had dressed up in inflatable "fat suites" that looked like they had beach attire on. They were pretty funny. What I did not see but wished that I would have was the three boys who were around 12 to 14 and had gotten bored with blowing into the horn that you see at football games that make a lot of noise. They had one kid laying on the ground with the dang horn in his mouth and another kid was pouring water into the other end of the horn like some wacked out "Water Bong" while another kid was cheering. See parents, you can never take your eyes off of them!!! David relayed this story to us after the race. He said that he was cheering for them as well.
As I was coming up to the first aid station, I had a "Hero Moment" as I rolled by Rick and Dick Hoyt on Dick's special bike with the seat in front for Rick. As I pedaled past them I yelled out "Go Ricky!". I had reached my goal of emptying the water bottle but I now had to start working on the two bottles of Accelerade I had on the bike.
Stay tuned to Bike Course entry #2...