The Bike Leg: a.k.a. "The Worst Parade EVER!"
I have been riding parts of this bike course for the past twelve years and the detailed course that would show up on race day since last November. Every weekend I have been on these roads. By now I would think that the locals would know me and my ghetto Kuota bike with the green fork by now. I love my Kuota! No one else in the world has a red and black Kuota Kalibur with a green fork....and blue bar tape. So all I had to do was hop on my bike and ride this route just one more time.
Since I am a lean, mean, triathlon machine (read as skin and bones), I hopped on my bike still wet from the swim with goose bumps on my arms and legs. I hoped that my pedaling would get me to warm up in the first few miles. The crowds along the route from Transition to The Woodlands Parkway were great. Once we turned on the parkway, there were crowds of people gathered at the intersections and business driveways cheering for us with vuvuzelas, cow bells, and whistles. They were awesome and we were just a bunch of weirdos on bikes. I took advantage of the protected lane and non-stop intersections to eat a Clif Mojo Bar and drink lots of water. There were lots of dudes and a few chicks zipping by me to make up time they lost on a crappy swim. I just settled into my pace and stuffed my face. My main goal was to get my heart rate down a bit. I knew it could be easy to speed up but that was not in my plan. My plan gave me 7 hours to finish the bike leg. AND WHAT THE HELL IS IN MY LEFT BIKE SHOE???
On FM 2978 I just stayed to the right while everyone passed me up. I was already past mile 10 by this point and I had no worries. I knew that I would see some of these people who were passing me again on the run course because they cracked themselves wide open on the bike. I figured out what was in my left bike shoe. It was a little packet of Butt Butter that I forgot to pull out of my shoe and put in my pocket in case I was starting to chafe. At least it was in my arch and not too uncomfortable. The bike route did a small detour from the map that we had been riding for months and had us turn right on Egypt Rd. to make it across FM 1488 at an intersection that was not a busy and then diverted us through a residential neighborhood before putting us back out on FM 2978 at a relatively new gas station.
As we continued on FM 2978 through the Woodland Trails subdivision and the Montgomery Trace subdivision I was glad to see race officials on motorcycles slowly making their way down the row of cyclists. There was the potential to draft and I did see it happen, but I saw the official throw out a few red cards to people and everyone started playing by the rules. It was about this time that I thought my bladder was going to rupture. I had slurped in all of the 38 or 40 ounces of water that was in my aero bottle and now I was needing to get rid of what I had not sweat out of my pores. The second dirty little secret in triathlon is that we pee on the bike. It can be used as a strategy to get people who are drafting off of you to quickly exit your back wheel. Well, I checked over my left shoulder to see if anyone was there and if I could open the flood gates. The next rider was at least 6-7 bike lengths back so there was no danger of giving him a shower. Right on target! My goal was to have to pee somewhere along this road and before I got to the 30 mile mark. I saw my friend Wilmer as he passed me on the bike and he gave me a shout out. Little did I know I would see him again soon.
We went over the bridge on FM2978 to get us over the rail road tracks and made a turn to head west on FM 2854. Now I was holding my own. Less people were passing me and I even started passing a few people. The hills were starting to roll and I was passing dudes on the way up and they were zipping past me on the way down. On one down hill section, I hit 29 mph. Whoo Hoo!!! It was time to evacuate the bladder again. I was right on schedule with eating my Shot Blocks and at least the sun was staying behind the clouds to keep the temps down. After bombing across Hwy 105, I pulled over in a driveway entrance and pulled the packet of Butt Butter out of my shoe and got back on the way. We were now passing mile 30. The miles were flying by!
We left Montgomery, TX and started entering the Sam Houston National Forest. The forest is beautiful. I saw my friend Kathleen on the bike. She is an animal and I have lost count of how many Ironman races she has done. It was good to start to see people I knew. I saw another official on the back of a motorcycle keeping tabs on everyone to make sure there was no drafting or littering in the National Forest. I could hear the birds in the trees and it was very quiet and peaceful back on Osborn Road as I flew through the trees. When I turned left on FM 1375 I played cat and mouse with a guy named David who would pass me on the downhills and I would drop him on the uphills. He commented that we needed to stop meeting like this and I granted his wish when I rode through the 40 mile aid station and he slowed down to grab fluids. My heart rate was still nice and low and I was feeling good on the bike. It was nice to see the locals had rode their ATV's up to the gate on their farms and ranches to cheer for us. I thought that the route would be pretty lonely from all the rides that I had done and not seen a single person. The other bit of awesomeness was that there were very few vehicles on the road. The course was not closed and usually there are lots of motorcyclists who ride through the forest on the weekends and plenty of crew cab Dooley pick up trucks hauling trailers that make their way towards Lake Conroe or to a ranch. On race day, there were hardly any cars on the road on the way up to the turn to head back.
Just before hitting the 50 mile mark I saw someone along the side of the road pushing their bike. Since it was on a bit of an uphill I was going slow enough to see that it was Wilmer. I asked if he was ok and he called back that he had popped a spoke. DANG! Approaching the aid station at the 50 mile mark was a great sign that read, "We guarantee that NO dogs will pee on your wheel at Aid Station #5!" No, it is just the athletes that will pee on their own wheel, lol. I was barrelling along at 27 mph when I got back on Hwy. 149 on the way into Richards. Some dude trying to pass me about laid it down when we crossed over from Montgomery Co. to Grimes Co. and the road surfaces changed. Hehehehe, I knew this was going to happen and where to position my wheel to avoid the bumps and cracks in the road. As he hit the brakes hard, I kept going. Once we got into Richards, we had another detour through the town on a road that until race weekend has always been a gravel road. Some oil had been spread on the road and a really bad layer of chip seal had been put down. My speed immediately dropped 3 mph as we made our way across the quarter mile stretch and had our teeth rattled out of our heads. Normally we stay on the main road because there is a gas station we stop at, but I guess they did not want to tie up the only gas station within a 12 mile radius with us riding past it.
The winds were still low and I was still feeling good. At mile 58, it was time to have people slowing and stopping for their Special Needs bags. I had not turned one in so I kept on going. At this point, we had a timing mat to roll over. Little did I know, but for the first 58 miles my average speed was 19.12 mph!!! That is smoking fast for me and fast with those rolling hills.
Ok, I am going to leave you hanging again! It is time for me to head to work so check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to the bike leg.