It took me a few miles to get over the fact that I lost two hours worth of nutrition from my rear two cages - which has never happened before in over 11 years of endurance triathlon racing. Since I was not even 5 miles into the bike, mentally, it really affected me. I was frustrated and I couldn't get my head into a good place. But after realizing that Karel likely had a faster transition than me (nothing good happens in the transition area according to Karel) and I wouldn't be seeing him for the rest of the day, I forced myself to get out of my pity party and put on my Ironman hat and figure out how to overcome this nutrition setback.
With every Ironman, there is something to learn. I often think of the Ironman as a day of decision making. Perhaps this is what makes the Ironman distance so addicting in that every race tests you physically and mentally and you keep wanting to get better with every next race. With my experience and knowledge, I knew that I would need to use on course nutrition (Orange Gatorade), which didn't excite me but it was my best liquid calorie option. I can't think of the last time I had a sip of Gatorade (it's been years) but I forced myself to love it, even though it did not please my taste buds.
Thankfully, it sat ok in my belly so I alternated between my INFINIT bottle (front cage) and rear cage of Gatorade, by sipping a few gulps every 10 minutes. I didn't want to finish my INFINIT bottle before moving on to Gatorade but eventually, I had to rely just on Gatorade until I reached special needs.
For the first 11 miles, the ride was very uneventful for Karel. He felt good on the bike but didn't ride beyond his abilities. With little people around him, he had little traffic on the road to navigate around. From the start of the bike, Karel was riding with one other guy but when they got to the start of the "loop" the guy passed Karel. Another guy passed Karel, riding extremely fast but Karel later caught up to that guy around mile 100. Karel dropped his chain (his fault he said) before the first aid station and he had to get off his bike and unjam it. Karel did not stress but after that point, he lost contact with the guys that were around him so for the rest of the loop, he was riding by himself.
Marni Bike Nutrition:
- 6 bottles INFINIT Custom mix (2 bottles grape, 2 bottles watermelon, 1 bottle pink lemonade, 1 bottle fruit punch)
- 1.5 flasks Enervetine caffeinated
- 1.5ish bottles Gatorade orange
- Water for sipping/cooling
Karel Bike Nutrition:
- 5 bottles - 3 with INFINIT, 2 LEVELEN
- 4 Hot Shot
- 1 Enervitene caffeinated
- 4 Skratch "gummy bears"
- Bite of blueberr muffin bonk breaker
After I got over my nutrition mishap, I found myself in a good rhythm. I didn't have any watts or speeds to chase as my focus was on finding an effort that felt good and riding my bike well. Karel and I both like rolling terrain so this course suited us well. We like to get out of the saddle, sit up and change up our position on the bike (and cadence) so we both really enjoyed this bike course. For me, the miles went by really quickly and although I had athletes within my sight on the first loop of the course, it was not packed with cyclists and I was able to settle into my groove. I really enjoyed the scenery and having already rode 30 miles of the course, this helped me mentally break down the miles. I could not believe how good I felt but knowing that I was relying on nutrition that I did not practice with, I didn't take any risks on the bike for the first loop.
When Karel approached special needs, he really enjoyed being the only one to receive all the cheers in Chickamauga. He compared it to a Formula 1 event as the volunteers were ready for him to give him his bottles in his special need bag and then he was on his way. After Karel finished the descend and started the second loop around mile 60, he picked up the effort just a bit, even though this didn't necessarily result in a "faster" loop. Karel mentally wanted the second loop to feel stronger than the first and since he started to see more people, it was fun for him to ride his second loop as the first loop was rather lonely for him.
I was really looking forward to Chickamauga and before I knew it, I was slowing down and pulling over to retrieve my three bottles from special needs. My volunteer helped me put the two bottles in my rear cages and I was so excited to have my INFINIT back on my bike. I couldn't believe it when I made it to mile 60 to start the second loop as I felt like the day was going by so quickly.
Never did I find myself not wanting to be out on my bike. I also found it strange that I never thought about my competition (ladies in my age group). Because of my nutrition mishap with my bottles, this forced me to be very present during my ride, constantly listening to my body and taking care of myself. I didn't find myself with any low moments in the first loop and because I was peeing a few times and not feeling overly hot, I felt like I handled the situation well, although I may have been just a little short on calories than what I planned to consume.
Come the second loop, I found myself along for most of the loop. I had passed several females (and males) and although there were a few riders in front of me, I found myself having a few more low moments over the next 20 miles until I reached the crowds of Chickamauga. I expected the low moments as they are normal in an Ironman so I just focused on riding my bike well, making good decisions with my terrain management and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Not once did I feel tired on the bike or that I wanted the bike ride to be overwith, which was a welcomed feeling, especially since this bike course is 4 miles longer than a typical Ironman of 112 miles. Although the bike course had over 4000 feet of climbing, I didn't find it too difficult but instead, it was a lot of fun and kept me engaged.
Karel was happy that he didn't experience any significant back issues on the bike which allowed him to really enjoy being on his bike. He kept his own rhythm throughout the bike and even when guys would pass him, he didn't let that worry him as he had a lot of confidence in his run. Karel did have a little right quad niggle (on the verge of cramping) on the way back from the 2nd loop on the bike so he had to be careful with his efforts and when getting out of the saddle. Karel passed a group of guys which gave him a little boost of energy and although two guys passed him back as he got closer to town, he didn't make any unnecessary efforts as he needed to shake out his legs and get ready for the run.
Both Karel and I felt warm on the second loop of the bike so at that point, we both relied on water from the aid stations to cool us down. I had a few hot spots on my right foot on the bike (which felt like blisters) but thankfully they went away in the last few miles of the bike. I kept water on my bike from each aid station on the 2nd loop so that I could take a sip as needed and cool myself down inside my helmet, on my arms/legs and on my face and neck. I peed several times on the bike as I was never able to fully empty my bladder but it was enough to feel comfortable while riding.
As I was making my turn home after the 2nd loop, I was happy to have a guy in front of me to keep in my sights as I was riding several miles back across the GA/TN border. At this point, I knew I was close to being done but still 11 miles back to the transition area so having some company in my view was very welcomed. I was so excited to hear my name as my athlete Thomas passed me on the bike with around 6 miles to go. I made sure not to ease up too much until I was less than 1/2 mile from the transition area and at that point, I stretched out my back, shook out my legs, removed my feet from my cycling shoes and got myself mentally prepared for the run. I was happy to see so many spectators at the dismount line into the transition area and I couldn't believe it that I got off my bike with two of my athletes (Robb and Al)! It was so fun to have four of us in the transition area at the same time, with only Karel out on the run course and the rest of our athletes still on the bike.
After getting off my bike with my barefeet, I ran to my red run gear bag and then into the women's changing tent.
Since I had no idea where I was in my age group for the swim and bike, I thought that now would be a good time to start being a little more competitive, with only the run left for my last-minute Ironman. When I entered the women's changing tent, I was welcomed by over a dozen volunteers and just me in the tent. I ran to the far end of the changing tent and I had a wonderful female volunteer all to myself. As I do in all of my Ironman events, I politely ask the volunteer to help me out however she can. My volunteer took my watch and sunglasses out of the case and put my bib number around my waist. I tried to make my transition as quick as possible and after put on my hat, sunglasses, socks, shoes and hydration belt, I had the volunteer hand me my cooling towel, which I put around my neck as I walked out of the changing tent. I also put on my Garmin as I was walking out of the tent and then began to slowly jog out of the transition to start my 26.2 mile run.
Not knowing how the legs would feel when I started running, I was pleasantly surprised that I had a bit of pep in my step. I enjoyed the slight downhill before heading up the first hill of the course and I was so excited to see my friend Justine and swimming partner Kristen. I could tell that Justine was excited to see me and after looking at her phone (Ironman tracker app), she looked like she had some important details to give me. As I ran my way up the hill, Justine yelled to me "Marni, you are killing it. You are first in your age group by 16 minutes. You are 9 minutes behind the amateur female leader."
Leader? Why is she telling me about the amateur female leader? I didn't really care about the leader as I was focused on my age group and even with hearing this information from Justine, I didn't process the fact that I was the virtual 2nd place amateur female on the course. After I ran passed Justine and Kristen, it occurred to me that I forgot to ask about Karel (Ironman brain fart). Oh bummer - I guess I would have to wait several more miles before hearing about Karel and his race.
Stay tuned for my race report from our 26.2 mile run.....