I was very comfortable temperature-wise and my legs felt great. On up the Beeline, I just told myself how great the return trip would be. It felt like it took me a long time on this second trip up the long, steady hill, but I just stuck to my plan. I was being passed by many men, sometimes riding way too close or cutting over before they should have - again, I wonder why people do that? I mean, it's a pretty big road! And with my right contact still not in the right place, it wasn't a good situation.
On to my third lap, I realize I drank my Perpetuem much too fast. I only have a couple of sips left and I have over 30 miles to go. For a split-second, I wonder if I just screwed up my race. I am no longer comfortable in the aero position. I had to get off the saddle and re-adjust every 10 minutes or so. One of my projects for next year is to find SOME WAY to remain comfortable for the duration of one of these rides! Now I'm at mile 90 or so and out of nowhere, both legs cramped up. OWWW!!! I quickly stood up on the pedals, stretching out the calves. This happened to me briefly, once, in Ironman Wisconsin. I think - OK, what does this mean? Salt. I whip out the Endurolytes Sally so graciously gave me in the minutes before the race started. Worked like a charm - thank you Sally!!
Almost immediately, my legs feel heavy. Uh oh. What did I do? Bike too aggressively? Not really, I stuck to the plan. Well, let's just go with a comfortable pace. About 1 mile in, my feet start burning. I think they were first NOW thawing out!! I take a minute to take off my sunglasses to rub my eye to get the contact back in place, but something is still off. I put the sunglasses back on and just kept blinking. The Saint was there at the second water station (close to our hotel) with my brother on the scooter cooler. It was a pick-me-up to see them both. I managed a thumbs-up, but I was already bumming with the lack of pep in my step.
Heading around for lap 2, I now know what is in store for me. There are more hills than I realized. There were a couple sections of gravel – one with big, loose rocks. It was a very short section, but it was on a steep downhill and because I could only see with one eye, I slowed a lot for fear of tripping over a rock. On this second loop, the Saint and my brother were joined by Sally’s crew and they were all cheering me on. It was another little boost for me, but I knew I was slowing down. My face was covered with salt. I’d take a sponge every few aid stations to wipe off my face, but then I saw them recycling sponges. That ended that little ritual. There wasn’t much music along the course and I didn’t care for much of what I heard. I played my favorite iPod playlist over and over in my head to pass the time.
Third loop – right contact is beyond irritating, so I just ripped it out. I’m almost done, anyway. The sun is setting and I wondered if I should’ve put a long-sleeved shirt in a special needs bag for this (I didn’t even do special needs bags). The last pass I see my “fan club”, I smiled and said, “Only 8 more miles to go!” I felt better on the last loop than I did on the second loop. My legs are still heavy, but my pace is staying constant. With 10K left to go, I realize I could break 11:30 if I didn’t walk. I started skipping aid stations just to make sure I didn’t run out of time!
Somehow, I missed the mile 25 marker, but I knew I was close because I was getting near the group of spectators. There is one point on the course that has 2 signs. One said “Laps 1, 2 and 3” with an arrow. The other sign said “To Finish” with an arrow. I was DELIGHTED to be on the path “To Finish”!!! The fans are cheering and I am trying to pick up my pace. My legs hurt but I am so close now. A quick little detour through a parking lot, back out on the street and then one sharp left turn to see the finish line. There it is! I cannot help but smile. I am going to break the 11:30 mark! And for the very first time, I actually heard the announcer say my name and call me an IRONMAN.