Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Ride

I'd been so afraid of the swim that I decided if I could survive that the rest of the race would be “gravy”. After my great swim, this meant I left T1 in an excellent state of mind.
The T1 exit was my first taste of the IMC experience. Both sides of the road were jammed with people crushed up against the fence trying to get a glimpse of their friends. Someone from my club managed to get my attention over the general din and waved as I headed out. The crowd thinned as I headed South on Main St. but there were still people every ten meters or so.

A quick jog onto to South Main and I was getting excited as I knew my Mum and sister would be waiting for me just before Skaha Lake. I saw them when I was a block away and waved and yelled so they’d see me.

As South Main became Lakeside Road there was a long line of cyclists riding beside the lake as far as I could see.

At this point it was impossible to stay out of the draft zone, there were so many cyclists. Most people were good and avoided blatant drafting but I did see two women riding side by side chatting for a good 15 minutes (they were wearing matching jerseys so it was really obvious). I was pleasantly surprised at the high level of bike courtesy, at some Olympic tris I’ve done the riders have been fairly rude and refused to give way or passed on the inside with very little space. Names on the race bibs helped too – when “On your left” didn’t work “MAXWELL!! On your left” was quite effective.

The first real hill of the course was Mclean Creek Rd and everything bunched up here. It was difficult to pass without crossing the centre line but I got through the crowd and to the top. The road went by various horse farms and there were few crowds and no traffic, it was very pastoral, quiet and pretty. The ride down to OK Falls is on a pretty rough road and it was littered with various items that had launched off bikes: gels, tubes, bottles, CO2 canisters, etc. At one corner there were five of the yellow splash-guard thingies from the Profile Design water bottles.

I made down the hill through the slalom course of lost bike bits in one piece and into the crowds at OK Falls. The whole ride was like this, long stretches of quiet beauty then into the high energy of frenetic crowds.

The ride down to and through Olive and Osoyoos was great – mostly flat with a strong tailwind. The only real excitement here was when I was stung by a very angry wasp – the sucker did not want to let go of my arm. It hurt like crazy but was a minor issue over all.

Through Osoyoos I started to get excited, or rather more excited (I was having a fun day). As I neared the Husky Station I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I turned the hairpin bend, headed northwards and saw the hill up Richter pass – I got to go up the hill!!!!! It was at this point I realized I probably need some serious psychiatric attention!

Seriously though, I'm not a great cyclist on the flat but I'm much stronger, compared to others my speed, going up hills than on the flat and just this year I discovered the joys of screaming downhill at top speed, so hills are fun for me. Richter would be my first time on the ride to move up a few places.

I got into a good spin and passed person after person on the way up. I saw Karen and George, who’d been at the July training camp with me, and said hi and wished them luck. There was a pull out for cars about two thirds of the way up and side of the road was full of cheering fans. It was at this point that I discovered the crowds really like athletes who were smiling – I was having fun anyway so I was smiling to start with but by the time I passed them I was grinning ear to ear.

You don’t get to descend right away with Richter, you get a bit of a down then another hill before the serious downhill starts. I couldn’t get to that descent fast enough! On the down I got as aero as I could and thought fast thoughts. I couldn't help myself and had to yell "Yipeeee!" As soon as I was at a sane speed again I whipped through the options on my bike computer to see how fast I’d got. Max speed of 75.42km/h! New record for me.

After Richter there are a series of rolling hills, depending on who's counting there are 7-9 of them. They were big enough to slow people down on the upside and pick up some speed coasting down, my kind of riding so this was fun. Along here I caught up with Teresa, who I'd done most of my long training rides and runs with. We leapfrogged and bit and caught up on each other's races while doing so – 15 second conversations as one of us passed the other.

Nearing Cawston it flattened out and the wind picked up a bit. The only part of the course I hadn’t done was the Cawston out and back so this was the only bit I was unprepared for. The out was fine, largely because we had a strong tailwind. My special needs bag was actually there at the special needs pick up so I got to replace the potatoes I’d lost when while descending Richter. (I’ll give you my nutrition details later so I don't bore those of you who aren't interested.)

I took what I needed from my special needs then headed back. The tailwind that had pushed me out was now a brutal headwind. Added to this was the fact that the ride back was largely an ascent, so it wasn't particularly fun. My speed dropped dramatically and it was an effort to keep my heart rate down and my spirits up. I did pass a few people and tried to obey the drafting laws while getting the maximum advantage in passing (I rode like my Dad drives, get right to someone’s back wheel before pulling out to pass). Hopefully I managed to stay within the rules!

We turned off the out and back road onto Highway 3A. The wind dropped for a bit but then slammed into us when we reached Olalla. Again, it was a grind and it was sooo tempting to just jump on someone’s back wheel and draft. I didn't, however. I couldn't pass anyone so I got little respite from the wind. I've read a few race reports from pros and very good age groupers who all seemed to struggle with the wind so felt much better about how I did after the race.

As we neared Yellow Lake Hill I got excited again, not just because of the hill (I really do need help!) but because my Mum and sister would be there. I saw them at the base before they saw me, my sister started jumping up and down and yelling and cheering, which is uncharacteristic for but very cool to see. My Mum was my race photographer (now that her pre-race sherpa duties were done) and got a couple of good pictures here (see left).

I got into easy gears, kept my cadence high and attacked the hill. Someone from my club was there and cheering too. Now I was smiling and passing people and the crowd seemed to like that, which gave me a huge boost and really helped push me up the hill.

At the top the road along the lakes was flat and, best of all, sheltered from the wind, so I got into my aero bars and finally managed to spin easy and get up a good speed. There was a bit of a descent, another small climb then a much more fun descent (max speed approx 70km/h) then the final real climb of the race. There were quite a few people here to cheer so lots of positive energy to help me up.

After this, a long gently winding downhill then left on Highway 97, at which point we could see Penticton. Yay!

Once into town the crowds gradually got bigger and crazier. I could see a one of the male pros (not idea which one) racing to the finish line, which was very cool. What a feeling to think that I was in the same race as him, even if I was many, many hours behind.

A quick dismount at transition and then I gave my bike away to a volunteer. Carol, a friend of Teresa’s who was volunteering in bike transition, saw me and yelled encouragement.

I grabbed my bike to run bag and boogied to the change tent – I could not wait to get my bike shoes OFF! A guy in front of me was more eager than I was, he took his shoes off as soon as he gave away his bike then ran through transition barefoot.

In the change tent a volunteer attached herself to me and helped me get my gear on, which was very cool but a little odd (I'm used to doing this sort of thing myself!). I stopped at the sunscreen ladies to get greased up then headed out for the marathon.

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