IMAZ race report: the bike

Monday, December 15, 2014

My mom and I were having a conversation the other night. "We're still talking about Ironman," she said. "It's been how long and we're still talking about it. Isn't it sad how we're still talking about Ironman for this long and we didn't talk about your wedding that way?"

And this pretty much sums up my relationship history.

Anyway, since we have now made the transition to Painful Moments in Michaela's Life, let's talk about the horror that was the bike at IMAZ.

Yes, I have a sperm helmet.

First of all, the three-loop course was supposed to be fairly easy. Arvan and I drove it as part of our pre-race prep. There were no huge climbs. The road conditions were incredible. (Arvan -- who is from Sonoma County, a.k.a. the Land of Patched Asphalt -- kept yelling: "There are no potholes! No potholes! No potholes!") And we both agreed the bike would be a dream compared to what we had experienced during training.

Unfortunately, on race day, there was wind. A whole big shit-ton of wind. (I've since heard it was the worst wind in the history of IMAZ.) And because my swim and T1 already took longer than I thought they would, this wind became a huge problem. What was supposed to be a "comfortable" ride (if you can call anything in Ironman comfortable) turned out to be absolutely disheartening. Imagine a long, steady climb -- which should've felt like a false flat if weather conditions had been better -- with at least 17 mph headwinds. For miles. And you have to repeat this torture three times. It was like riding a stationary bike in a stupid outfit with a bunch of other people who looked very upset.

About halfway through loop two, I began to wonder if I was going to make the cutoff.

The part when I started freaking out and yelling at people on the sidelines.

It got to the point where I was shouting "Are we going to be OK?" at every single person I rode past. And of course, the athletes all had Ironman brain and had no idea what time it actually was or when the cutoffs were, and the volunteers were equally confused and just tried to give me water and sports drink.

I went to a very dark place. All I could think about was how I was going to get pulled off the course and fail and it would be humiliating and would I even want to try again and Arizona sucks my ass and how was I going to explain this to everyone who believed in me. I got so down mentally and was so convinced I wasn't going to make the cutoff that I almost pulled over to wait for the SAG wagon. 

And then it hit me: That damn SAG vehicle is going to have to sweep me off this course. I will have to be forcibly extracted from the road. And until that happens, I'm going to keep riding. My mantra became "Easier than cancer" and "Easier than heartbreak," and I just said that over and over to myself and pushed on.

I finished the bike eight minutes before the cutoff. Apparently, I was so close to failing that my mom had seen the SAG vehicles start heading up the course to sweep people. And she was so worried that she cried to a security volunteer and said: "I haven't seen my daughter! What will happen to my daughter if she doesn't make it? She's worked so hard!" And she was so emotional that the volunteer started crying too. And they hugged each other.

Oh, Ironman: The way you bring the world together.

Anyway, I was so thrilled to get off the damn bike (no offense, Muppet, but that shit was rough) that I flew through T2. I cannot even tell you how relieved I was to start running.

Bike: 8:09:16
T2: 3:05 (the only fast thing I did all day)


Layla said...

Is it good or bad that I LOLed at work when I read this: "Anyway, since we have now made the transition to Painful Moments in Michaela's Life, let's talk about the horror that was the bike at IMAZ."

Man, that bike was an anxious time for everyone. All the volunteers around me were rooting for you, even though they didn't know you and had no idea which cyclist you would be, since "the tiny one" didn't really help. But I really like how you rallied on your own and proved your own strength. Nobody could do it but you -- and you did.

amy5rose said...

Congrats on finding a way to be strong and have courage again during that long ride! Not giving up is the hardest part about the whole Ironman experience, not giving up on any piece from the training to the racing!

Your story made me cry, ironmans always do :)


Cathryn said...

Oh I cried at the bit about your mum and the volunteer. Cried in the kitchen. Also cried because I didn't realise your race report had gone any further than the swim.

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