Ironman Canada 1998 - Part 4

So, ya wanna know what it was like on the bike at IMC this year, eh?

OK, lemme tell ya:

Getting your legs under you as you begin spinning your way up Main Street, you're impressed by the size of the crowds out here already. It's 8:20 am, and dozens of folks are installed in lawn chairs on either side of the road, cheering on every single racer that rolls by.

"Woohoo!" you cry to them, pumping a fist and rotating your arm in some sort of heavy-metal salute that says, "Come on, feel the noize!" Let's rock this baby, wooo! They're out there just for you, so give 'em their money's worth, let them know you appreciate it.

The crowds thin out only slightly as you make the turn onto Eastside Road. The sun shines brilliantly in a clear blue sky, and the early morning cool is already a memory. It's gonna be a hot one. Rolling past the retirement home near Skaha Estates, you whoop it up for the benefit of the retirees all set to do some serious cheering today. Talk about stamina! These folks are amazing.

At 5 miles out, who should come rolling by but George Ball.
"Is that Tricia?"
"George! Hey, this is exactly the same spot where you caught me last year, good job!"

We roll through the first aid station together and share a bottle of water. Then the "Octopus Enveloping a Bike Frame" takes off ahead, and I am surprised only by the absence of a sonic boom at his departure.

You're working on keeping your heart rate reasonable, despite the fact that this means many people are screaming past you. "It's ok, it's ok," you tell yourself. "You're still passing quite a few folks, and it's gonna be a long day. Just relax, don't blow yourself up, hang on. This ain't no Half IM, this is the whole enchilada."

"Hey, who put this hill here?" I inquire indignantly of a spectator at the side of the road as we chug up a steep rise. "I wasn't informed of this! Nobody told me there'd be any HILLS out here."

"Sorry!" he laughs. "It couldn't be helped."
"Yeah, well, just make sure you've got this thing flattened out by the time I get back out here on the run; you got that?" I command sternly.
"OK, we'll see what we can do," he replies with a grin.

Oh, but that's right, it doesn't matter won't be making it out this far on the run. Oh well. sigh.

The turn at mile 9 onto McClean Creek Road sends you up a gradual climb that is supposed to break up the packs. Well.... There are an awful lot of bikes out here. No real drafting to be seen as of yet, but it's pretty crowded still. You're surprised by how stiff this climb feels at the moment. Wow, this hill doesn't _look_ that bad; very deceptive. Very, very pretty though. My favorite sight on McClean Creek Road is a mechanical device that appears to be some sort of waterer fashioned in the shape of a life-sized white longhorn steer. I'm _still_ trying to figure out what that thing was!

After the climb you wind along some flats and get some nice wicked descents on dicey pavement. Fun stuff, and you pass a lot of folks. Also time to start sucking down the Metabolol and the Cytomax. Ugh, they were frozen this morning when you put them in the bottle cages; now they are already almost lukewarm. And the salt that you mixed into both bottles doesn't do much to enhance the flavor. As a matter of fact, maybe you put too much in there---it couldn't get THAT hot out here today; how much salt do you think you're gonna lose??

(heh heh heh)

Scoot on down to Highway 97 and skim past Vaseux Lake, whose glasslike surface perfectly reflects the mountains and cliffs rising abruptly on the far shore. Gorgeous! But small comfort to the cyclist lying at the side of the road clutching his shoulder in the telltale posture of a broken collarbone. Ouch! This, apparently, was the unlucky Swiss triathlete who suffered the encounter with the Canadian Bighorn sheep. Poor fellow! So early in the race, too. Damn!

97 is a virtual joyride all the way down to Osoyoos. Lots of folks with flats and mechanicals along the way, though, and you cry out, "Hang in there! The tech van isn't too far back, they'll be here soon!" Bummer.

Aid stations are fabulous. Water, Allsport, fruit, cookies. Keep the water comin' in, and keep working on your Metabolol and Cytomax. Yechh...that salt is just awful, but chug the stuff down anyway. Try to finish up the Cytomax early on, then you can switch to Allsport. Eat whatever sounds good whenever it sounds good. Big on the bananas, they go down easily. Keep drinking, whatever you do. It's already pretty toasty. Not too much wind, though, and we're maintaining an excellent pace, a little over 20mph. Should hit Osoyoos in under 2 hours. Yep, there's the Husky station, right on schedule.

OK, it's time to climb. A right turn and you're heading up the first gradual rise of Richter. It's not that bad at first, no need to drop to your lowest gear yet. The folks in the cars roaring past are hollering and screaming support, and you grin as you gaze ahead up the mountain. Here's where the fun begins.

Cyclists begin passing you in ridiculous numbers, but you pay no mind. No point in fighting the hill; won't do a bit of good. But do go ahead and zip the jersey all the way open. Oh, yeah, this is gonna be a hot climb, man! The Okanagan Valley begins to drop away in a gorgeous panorama on your right, and now, you reckon, might be a good time to go down to the 25. Yeah, I think so. Whew. Sit and spin, sit and spin.

"Hey, Rebecca! What are you doing behind me? I'd have thought you'd have been way ahead of me by now."
"Just taking it easy, it's a long ride. You look great, though."
"Just hangin' on. Climbing isn't exactly my strong suit. But I might catch you again after the descent. See you later!"

Rebecca Taylor is a first-time IMCer who had introduced herself shyly at Thursday's swim gathering and told me that my '97 IMC report was the inspiration for her presence at the race this year. I was both honored and touched by this statement. Rebecca had done bike racing while at Harvard and, being a petite little thing, I was convinced that she'd be whipping my tail pretty soundly out on the bike course. Heading up Richter right now, that certainly seems to be holding true.

"Is that Tricia Richter?"
"It sure is---hey, Laura! How are you doing?"
The next mountain goat cruises by in the person of Laura Dickinson-Lee in the midst of a Slot-winning performance. "Lookin' good, girl, go get 'em!"

Boy, I wish I could climb. Oh well. Just wait 'til the descents! Heh!

Sure enough, after the first part of the climb (during which I laugh at all the RST grafitti we'd chalked up two days earlier), we get a nice little descent and flat that give me a chance to catch both my friends. "Gotcha!" I cry gleefully as I pass Rebecca. "Oh, shit!" she cries in mock dismay. "Heh, heh!" I reply.

This would prove to be the MO for the remainder of Richter: Both Rebecca and Laura would pass me on the climbs, and I'd power on by on those blessed flats in between.

Climbing Richter Pass isn't terribly difficult, but it certainly is epic. Picture this: Hoards of spectators cheering and screaming, both from the roadside and from passing cars. An infinite line of cyclists stretches before and behind you up the mountainside, and in the cobalt blue sky above the blades of a helicopter slap the hot air loudly, a cameraman in the beast's belly catching the action from on high The scenery is spectacular on all sides, the sun is beating down on you, and the first hint of stiff winds surfaces.

It's getting a little harder on each flat to make up time on Rebecca and Laura because the wind seems to be picking up.

Sweat is pouring off of you, but it doesn't stick around for long in the dry air. You keep slugging down the water and Allsport. At an aid station you grab a PowerGel and squirt it down. Keep the fuel coming in, a long way to go yet. You're only about halfway up this monster. Keep it smooth. Heed Tina's grafitti: Think Circles. You grab a sponge, too, and god! That feels so good.

Your back is starting to hurt a little bit, and you pour a bit of water into the vents of your helmet. Ah! Helps a lot. OK, back to work, turn those pedals over.

Two climbs down, just two to go. Wave to the helicopter and whoop, Woohooo! Shift up for the flat spot, now back down as we begin the third climb.

And on and on. At last, at long last, you are nearing the crest of the final climb. In greedy anticipation of the rewards to be reaped on the far side, you gear up a little and stand, picking up speed as you loudly proclaim to all in earshot, "All right, now it's time for us Clydesdales to have some fun! Look out, this hill is MINE! Yeehaww!"


What a rush! Down the backside of Richter, clicking up through the gears 'til you're at the very top in the 53x12 and spinning it out, curling into a tight aerodynamic tuck and hurtling down the hill at 30, 35, 40, 45, 47 miles per hour, hugging the turns, hollering "On yer left!" at the top of your lungs, the wind cramming the words back down your throat even as you struggle to warn other cyclists of your hell-bent approach. Now THIS is fun! Still, you have the sense that you're fighting for this speed; this is no free ride. There must be more wind than you thought, 'cause otherwise you'd be hitting 50 without too much trouble.

The joyride ends all too soon, and the first of the rollers rears its ugly head. Ah well, 'twas fun while it lasted. But damn, sure is a bummer to have to scrub all that lovely speed so early---there's an aid station at the beginning of this roller, and too many cyclists are slowing here for you to slide by this fast. Sigh.

The first roller. This is where you really begin to feel the wind. And it only gets worse from here on.

The first several rollers are pretty significant; good sized climbs with good sized descents. I get into a regular pattern that is all too familar: Get dropped on every climb, pass everything in sight on the descents. "This," I remark humorously to Rebecca upon catching her for about the sixth time, "is getting monotonous!"

I exhult to see my computer register 56 miles. Yes! Halfway done. Richter wasn't bad at all, really. But, man, this wind is something else.

If we had only known. There should have been a sign posted out on that road warning us of what was to come. Such a sign would surely have read: "Welcome to Hell."

Continue on to Part V...