Ironman Canada 1998 - Part 5

"Somewhere the blast furnace explodes."
-----from 'The Slow Pulse Boy' by And Also the Trees

"All right, will somebody please turn the fan off?"

This impassioned plea goes out to a small knot of spectators cheering and clapping along the road somewhere out in The Rollers. This wind is annoying. Real annoying. Like, "Make You Want to Jump Off Your Bike, Sit On a Rock and Cry" annoying. Waaaah.

Well, good Kona simulation, right? Yeah, that's it! You're on the Queen K, and it's hot and windy. Yeah. Man. Buh pa buh pa, ba, ba---buh pa buh ba, ba! It's the theme from Hawaii 5-0!

You're 60 miles into this thing and begin to notice dry salt coating the jerseys and shorts of people around you. Mmm, bad news. Wonder if I'm sportin' that look? How many more miles to the out and back in Cawston? You begin to anticipate it with unexpected fervor; all you can think of is the fact that once you hit the out and back you'll get to head south again for several miles, and this bloody headwind will become a blessed tailwind, Hallelujah!

Before you reach the out and back, however, you must navigate a lovely stretch of road with lousy pavement and no shoulder. It's one of those places where the roadbed seems to have been constructed from a series of concrete slabs whose seams were not neatly aligned and joined, so every second or so a solid THUNK-THUNK reverberates through your body as first your front then your rear wheel hits each seam. Lovely.

Your back and neck are beginning to tire. Fighting this wind is a real chore, but you need to sit up out of the aero position for a minute or two to relieve sore muscles. Hang in there, hang in there. You're trying to keep your heart rate reasonable, but in the face of this wind, your average speed is considerably slower than you'd like. Don't sweat it, don't sweat it; just relax, take it easy, think about the out and back, the turnaround, your special needs bag.

Thank heaven for lots of training in heat and hills! The hills here don't begin to compare to the coastal mountains of Northern California, but the strength gained from incessant climbing in training helps when fighting a wind like this. All things considered, you're doing ok, but you'll feel much better when you get to the out and back. And there's the turn, Ah!!

Whoop it up for the spectators as you make a right turn and immediately notice the difference now that you're no longer driving directly into the teeth of that wind. Whew! "Thank god!" you remark to a fellow racer.

"Yeah, pretty nasty out there, eh? Is this your first one?" he responds.
"Nope, my second. Quite a contrast to last year, that's for sure."
"This is my sixth, but I didn't do it last year. Sure heard about it though."
"Well, I'll take this over that miserable rain and cold any day; this is actually pretty nice."

Obviously, I am not very bright.

To tell you the truth, I was completely clueless about just how difficult the conditions were. Sure, I thought it was tough, but I was beginning to get the feeling that I simply hadn't trained enough, or hard enough, or something. I was beginning to worry that perhaps I wasn't as prepared for Hawaii as I thought I was. I was suffering, yeah, but I didn't perceive just how much everyone else was suffering. Not yet.

For the moment I enjoy the cruise back along Bench Road. I spot any number of RSTers coming toward me on the return leg and exchange joyful greetings and shouts of encouragement. Gotta love these RST-IMC jerseys, they sure make it easy to spot your pals. Head right on the extra jog out a narrow side road and navigate a sharp U-turn at the end. On the way back I spot Rebecca and holler at her, "Come on, Rebecca, eat me up! You've almost got me!"

I crank it up a notch in an effort to stay ahead of Rebecca before reaching the final turnaround at the Special Needs station. Reaching the end of the jog, we head south again on Bench Road, and I reluctantly contemplate the rough pavement that stands between us and our Special Needs bags. I am not looking forward to it, and when I hit it, it hits back. Ow-w-w-w-w-ch-ch-ch-ch.....GOD! I swear it's gotten worse in a year! I think it's even gotten longer, damn. Slow it down, slow it down, don't tempt fate.

"No flats! No flats! I promise to burn a tire as an offering after the race, O Flat Gods, if you will grant me safe passage through this cursed place! No flats, no flats!"

This ridiculous chant elicits not so much as a grin from athletes nearby; they're all too busy navigating the least painful path through this nightmare of civil engineering. I _knew_ those rumors last winter about them fixing this road were too good to be true...UGH!

Eventually the torture ceases and it's a relatively straight shot through the orchards out to the turnaround and the special needs bags, whew! I'm ready for a break, point me to my bag and a portapotty (not necessarily in that order).

Dismount stiffly and head into the blue box. Exit as quickly as possible, hop back on the bike, and begin rummaging through your bag. Mmmmm, reasonably cold Metabomax mix with added salt, yum (not really, but convince yourself that it sounds good). Turkey and mustard sandwich. Mmm, not particularly appealing, but stuff it down anyway. Cram the Pop Tarts into your jersey pocket, drop the empty bag at the aid station, and head back into that bloody wind again. Ugh.

Here we go, back into the wind, back to that lousy pavement, and doesn't this sandwich just make you want to gag? Bleah! Tough luck, Irongirl, eat it anyway, you need it. No bonking allowed at this stage.

I'm disturbed to note that I seem to have given up quite a few places by taking the time to hit the portajohn and dally a bit at the aid station. I was surrounded by cyclists on the way out, but now I'm relatively alone. Hmmm, bummer. Oh well, what can you do? Finish your sandwich and ride.

For the first time today I'm thinking how glad I am that I don't have to run that bloody marathon when I get off my bike. Thank god! Early on in this ride I had allowed myself to toy with the idea of perhaps throwing caution to the wind and running the marathon. Why not? I could do it real easy, I reasoned. It wouldn't mess up my plantar fascitis _too_ much; I could do it!

Such thoughts have been completely forgotten at this juncture, replaced by the first niggling idea of perhaps not even bothering to put my running shoes on when I hit transition. I can just call it a day then, I think. I'm really starting to feel beat up here.

And Yellow Lake is still to come.

Continue on to Part 6...