As I reached the mount line to start my journey on the bike, I hear CR call my name. I gave him a quick wave and a smile and I was off. It was cold, windy and overcast. I was glad I opted for my jacket instead of just arm warmers. I later saw people wearing trash bags and heard of others who were given clothes by spectators along the course to wear. I kept reasonably warm in the jacket, Had I gone with my sleeveless jersey and arm warmers, it would have been a different story.
Within the first mile was the "dreaded bridge grating". We were warned at the pre-race meeting about the grating on one of the drawbridges. If it was raining we were going to be asked to get off the bike and walk it across. Luckily, it was not raining so we rode across. In the online forums I had been following prior to the race, there was a lot of concern about the grating on the various online forums so it made me a little nervous. Thankfully, it turned out to be no big deal. We made a few turns and finally made it out to a main road leading to the highway. Something told me to check and make sure the GPS tracking was on. I looked down and realized it had fallen out of its holster somewhere between the changing tent and now. UGH. I was hoping it would not throw CR off in his ability to know when to be at the various checkpoints. I felt so bad...
Shortly afterwards, I looked ahead to see a white Honda stopped in a line of traffic at a red light. It looked a lot like my car. I got closer and realized the passenger window was rolled down. All I could hear was a cowbell and CR cheering for me. Loved that! Nothing strange about starting to cry at mile three, is there?
About 400 yards later and we were rolling onto the highway. The winds were brutal. I am told the official observation from the weather service in Wilmington was that the winds were 12-18 mph with gusts to at least 23 mph for the morning and peaked at 25 mph sustained, with 33 mph gusts. I would say my observations were about the same as those winds were either in my face or coming at me from the side for all of the first 76 miles. It was overcast and cold. It drizzled for maybe 2 hours early on in the ride. When I looked back at my Garmin stats, you can see where we made the turn and got out of the headwind. I was hovering around the 15 mph gridline for the first 76 miles then there is a 5 mph jump to around the 20 mph gridline for the remaining miles.
Since this day was all about finishing and completing in a particular time wasn't a huge concern for me, I opted to treat this leg like a century ride meaning that I would stop at aid stations as needed even if to do nothing other than stand up for a second. I didn’t plan to take a leisurely stroll while I was there but spend maybe 60 seconds at each one. I stopped at the first aid station at mile 21 to use the port o john. Plenty of other people had the same plan and I ended up waiting in line for quite a while. Since I spent so much time at the first stop, I decided to bypass the stop at mile 36. I ended up regretting that decision. The split second to stop and stand up was a huge help in getting through the 112 miles.
Special needs was at mile 51. I wasn’t sure what to expect here. Mostly I had pictured people grabbing their bag pulling out whatever their stash was and moving on quickly. There probably was some of that but there were people just sitting in the grass eating sandwiches and snacks almost like they were at a picnic. I think we were all glad to be out of the constant wind at that point. I ate an uncrustable sandwich, a few pringles and followed it with a couple of ibuprofen for good measure. This was the only solids I had taken in thus far on the bike. I will say I *sort of* broke the cardinal rule of racing as I switched from my fig newton plan to GU gels and chomps. My issues at Augusta scared me in terms of nutrition so I tested out the gels on my last training ride and decided to go that route. I had one of just about every flavor of GU they make and it seemed to work. I HIGHLY recommend the 2012 holiday flavor of peppermint stick. It is a sweet mint flavor. LOVE IT.
I left special needs and headed out into the wind. Somewhere around mile 60 my right knee decided it was not enjoying the race as much as I was and started to revolt. It hurt to pedal. I looked at my watch and I had slowed quite a bit. I was already slower than I should be due to the wind. Not a good feeling. It wasn’t like I could stop right there and give up so I kept going. I knew I had just taken some ibuprofen so was hoping that would kick in and help. In the meantime, I did the heavy lifting with my left leg, let the right one spin along and said a prayer. I was getting discouraged about my time due to the wind and now my leg but then I remembered that we all started this race at the same time. There are people 12 feet in front of me that are in the same boat. I just kept pedaling and by the time I reached the aid station around mile 76, my knee had started cooperating again.
At that particular aid station, there was a flag blowing. I thought to myself “goodbye headwind/crosswind, hello tailwind”! As we made that right turn, you could instantly feel the change. My speed went up to 22 and 24 mph which is not something that is my bag of skills. It was all wind assisted. That wind was instant energy. I started counting down the miles. I initially started thinking “only 2 more hours to go” but that didn’t seem to help mentally. It was much better to count off miles. At the aid station around mile 90, I stopped, ate some peanut butter pretzels for about a minute and moved on. I ended up bypassing the final aid station because I was making such good time.
As we approached Wilmington, the traffic was bumper to bumper headed over the bridge towards the battleship. We were riding in the bike lane for maybe a half mile before heading up and over the bridge. Let me say this bridge at mile 111 was no joke. Clearly that was the only way to get us to the battleship but – oh my – who wants to climb like that after 111 miles of riding. The excitement of reaching the battleship made it totally worth it.
We made the turn into the battleship area and there were wall to wall spectators and cheering. I looked for CR but wasn’t sure I would be able to spot him. Right before the dismount line, I saw him in the corner looking to right searching the incoming bikers for me. I yelled his name a couple of times but was so fixated on the bikes, he didn’t hear me or see me. As I was getting off the bike and a volunteer took it away to be racked, they shouted my number out so a volunteer could grab my changing bag. By the time I got to that area, the volunteer was waiting on me and I headed into the changing tent.
The changing tent this time was much less congested. There were probably 6 other ladies in there with me along with a handful of volunteers. Inside the tent there were chairs around the perimeter and a table with a wide variety of snacks and drinks. After I changed, I drank some coke, made a pit stop at the port o john and headed out on the run.
Bike time: 7:17:10