Transition was pretty calm for me, although it didn't seem that way for everyone. People were running this way and that way, sitting on the grass putting on their shoes, into change tents and out again.. it was crazy!. I took my time and even stopped at the port-o-potty again. I had a few hands helping me get my jersey on and slather on some sunscreen, then I was out onto the bike course in no time.
Riding down Main Street was pretty incredible. The people cheering are six deep and lined the streets for 20 blocks. Anthony and Jen went way down to the other end of Main where it wasn't so crowded which was great because I couldn't have missed them as I rode by. A big smile and a wave and I was on my way.
Thanks to my training, I knew the bike course inside and out. I had mentally broken it down into 5 parts. From transition out Skaha Lake, up McLean Creek Dr and down the highway through Oliver and into Osoyoos was considered "The Warm Up". This section is fairly easy with a small climb up McLean Creek, but mostly descending with a tailwind. I make it a point to enjoy this 60km or so because after that, it only gets tougher.
The second part of the course I break into Richter Pass and the Rollers. Once you get into Osoyoos Ironman really begins. By now your nicely warmed up and mentally prepared for the challenges to come. Climbing Richter Pass has always been a trademark part of the Ironman course, but now that I've ridden this section of the course almost a dozen times, it's lost it's intimidation factor on me. Now, I just settle in for the climb and find it no where as daunting as it was the first time. Of course, today was a little different than any other ride I've done. The line of riders was as far up the mountain as my eyes could see and at some places three riders wide. At the first look out, the spectators were in full force with music blaring and cowbells ringing. Still smiling ear to ear, their cheers just pushed me up the hill near effortlessly. The reception at the top of Richter was no different. A guy standing on top of his pick up truck with a mic and two amps yelled out your number, your name and welcomed you to the top. Of all the times I've done that climb, this certainly was the most exciting.
I mentally include the rollers on the backside of Richter in this section of the course. That means that once I get to the top of that climb, I know it's not over. A quick (and I mean quick - 69km/hr the last time I looked) descend down the backside provides a decent recovery but it's not long before those hills come at you fast and furious. You've got to work hard here to keep your momentum otherwise you end up doing a lot more climbing than you have to. The faster you descend, the less you have to climb up the next hill. Easy when your alone, not so easy when there's a hundred other riders doing the same thing in front, beside and behind you. Was a little scary, but all went by smoothly.
The next section is the Out & Back. But before you get there, you have a long stretch of flat road to get over which also tends to come with a nasty headwind. This day was no exception and the wind was definitely blowing. I hate headwind. It just sucks. I was just about to get settled in when I see three fans up on the side of the highway cheering like madmen. As I get closer I recognize one of them… hey! I know that redhead… that's my boyfriend!!! And he's got Kierstie and Adam with him!!! Yelling! Screaming! Cheering! Cowbells ringing they jumped up and down for me. I smiled bigger than I had been all day and suddenly forgot all about that headwind.
They caught up with me again down the road and drove beside me in the car for a minute or two. Despite being 120km in the course, having climbed Richter Pass, been up and over the rollers and facing a nasty headwind.. I was having SO MUCH FUN! I was riding the Ironman bike course and three of the most amazing people were out there with me making me feel like a champ. This was what this day was about.
Onto the out & back. One last cheer from the three amigos on the side of the road and I was again on my own for the next challenge. The out & back section of the course isn't all that demanding, it's a semi-flat farm road with some undulating hills but nothing like the rollers behind me now. The challenge here is that you backtrack where you've just come from for 10km or so, turn around and head back the same way to get back on the highway. This is mentally exhausting. To backtrack at this point is just taxing. Add to this that your well into your day now, you've just been riding into headwind for probably 45 minutes and you know that after you backtrack, you're in for more, stronger headwind than before. Worst of all, you know that after all this, you head out to Yellow Lake. The only good part of this section is that at the turn around point is the special needs bag pick up. This is where I have stashed my secret weapon. Mini-potatoes.
Boiled, slathered in butter and salt and frozen over night these little carb cannons are going to be the best part of my day (so far). Sure enough, I picked them up at the end of Barcello Road and they were still chilled but perfectly defrosted. Helllllloooo taters! Five powerbars into my day, you can't imagine how good real food taste. I washed those down with a salt tablet and a couple of Ibuprofen and I was (almost) good as new.
Back on track and feeling revitalized I headed back towards the highway. Despite the new energy found in food, mentally it's getting tough out there. I'm really, really getting tired of headwind and it's an unseasonably cold day in the interior. Thankfully I have my arm warmers with me and I put them back on just in time for the rain. Headwind, rain, this day isn't getting any easier no matter how many people ring their bells and honk their horns as you pass. Good news is that now that I'm cold and tired I have Yellow Lake to look forward to (that was serious sarcasm).
Part four: Yellow Lake. This section isn't just the notorious climb itself. It starts 17km away where the out & back spits you back onto the highway. Some where on a training ride we discovered that someone has spray painted mile markers on the road every 100m from the out & back to the top of Yellow Lake. It's exactly 17km and you get to watch how close your getting 100m at a time. 0.0km, 0.1km, 0.2km, ….1.0km, 1.1km…. all the way to the top. Some find it distracting, I LOVE IT. This part of the course had me close to tears and feeling defeated the first time I rode it. Now, out of spite, I ride this section with vengeance. Like it stole something from me that day and every time I ride over that pavement I ride it harder and faster like I'm earning it back.
I got to Yellow Lake smiling. It's raining. Not hard, but it's raining. The start of the hill is lined with fans and as you get closer you ride through them with them so close on either side it's like your riding the Tour de France. People dressed in costume, banners, noisemakers, signs (my favourite read "ride it like you stole it!") and traffic is stopped and lined from the top to the bottom. People sitting in chairs that have obviously been there all day still have the enthusiasm like your the first rider to come through. I rode up the whole way with a smile ear to ear (they really like it when you smile) and made sure to look at each fan and soak up the energy. 4km to the top. What hill?
The final section: The Descend. Once you defeat Yellow Lake mentally you've completed the course. There is still a climb or two left, but nothing compared to what you've accomplished. For the most part, it's all downhill from here. Pouring rain now I'm laughing out loud that I'm at the top of Yellow Lake and beginning the descend into Penticton to complete the Ironman bike course. Down one of the long winding downhill parts (thankful the roads are now dry from the hail storm earlier and thankful for my wool arm warmers and my forethought to wear them) I let out a "WWWEEEEEEEEE" and a "YIPPPEEEE" for good measure. I'm loving every minute of this ride no matter what Mother Nature had in mind.
The end of this ride generally ends the same way everytime, with one single thought pushing you to the end "it's time to get off this bike". Very quickly your mind can make itself up and just decide it's having no more of this and your butt needs to get off this bike. Once that happens, funs over.
I passed Anthony, Jen, Robyn, and Dave right where I left them 7 hours ago and as I rolled into Transition 2, Rudy was there once again shouting over crowds to get my attention and make sure I heard him "Go Sarah! You're doing great!". Next to my butt, it's the checks on my face that hurt the most from smiling all day long.