Friday, September 14, 2007

The Bike - Final Chapter

One mile at a time. One mile at a time I kept telling myself. The weather was perfect for a long ride. The sun was shining with some clouds in the sky. It was cool. What a contrast from last year, rain, wind just yuck. And then the year before that, heat, humidity, no clouds just sun. We hit the weather jackpot. Just take your time I told myself. I was being passed constantly. Some were flying by others were slow and steady. Don't let that get in your head I told myself. It was probably mile 3 when I saw this bee coming right for me. THUMP. Put my fingers in the vent of my helmet to swish it out and was stung. AWE! I screamed. "AWE, AWE, HEY, AWE". I kept repeating it. I looked and the little sh!t got me on the inside of my middle finger, left hand. Crap it hurt. #81 rode by me, "Hey are you ok?" "Yeah, I just got stung by a bee" I said. "Are you allergic" he asked. "No just pissed" I answered. 2 miles went by and I was still feeling the burn and throb from the sting and saw something out of the corner of my left eye. It was a red and black flash. Then I saw an arm waving low. It was Dennis. He was riding smooth and fast. I started to wonder if I would see anyone else. Got to Firemans Park and took a gel and water. Was happy with how my nutrition was going. The next 10 mile felt great. I was passing the occasional rider who slowed down to eat or had trouble on a hill. Was getting ready to pass a girl when a ride Marshall came behind me and told me, "Pam you have 20 seconds to get by her." I was shocked. Couldn't he see I was passing her and that I was OBVIOUSLY obeying all the rules. And how did he know my name? It's funny, how you become defensive when you're concentrating and are suddenly interrupted. I was shaking my head yes at him and he watched as I passed and got a good distance in front of her. He then gave me the thumbs up and a big smile. I reminded myself that I wasn't on my typical Sunday ride, this was the Ironman and I needed to be aware of my entire surroundings not just me, my bike, my nutrition, but everyone and everything. Then I remembered I had my number with my first name on it on my back. Daaa, that's how he knew my name!

I began to ride with O'Callahan. A very thin, tall man. He would jockey ahead of me and then vice versa. We got to the climb in Mt. Horeb and I told him I had to get by and get up that hill. He yelled for me to "Go get it"! And that's exactly what I did. I grabbed water at the aid station by Mt. Horeb High School (while still on my bike, with a firm hand!) And he rode past me - "Hey, nice climb Pam!" We stuck together for a while. Commenting back and forth, encouraging each other with each hill that came. I lost him just after the rollers. Then right before the dreaded twisting climb, he passed me. "You look great Pam - way to tackle it!" I was taking in some gel at that point and wanted to conserve for what was about to come. So I let him go. That was the last time I saw him. The ride was going so smooth. It made me a little nervous it was so good. I knew I still had a couple of challenging hills left and then, I had to do it all over again. The trees were starting to cover the street now and I began to see more people. I could hear someone thumping a drum. A monotone, Tum, Tum, Tum, Tum. A perfect rhythm. And the twisting climb began. Seat back, toes forward, stay in the moment, I repeated these things. Tum, tum. I heared a spectator yelling - "Let's go people, ride those bikes like you just stole them!" I cracked a smile, that was funny because I always think no one would steel my bike, except for maybe me. Tum, tum, tum. The beat continued. People were cheering. "Go Met Life." Tum, Tum, Tum. I saw the woman who was beating the drum now. I was looking for the devil but never saw him. I was glad cause he freaked me out. I started moving my head to the beat of the drum. Tum, tum, tum, tum. The ride Marshall rode by, it was my ride Marshall, the one who called me by name. He was smiling. It was pretty comforting seeing that. Kind of like seeing your mom when you're a little kid. Knowing she's out there looking out for you. Tum, tum, tum and then my legs felt relief. The climb was over. Ahhh. I was shocked at how many people were at this point. Lots of cheering and yelling. It lasted over the next several miles, to the point of the next hard climb. I actually liked this part of the ride. I knew that after this point the only hard part left was "Possium hill" and shortly after that I would start the entire 40 mile ride over again.

Just before entering Verona I choked up. I'm doing this I thought. The emotion came from the fact that I don't consider myself a very strong cyclist. I'm a runner. Not a rider. But today I'm proving to myself that I am a cyclist. That I can do this. Kickstand and all. I saw a huge group of trimates cheering at the school in Verona. Michelle, Laura, Sheila, Kath and her family. I think there were more. They were screaming and cheering, I had to hold my mouth for a second to keep my emotions in check. It was a great feeling and so good to see them. I was looking for my family. Where were they? Oh, there's a port-a-potty. Stop, stop now. A young boy came to grab my bike. "No need" I said, "I have a kickstand". "Oh", he said with disappointment, "can I hold it anyway?" "Sure" I told him with a smile and handed him my bike. It was a quick stop, time well spent :) Got on the bike and took off. Hey, where are they. Did I miss them. I was heading back to Fireman's Park now. The second loop was starting but I never saw my family. Yikes, did something happen. I saw an ambulance leaving the cheering section by the school. Did Zak run out and get hit by a bike. My mind was racing and my legs were almost to a stand still. I decided before anymore tragic thoughts came to mind I had to call Scott. Got off the bike. Was asked by some spectators if everything was ok and I told them yes that I had to call my family and make sure they were ok because I didn't see them. Most of you may be rolling your eyes right now but my mind wasn't clearing, I kept thinking the worst, in order to stop the negative thoughts I had to call. Scott answered his phone.

"Hey, you better be riding and calling" he said.

"Where are you? Did I miss you?" I asked.

"No he said, we're on our way right now, see you on the second loop. You're riding right? I hope you didn't stop."

"I gotta go" I said. "See you in a couple of hours."

I was angry. Why weren't they there? Then the mother in me kicked in. The kids are 4, when at home it takes me forever to get them out the door, throw in new surroundings and a pool. Then add gramma and the cousins and there was my answer. This wasn't just a long day for me, this was a long day for everyone. With that I took a sip of water. Well, tried to. There was no water left in my cup. Grabbed my bottle. Empty. I started to panic. How could I let this happen? Stay calm I thought. But I wasn't, I was panicking. The panic caused my heart to race and soon my legs were feeling fatigued. I passed special needs. I knew water was about 5 miles away. I would stop and fill up. Literally stop. I would fill the cup and the bottle and then every water/aid station I would take a bottle and fill the cup, no matter how much water was in there, I would top it off. My thoughts were completely focused on how thirsty I was. I would occasionally try to suck the very last of any water that was left in the cup. I sounded like the annoying 8 year old at the movie theater making sure he got every last bit of soda from his cup. Finally, I got to the water stop. Filled up and was irritated by the teenage volunteer who was handing me the water. After I thanked her for her time she said "Hope you make it to the finish - I'll look for you". I almost slapped her. Instead I said - "Oh you'll see me, if I have to crawl you'll see me." And then I thought, now get the F away from me because your negative energy is bringing me down! I rode off fast. THE NERVE! What's the matter with her. Stop the negative thoughts. My legs were tired. I knew this would happen. I knew the first loop was to good to be true. The weather started to get cooler and the clouds were covering the sun. "Great I thought, I knew it would rain." I have to shake this negativeness. I reached for a gel. There was only one left in my bra. I checked the back pocket, one left. UGH! What was I thinking. How could I miss calculate. I had a good 45 miles + left. It's ok I thought. The aid stations have gel. Stay calm. You're about 8 miles from Mt. Horeb. Stay focused. My ride Marshall drove by. I smiled and waved, trying to hide the panic I was feeling. This can't be falling apart now. What if there are no gels left at the aid station, then what. I'm out here pretty late. It's possible. What will I do? Ok, get positive. Stop this negative thinking. Just keep moving. At this point I prayed. I said the Lords prayer over and over. Before I knew it I made it to the Mt. Horeb aid station and was yelling, WATER and it was perfectly passed to me, I then started yelling - GEL, I NEED GEL. I focused on a woman who had one in her hand along with a power bar, she handed me both as I balanced the water bottle in my mouth. I was able to get the water in the cup and throw the empty bottle while still holding on to the bar and gel. I then sucked the bar right out of the wrapper. I could taste the salt in the bar I was sucking so hard. I stuffed the wrapper in my cup and did the gel. Yuck it was the new Espresso flavor, but I felt the caffeine immediately. It was a strange comfort. Within 2 miles I started feeling good again. My mind was making its way thru the negative haze. I was worried about where I was on the course tho. I thought I lost time and that I was going to be close to the bike cut off time of 5:30. I couldn't even tell you what time it was at this point but the negative energy was still with me. And then I asked myself, "What made me think I wasn't exactly where I needed to be at this on the ride?" How could such a clear thought make its way thru such a cluttered mind still boggles me. But it did. Shortly after that I passed a mile marker and checked my watch. I did the math. I was happy with what I figured. I should be getting to T2 around 4:30. That was good. The negativity was slipping away. It felt like the caffeine and sodium from the gels that I was getting in large quantities from each aide station and taking every half hour was washing it away. Saw my ride Marshall for the last time with only about 22 miles left. He smiled and waved as if to wave good bye and good luck. I was wanted to yell thank you but just waved.

Headed into Verona and was excited because I knew I would see the family. There weren't many riders left at this point. Anabel was in front of me. A good distance in front. And a Marshall came by me and held up her hands, indicating that I was to close. This did annoy me. I was a good 3 1/2 bikes back, if not 4. I hit my brakes. The motorcycle pulled away. But the Marshall kept watching me. I was wondering if she thought I was going to flip her my bee sting. :) I didn't. At this point I just wanted to see Grace and Zak, Scott and Keri, my mom, Patty and everyone else. As soon as I turned towards the school I saw Scott and Sammy. And then a little further down I saw Gracie jumping up and down, screaming at the top of her lungs. Someone was holding Zak and he was waving, nonchalantly, just the way Zak does. Everyone was full of energy. I screamed back at them. And then they were gone. Ok, You're in the home stretch. I wanted to check my watch, instead I grabbed some cold water and used the pap again. "I'm back" I told the young kid who took my bike earlier. Getting out of the pap, my stomach felt queasy from all the gel. I told an older woman that my stomach was doing the wave and she suggested I take it easy riding in. She reminded me I still had a run ahead of me. "That was my plan, to take it easy." I told her. Those last 17 miles went by quickly. I told myself I was riding to Monee. Just and easy afternoon ride. And that's just what it felt like. Coming up the bike path, into Madison I could see the convention center. I choked up a little then. I had a fear of not being able to make it up the helix. I had no trouble. Keri, Patty and my mom were there waiting for me. I got off the bike and checked my watch. almost 4:00 p.m. Now I was smiling. I did it, in less time that I thought I would. I handed off my bike and did my best to quickly move to T2 for a change. It was time to change these biking legs back into runners legs.

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