I mentioned in my swim post that I have a list for my pre-race routine. That bulleted list includes: ABC BIKE. It stands for AIR, BRAKE, CHAIN. I had completed that checklist on Friday when I handed off my bike to TriBike Transport. (They provided a bike shuttle service from downtown Santa Rosa to Transition 1 which I highly recommend.). On Saturday, I checked off my list: AIR, BRAKES, CALIBRATE. I did not check my chain.
So, when I rolled out of T1 and hopped on at the mount line, my chain had jumped the track. Duh. Mentally, I could have freaked out. Mainly because my chain was already in my head. I had taken Lucinda to the bike mechanic on Thursday before the race and he had commented on my front derailleur and how worn-out my chain was.
One woman near the bike exit caught my eye: are you okay? she asked. I'm great! This is perfect! I stopped, dismounted, quickly fixed it and off I went.
THIS IS PERFECT was my mantra for the day. I had already written it on my bottle's wetsuit. I knew that no matter what happened it would be perfect for me: perfect timing, perfect lesson, perfect walk break, perfect scenery. You can use it sarcastically or with belief, but if you tell yourself THIS IS PERFECT for 140.6 miles - it is going to be perfect. Perfection has held me back, but if you believe that every moment is perfect for that moment then it can change your whole trajectory.
I loved the course coming out of Lake Sonoma into Cloverdale and south through the wine country. There was one hill that (as my friend and mentor Sami said) got my attention and took over ten minutes to climb, but otherwise the rollers were manageable and fun. In fact, I wished there were other hills like the big one. The best part of that long, first hill was a spectator K. Chang who had a boom box playing Salt'n'Pepa's PUSH IT on repeat. He had a sign and was yelling PUSH IT REAL GOOD! It would not be the last I saw of him.
My goal for the first 30 miles was to go easy. Ridiculously easy. To keep it low: Watts low. Heart rate low. Yes, speed low. It is so freakin' hard to do. People are passing and I felt great and it feels like a net downhill. At mile 32ish I reached Spiceland! Ace Spice, Sunshine Spice and Boss Spice were waiting for me at the Fredson Road out-and-back. They had a pink raft as a sign that said GO BETH in glitter. They had chalked the road with inside jokes and 4G phrases. I rode down Fredson, hit the turn-around and headed back. I was able to see them again and flash them the 4G!
My goal for the next 50 miles into town was to ride like a ninja. Ride the terrain like a pro. I had taken some tips from Endurance Nation and Matt Dixon in training and deployed those tactics on race day. I played leap frog with another athlete for 10 miles until finally passing him at the Wilson Winery. I hit 36 mph on one amazing down hill and took in the scenery - wineries, redwoods, horses, cows and birds.
I had a low moment as I hit mile 65 at the 4-hour mark. It was the start of the double loop and I knew I'd have to see this point two more times. Plus, I wasn't even at the 80-mile mark yet. I felt whiny and hot and thought: this is dumb. I've got so far to go. But, I remembered the wise words of Matt Dixon: avoid at all cost the thought of how many more miles you have to go. I remembered that THIS IS PERFECT. This is exactly what is supposed to happen. And I know just what to do. So I stopped.
At the next aid station I took a nature break, got sprayed with sunscreen, I ate a banana, I drank part of a very cold water and poured a lot of it on my head. I ate a Ginger Ale Clif chomp and had some BASE salts. I suddenly felt better. I got back on Lucinda and we headed into town. Right after that, I heard and then saw my peeps. It was a surprise and was the emotional boost I needed.
I did not love the downtown loop of the course. There were a sh!tlotta turns, there was little shade and there was Irwin Road. There were 24 turns per loop! I liked the part through town because there were crowds and the turns and barricades made it feel like you were racing the end of a stage in the Tour de France. As we headed out of downtown, the shade disappeared and there was juuuuuuuuuust enough wind to make it feel like there was head wind the whole way. I did like that we rode for a second on the 101. And then, there was Irwin Road. Sami had warned me about Willowside Drive at mile 56ish and I'd survived it. But Irwin was something else. Potholes, gravel, rutted patches, grass in the cracks. It felt like cyclocross!
On that first pass, my torpedo water system on my aerobars became unhitched at the velcro strap. [THIS IS PERFECT] I stopped and tightened it, but couldn't get my Garmin Edge to sit correctly on its mount. It was tilted forward so I couldn't see any of the data. I had my watch, but don't usually use it for the bike (eyes on the road, people). I was lucky that was all that went wrong. There were more tires and tubes, cages and bottles and nutrition than I've ever seen on the side of the road.
My goal for those two loops was to feel strongest on the last one - and I did! I made a point to drink more water on this ride (close to 80 oz) and take in more salt and it worked. Plus, I saw my cheerleaders at mile 90 and that gave me another boost. Knowing that I had only one loop to go was exciting - because then I get to run. [Wait. What?] That last loop wasn't any faster than the other but I felt great. I was positive and happy. I finished in 6:50:23. It wasn't a personal best, but I knew I'd set myself up for a solid run.