Heading onto the bike course, I felt simply OK. I didn’t have my usual race-pace spunk and drive, but I was trying to focus on high cadence and small gearing, in order to save my legs for the run. I also wondered if my blah feeling might signal the onset of the bug that forced MJ to withdraw from the race, or if I was simply having an off day. Regardless, my legs never quite seemed to come alive. By the time I reached the third lap and knew that my bike split would hit the seven hour mark – almost 45 minutes slower than I’ve ever ridden in an Ironman – I knew that whatever the reason, I couldn’t possibly be saving THAT much for the run.
While the sun had come out earlier in the day, we were pelted with pissing down rain for much of the first and second bike laps. It was difficult to see through rain-spotted glasses, and the slick streets and sharp turns through town at the lap turnaround required extra caution. The memory of crashing on my bike in my last race passed briefly through my mind, but I quieted my fear with some strange logic. I reasoned that the only honorable way to go down during Ironman Australia would be via kangaroo – for example, if a kangaroo hopped out of the bush and kicked me off my bike. Now that would make for an amazing story! But minus a kangaroo attack, I was determined to ride with confidence and not allow crash flashbacks to haunt me. So I rode past multiple kangaroo crossing road signs, one eye on the road and one eye peeled for the critters who could potentially change my destiny.
The notable Matthew Flinders hill (a steep 10% grade which you ride three times), was too intimidating for many – each time I approached it the athletes in front of me all dismounted their bikes and walked. I cycled up, but on one particularly wet lap I felt my wheel spin out precariously as I rode over a painted-on, and therefore super slippery, cheer sign. The Ironman Australia bike course is classified as very difficult, and by the third of three laps, after rain, wind, chip-sealed road surface and numerous hills, I was beginning to agree.