Now I pushed my speed up to 35 mph as I went downhill.
My logic was, 4 mph on the climb and 35 mph on the descent should average to … 20 mph, but I’d settle for it averaging 15 mph for that section so I could hold this 13.2 mph average.
(I don’t understand.)
I figured 112 miles of biking at an average of 13.2 mph would give me eight hours and 28 minutes or 4:28 p.m.
The last 2.5 miles of the bike course was a sharp descent, followed by a nearly flat ride through town to the bike transition. I called it what the Apollo Astronauts called it when they let gravity pull their capsule back home to Earth, a “free return.” Except, I had no idea how long it actually took me to travel those last 2.5 miles.
Was it five minutes or 15 minutes?
The free return took 12 minutes from the top of the mountain to the moment I passed t2 entrance. I now knew how fast I needed to travel on that third loop.
1:45:56 p.m. (+7:43:10 since race start)
End of loop 2/Starting loop 3
As I started the third loop, I knew that it was going to be a battle against time and pain. If I pushed too hard, I would cramp up and need to stop.
(Or fall over.)
If I went too slow, I would miss the time cut off on the bike course and be pulled from the race.
I was at mile 79. I only had two hours and 45 minutes left to travel 33 miles.
(That’s just 12 miles an hour.)
Remember what I previously said about “4 mph on the climb and 35 mph on the descent”?
Well, there were way more climbs than descents and any rider who rolled in 10.5 hours after they started would be disqualified.
(How long after the 6 a.m. first wave started did you begin your swim?)
I didn’t know, but if the fatigue continued to eat away at my strength, I was going to run out of time…
Instead of worrying, I stole a glance at my bike computer to check the time of the day.
“I can now say my afternoon prayers now.”
(Did you get off your bike?)
No, I made sure that I was descending downhill so I could pedal three steps back.
After I finished praying, I then recited every Psalm I could recall from memory.
(Just how many do you know by heart?)
My grandfather taught me Hallel, so that’s a bunch of them.
Last year I made a deal with God that even if I didn’t make it through this race, I would be better about saying my afternoon prayers.
(And you made it?)
I did and now that I was back in the same situation.
The beginning of the prayers we say in the mornings has this line that I’ve come to meditate on.
No, but I pause when I say it to focus on what I am asking for.
That would be nice, but no.
“…Who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.”
Lord, I’m not asking you to move mountains. I’m just asking that you grant me the focus to see the opportunities in front of me, so that I do not miss them.
(A prayer for the ADD/ADHD population?)
That is how I see it … and I needed that help.
There were seven tough climbs on this bike course. By my estimates, If the “free return” took 12 minutes, I was going to need five more minutes than I had to scale all seven of the climbs.
Like Apollo 13 looking for those extra amps to release their recovery parachutes after the explosion, I racked my brain. Where was I gonna find five extra minutes?
The funny thing about that third loop was the missing climb.
(God flattened out the road in front of you?)
I had previously counted seven separate climbs and one of them was missing this time around. Either I miscounted or I was so focused on taking in salt to avoid another cramp that I didn’t notice that there was a break between the climbs.
(Maybe you pedaled up it as you were praying to God.)
I felt the road begin to slope up again and I saw people ahead walking their bikes.
Ha, I’m going slow but I’m not getting off my bike. I’m gonna pedal nice and slow and I’m going to ride all the way to the … I got off too. All the strength left my legs and I walked the last 100 feet to the top.
2:15:46 p.m. (+8:13:00 since race start)
I was at mile 82. I had two hours 15 minutes to cross the last 30 miles and I was riding across the top of the mountain … and the biggest climb was yet to come.
David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6. He can be reached at [email protected].