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 of the bike course. I was riding across the top of the mountain with some of the most challenging climbs waiting up the road from me. At the top of each climb were three marked points on the course:
The aid station by the yacht club.
The “out n’ back.”
The sky was overcast and the air was considerably colder up here than it had been when I had been at the bottom of the mountain. The road was winding and those turns were sharp.
I would climb to the top of a climb, turn the corner and see a group of cheering locals outside their homes. Such as when I passed the aid station by the yacht club.
I would turn a corner and suddenly, each side of the road were lush fields. Sometimes I passed grazing cows, or a herd of goats or horses as I passed the Luchadores.
Luchadores are Mexican wrestlers who wear colorful masks.
(Why were there Mexican wrestlers who wear colorful masks on an Ironman bike course in Bolton, England???)
I turned left and accelerated to 35 mph down the “out n’ back.”
Let me explain this.
I was traveling 35 mph, on 25 mm of rubber to a near dead stop, turn around, while hoping my brakes and the structural integrity of my tires were going to hold.
If either of those failed, my race was over and I was going to the hospital.
A tire blow-out at 35 mph and I’m done. Hitting the ground at that speed will cause your bones to break.
Pedaling up this one last time, I wanted to stay on the bike, but 400 feet from the top I had to get off. The muscles in my quad were signaling a revolt and I didn’t want a war.
At the top I mounted my bike. I wasn’t home yet. There were still two little climbs left to crest.
I trudged along best I could at 8 mph, which I pushed up to 11.
Breathing heavily, I turned left and began the free return for the final time.
The only problem was it was 4:20 p.m. and I was 12 minutes away from the end of the bike course.
(But it only takes you 12 minutes to reach t2 from where you were.)
True, but I was 10 minutes from the 4:30 p.m. cut off. I needed to find two minutes.
It was time to put 17 years of cycling to use. You either have 100% trust in your bike mechanics or you don’t.
I was trusting that my bike would grip the road as I went over bumps at 30 miles per hour.
I was trusting that my bike would grip the road as I banked turns while I feathered my brakes.
I needed to find two minutes, so I pedaled on the descent and pushed my bike speed up. It was too dangerous to take my eyes off the road and look at speed.
I could look that up after I became an Ironman.
At the bottom of the free return was a mile of tree lined streets and the road was flat.
That was the road that led to the park where t2 awaited me. I just hoped that I wasn’t too late. I was now on a section of the bike course that was also the marathon run course.
The elite and pro athletes were running on the other side of the road where I hoped to be in a matter of minutes.
My wife Janet once described me as, “You can get on board with him, get out of the way of him or get run over by him.”
I was at that point. I had three minutes remaining and it was time to put everything I had into this last mile.
I was going 20 miles an hour, which made it hard for me to breathe.
I was pushing as hard as I could.
I was now passing other riders ahead of me, but I didn’t have time to be polite.
If they were on the shoulder of the road where they belonged, I passed on the left.
If they were in the middle of the road, I went straight past them on the right.
I came flying into the corral where people in front of me were dismounting.
It was like a crash landing on an aircraft carrier with a plane in the way. I dismounted and pushed the bike over the line. Still breathing heavily, I hit the lap button on my watch that switched me from bike to t2.
“Time?” Called out to spectators.
“What time is it?”
I had to know. Was I too late? Did I fail? Did I let my father down?
Was it time to call and give the “I failed” speech?
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].