I busted out of the tent and ran (aka hobbled because really who can run in cycling shoes?) to my bike. I checked my nutrition one last time, stuffed my phone in my back pocket and grabbed my bike. As I grabbed my bike, the one next to me started to fall. AHH!! I quickly grabbed it before it fell and struggled to wrangle both bikes and re-rack the other. They were all so close together! I got it done and off I headed to the mount line.
The mount line in Santa Rosa is at the bottom of a hill. In May, I watched no less than three people fall at this line trying to get going. It was a huge cluster of people slowly making their way up the hill, walking their bikes or turtling on the ground. I started to get going and lost momentum. SHIT! I told a spectator to move. I was about to fall into her, but managed to catch myself. Let’s start this again! Again I mounted and made my way up the hill. A few seconds later, I heard a clunk. I looked behind me and there went one of my back hydration bottles. DAMN IT! I stopped and a nice spectator grabbed it for me and handed it to me. Okay third time’s the charm. I headed up yet again and this time, success! I made it to the top and was on my way!
The first five miles is all descent. A pretty big descent too, so I settled in and really tried to calm my heart rate. This was going to be a long day, I wanted to get my heart rate down before I came to the climb at mile 5.
Because the first few miles were burned into my head from the half, they flew by and soon I found myself at the top of the first big climb. I’m a slow climber, but this time it didn’t seem so bad. I knew it was coming and how to handle it. Right near the top of the first climb, I heard another clunk. I looked back and there went BOTH of my rear hydration bottles. UGH! This was not good. I like to use disposable bottles during races so I don’t lose my nice hydration bottles and I hadn’t tested how well this specific bottle would fit in my water bottle holders. Well it didn’t fit well at all!
Minus 2 bottles of electrolyte I kept going. It’d be okay. I told myself I could get water and Gatorade at the aid stations and restock my hydration at special needs. After the climb, I pulled out my first Picky bar. I had trained on these all summer. This was my nutrition of choice and now was the time to eat the first of five that I had planned for the ride. I ate it, forcing it down. It’s a bit dry and if I’m being honest, I was already kind of sick of them from eating so many during training.
As soon as I ate that bar my stomach cramped up. It wasn’t a cramp like a GI distress cramp, I didn’t think I needed to puke or anything like that. It just HURT, like I had shoved a brick in my stomach. I laid off food for an hour and just sipped my hydration hoping it would settle, but it didn’t. That picky bar set in my stomach like a rock for the entirety of the ride, throbbing. Picky bars were now out the window, I would have to improvise. As the miles passed by I started experimenting. Rice krispies worked well, but I only had about 300 calories of those on me. Applesauce also worked, but again I didn’t have a lot. I grabbed bananas at aid stations and focused on getting to special needs.
Nutrition and hydration issues aside, the course is quite lovely and the first 56 miles are relatively smooth riding. There are a few rough patches, especially the out and backs we had to do, but it wasn’t terrible and the scenery is just amazing. Wineries and vineyards at every corner, pretty sloping hills, big California oak trees and blue(ish) skies.
I focused on keeping my heart rate in the range my coach had set for me, which meant going increasingly slower. I started losing power, partially due to fatigue, but also due to the poor nutrition I was getting. I stopped at two aid stations, which I never do, just to give myself a little mental break. I was really mentally struggling. Frustrated that I had lost my hydration, that I couldn’t eat and that I was having to slow down so much to stay in my heart rate range.
I told myself I only had to make it into town and I’d be at special needs. There I could get more NBS and load up on gels and applesauce, which I knew my stomach could handle. After what felt like forever I turned into town. My family and coach Sonja screamed at me, I waved and mustered a smile. This is supposed to be fun Lindsey! Finally I found the special needs area. I stopped and a nice volunteer grabbed my bag and waited for me to load up. I was so happy to get my gels and hydration.
Fully loaded I took off on the two loops around the city. The first few miles of the loop flew by and I soon found myself climbing a hill. I managed to get some gels into me and started feeling better. I sipped my hydration, happy to have it back on board and headed out into the countryside.
This section of road was VERY bad. Potholes and rough road pretty much everywhere. It was impossible to gain any sort of speed and when I did have smooth road a nice headwind would pop up. It was over one of these rough patches that I heard a familiar “clunk.” FML! I turned around and sure enough, both of my NBS hydration bottles were gone! I still had my aero bottle full, but that was it. I’d have to deal with straight water for the next 40 miles. It was definitely possible, but I knew this would come back to bite me in the butt on the run.
The second loop around Santa Rosa broke me. I wanted off the bike so bad. I wanted it to end. On top of that my right eye started to burn pretty bad. I knew it was sunscreen and sweat getting into my eye, but there was nothing I could do to make it stop. Rubbing it only made it worse and I didn’t have fresh water to squirt my eye with. I just grinned through it, the eye getting blurrier with each passing mile.
Frustrated with trying to keep my heart rate low and wanting to take care of my eye as soon as possible, I said, “Screw it.” Time to pump out some faster miles, heart rate be damned. I desperately wanted off of that bike. Ignoring my coach’s advice I started ramping up the power. My heart rate surged above target, but I was finally moving! I rounded the corner into town, and shortly came up on the dismount line. Never before have I been SO HAPPY to get off of my bike. I got off, handed it to the volunteers and jokingly (mostly) told them they could burn it.
I finished the bike in 8:03:11 with an average pace of 13.91 miles per hour. Well over my predicted time, but under the cut-off and the goal was to finish, so I was still on track.