It’s never a good sign when the palm trees are blowing before 6 am. But they were in the direction of tailwind out of town. Another not so good sign. Regardless, Seiichi, Thomas and I set out for our epic ride of the course. The first 35 miles were glorious. The day was cool, tailwind at our back. Nothing beats riding along the Queen K seeing speed consistently over 20 mph.
Before we knew it – the left turn towards Kawaihae, a descent and then the climb towards Hawi. Here’s a photo of Thomas around mile 40. So far so good for a short course specialist. In fact, before today I don’t think Thomas has ever ridden over 80 miles.
Now you will notice I took many photos of Thomas today. I call it a chronicle of the unraveling of a grown man. Sorry boys, no photos of female hotties today. Will try for that tomorrow.
A few miles after the turn off, Thomas gets a flat. Not such great timing since we just had our break. Not only that but it was the rear wheel. Then he blows his C02 when he screws the nozzle top on to the dispenser. Poor guy. Dragged along for this crazy ride and has to change the flat. He tells us the short courser in him would just call it a day if it happened in a race. But we still have over 60 miles to go. Change that tire, boy.
The wind is mostly in our face now. Seiichi takes off in a big ring craze. As Thomas and I reach the sign that says 7 miles to Hawi, I tell him to prepare for the longest 7 miles of this life. The classic crazy winds begin. We are grinding below 10 mph. It is slow, it is windy.
About 1 mile from the top, a dog runs towards us. I shout SCRUFFY (inside joke, remember in San Diego Marit?) and remind myself never to make a funny joke at the top of the hill. Any oxygen going to the legs starts coming out the mouth in giggles and leaves nothing but a burn.
Finally at the top of Hawi. A small break, a small cup of coffee. I read a card in the coffee shop:
Essence is what is left behind when all of your defenses are stripped away.
A perfect saying for what was ahead on the ride. The first half of the course is the easy part. It’s mostly tailwind, your legs are mostly fresh. Even the climb to Hawi with its headwinds is just a small part of the ride. When you make that turn and descend from Hawi – that is when the ride begins.
And so it begins.
We are descending now. I am dropped. Immediately. I shout BIG PEOPLE SUCK but no one hears. Thomas and Seiichi become small mirages far from me. Descending should be fun, would be fun except for the strong crosswinds wanting to take the bike sailing over 26 mph into the shoulder of the road.
Finally I am in control again, at the bottom of the descent and back to the grind. I catch up with Thomas and we find a good rhythm to Kawaihae. Along the way we notice Seiichi has stopped for a phone call but we keep pedaling away.
The climb out of Kawaihae is grinding but over soon. Then the right turn back onto Highway 19. Heading south. The Queen K. Listen up. If you are doing the race – this is where the race begins. In fact up until this point if you have been racing the race you have been going to hard. Lucky for us it was a cross tailwind back along the road. The day is beautiful, the roads are smooth and we are cruising along. Someone shouts my name across the highway around mile 72 – it’s Bree Wee and Heather Gollinick out for a ride. The next few miles sail by with the cross tail.
But I knew what was ahead. I’ve done this before. Miles 80 – 100 loomed ahead. The not so nice miles. The miles that make you want off your bike. The miles that reveal what truly is your essence.
They arrive. Along with headwind. 20 mph turns into 13 mph turns into 18 into 12 into 23. The winds are all over the place. Any rhythm we find is quickly switched up with a change in the wind. This is the hardest part of these 20 miles. There is no rhythm. There is no flow. You just pedal and you just deal.
Behind me a grown man is starting to rage. It’s Thomas. He’s not in a happy place. He says his SRM has seen numbers he has never seen before in terms of time and distance. At mile 92 we stop alongside the road. He demands water. He eats another bar. He says this is unbelievable. I have no sympathy. Just a camera. Those of you that have ridden this course know this photo is a classic CURSE THE QUEEN K photo.
It is unbelievable at this point but that is what makes it a world championship course. Ahead of us there is nothing but continuous rolling black lava and the wheat-colored grass. The cars whiz by unaffected by the wind. We grind along at 14. When we’re going fast.
We stop at a guard house to a community for water. While filling his water bottles Thomas says he doesn't want to be my friend anymore. Give it time. Only 10 more miles until the airport. We can do this. Come on. I think about essence. The defenses are stripped away now, Liz. What is left? To endure. To last it out. Not to ride harder but smarter. To trust that at some point the time will pass...or the winds will change.
Finally the long line of palms that tell us the airport is ahead. Next the marina. Then Makala. A right turn, a collective groan and a short trip down Alii Drive.
For Thomas, a hamburger and a seat in a chair - not a saddle. For me, a transition run along Alii Drive. Chris decides to carry water and pace me on a beach cruiser bike. My legs feel amazingly fresh. But it is so humid and hot! I am going faster than marathon pace but that is ok. If I can do this here, now on this day on this course, I can do anything. Nothing will ever be this hard again!
Around 30 minutes I say that we can be done so Chris isn’t out there for long but he tells me to go on. Your performance is not suffering, your form looks fine, he says, you just have discomfort – you can go on. He is right. Today I thought a lot about pain versus discomfort. The real breakthroughs in training take place when you commit to expanding your zone of discomfort. When you learn to distinguish between physical pain and discomfort. Physical pain is a reason to stop. Discomfort is a reason to push on and make your zone bigger. Today I expanded my zone of discomfort. I will never be that hot or sweaty on a run again!
Back at the condo it was time to relax and eat! Drink water too. I could not imagine training in these conditions all of the time. You would be so depleted. I wonder how Bree does it, honestly!
Chris is feeling good today. He got all checked in and is busy prepping his bike for the race. He even got me a present at the expo! He is the best husband 3 years of marriage can buy. Today is our anniversary! I cannot believe I spent it on a bicycle but I know my husband understands.
Chris also got a big bag of stuff from the race. The protein granola - it was ok. And can you believe they now make Ironman perfume? Chris took one look at it and said “here it is, the smell of desperation.” It was safe to say too that you could smell the smell of Ironman in my armpits today. It was a long day in the saddle and then on the run. Now, it’s time to recover. Eat food. Fresh fruit. Chris’ mom bought another dozen papayas at the market today. I’m not kidding there have to 20 papayas here.
Tomorrow is a much easier day. A swim – I CANNOT WAIT! The Power Bar breakfast. A short recovery run. And then, well….nothing. I’m on Hawaiian time. There’s no hurry in the day.
I will do some hottie spotting tomorrow but really didn't see much today except lava and tufts of grass. I did see Macca and his posse out on the Queen K.