I mount the bike and start my bike leg. As I am switching up the gears, I make sure to avoid people who have attached their shoes to their bikes and are trying to put their feet in whilst riding along. As mentioned, I put my bike shoes on in transition. The pro's and lots of other people put them on as they are riding. I am just not used to it and would rather do it the safe and reliable way rather than a way that I have not trained for. I start peddling along and to my pleasure the speedometer is working on the bike. I am sitting on around 30km/hour and I have not even entered the main part of the course. As I round the course and begin the long straight ride to the end of Papamoa beach, I am aware of a breeze blowing into my face. It does not seem to be to much of an issue and my speed is okay sitting at around 30-33km/h. I know that the first bottle exchange is at the main turnaround at Papamoa beach and is 20km away before heading inland and then returning along much of the same course creating a 45km loop. I am feeling quite good and now start preparing myself for around 3 hours of cycling.
I had a basic nutritional plan laid out for myself and again in hindsight will make sure that this is better laid out for future races. I had ensured that I had enough food for the race just not worked out when I was going to have it. There is one thing I know for sure and that is that I need to eat enough solids on the bike as I will not be wanting them on the run. I need to make sure that I eat even when I don't want to which will hopefully stop me from hitting the wall later in the race. I decide that at the 15km mark, once I am settled into the bike, I will have a slice of my homemade bar. I will wash it down with my Gatorade however I will not finish the bottle in time for the 20km bottle drop so there is no point in sculling it to do so as I will potentially over hydrate and make myself sick. At that turnaround point I know there will be Leppin gels so I will take one and then settle down until the 30km mark when I will again have more bar, drink and potentially one of my own gels. I will then keep hydrating until the 66km mark exchange a bottle at the bottle exchange and then finish a third piece of bar as well as another Leppin gel with the focus on taking one of my own GU gels 10km out to give me a shot of energy before the run.
I am surprised to see that in no time at all I am at the 20km turnaround and bottle exchange. I have had less than half of my gatorade in my first bottle and there is nothing to exchange. I grab a Leppin gel from a volunteer, tear it open and suck it down. I follow that with a good sip of Gatorade and then do a sharp turn left before heading further out to Papamoa Beach on another road. I turn at a roundabout before heading to the final turnaround before heading back to the Start/Finish line to complete lap 1. As I am riding along I see a guy laying on the pavement surrounded by people with a bloodied nose and looking a little worse for wear. I don't see his bike and am unsure if he is even dressed like a competitor but he has certainly either fallen over or been hit by something. It is not the only misfortune that I have seen on the ride. Just as I was starting the bike leg there was a competitor changing his tyre, it had either been flat from the start of the race or he had punctured in the first 100 metres. Several other people had punctured in the first 30km also. Maybe the good karma of me helping that guy with his wetsuit was starting to pay off. As soon as I started heading back to Mount Maunganui, I could feel the tail wind. I looked down to see my speedo showing me sitting on 41km/h. I was feeling great at this stage and having this tail wind push me along was only making it better. Based on my out lap as well as what I was sitting on now, there was a chance that I could do a 2 hour 30 or 2 hour 40 ride. That would put me well under my 5 hour 30 minute goal as long as the run held up okay. I was flying along, careful not to find myself stuck in behind someone and found to be drafting. There are strict drafting rules in triathlon and I was ensuring that I was adhering to them. Even with no drafting, I was still getting up to speeds of 43km/h.
Eventually after 45km I was back in town. It is a good feeling when you start heading back into town and the crowds are cheering you on even though they have no idea who you are. I came around a long sweeping corner and into a long straight that had the main turnaround. Along the straight I saw my mum and her partner and waved hello to them as I hit the turnaround and began my second lap of the course. Almost as soon as I turned around I could feel the headwind hitting me. It seemed to be a lot stronger than before or was that just my legs now aching. No, it was definitely the headwind. My speed was just scraping over 25km/hour and it was hurting. How the hell was I going to do this for another 45km. I checked my average speed and saw that it was around the 33km mark for the first 45km. I knew this meant that I was sitting on around a 2 hour 40 minute ride and needed to make sure that my average speed in the second half did not drop too low otherwise it would be a 3 hour ride. I knew that at the bottle drop turnaround at around the 66km mark that I would head back along the course for a little bit of relief before again heading into the headwind so it would not be until around the 75km mark that I would be cycling with a direct tailwind. I basically had 30km of cycling into a headwind, I was going to have to deal with it and I was going to have to maintain a reasonable average speed.
I hit around the 55km mark and I was in agony. My lower back was killing me and I was over the headwind. Nothing I did seemed to relieve the pressure and pain out of my back. I was stretching probably every 5km by standing upright on my peddles trying to loosen my back but the relief was only for a short time and nothing would relieve the pain. I did want to put some Voltaren gel on my lower back prior to the race as I had a feeling this would be an issue and I had forgotten. A mental note was made for the next one that Voltaren gel is heavily applied. Even though I was struggling on this leg of the ride I managed to shove down my throat another piece of my homemade bar. No matter what I had to eat and there was no way I wanted to go into the run hungry.
I have mentioned in a couple of blogs that I am glad I trained in windy Wellington because I had no idea what the weather was going to be like on race day. Well, the wind training had paid off because although it was bad it was not the worst headwind I had ever ridden in. I must admit that at around this time I was thinking to myself that I was not going to finish this ride, I was in too much pain. I was now counting down kilometres. 6 kilometres to go until the bottle drop...5 kilometres to go...4 kilometres to go. Finally I could see the bottle drop area. I drank the last of my Gatorade, threw my empty pump bottle somewhere near the bottle drop bin and came around the turnaround. I quickly grabbed a Leppin drink bottle and grabbed a Leppin gel as I knew I needed to replace a lot of energy that I had just used up. Into a sweeping left hander before another left hander and then back into the headwind heading to the back of the course. I could now see the right hand turn down to a roundabout that took you along a straight and then there would be one more hard turn right at a roundabout into a straight with a final turnaround before heading back home. I again had a tailwind and was heading home. Speeds were now sitting at around 39-40km/hour. My back was still killing me but at least I was going fast.
With 20km to go I thought back to the days when I used to do the Gatorade sprint series in Melbourne. The distances were usually a 500m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. I thought back to those 20km rides and how it used to take me around 30-36 minutes depending on conditions. I came back to reality and realised that I had around 30 minutes of pain left in this bike leg, my back was hurting but I was going to finish it. I shoved the last bit of bar in my face and looked down to see 10km to go. I began my preparations for the run. Firstly I downed one of my highly concentrated GU gels to give me instant energy in the last 10km and set me up for a good start to the run. Next I drank around 300mls of my Gatorade. I wanted it to digest before going on the run so might as well have it now. I had 8km to go, I could see Mount Maunganui and I was nearly home. 5km to go and I had another stretch of my back. As I went around a sweeping left hand turn I fully stretched my legs and quads nearly cramping in my right leg. 2km to go and I was starting to see the crowds and saw my wife and son and waved to them as they yelled, "Go Frosty and Go Daddy". I had one more sip of my Gatorade and then with 1km to go I started to undo my bike shoes and put my foot on top of the shoes ready to dismount the bike. With 400m to go I saw my mum and partner and gave them a wave before hitting the bike dismount area and jumping off my bike. I pushed it into transition and put it on the racks. My Ironman race was 21.1km and 2 hours from finishing and my dream of doing it in Vibram's was just starting. The bike was finished in 2 hours 50 and 30 seconds with transition taking 2 minutes and 6 seconds.