Ironman CdA, Part II: THE BIKE

Here’s where things got ugly and tough. Briefly, the bike kicked my ass.

Race Day, Part II: The Bike

I felt amazing as I headed off on the bike, and waved to the family and friends who had moved out of the park and onto the bike route.
We’d ridden the first out-and-back section on Thursday, so I knew exactly what to expect. This portion along Lakeside Avenue was also where the run would be later, so I soaked up the scenery and remembered Gordo’s words from my training bible, Going Long, that, for the first 3–4 hours, I was going to feel better than I had in months.

Loop 1

He was right, and I worked hard to be easy and not go too hard. I took a look at the special needs area at the turn around and told myself that I was going to be sure to stop the second time around even if I thought I didn’t need anything.
My stomach felt just a bit off, so I made a point to grab some bananas. Cathy passed me somewhere after we turned around, calling out, “We’ll take turns!” She looked very strong and quickly moved off out of sight. Coming back through town again, and I saw the family. I believe we threw kisses back and forth; it was such a beautiful day and I was very happy. On towards Hayden, where the fun was really going to start…the hilly portion.
I think it was at the 20 mile aid station that I made myself stop and visit a port-a-potty. I knew I didn’t want to get into the hills and suddenly realize I had a full bladder. At that point, I was riding with bunches of people, and quite a few whooshed past as I came in and out of the aid station. No problem; there were lots of miles to go.
I had been particularly worried about a part with two short up hills; you went up a short steep hill, then turned left and continued up another short steep up hill. I was worried about the turn, the climb, everything. There it came…would you believe I actually passed some people going up this set of hills? I was shocked. I was also going about 5mph, but I told myself that as long as I was moving forward, I was doing well.
There was a big climb a bit after that; again, I was slow but steady. There seemed to be more hills than I remembered from the drive but my next real point of worry was a sharp u-turn in the narrow road at the turn-around and then a section of sharp turns on a downhill. Again, these were absolutely no problem! I gave myself a bit of congratulations at having improved so much, because even three months ago, those areas would’ve been much more of a problem for me.
I know I had a big smile on my face as we came out of the hills and worked our way back towards Coeur d’Alene. Except the wind picked up and I seemed to be riding straight into it. Ugh. It was blowing quite a bit and something in the air was irritating my eyes and nose. The nose had become a gross continuously-running faucet and my poor eyes felt like they were puffing up. Nothing I could do about it but focus on the ride. (The nose never did stop running.)
I was a little vague as to exactly where the half-way point was; I remember at some point checking my bike computer and seeing that I’d been riding for 4:00 hours at what I guessed was approximately half way. This caused me to think a bit. I had predicted a time of around 8:00 for the whole bike, but I’d expected the first half to be faster only because I wasn’t stopping for special needs. I told myself it was a good sign, that I was riding well within my comfort zone, and that maybe I’d even bring my time down some on the second half because I had a feel for the course and the hills.

Loop 2

Back through town and caught a glimpse of the family again. My oldest daughter’s red hair and an unusual sign that said “Go Merm!” in big letters made them easy for me to pick out. The crabster’s family was always nearby, so the noise from this group of folks caught my attention, too.
Those few seconds of support are priceless; I think Coach Amy even asked me if I was eating, and I said yes, I was on my plan. I hadn’t eaten as much out of my Bento box as I usually do, but I was eating bananas at the aid stations in addition, as my stomach still was just not quite right. I was looking forward to some new food from my special needs bag.
When I got there, my brain seemed to not be functioning well. I couldn’t decide what I wanted because everything looked gross. I needed more electrolytes but couldn’t find them and couldn’t figure out why (I had put them in the bags with the food and didn’t have a separate bag of electrolytes only, as I did for the run). I poured my Coke into an empty bottle I had, grabbed a pop tart and a bag of Cheezits and took off. (I had also put a bottle of Perpetuem in my back bottle holder but I hit a pot hole on the downhill and it immediately flew off. I felt very guilty for littering but, since it rolled off the road, I didn’t go back for it. This still bothers me.)
The reason I took the Cheezits was I was feeling very bloated, and I remembered Gordo saying that you needed more salt when you felt that way. Unfortunately, I was low on electrolyte tablets and the Cheezits just tasted awful to me. Still, I forced one or two down every so often while I sipped at the Coke.
Back through town, feeling pretty good, and out towards Hayden again. The riders had spread out but I had people around. By this time, I was starting to have some pretty serious gas. I made another bathroom stop to make sure that my problem was merely gas. I took more banana and kept working on the food I had, as Coach Amy’s words regarding how important it was for me to eat were always in my mind.
I hit the hills again. The first few honestly didn’t seem as bad as they had the first time around but I noticed that I was not recovering like I had on the first lap and was staying slow on what should’ve been recovery sections. It was all starting to feel a bit tough and my heart rate was staying high.
At the top of a hill, I decided to stop, take a breather, eat, and do some assessing. I think it was about this time that I caught a glimpse of my watch and was startled at the total elapsed time. The thought squeezed through my mind that my bike computer was only showing RIDE TIME, while I had had several stops (by that time, a total of four). A growing sense of horror filled me…I was taking longer on the second loop and I didn’t have all that much time until bike cut-off. I got on and tried to step it up a notch.
Things went sour from here. My stomach, which had been a bit whiffy the whole time, rebelled against food. My mind was playing tricks on me—I thought I was further along in the course than I was, and I was sure I was just about out of the hills. I wasn’t. Around mile 90, my left foot was stabbed with pain. Crap—it was the foot issue I thought I’d fixed with adjusting my cleats. I shifted my foot around which helped.
 At some point here, I came around a corner to another series of hills and started to cry. I know at different times I talked outloud to myself, saying I was soon to be out of the hills; live in the moment; just worry about what I can do at that moment. I cried again when I passed 100 miles, as it was my longest bike ride ever.
Sometime after the turn-around, I began to actively dry heave. I’m not good with vomit in non-stressful situations and the thought of throwing up while riding my bike was terrifying, because by now I had figured out it would be touch and go as to whether I made the 5:30PM cut-off and I wasn’t going to stop for anything. I took everything as fast as I thought I possibly could. I’m sure I was a sight going through town, leaning over, retching, my little legs going as fast as they could.
The volunteers on the course were yelling to pick it up, hurry, hurry. There had been no food whatsoever for the last while and I started to feel a bit lightheaded. Every time I started to cry and think I wouldn’t make it, I said “Pringles!” like Amy had suggested and reminded myself to only think about right now.
Back into town, and I had no idea if I would make it. It’s all kind of a blur…I know I saw James…then I headed to the out and back. I was giving it all I had, trying not to do mental math but just go, go, go. I hit the turn around and a lovely spectator said, “You have 12 minutes to go half a mile; you will make it.”
Was it true? The next thing I new, there was the park and there was the dismount line. As I rode up, the volunteers swarmed over to my bike, and one man said, “You have 5 minutes to cross those two mats.” Oh, by all that is holy, that looked so easy! I’d made it!
While they held my bike, I swung my right leg over and down and then unclipped the left. The minute I put my left foot on the ground, I felt incredible pain. Shit! The foot was hosed. I hobbled over the two mats and grabbed onto a volunteer. Crying, I took off my shoe and then asked her to help me into the transition tent.
Bike time: 8:41:12 (total time: 10:24:55)


I collapsed into a chair and held my foot, rocking back and forth. When I pulled my sock off, the volunteers nearby went, “Ohhhhhh.” The whole side was red and angry looking. I asked my volunteer to get my pouch out first and I gobbled down some ibuprophen. I think everybody there thought my race was over, and I was pretty worried that it was, as well. But again, I figured I’d just keep on until I couldn’t so off came the bike shorts and I got into my run skort.
The last thing I did was put on my shoes. I have never felt such relief; the support of the running shoes was actually helping my aching foot. I got up and hobbled out the door of the tent. My plan was to make myself walk the first mile and see how things felt.
 T2 time: 8:00.09 (total time: 10:32:55)
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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “Ironman CdA, Part II: THE BIKE

  1. Yikes, Leah! I don\’t think we\’ve met…I\’m a friend of crabby\’s. But I was thinking positive thoughts for you and the rest of the gang all day on Sunday! So glad you got off the bike in time! You really persevered, which is awesome! I crashed before y\’all finished (as did the live feed from my hotel wireless 🙁 ), but was so tickled to see that y\’all became IRONMEN!!!! 🙂


  2. Wow! That is so great that you kept plugging away! I remember that bikeride so well – I made it with just about 2 or 3 minutes to spare I think so I definitely know the feeling.

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