After getting my stuff on in transition, I ran out to the mount line and started the 56 mile bike leg. The bike leg is the same as the Mini Mussel for about 8 miles and then you continue on the same road rather than turning right for the sprint. Unlike the day before at the sprint, we did not have a tailwind. Rather we had a headwind!
The bike course takes you out of Seneca Lake State Park and we were on the same road for about 15 miles. This part of the race course felt like it always does for me, slow! The headwind was rough, but I just focused on trying to pedal as strongly as I could without fatiguing my legs too much. My left leg was bothering me a little bit, but eventually it worked itself out.
Around mile 8, I ran over someone's helmet sticker! Normally during races I do not stop no matter what, especially on the bike course (yes, we all know I have peed on my bike before). As soon as I ran over the sticker, it stuck to my front tire and the noise that it was making was incredibly annoying. I kept pedaling for a little while, eating some of my nutrition while pondering what to do, I really didn't want to stop!
After about a minute or two, I decided I couldn't listen to the clacking noise that the sticker was making and I was worried about any potential issues that the sticker might cause to my bike and slowing/stopping - so I skidded to a stop and got off of my bike. I ripped the sticker off and got back on my bike as quickly as I could. I probably stopped for about 20-30 seconds total, so all wasn't lost.
I got going again and continued the slow trudge through these first bike miles. At mile 15, we finally turned off of the road we had been riding on for a long time and I knew one of my favorite parts of the bike course was coming up! I had looked at my watch around an hour into the bike and I was averaging below 15mph. I knew some downhill portions would help my average, but I still had no idea how I was going to do during the rest of the bike leg.
Mike around mile 28 on the bike course, photo courtesy of Thomas Björkman
There were a lot of USAT officials out, just like on Saturday (but this time Mike noticed them), so I made sure to not draft anyone. Right before mile 18, we turned left onto my favorite section of the bike course. A group of spectators had been stopping throughout the course and cheering everyone on and one of them told me that there was a tailwind now. For the next 7 miles, I was able to make up some ground. I was flying down the hills and it felt great to give my legs a little bit of a rest here and there.
There was a turn down one road that usually feels a bit rough, but this time I didn't notice it too badly. My aero bottle didn't fly off like it did during our Ironman, thankfully! After a relatively steep downhill with a quick right-hand turn (that forces everyone to slow down), I started to ride along Cayuga Lake. The views are pretty and there are a lot of wineries along the road (one of the other participants even commented on one of them when she passed me).
Mile 28, photo courtesy of Thomas Björkman
The worst hill is just a little after 32 miles on the bike course, but due to the extremely hilly and challenging bike course at our 70.3 two weeks ago and a training ride last week the hill didn't feel bad at all! I was able to get up it without any problems and continued on my way. My average speed had picked up and I noticed that I was averaging above 16 mph about 2 hours into the bike leg. I grabbed a water bottle at one of the aid stations, even though I didn't really need it (I did it just to be safe).
There was some more headwind for a few miles and after a couple more turns on the bike course, I turned on to the second best section of the bike leg! This downhill portion is shorter (about 1-2 miles), but it is a nice break. Unfortunately, you do have to lose some of your momentum to slow down in order to make a quick u-turn before continuing down toward Sampson State Park.
Sampson State Park is my least favorite part of the course. It is gravelly and the bumpiness gives me a headache. Also, it is harder to pass people due to the narrow road. USAT officials were going through this section too, two of them passed me during the 3.5ish miles in the park. My mph slowed down a bit, but I was still averaging above 16mph. Finally, I got through the park and started the ride on the east side of Seneca Lake. Three hours into the ride and I was still averaging over 16mph and I knew as long as I kept up the pace that I would be close to 3:30 for the entire bike leg.
About 50 miles into the ride you are back on the same course that the Mini Mussel uses the day before. There are some rolling hills, but nothing major in this section of the bike course. I was starting to think that our friend Greg would pass me soon, his wave started about 10 minutes after mine.
After getting up the last hill of the bike leg, I started to think that a sub-3:30 total time might be possible. I only had about 3-4 miles left of the bike to go. As I turned onto one of the final portions of the bike course, though, I quickly realized that the bike was going to be a little over 56 miles (according to my watch).
I just tried to take advantage of the downhills and made it back to the park. I turned down the road toward transition and got off of my bike. I had decided the day before that I was going to take my bike shoes off so that I could run through transition easier than I did at Mini Mussel. I ran briefly with my bike shoes on and crossed the timing mats. I then leaned my bike against the barrier and took off my shoes.
It was so much easier to run through transition this way! As I arrived at my transition area, Greg pulled into transition too! We talked for a few seconds and then he took off, while I went to get a cup of water before heading out on the run course.
All day I was the most worried about the run leg, now it was time to see what I could do!
Bike Leg (56 miles) - Jamie: 3:30:33 (15.95 mph), Mike: 3:01:48 (18.48 mph)
Transition 2 - Jamie: 3:09, Mike: 3:24