Not caught up? Read Part I and Part II.
The sky is still gray, although the heavier rains seem to have stopped. Wind whips back and forth against my body as I pump my pedals. “On your left!” riders shout as they speed past me. Their rear tires spray mist and grit up into my face.
Take water now, I commanded myself, even though I am not thirsty and the last thing I want to do release my either of handlebars while swerving around puddles, potholes, and other cyclists. Yet every triathlete I have spoken to has said, “take your water and nutrition on the bike,” and I know their advice is right. My leg muscles might be burning, but I am not breathing hard at all, and I know how difficult it is to swallow anything while running. Now is the time.
When we reach the highway tollbooths, I squint down at my odometer. Does it say 3? No way; that must be an 8. Oh man, I’ve only gone 8 miles? That means I’m not even close to the halfway-point.
Finally we reach the turnaround point at 13 miles and start on our way back. A few miles in, I decide to take my “nutrition,” which is a sugar and electrolyte supplement, in this case called Gu. The Gu turns out to be easier to handle than the water. Per my friend B___’s instructions, I had taped the packet to to top of my bike frame with black electrical tape. The perforated line on the packet is right below the tape, so when I reach down and yank, it tears right off. I stick the open end in my mouth, and suck sweet, slimy substance into my mouth. The flavor is chocolaty and sugary, with a guaranteed gross aftertaste. I only manage to swallow about a teaspoon-sized amount before I look over my right shoulder to make sure no one is behind me and chuck it into the bushes.
After 8 more miles, a tight U-turn and one last steep downhill, we are back at the yellow transition area. I unclip, dismount from my bike, and stumble through squishy muddy grass to get back to my spot in the bike racks. Bike shoes off. Sneakers on. Baseball cap . . . helmet! Take the helmet off first, idiot. I grab my baseball cap and race belt, and I am off again!