Sunday, August 14, 2011

NYC Triathlon, Part III: The Bike

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.

Once I am on a slight downhill slope, I stop pedaling in order to balance more easily. It takes me a few swipes before I manage to snag the water bottle out of its holster, and I have to quickly grab my handlebar to steer around an especially deep-looking puddle before I can let go again and take a hurried swig. As I reach down and jostle to get the bottle back into its cage, I mentally picture A___ pedaling along in front of me, sitting completely upright with both arms completely free. Someday I will be able to do that, I promise myself. For now, I have to be satisfied with managing to take a drink of water without dropping the bottle or toppling over.

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!

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