This is Part 2 of my Nashvegas Triathlon experience, the bike. The intro is the last paragraph of Part One, the Swim, which can be found here.
My bare feet glided down the slick pavement. The rain continued and I was suddenly freezing. I couldn’t believe God would put me through this and scurried to the bike transition in a daze. I ran up to my row and looked down for my distinct white towel, but it was gone. What the fuck? I ran back and forth like a kid protecting his lunch money and completely lost my mind for the third time of the day. Part of my strategy was minimalist and fast transitions. Shoes . . . socks . . . helmet . . . gone. But the only thing gone, was my bike.
Of course it was there and I retraced my steps and saw the lonely vessel crying in the rain along with my soaking wet shoes and socks. Damn! Why didn’t I think of that one? Not that it mattered. I made the split second decision to bike without socks. I never thought about it ahead of time but it was clearly the right decision. As I ran my bike out of its pen, I saw my screaming fan base and heard Heidi shout, “Wow, that was fast.” Maybe I was in a time warp. Transition one – 1:45. Not too bad.
As I pulled away in the rain, my thought instantly transferred to the run. I would be running sockless for the ﬁrst time. Then I thought about the pelting rain and how much this whole race was sucking balls at the moment. I turned out of the park and headed for the Ashland City hills with the perfect competitive attitude. Alone on a bike, soaking wet after a miserable swim, I yelled, “Fuck it!” and was instantly unstoppable.
One of my sure-ﬁre strategies is to get mad at the world, David versus Goliath style, and embrace the obstacles. In this case I knew the rain would fuck with people’s heads, make them cold and take away their edge, but mine was only sharpened.
While most triathletes ride with clipped pedals, I wore cages. It is a distinct disadvantage that I used for motivation.
I took my time as I glided down Highway 12 on the ﬂat section of the course. I passed several bikers, but kept myself in check for the long ride. I drove the course the day before and knew that while the course was 25 miles, the last ﬁve were down hill. I turned it into a 20 mile ride.
The ﬁrst 10 were cake, but when the Olympic course turned of, the hills loomed. The ﬁrst challenge was a steady two mile climb that started around mile 12. It weaved through the back roads of Ashland City and eventually dropped us into a makeshift sub-division that looked (and felt) like a disturbing place to spend your life.
With a 10K lurking, I didn’t want to burn the legs. I spun low gears and climbed at a moderate clip. The rain lightened, but the roads were like oil. I channeled Tour de France riders while imagining throngs of hungry fans grabbing for a taste of me. Unfortunately the Ashland City populous had other plans that morning, though I did see one guy mowing his lawn and a couple dogs.
I always ﬁnd the trust factor impressive at these races. At one point the bike course turned down a lonely country road and spun around about 200 feet from a true scene out of Deliverance. I saw it the day before when I missed the turn. It was a home so disheveled that I was afraid to approach the driveway for fear of staring at a shotgun. I mean this place was literally covered in shit that nobody on earth would want, except this guy. Just garbage and ﬁlth everywhere. Broken windows, car parts, fallen trees, I mean, I can’t even explain it and I was going to take a picture, but ﬁgured that was a bad idea as well and got the hell out of there.
But back to the honesty. There was a simple cone in the middle of this road and it was the turn around point. The cone sat in solitude and I could have easily swerved inside the mark to cut a couple feet off, or for that matter turned around in the middle of the block. No one was there, and I assumed it was because of Deliverance guy.
I felt good and kept spinning my way back to town. I guessed there were 8 miles left and the last ﬁve would be like a bobsled course. I kicked it in gear, pounding my way through the curves like Lance on ‘roids before I was rudely interrupted by a line of pick-up trucks waiting to turn onto “my” course. I swerved around the gaggle of trucks and was oddly happy to see a cop waving me through to the main road, where more cars were waiting to make my blast down the mountain a nightmare.
Cars and more cars. All going shopping or whatever cars do on Saturday morning in Ashland City. They had no idea there was a race going on and I felt it was my duty to let them know.
I took over the lane as I saw the crest of the hill and prepared to scream downward. I ﬂew past a couple bikers sipping water and hammered the biggest gears. I went to my lower grip and attacked the wet and windy road at 30 mph. Speed picked up and I nearly lost it when my palm slipped off the wet handle bars. One more mile to go and I didn’t let up, until . . . I saw the trafﬁc.
Who were these people ﬂooding the streets at 9:30 Saturday morning. McDonalds, Walmart, Walgreens, all sucking the life out of people who moved to Ashland City to get away from such ﬁlth, but now they were trapped. Lifelong country folk losing their roots to corporate America. But worse, I had to negotiate through this mess.
At the bottom of the hill, another friendly ofﬁcer waved me to the left. Back onto the main road for a white knuckle battle with hundreds of shoppers, all clueless to the biggest race of my life. I bobbed and weaved to safety then leaked down the right hand shoulder of the road with literally a foot between me and car mirrors. No support, no signs, no friendly cops. I thought I was lost and battled trafﬁc like a New York bike courier with nothing to deliver except a fading dream.
My thin tire hugged the edge of the slick black top and I turned sideways to squeeze by the last pick-up blocking my way to glory. I turned right and peddled down the exit street, drenched, cold, and convinced I laid down a good ride. Ofﬁcial time was 1:20:35, nearly 20 mph.