Ironman North Carolina: The Bike

If you're just picking up here, it's IMNC day and I've already checked in, racked my bike, and swam!

I entered T1 and immediately went to get my bike gear bag. Unlike past races I’ve done, including B2B last year, literally the only thing we had set up in our transition spot were our bikes. All of our bike gear - shoes, helmet, everything - were placed in a bag that we dropped off the day before and were waiting for us that morning. You have to write your number on the bags but people decorate them with markers, duct tape, etc. to try to make them stand out more so they’re easier to find. I had colored in my M dot in the Ironman logo on my bag just because I got bored when we were decorating ours the night before, but that actually turned out to be awesome because no one else had done that and mine was easy to spot! 

I grabbed my bag and ran into the women’s changing tent - everyone has to go through the changing tent whether you want to change or not - and put on my socks, shoes, helmet, sunglasses, and a long sleeved cycling jersey. It was hard getting that jersey on since I was a little wet! I had also brought long pants but ultimately decided I didn’t want to wear them. I handed my bag to a volunteer and I’m only like 40% sure because I don’t remember her name, but I think I asked what it was and thanked her by name (thanks for that tip, Rebecca Jo!).

I ran out to get my bike, talked to myself out loud a couple times so I could remember my number and where my bike was, and then I got it quickly and was off! I saw Ben one more time as I was heading to the bike out.

As soon as I got on the bike I could tell how windy it was. The first mile went by quickly as there as a lot of turns and a bridge before you get away from the beach area and onto a main road. There are metal grates on the bridge that everyone worries about every year, and as I was going over it I just kept saying to myself (like out loud), “Just keep pedaling, you’re okay, just keep pedaling…” I don’t remember being that worried about it last year but for some reason this year I was really freaked out about falling there. 

There was a big group of people I was bunched up with for the first couple miles - I think it took me a few miles just to get over 15mph, so from the very beginning I just knew it wasn’t going to be a fast day. I definitely didn’t want to go as hard as I did in Atlantic City, but I definitely did want to go faster than I had at B2B a year ago! But like I said, it was windy right from the beginning and it only got worse. For the first 7 or 8 miles we were on a commercial road and then we got onto the interstate. The interstate section was funny because while I definitely remember it last year, I mostly remember everything after the interstate so I kind of forgot that it makes up a pretty good portion of the race. I remember thinking, "Geez, if the interstate is taking so long yet I barely remember it from last year, then what is the rest of the bike going to be like?!"

If the swim seemed faster than it did last year, the bike felt longer. Much longer. We were on the interstate for about 12 miles and the wind was blowing so hard I thought my bike might fall right over. I could see the pine trees lining the road getting whipped around by the wind. It was the kind of sight that makes you look out the car window and go, “Damn, it’s windy!” It was CRAZY on a bike! I had gotten up to 17mph average at that point - and I was expecting more like 18-19mph if that tells you anything - and even that was a struggle!

We went over a bridge before getting off the interstate, and that was another part that felt so much longer than it did last year. I thought we would never get to the top of that thing! But when we did we exited via a ramp, and when we got off the ramp we headed south. I immediately felt the wind at my back and noticed that my speed had gone from barely 15mph to close to 25mph. I saw racers heading the opposite direction on the other side of the road, and I could see them struggling against the wind and was confused about why we had a tailwind all of a sudden since I had thought we’d be against the wind through mile 35 or so, but I wasn’t complaining! I had forgotten that they’d added a little loop during that section - the 6 extra miles they found to add to the 50 they told us we’d get to ride before the race - and I realized a couple miles into that loop that that’s what it was. We’d have to turn around soon and then we’d face the wind again for another 15 miles or so.

The next 16 miles were absolutely brutal. There was a headwind the whole day (except for those few miles after the interstate), but it was the worst from miles 24-40. It was completely dead on and so strong. I felt like I was putting in 18-19mph worth of effort only to look down and see that I was going 13-14mph. I had so many of those miles that just getting one faster than 15mph became cause for huge celebration. It was also windy on this section last year and I remember getting upset at how my speed was dropping, and I just thought ha, if I only knew then that it would be like this! It was so much worse this year. My speed was dropping to the low 16s and I just didn’t even care anymore at that point. I kept doing the math over and over again and even with a tailwind on the way back there was no way I could make up enough time to do better than last year. I was even going to be close to last year. And honestly, I just didn’t care. I think I had a good laugh to myself about how hard I had worked to get better at cycling, all for this - a ride that was only half of the distance it was supposed to be, at an average speed I could have ridden 3 years ago (I know it was the wind's fault, but still). I was so thankful I had put up great, confidence-boosting bike splits earlier this season during Nation’s Tri and Atlantic City 70.3 because this was definitely not one of those days!

It was physically and mentally fatiguing having so much push back for basically 40 miles straight, but I have to say I am proud of myself for not losing it. I was like Olivia Pope out there, y’all. It was handled. It sucked and I thought the turnaround would never come, but it was handled. I don’t even think I threw out one F bomb on that entire bike course (I hope my dad is reading this - he would be so proud)! 

I think it was during this section that I realized how boring this bike course is! Obviously I had ridden it once before last year, and it wasn't particularly exciting then either, but with the horrible wind this year it really had no redeeming qualities. After the first 20 miles getting out of Wrightsville Beach and then mostly on the interstate, the rest of the course is a long, straight highway with nothing but pine trees and the occasional industrial park to look at. There was a short section around miles 30-40 last year on the original bike course that went through farmland, and I think the full course would have gone through about 30-40 miles of farmland if we had gotten to ride it, but still, definitely not the most scenic course out there!

Since I hadn’t seen a revised bike map for more than a few seconds I wasn’t sure where we’d make the turnaround to head back to transition, but based on last year’s bike I was assuming it was around mile 35. So for every mile after I hit 35 I just kept telling myself just one more mile, just one more mile, just one more mile. Finally, after five “one more” miles, I could see it! I turned and expected to instantly start flying at 25mph, but I was sorely disappointed when that didn’t happen. The tailwind helped me, for sure, but not at the same magnitude that it had hindered me. 

It took a few miles after the turnaround, but with around 12 or 13 miles to go I finally started getting up to speed. Despite the low average speed I actually think I clocked my fastest mile ever (22.8mph!) during this section, and for the last 16 miles I averaged just under 20mph. Based on the intensity of the headwind I was expecting a 20+mph split, so that was kind of disappointing. I think I just didn't care about going super fast at that point since there weren't enough miles left to make up for the slowness of the first 40, and I was too close to getting to the marathon to completely trash my legs. I definitely wanted to be off the bike by the time we got to the end, not in a bad way - I was actually surprised that I was still in pretty good spirits at that point - but I wanted to be done and get on to the run.

The second bridge is less than a mile from the finish and I remember going over the metal grates, again telling myself that I was fine and just needed to keep pedaling, and thinking that they were longer than I remembered them being (seriously, theme of the bike that day). From there it was down the ramp and toward T2! Since T2 was in a slightly different location this year we ended up dismounting in kind of an odd place. We turned onto a little side street that was downhill and almost immediately had to dismount, then walk our bikes maybe 100 yards down a gravel path that had a little strip of carpet over it. Aside from the wind, which obviously couldn’t be helped, that was probably the worst part of the bike course!

I saw Ben right as I made the turn to go down the hill to dismount, and I might have also seen my sister-in-law? I don’t really know, the 15 minutes or so from when I came in on the bike to when I went out on the run are kind of a blur. But I know I at least saw some of my family and I was SO happy after not having seen them for like 3 hours! Then I dismounted and ran my bike in and then…onto T2 and the run!


  1. You got a lot of great pictures of you biking along this course! I can't even imagine what riding into the wind would be like for that long... other than absolutely miserable. You stuck it out though! Can't wait to hear about the run :)

  2. OK - so many things to say!!
    First, these pictures are amazing! Are these ones that someone took for you or course photographers? They are so crips & clear & look fantastic - what a great memento for you to have.
    Second - UGGGHHHH about that wind. That had to be miserable. It always seems to balance out though, doesnt it? The swim goes fast, the bike slow. Its all about the end goal / time.
    Third - I volunteered in the changing tents & loved that job too - helping others get in & out so fast & helping them get prepared for the next part of the trip. (I actually did the bike to run changing tent)
    & lastly - YIPEEEEEE for remembering the volunteers name. I GUARANTEE IT - NO DOUBT - know it made that persons day. How awesome & amazing are you that you took that time to think of someone else in the middle of your hard race. YOU ARE A ROCK STAR LADY!!!

  3. I can't even imagine having to ride in all of that wind (or ride that far at all, haha). These pictures are all so awesome and look like they should be in a magazine or something!

  4. First of all, that race sounded brutal - the wind, the boring course and everything - BUT HOW CUTE ARE THOSE PICS!! Seriously you are beaming in every one. Sorry the bike wasn't the best, I can imagine it was just another disappointment added to the bike saga but Im really so motivated by and proud of you for taking on this task and rocking it!

  5. aw how nice you asked that person's name! i would probably cry. i don't know why i am so emotional, but i am literally teary right now. ugh stop it. good job on olivia pope-ing the bike, crazy about the wind! the photos don't make it look windy at all haha. but good job! can't wait to read about the run!

  6. It sucks that you had such a rough race, but at least the bike course ended on a down hill, although the quick dismount sounds rough!