There’s a Half and Full Marathon near my city that also organizes a bike race the day before. When I saw they had a special “combined” category for whoever did the bike and run race, I knew was in!
They had several combinations but I chose the one I felt most comfortable with: the 96km bike ride on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday. I was nervous about doing the bike race because even though I ride at least twice a week and raced my “A” Half Ironman three weeks ago, I’d never done a real bike race. In long distance triathlons drafting isn’t allowed and in Olympics or Sprints I can only draft with other women, not the men. So cycling in this big race crowd was going to be different. Scary different!
The start went much smoother than I’d thought. I’d sort of imagined bikes crushing into my side and over zealous testosterone type guys fighting to get out in front. It turned out to be nothing like that and instead just a very fast start. Being in the middle of that crowd you naturally gain some speed being protected from the wind and (insert some sort of physics explanation about aerodynamics…).
I kinda loved it right away. Early on, probably after 10km, I found my groove with a group of Canadians. They’d raised money for the earthquake victims here in Emilia Romagna and had all come to give their donation and race. I really enjoyed being with them, chatting away and listening to their story.
Things were going good until about the 35km when one of them shouted, “I have to pee!”. They tried to ignore him for a few minutes until he shouted again, “No, really, I have to pee”. They must have made some Canadian man pact because they all decided to stop and wait for the guy. Bye bye Canadians…
Another 10km into the race and we came to the hills.
I do love hills! After seeing the altitude map I was a little apprehensive about this point of the race but it turned out to be totally doable. I had to get out of my seat a few times and twice I did some zigzagging but I made it to the top and then started the descent.
The road was a little wet from the morning fog so I tried not to bomb it down the hills. At the bottom where the road flattened out again a few groups passed me. I tried to latch onto two of them but they were going just a little too fast for me. If there is one thing I learned in this race it’s this: make the effort to draft off a pack; it is ten times easier (and faster) than cycling on your own.
I finally found a pack that I could stay with for about 25km. They were racing nervously though, which in turn made me nervous. Someone in the front kept surging so the whole group had to go, but then they’d slow down and I’d have to brake. At about 10km from the finish one lonely guy came away from the group so I decide to draft off of him to the end. He was really nice and didn’t mind me hanging off his wheel.
I was thrilled to have finished the race in 2:57:48. I’d secretly hoped to go under 3 hours so mission accomplished!
Next: the Half Marathon, 18 hours later…