Cebu, Philippines, 70.3, 2017.
The sun was blazing hot and I felt like I had already sweated a litre even before coming out of T1. The swim had been hard. Much worse than the previous year. Against the current.
The path up to the swim was basically concrete rubble covered in a thin red carpet. Uphill. Barefoot.
And the transition area was huge. This was a popular race, always full and crowded, and it took some effort to find my bike.
I was absolutely roasting. Although I had been in the tropics for almost 20 years you never really do get used to this level of solar intensity.
Heliophobics steer clear.
I was only in T1 and I was already tired. Gosh.
But I had meticulously planned my nutrition and knew once I got on the bike I could recharge with some water, some electrolytes, and some calories.
Sometimes the bike’s a nice place to be. You’ve got a seat, food, drinks, and a nice breeze.
But not when your T1 exit ‘road’ is a decades-old concrete service path that looked like it had been used as bombing target practice by the air force base next door.
I might have been ok if I had been on a mountain bike but this sorry excuse for a paved surface was not what my bike’s skinny 23mm tires wanted to roll over.
But it’s a race, right? So ride it, don’t walk it.
So, against my better judgement, I mashed up the incline, avoiding as many sharp edges as possible, and set my sights on the smooth street up ahead.
To get there, however, I had to roll down a 50-100m descent, still looking like a used minefield. I made it fine, and happily rolled onto the smooth tarmac.
Finally, time to get a drink of my Hammer Perpetuem which had been carefully mixed into a bottle and slotted into one of two bottle cages behind my seat.
I glanced back, over my left shoulder, to see my bright yellow bottle awkwardly lodged between the edge of a pothole and some gravel. That was my nutrition! It had bounced out as I went over the bumpy road! What was I going to do?
Thankfully, I had packed 5-6 gels in a much more secure place on my bike – the bento box.
This was my backup nutrition, without which, I would have had to rely on whatever the course was serving, which isn’t a good idea.
Thankfully, though, the on-course nutrition worked well for me – but notice that I stuffed those bottles down by bibs instead of relying on the bottle cages behind the seat.
So the moral of the story is bring backup nutrition. Something that you’ve tested in your training. Something that you know will work if it comes down to it. Something that, while it may not be ideal, is better than hoping the race will cater a perfect lunch for you.
And oh yeah – walk your bike around the potholes.