I was mentally preparing myself for the bike coming out of the water and even those last 250 meters of the swim I started visualizing the next steps and the ride itself. Cycling is one of the things I love and I’m fairly confident with, but I wanted to be mentally prepared before getting there so started getting my head into that space earlier. Unlike other triathlons, Portland Triathlon has quite a large distance between where you exit the water and the actual transition area. It’s probably 300 yards over grass and a paved, but gnarly sidewalk. I had already planned my attack on the way over to the start plotting out my route along the grass-covered area. Once I got out of the water though, it was a different story.
Out of the Water
As I emerged from the water, I reached for my zipper and couldn’t find it. Immediately a surge of adrenaline and panic ran through my body, but a second later I had the zipper in my hand and a few seconds more and I had my arms free. By the time I took my first 10 or so steps, I was already stripped down to my waist and was moving at a good speed passing people in transition. Once I got to my transition area, it took a few quick stomps and my wetsuit was off. I quickly toweled off my feet, got my socks on, hopped into my bike shoes, through my helmet and glasses in place and found myself running for the mount up area. Total elapsed time for this transition with the run was 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
Onto the Bike
When you come out of the transition area at the Portland Triathlon, your first ride is straight up the hill for the first quarter-mile. Having your bike in the lowest gear is the best possible plan because you’re basically starting out of your pedals on about a 6-7% grade. I actually felt really confident on the bike at that point and happened to glance my family which put a big smile on my face as I got a nice cheer out of them and this really got me moving.
The route is fairly flat and the pavement is fast with only a couple ups and downs as you cross a few over-passes. You can basically keep it in the big ring the entire time and just lay the hammer down until your legs day, gearing only slightly with the elevation changes. The Olympic course makes three turns in total, so you have a good idea of what your ride back looks like as it’s basically a bunch of U-turns. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to my speed directly other than to maintain a strong cadence and pace. I knew I was riding well as I was passing a number of people, but I couldn’t tell if they were doing the Sprint or Olympic distances so not a good gauge. I was definitely getting passed as well by some very strong riders, so good and bad. I tried to stay hydrated, but this was difficult as it wasn’t really warm enough yet to make you feel like you needed it.
The ride was relatively uneventful and I was alone for much of it. With a tri, you don’t get the drafting and support of a peloton and actually trying this can result in penalties or at the very least some harsh comments from race support. For the most part I stayed away from folks and when I caught up to people, I cut to the outside and passed them. I took a lot of note of the faster riders who were ahead of me and was really awestruck at the power they were generating throughout. I made it through flat-free, but others weren’t so lucky and this is not a ride to stop and help.
Final Transition Coming Up
Overall, it was a really strong ride for me, but I will admit those last 2 miles were kind of a slog. My total time for the ride was 1:09:23, riding at right around 22mph. It was clearly one of my best rides ever, but I wouldn’t really notice this until later, so my mind immediately shifted to the run and making a good quick next transition.