A lot of people say that the Bike is where you make the most amount of time. After all, the swim is the swim, the run is just a shuffle, so the bike is where you can work the hardest and gain crucial minutes.
I started the run along the scenic 4-lane highway to Merida taking it easy, crazy easy. I had to restrain myself from pushing too hard. Had to force myself not to go over 90 RPMs, 120 RPM. But no, I had to work off my cramp on my left leg and I still had a long ways to go.
The Lost Bottle
I popped a gel as I rolled along, took a couple sips of Gatorade. Then as I hit my first bump, my aerobar water bottle took a jump and became road litter. It would be a huge loss but I did not consider stopping to recover and lose valuable time. Plus I didn't want to cause an accident.
Even with all the extensive preps, I had forgotten the simplest things and that was to strap it down with a rubber band so the bottle took a ride all by itself.
It was unfortunate, because I wanted to stay in the aero position while drinking instead of having to situp and reach behind the grab the bottle.
I kept thinking of this like the stinging reminder that I had left my cliff shots at home even after the UPS man had delivered a whole boxful of them.
But despite my forgetfulness and failure to plan properly, I had to focus on the task ahead.
I had to play the hand that was dealt and for the rest of the 55 miles remaining, I rode without an aero-bottle and that was that.
So how was the remaining 55 miles?
The Long Road Ahead
Treacherous and utterly monotonous. Actually the entire run was flat and smooth on a sparkling new 4-lane highway.
The dense beautiful Mayan jungles flanked both sides of the highway with dense clusters of mangrove trees standing shoulder to shoulder with iguanas and other spiny-tailed lizards scouring to and fro for vegetation.
The thought of ancient civilizations and Mayan pyramids appeared vividly in my mind. I was hoping to catch a glimpse, but unfortunately, no ruins -- just thick Mayan forestry and lots of it with an occasional Mexican cantina serving hot, juicy carne asadas.
Yes, it was natural and yes it was spectacularly special, but all 56 miles of it, eventually it all blended together and each treacherous mile resembled the one before that eventually I began to lose track of where I was and where I needed to go.
I knew I had to do two loops. Knew that there was water, gatorade and powerbars at the turnaround points and knew that I had to focus and conserve energy otherwise I would lose valuable time.
The Pile Ups
And most of all, knew to be careful, especially careful to avoid drafting and to avoid colliding with other bikers which could be dangerous at worst, a race-ender at best.
During the course, there were several bad collisions resulting in bloody road rashes and banged up bikes. I had traveled too far to come to Cancun to get into an accident and not make it all the way. And I wanted to return with bike intact.
After the race, one lady told me a story about a huge boa constrictor crossing the highway, hissing at passing bikes, some stopping, some skirting by.
I was glad I was way back in the pack to experience such a disturbance.
The Strange Noise
And then as I was beginning to speed up and to fire in all cylinders, I started hearing this mysterious click, click, click on my rear gears.
I looked down, shifted gears up and down, even stopped the bike to check it out but could not figure out the cause of this strange noise.
I was sure, whatever the cause, it was not affecting my speed or performance, but only my concentration.
With that strange noise, I instinctively started to slow down, could not focus on my stroke or staying aero.
And then it got to the point that I simply hated it. Wondered if my bike was going to hold the remaining 40 something plus miles.
Wondered why I was riding a brand new bike and wondered why I had paid so much money for it.
It got to the point that folks started passing me and not just folks but women -- the women who had started several minutes after me on the swim -- slowly but surely, I was losing time.
The Adrenalin Booster
But then I saw it -- it wasn't a snake or a dead raccoon. It was the half way point, a large sign that read "Mile 28."
I took the bottles of Gatorade and handed them my empty ones.
Then I started speeding up: 85...95 RPMs. I was hitting a high gear, and believe it or not, I was passing people.
Guys, Gals, -- everyone.
I maintained this pace for the remaining of the race and before long I was heading home with a steady stroke and a good pace.
During the race, I thought about my friend Florence Choe who was shot and killed while running in Afghanistan in March of this year.
LT Florence Choe was shot and killed while jogging in a well-worn path in the outskirts of Forward Operating Base Shaheen on March 27 along with colleague Francis Joiner.
Whenever I encountered a difficult time running or biking, I thought about Florence and the sacrifices she made while serving her country.
I didn't think much else about anything. My mind wanted to just go blank. Didn't want to think about homework or the chores I had to do back home. Just my form, my breathing and my friends. And together, they got me to the finish line.
Thank you for your service Flo and thank you to all who have given their lives for our country and for freedom.
Pretty soon, I had passed the last turnpoint and I was all the highway towards the Cancun strip.
Within minutes I could make out the silhouette of the Kamikaze the gargantuan water slide that towered over the park.
And then the brakes squealed not because I was going too fast but for joy. I declipped and dismounted and with bike in hand, raced into Transition.
I looked around and saw a sea of bikes and knew that I was behind and needed a strong run to catch up and finish with respect.