Things felt pretty good on the bike from the start. I had something to eat before leaving transition, and the legs felt pretty loose after the swim. I read the night before that the course was fair to the patient rider and that was my approach. I knew that two loops were in order, and that the hard stuff was at the end of the loop, so I just took it easy and enjoyed the scenery.
We headed out of Mont Tremblant towards St. Jovite, and then headed out on Hwy 117. The trip to St. Jovite was fantastic and scenic - rivers, hills, trees, golf courses, even a McDonald's drive thru (well, right beside one, and it as so tempting). It was a nice surprise on the highway - we had half of a divided highway the whole time. No worry of traffic, and lots of room for all the riders.
It wasn't more than 30min or so and I encountered someone at the side of the road, looking troubled with a flat tire. I called out to him if he needed anything, and he needed a tube. Having 2, I stopped. "Uh oh, this might not work" he said. He had deep rims, and I didn't. :( What's worse - that was his second flat, and it wouldn't be his last either (thankfully he got some help and finished with an awesome time). He sent me off with thanks and well wishes, and away I headed. I kept wondering what how he was doing.
The rest of the Hwy 117 portion was uneventful for me - just lots of us spinning away merrily and chatting about as passes were made. I was surprised how much I was enjoying all this - probably more than I should. I think I could have gone a bit harder through the day, now that I look back, but I was just enjoying the experience so much I didn't really care.
And before I knew it, we were headed back into St. Jovite, and it was rockin! The streets were lined with people, banners and volunteers. Lots of cheering, lots of cowbells, and lots of humor. There were a few folks that had funny stuff on and were doing lots of different things that weren't really "sport oriented." My favorite was the guy in the BBQ apron that looked like Michaelangelo's David (without the leaf). He was so energetic, and he was telling jokes as we climbed up this little hill. Hilarious!
The last out-and-back was where the harder hills were, and headed towards Lac Superior. This was a beautiful section of road - little babbling river, rolling (steep) hills, forested on both sides. It was as spectacular as it was challenging. The hills were steep but short, and you knew you'd get it back on the return to town. What I remember the most of this section was shifting - easy gear up, big gear down, and repeat countless times. Lots of work, but lots of reward. Felt proud of my development the way I hit these hills at the end of the loop.
The first loop felt fantastic. I backed off on the intensity, I managed my nutrition well, and I was feeling really good. I was enjoying the scenery, the crowds, the other athletes. The hills didn't feel tough - I was climbing them well and not feeling worn by them. So when the second loop came around, I didn't hold back as much. Probably wasn't the best decision. Then the wind came out and it really wasn't the best decision. I was doing alright, but I was getting sore and tired, and I knew that the last 20km with the steep hills would take its toll. I just kept on trying to ride smart - within my means uphill, taking advantage of the downhills. And it worked through 160km. The last 20k was hard on me. My feet were really hurting, my nutrition was low, and the legs were feeling the grinds up those steep hills. At this point, I could have used one more gear to spin up the hills and I could see that many other rides had them. They would be spinning merrily up the hill, and I'd be standing and grinding it out at a much much slower cadence. Sure, I climbed faster, but the legs were getting heavier. I wanted this part done, and I wanted to just rush it through, but I decided to ride smarter and try to save something for what was coming next. Finally, I made it to the top. A quick look at the watch told me that the next two cutoffs were mine, and that meant I was well on my way to completing my first Ironman.