Race Report Part 2: Another day at the office…
Riding the bike down the helix was a bit of a challenge. I concentrated on going slow and not taking out the spectators while looking for my support crew. Coach reminded me that I saw her and shouted out to her, “See you tomorrow”. With all of my bike training I knew that it was going to be the longest portion of my Ironman experience. The IM MOO course is rated the hardest in North America with over 6000 feet of elevation gain. Anytime you pick up some speed on downhills, you must quickly break into technical turns. As a reminder to people that want out of the gene pool (natural selection candidates), the race officials place hay bales and ambulances along the course.
I had biked the course before and it deserved it’s reputation. The rollers keep coming, and coming, and coming… A lot of my bike experience was effected by a previous competitor who relayed to me that the marathon in the Ironman is not really a marathon. He said that I needed to think of it as a Death March. Yikes. Based on that data, I decided to be very conservative on the bike.
As I left the Helix, I hit the road and immediately hit a bump. My rear water bottle went flying. Fortunately, it joined a myriad of other water bottles in a little water bottle graveyard of previous bike victims. Another competitor mentioned that I could go back for it. There was no way in hell I was adding even another foot to my 112 mile foray into the mountains of Wisconsin.
The best way to describe the course is that you are climbing to different cities. Madison to Verona, to Mt. Horab. to some other little burg, back to Verona to Mt Horab, to the annoying little damn burg on top of the hill AGAIN, back to Verona and then to Madison. By the time it is all over you are totally deranged. You know that the ride from Madison to Verona was all uphill. You are excited to coast back into town. How is it possible that the ride from Verona to Madison is all uphill too? The whole course becomes an optical illusion!
The first hour and a half I felt less than ideal…probably related to my unknown head injury! I think the nerves and swim caught up with me quite a bit. I followed my plan and focused on reducing my work load, getting my heart rate in check and drinking some water the first 30 minutes. After that, I would start my nutrition (aka it tastes like butt sport drink) and pick up my work load.
The course control was amazing. Lots of volunteers, restricted lanes and rest stops. I have not mastered the grab a bottle of water going 15 MPH routine. I decided two things would happen: either I would run over the volunteer (rude) or go flying into a nasty case of road rash as I toppled over a dropped water bottle. On the times I needed water I just stopped and filled up my water bottle. Simple, slow and a nice break from the always developing case of baboon’s crotch. 112 miles is not kind to the girlies!
Once I reached the loop the spectators were amazing. It was almost as if I imagined the Tour de France experience. People lining both sides of the roads with signs, cow bells and music. On some of the larger hills people would run next to you screaming to get you up the hill. This scene was repeated over and over again and often in the middle of nowhere.
During the Ironman, you are required to wear your race number on the run and on the bike. You are provided with two race numbers; one with your first name and the second with your last name imprinted boldly on top of the number. I chose to wear the one with Sue. On the bike, you turn your race belt so that your number is on your back. As soon as you pass a spectator, they would see your name and yell out some euphemism like, “Go Sue, you look great!” This was cute the first 50 times. It would have been a train wreck if I had worn Aquila instead. I can just imagine the mangled pronunciation!
I continued to be really conservative on the first loop and controlled my watts and kept my heart rate in a very low Zone 2. By the time I entered Verona at the end of the loop, I was greeted again with big crowds and my amazing support crew. I biked right up to them, stopped and chatted. I knew I wasn’t in any danger of winning! I think I mentioned that the whole race made you feel like a rock star. As I left, the support crew was going to catch the shuttle back to Madison for the Marathon/Death March. The support crew had an even longer day than I did without the training!
After hitting the Verona circus, I knew the hard work was ahead on the second loop. The universe seemed to sense it as well and the clouds formed as the wind picked up. I decided to remind myself again that this was the last time I would ride the course. I slowly let my heart rate drift a few beats higher.
I decided to have some fun on the big hills. A few times, I asked a fellow competitor to tell me a story on a long hill. One man mentioned that he was born a poor white boy in New Jersey who one day would do Triathlons. I asked a woman on a long hill if my bike tires made my ass look big. Judge for yourself…
Yeah, 8 hours is a long time to piddle along. Unfortunately, I did piddle along. I only worked about 59% of my functional threshold. However, I did finish with a training stress score under 300 (279). I achieved my goal but I could have knit a sweater along the way. Seriously, I could have run up the hills faster. Slow was smooth and smooth was really slow!
One of the great things about triathlons is that you are competing on the same playing field as the professional athletes. I distinctly remember hearing a whoosh, whoosh on the course and wondering what the hell it might be? Suddenly a professional triathlete passed me like I was standing still (on the way to finishing his second loop!). Amazingly, he hit the hill and didn’t even down shift. Just stood up and pounded up the hill. Damn them.
As I approached the last 15 miles, I noticed I was a bit tired and so ready to be off the damn bike. I ate a few Cliff blocks, became pissed off at the head wind and headed back to Monona Terrace. The great part about Madison is that whenever you saw the State Capital, you knew you were close to the promised land! I biked along the lake front, wound up the helix and finally dismounted! I told the support crew to tell my bike that we were going to stop seeing each other for awhile!
I hobbled in my bike shoes to the transition area. Took off the way to heavy biking crap. Changed shirts, slipped on shoes and I was off. Momentary meltdown to follow…