Before I attempt to sum up the 112 mile bike, I must confess two little bike-related concerns which occurred prior to the race.
Karel and I decided to not bring a bike pump and to borrow one from my mom's cousin in Madison. I was anxious to pump up my tires so I ended up borrowing a pump from a guy in the hotel (Bill, who I met at breakfast on Fri morning) on Fri afternoon. Excited to ride my bike on Sat morning, my wheels were ready to go as soon as Karel arrived to assemble my bike.
Because I was fast asleep when Karel arrived (and finished with my bike) he told me that my valve must have leaked throughout the day because my tire was flat (forgot if it was the front or back). This has happened to us before because of the valve extender on my dish wheel, but because we didn't want to take the chance of possibly having a flat in my tire, Karel pumped up the tire (after putting on a different valve) on Sat morning and we waited a good 3 hrs before I went for my warm-up ride. Luckily, the flat tire was due to a leaky valve and not because of a tire itself or a hole. Wheww. Because I ride with tubular tires, it can be very costly to re-glue a brand new tire on my wheel. However, my tubular tires have been great to me and I've only had one puncture since I have gotten them...plus, it only takes me about 90 sec. to change a flat and put on a new tire.
Excited that the rain had stopped on Sat morning, Karel joined me on a hybrid Trek (my mom's cousins' bike) to accompany me on my warm-up ride. Karel new exactly where to take me because he recently did the Gran Fondo century ride (which was shortened to 50 miles because of pouring rain...Karel was about to win that event until he got a flat tire with about 500 yards to go :( ). For the first time ever, Karel couldn't keep up with me so he gave me my warm-up set (5 x 90 sec @ 100+ rpm w/ 5 min recovery, easy spin) and he followed me as I warmed up. I got out of the saddle to start my first interval and noticed that my gears weren't shifting properly. It was almost as if my chain kept slipping off my gears as I would get out of the sadle and push on the pedals.
So, on top of being convinced that I had another flat (because I was freakin' out about the valve as we started the ride) I had a mini breakdown on the side of the road that something was wrong with my cassette.
Karel rode up to me and asked what was wrong and I told him about my gears. Karel told me to get off my bike and he rode it (with his regular shoes) to test it out.
Crossing my fingers that Karel could fix it in 1 minute and that I was just doing something wrong, he told me that he would need to change the cassette because the new chain was tighter than my old chain and that my old cassette did not fit the new chain.
With tears in my eyes, Karel gave me a hug and told me that he would take care of everything, not to worry and to continue with my warm-up without getting out of the saddle.
Karel rode back to the hotel and I finished my 55 min. bike ride. As I returned to the hotel on my bike (trying to stay positive), there was my dad and Karel, pulling in to the parking lot of the hotel.
Karel told me to go for my run and he would take my bike into the Trek store down the road. Karel new exactly what needed to be done to my bike and he let the guys at the Middleton Trek Store work on my bike and put on a new cassette. Talk about last minute!
My pretty pink chain was very happy and to make things better, the new cassette gave me an extra climbing gear which would come in handy during the race on Sunday.
When I came back from my really comfortable 1.5 mile run (average pace 7:44 min/mile) I went back up to the room to shower and eat (second breakfast of the day). It was around 11:30am and in walks Karel and my dad with my ready-to-ride bike.
Karel had such a busy week last week that he didn't get a chance to ride my bike outside prior to boxing it up (he always test-rides bikes around the parking lot when he works on them). But thank goodness for Karel. I am so grateful that he knows exactly what to do with bikes as well as knowing how to keep me calm. My athletic confidence is something that we have worked on over the past few months and this little incident really tested the waters. With only 3 hours until the bike check-in was closed, my bike was happy...and so was I!
Just testing out the gears to re-assure myself that my bike is in top-shape!
Now, onto the bike recap....
How does a Florida-girl recap this 112 mile bike course, which included 33 right or left turns on EACH loop???
As I left the transition area, I rode down the Helix which was a windy 3 floors down and eventually made it to the bottom. As soon as I arrived on the street, I picked up the pace and got into my zone. The first 5-6 miles left town and included a paved bike path (no passing zone) and a loop around the Alliant center. Having already driven the course, I knew that I could ride hard for the 16 miles because the course included a lot of rolling hills.
Karel told me my power zone for the race (around 120-130 average) after analyzing my IMKY bike ride, as well as my previous long ride workouts. Because I only did a handful of long bike rides (4 x 5 hr rides, 1 x 100 mile ride and 1 x 120 mile ride) Karel had a really good idea of what I was capable of pushing for "hard" efforts, as well as an idea of what I feel most comfortable with during my longer rides.
As soon as I arrived on the loop section of the course, I realized that there weren't a lot of people out on the course. I think I got passed by one or two females but other than that, I was kinda alone.
The scenery was great and I welcomed the hills. What a change from FLAT Florida. Karel told me that I wasn't allowed to say hi to animals while I was riding (he knows me very well) because it's really easy for me to get distracted while I ride. Knowing that my three bike goals this year were
1) increased cadence
2) improved endurance
3) increased average watts
I decided to break the course down by hour so that I could stay focused and avoid feeling fatigued from pushing too hard at any one section.
I found it to be rather windy out on the course and with several flat sections, it was tough to keep my speed without seeing my power quickly increase.
I think my power meter is one of the best investments for both Karel and myself. I find that way too many athletes focus on speed rather than their effort. Because it is hard to judge your effort by an odometer, a HR monitor is a great way to know how hard you are pushing. However, with a power meter, I can control my effort by changing gears and seeing how hard I am pushing (watts). Whereas HR can indicate how hard you are pushing, a power meter really allows you to stay conservative as well as know when to push. There were sections on the course when I was cruising at 21 mph (flat section) and realizing that I was only pushing 91 watts. I instantly shifted into a bigger gear and saw my speed go up, as well as my power. Trying to stay in the 120-130 watt zone allowed me to conserve my effort when it was windy or during a long section of the course (power doesn't work so well with climbing but it can be helpful so you don't overcook yourself). I found myself riding in the small chain ring more than I imagined on the flat sections of the course. A year ago I would have tried to push a hard gear into the wind but I found it really easy to spin my legs, all while keeping up my speed and power.
Although I had a goal time range for this course, I wasn't too concerned about my speed during the bike. Every IM course is different and it is really hard to compare bike times from one course to another. Even though I biked 5:43 at IMKY last year, I knew this course would be challenging because the hills never let you give up.
The course consisted of a lot of rolling climbs as well as some sharp turns and descends. It almost felt like a stretched out roller coaster. There were so many sections with crowd support and I really looked forward to seeing my family and Karel on the course.
Of course, there was Karel and my fam on a section of the course which included 3 big climbs (one right after one another and then a steep, but short, climb after the last one). I was so happy to see them! And then, I saw them 4 more times during the next 3 hours!
During the entire bike I had to pee SO bad. I tried peeing on my bike but in the back of my head I hear Karel's voice "don't you dare pee on Trimarni!" hehe
My rt side started to hurt (I'm assuming cause I had to pee so bad) but after 20-30 min, it seemed to go away.
For nutrition I finished all 3 bottles of Sustained Energy + Heed and grabbed a bottle of water at two separate aid stations (took a big sip, cooled myself on my head and neck and tossed the bottle). During the last hour I grabbed a water and kept that on my bike for the rest of the ride. Thinking back I probably should have grabbed a bit more water throughout the bike ride but I felt good and the weather was a comfortable 72-74 degrees. The sun was shining so it did feel rather warm.
I took in 1 endurance amino and 1 anti fatigue every 30 min (give or take 10 min) and took in a swish of gel from my gel flask every 40-60 min. Everything I did on race day, I did during training, so I was very confident that I wouldn't have any nutrition-related problems. Since using Hammer (for the past 4 years) I have never had a nutrition-related problem during a race. Thank you HAMMER!!
I was very surprised that I didn't have any aches or pains on the bikes and no leg cramps. I assumed that my quads would get tight with all of the climbing but because I climb out of my saddle (always in the small chain ring) I guess I saved my legs throughout the ride.
I was playing cat and mouse with another girl, almost the entire ride. I was also passed by a massive group of riders and wanted nothing to do with drafting off of them. I passed a lot of guys (which made me smile) and all of my rides with the guys on the Lodge ride, really paid off! I had several comments on my pink bike and that also made me smile.
My favorite sections of the course were toward the end of each loop (around 8-15 miles before Verona, I think). There were 3 really big climbs (I was in my smallest gear) within around 10 miles of each other, which took a few minutes to climb. There were spectators EVERYWHERE!! I literally felt as I was in the Tour de France on the Alpe d'Huez. There were cow bells, people dressed in funny costumes, campers, tents and SOOOO many people!! It was unreal! I had heard about one climb that was filled with people, nearly letting only a few bikes come up the hill at once, but I was thrilled when there were 3 climbs with spectators!!
After passing through Verona (the "hot" spot) I couldn't wait to finish my second 42 loop in order to see the people on the climbs for the last time. Although the climbs were really really tough, it was almost as if I was being pulled up with all of the energy from the spectators. That was totally the best part of the bike course! Well, aside from seeing Karel and my family, happy as can be!
The way back to town was rough. I knew we had 16 miles and the wind was in our face. There was a gradual climb that seemed to take forever and my 12 mph pace seemed to go on forever! Finally I made it closer to town and my speed picked up and I pushed it into town with everything I had left.
Compared to IMKY, I improved my peak 1 hr wattage by 7 watts (154 at KY and 161 at WI) which is great considering that Karel has been fully dedicated to coaching me for only the past 6 months. My average power for the race was 134 watts which was 17 watts higher than IMKY!! We certainly achieved our goal of improving my power, as well as my endurance. As for cadence, that has been a LONG work in progress since I use to be a BIG masher with my big chain ring (I hated using my small ring when I was riding hard because my HR would soar and I would get SO much lactate in my legs..it would burn so fast!). My average cadence for IMWI was 80 rpm and my cadence at IMKY was 74 rpm...another improvement!!
As you can see, I much stronger this year, compared to last year, even though my pace was slower. I know we all (myself included) love looking at speed but I find it really helpful to have another way of marking improvements, rather than just looking at your speed.
Here is the breakdown of my race (all averages):
(my power meter often skips so my wattage and speed may be a little off...we've had it for a while and Karel will be sending it back in this month for a repair)
First hr: 19.8mph, 157 watts
Second hr: 19.8mph, 141 watts
Third hr: 19.3 mph, 137 watts
Fourth hr: 18 mph, 133 watts
Fifth hr (53 min): 119 watts, 20 mph
The last 27 min of my race I averaged 21 mph and 110 watts.
Total time: 5 hrs and 53 minutes (19mph average)
The bike course was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I felt amazing during the entire ride (minus needing to pee) and my nutrition went as planned. It felt so good to race a plan and to feel the results of working so hard for so many months.
Knowing that I didn't do a lot of long "IM-style" rides, yet still met my personal bike goals, I still believe that IM training is all about quality and not quantity.
As I was riding back into town, I was getting myself prepared to ride up the helix and I was ready to run a marathon. I could believe that I just finished the most difficult bike IM bike course that I have ever ridden. The course was filled with sections of gravel, bumps, potholes, smooth roads, sharp descends, long climbs, series of climbs, head wind and tail winds, cow pastures, horse farms and neighborhoods and I couldn't help but smile throughout the entire course because my body felt great, my bike handled beautifully and I was thankful to be alive and well.
Thanks KATE and MARK for the awesome pics!!