10/10/11

Kona race report: 112 mile bike



"We must look for the opportunity in every difficulty instead of being paralyzed at the thought of the difficulty in every opportunity.”

After exiting the transition area, I made a left turn on the "hot" corner and went on Malaka, toward the old airport and made a short, steep climb to Queen K hwy. This would be the only time I would bike down Palani, from Queen K hwy, so as I made a right turn onto Palani, I found myself flying down the hill. I made a sweeping left hand turn and onto Kuakini. Kuakini is the street that we are staying off of and I heard a lot of cheers from the crowds, both from people that I knew and spectators. As I was making my gradual climb to the turn around on Kuakini (a few miles up the road), I totally forgot about the swim and I was feeling fantastic. My riding legs were on and I was feeling super good.

I made the turn around on Kuakini and enjoyed the gradual descend down to Palani. I changed gears to my small chain ring and enjoyed the steep climb to the top of Palani. Although less than 15 miles into the course, I was feeling really comfortable and forgot about my exhausting swim.

For nutrition, my goal was to take in calories and fluids every 15 min, primarily a sip of my Hammer sport drink and then when an aid station came (every 7 miles), I would grab a water and take a swig of my gel. I had a coin purse of Hammer anti fatigue, endurance aminos and endurolytes (1 of each, wrapped in plastic wrap) and I took 1 of those packages every hour).

My body was feeling really smooth on the bike, a similar feeling to my warm-ups leading up to race day. Knowing how much Karel had trained me for this race, I was sure to keep an eye on my power and being as efficient as possible during this race.

I ended up grabbing a Powerbar bottle filled with Coke at the first few aid stations, which really gave me a refreshing, cool "boost". I did not grab a powerbar perform drink until the last 30 miles in the course, which was about the time when I was alternating my last bottle of my pre-made sport drink and Perform.

I had trained with 1 bottle Perform(2 bottles hammer mix) during my training rides, although I prefer to use just Hammer. I wanted to be sure my body could tolerate what was on the course (which I was fine with Perform) and I had also trained with sipping a coke during a few long rides. All of this was "practice" to prepare my mind and body for race day. I believe in training with the best nutrition possible in order to train the body to perform on race. But on race day, you must understand that your body is putting all the pieces together from training and that there will be times when the body craves or desires something different. You may also drop a bottle, drop your electrolytes/pills or miss an aid station. All of these should not freak you out or concern you but rather, you must have a plan or thought as to what to do when something "controllable" happens. Practicing "race day" nutrition is extremely important in training so that you can prevent nutrition related problems, but when all else fails on race day, just slow down and DO NOT calorie-overload.

Once I got into a grove on the Queen K, my body told me it was ready for intervals. It was around 38 miles on Queen K until I would start a windy 6 mile climb to Hawi (pronounced HAVI) so I decided to break down the course into 15 min "tempo" intervals w/ 3 min recovery/easy spin. As you may know from reading my previous blogs, every single training session on the bike was an interval. Some were short and intense, some were super long and controlled. I have worked so hard in the past 14 weeks on my cycling and I was ready to prove to myself that I could handle this extremely challenging bike course.

When I started my interval, I was feeling great but made sure I was holding back. Because 15 min was "short" compared to some of my training intervals, I was sure to keep my power in the zone that Karel had prepared me to hold for this IM. When I got to the 3 min recovery, I was likely climbing or descending (due to the rolling terrain of this out and back course) so if I was descending I took advantage of the down hill and soft-pedaled enough to pick up speed but not kill my legs and if I was climbing (which I love), I got out of the saddle and kept my upper body relaxed.

I really enjoy this Kona course due to the changining terrain but it is really easy to lose sight on being consistent throughout the entire 112 mile ride. The wind was starting to pick up as I neared Hawi and throughout the entire ride, I saw a lot of familiar faces which made me smile that we had all made it to this day and that we were all "racing" for our personal dreams.

Still feeling good, I made a left turn toward Hawi, although the climb does not truely start until around 53 miles. For around 8 or so miles (I am guessing), there are several rolling hills, shorter than on Queen K but a bit steeper. This is when I started feeling really good. My legs were still feeling amazing and my strategy of doing intervals for the first section of the ride seemed to work in my favor.

My goal for the most challenging part of the course (the climb to Hawi and the last 40 miles) was to stay focused, fuel for the run and to be confident. After several up and down sections, I made a slight right hand turn and I knew I had started "the climb". I could see the wind swirling in the trees and bushes and a few random spectators along the course, holding onto their hats and belongings. The wind was loud and would hit you at random times and I felt as if I had no control over my bike. I wasn't sure if I should stand, sit, be aero or just cry and get off my bike, so I choose to do a little of each and rather than cry, I just laughed at myself and said "this is just crazy!!".

The windy was super gusty and as I made my gradual climb to the top of Hawi, I didn't mind the 8 or 12 miles per hour pace that I was holding. Although I was seeing athletes flying down the other side of the road, holding on for dear life while feeling the same gusts, I just kept telling myself to get to the top of the climb.

Because this course has so many elements including fast descends, rolling hills, steep climbs, long climbs, no shade, hot pavement, etc etc, I tried to avoid any thoughts such as "this is a fun down hill, oh my I have to climb it on the way back". I had studied this course and knew what to expect and just like any IM course, I knew it would be tough from start to finish and I made sure I was staying in my power zone.

One of the most exciting things as seeing the pro's on the course...the same course as us. Knowing that we are racing for personal reasons and the pro's are racing for a paycheck, I couldn't help but think that our sport is amazingly special. Where else can you truely "race" with professional athletes??? Although this course was super challenging, I couldn't help but smile, knowing that I had done the work to have a great race as well as prepare my mind for this Ironman day.

So far so good as I made my turn around on the top of Hawi. The crowds were great, once again and I found myself feeling in control of my bike as I made my way down from Hawi. The climb and descend is not super steep, as if I was climbing a mountain, but with the gusty winds pushing you towards the ocean, you really have to engage the core and upper body to stay on your bike.

Karel wanted me to stay aero as much as possible on the descend down Hawi but it was a bit scary at times. I grabbed onto my aero bars as I was leading hard to the left and tucked myself down for much of the climb. There were a few bumps (mini climbs) on the way down but overall, the work from climbing was given back with a fun, fast descend.

Well, know that the fun was over, it was time for the most challenging part of the course.

With just a little over half way completed, the temperature was rising, the wind was really picking up and my tummy started to feel a little off.

I decided to slow down on the rolling section toward the Queen K which gave my body time to settle. The legs were feeling good but I was starting to feel rather hot. I think the hardest part about the climb and descend to and from Hawi is being a little off with nutrition due to the elements and trying not to fall off your bike and keep moving forward. I did the best I could with my sports drink but I wasn't grabbing water like I had been throughout this ride. I made sure that I was grabbing water at every aid station and cooling my body, calf sleeves, head (through the vents in my aero helmet), face and arms.

Once I made it to Queen K, athletes were really spread out throughout the course and it was time to stay in my zone. Knowing that my tummy was a bit rumbly at this time, I knew that I needed to do my own thing. As much fun as it was to try to "race" with others along the course and pass some guys on the climbs (too bad they pass me on the descends), my goal now was to ride consistent and not cook myself for the run.

Still keeping up with my nutrition (calories and hydration), I battled the winds as I did a lot more climbing on the 40 mile stretch back to the town. I told myself that I had done so many though 2-2 1/2 hour rides before in the past and after looking at my watch, seeing the time of the day, I told myself that there was a chance that I would still have a great bike ride.

I found it extremely hot and windy on the way back but surprisingly, my riding legs were still on and excited. As I got closer and closer to town, I knew I wasn't meeting my 220ish liquid calorie goal per hour but I was doing the best I could. My tummy was feeling a little off and I knew that I needed to slow down if I wasn't taking it the appropriate amount of calories. I have trained my body to be as efficient as possible during training and to not need a lot of calories (or solids) but when it comes to race day, I know that swimming 2.4 miles and running a marathon after a 112 mile bike, will require fuel if I want to meet my goal time of 10 hours and 34-37 minutes.

After slowing down for about an hour, compared to the pace that I was holding, I was feeling good again and picked up the pace for the last 20 or so miles. The course was well marked with kilometer and mile signs every 5 miles/K and it was great to see so many volunteers helping us have a great day.

When I got closer to town, I started getting really excited about my bike ride and without looking at my power meter and switching to average function, I just looked at my watch and couldn't believe that with a not-so-ideal swim, my time was fairly respectable in order to continue putting my training to the test.

I spotted Karel as I did my last climb to Malaka, gave him a wave and I think his mouth dropped open as he did not expect me to ride as fast as I did. I suppose I made my coach proud...and shocked him a little :)

Finishing the bike, I was feeling great. As much as I didn't want it to end, a big part of me was saying "OMG - that was the hardest bike ride of my LIFE!" It's funny how the mind and the body can have so many conversations during an Ironman. I suppose this bike ride was bitter sweet because it was a challenge that I had prepared for, but in a large way, I don't think it is possible to prepare for the elements and conditions of the Ironman World Championship 112 mile bike course.

Stats/check points from bike:

5.5 mi - 22.12 mi/h
28 mi - 20.36 mi/h
59 mi - 19.74 mi/h
88 mi - 20.08 mi/h
112 mi - 18.34 mi/h
Total time: 5:40:37
Average speed: 19.73 mi/h
Division place: 17th
Overall rank: 1015
Gender rank: 132

As I neared transition, I switched my bike into the small chain ring, spun my legs, did a few stretches out of the saddle and finally approached the roaring crowds as I dismounted my bike. The voluntter grabbed my bike, I thanked him and I then bent over to take of my cycling shoes as I made a LONG jog around the entire pier, to grab my T2 Run bag.

I entered the women's transition changining tent with my helmet off and a great volunteer cooled me off with water as I took off my jersey, put on my fuel belt (w/ gel in flasks) and grabbed another gel flask (I like to hold things when I run) and put on my running shoes. I noticed when I left transition that I forgot my Hammer visor but oh well, just keep moving forward.

My body was feeling good, with a good amount of energy, but something didn't feel right. I started to question myself "did I do something wrong? Did I push too hard on the bike". I couldn't really figure out what was "wrong" until I hit mile 2.5 of the run. After ticking away two effortless sub 8 min/miles (even while walking the first aid station), I spotted Karel on his bike and told him that there was no way that I could finish this run. I needed to quit.......