9/14/14

IMWI Race Report: 112 mile bike


It’s no easy task to train for and race in a 140.6 mile event as it is huge undertaking for the body and requires a big commitment in life.

I can’t believe that in the past 14 months, I have crossed 4 Ironman finish lines. For three of those races, I had 3 consecutive PR finishing times (10:43, 10:37, 10:17). Incredibly, in 2013 I raced two Ironman races within 14 weeks from one another and in 2014, I raced two Ironman races within 11 weeks of one another. My body has not only let me  finish every Ironman I have started but I also recently qualified for the Ironman World Championships twice, within the past 14 months.

In the past 14 months, Karel (who just learned how to swim 2 years and 2 months ago) has progressed extremely quickly with his triathlon fitness and is now racing at the top of his age group.
As Karel and I continue learn more about the sport of endurance triathlons, we continue to train and race smarter. And the biggest contributor to us getting faster and stronger over the past few years is training the least amount possible with the most performance gains. We train hard but recover harder. 

In the past two years, I have experienced huge gains in my bike fitness. I contribute a lot of this to being married to a great cyclist and bike tech who knows everything and anything about bikes, bike racing and bike training. Although there have been some tweaks to my new Speed Concept Trek bike thanks to Karel over the past two years (shorter crank length, saddle, wheels/tires, Hawk ceramic bearings, Di2 shifting, RETUL fit) the biggest change has been training less hours on the bike than when I started training for Ironmans.

It is very rare for us to ride more than 5 hours, even for our peak Ironman training. Typically we do one ride around 100-110 miles and maybe one more ride around 5 hours but most of our long rides are around 4-4.5 hours and almost always include a 30-60 min run off the bike. 

The reason why I mention this is because it is possible for you to be a faster cyclist without long hours on the bike. We are firm believers that to get faster, you must ride faster. But you must train faster before you go longer.

Additionally, I can speak first-hand about how my cycling skills have improved while living in Greenville for the past 3 months (and learning from/training with Karel) and this has helped me take my cycling to the next level.

Far too often I hear Ironman athletes talk about wanting to be better runners off the bike and also being faster cyclists. And thus, they train more. And more, and harder and harder and more. 

Sometimes it works but I ask you this, if you could work less hours and get paid more, would you?

 More time to spend with friends/family, more time to get restful sleep, more time to make time for healthy/balanced eating and more time to enjoy life….would you work less....even if you LOVE your job?

Since Ironman athletes can spend up to 40-50% of total race time on the bike, it is extremely important that if you want to have a good race day Ironman performance, you must get faster and stronger on the bike. And to get stronger and faster on the bike, you have to train smart. And when you train smart, it’s NOT just about the miles but instead, knowing how to ride smart.

There are a few tips that I have for you (that we believe in for us and our athletes) to help you improve your cycling time in a triathlon and concurrently your overall finish time.

-Strength train in the off season and think beyond long, slow base miles to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness. 

-If you train indoors, have a coach who reviews your training files, perform intervals in training and want to use your time wisely when you train, invest in a power meter and bike computer (ex. Garmin Edge) and learn how to use them properly.
-Take good-care of your bike and get regular tune-ups. It’s not just about the parts that you see but also consider how the inside parts are working to help you have a safer, more efficient ride.
-Invest in electronic shifting (Di2). This may be the best investment you will ever make on your bike because you will not only be able to shift more often but you will keep a steadier cadence. You will also ride safer as you will minimize the time your hands are off the bars.
-Be sure your fueling plan not only meets your needs and is easy to digest and absorb (ex. liquid nutrition and not 3 different methods of obtaining calories, fluids and electrolytes) but is also practical for your race day course. Hydration systems should be easy to reach, bottles should be secure and you can actually fuel/hydrate yourself consistently (ex. every 10-15 min) throughout your entire bike ride.
-Get a professional RETUL bike fit from an experienced fitter that understands your fitness, flexibility, race goals/distances and riding style.
-Incorporate longer bricks into your training plan instead of just focusing on long solo bikes and runs. We do not believe in runs longer than 2.5 hours OR bricks/long bikes longer than 6.5 hours.
-Understand your race course so that you can pace and fuel effectively and be mentally prepared for your race day.
-Your bike leg prepares you for the run. Overbiking and underfueling does not make for a strong run off the bike.
-Improve your cadence and use your gears when you ride. Learn the best way to ride hills for your weight/height and improve your skills on turns, descends, rollers, windy sections and climbs.
-Be smart with your race day gear. Wheels, helmet, tires….it’s not about the “fastest” gear in the wind tunnel but instead, what helps you ride your best on your race day course. 




                                 

After a 6 minute and 12 second transition (over ½ mile transition!) I was down the helix and ready to wake up my land legs. I immediately took a MAP (BCAA amino pill) and a sip of my custom INFINIT sport drink. I sipped my sport drink at least every 10 minutes (2-3 gulps at a time, typically while sitting up). 

The first 10 miles of the IMWI require you to stay alert. There’s a short no-passing section on a paved trail (can we talk about how much this frustrated Karel- haha) and then there is a section throughout a parking lot. During these first few miles, your bike is quickly introduced to the theme of this course: Hills, bumps and turns.


There’s a good 17 miles or so to get out to the 40 mile loop that we repeat twice. We encounter hill after hill, bump and bump and turn after turn. Yep, that pretty much sums up the ride. But despite this extremely taxing course that provides very little opportunity to recover after each hill, the sights are beautiful. Farm land everywhere and the scenery extends for miles and miles.

I wasted no time to settle into my rhythm on the bike. As I mentioned before, Karel and I both took a lot of risks in this race. Rather than using our power meters to pace ourselves, we simply used it as a tool to give us feedback. We were out racing our competition and because of that, we both knew we could not hold back BUT we still had to ride smart.

It was very important to me to stay up on my calories from my liquid nutrition as there really is no easy way to conserve energy on the IMWI course. As you may guess, Karel and I were not looking for a conservative ride and we know how much energy it takes to ride hilly courses (as we train on hilly courses all the time). It was extremely important that I get in a bit more nutrition throughout the 112 mile bike ride (however not too much that I could not empty it from my gut and absorb it) so for the first time, I used special needs. I carried 3 bottles with me of my custom INFINIT drink that I created and have used in all my past training, each bottle containing around 300 calories. I had the same in my special needs bag. There was a lot of bottle dropping on the course so I made sure that my bottles were secure in my cages by doing my last bit of IMWI training prep on bumpy, hilly roads here in Greenville. I also had some Clif blocks (1 package already open for easy consumption) and a sport bar (already opened) for additional energy.


Miles 1-17:
I felt really good during these miles. There are a few rollers but nothing too difficult or technical. My main focus was keeping a nice high cadence which has been years in the making (I have gone from 78 average cadence in an IM just a few years ago to 91 at IMWI!! This is HUGE! All those cadence-specific intervals in the early season have paid off!) so that my legs would not be too toasted throughout the bike and on the run. Since Karel and I rode most of this section (and 1 loop) of the bike course on Thursday, I was aware that I needed to keep up with my nutrition as it could be very easy to not keep up with it due to all the bumps. Also, early frequent, consumption of liquid nutrition has been shown to postpone fatigue so never neglect your nutrition in the first 1 hour of your IM race. 
I wasn’t sure how many women were ahead of me and since I anticipated a handful of fast swimmers in my age group, I thought that I was around 5-6th in my age group. I passed a few girls within these first few miles and eventually, I was just riding with the boys. 




Loop 1:
Karel and I had several discussions as to how we would each pace this course. We both decided that we would not have a pacing strategy so much (ex. hold back or to focus on specific watts). It is important to understand that Karel and I both race Ironmans differently because of our strengths. 

As a life-long swimmer, I am near the front of my age group when I race so this puts me at a prime spot to see where I am at in my age group. As for Karel, I think his theme is “on your left” when he races for he has a lot of catching up to do after the swim. 

Because of this, I am not forced to play catch up, like Karel. So for both of us racing for a Kona slot at IMWI, Karel is the one who is really digging extra deep, especially in the first hour of the IM.

 (this is not something that I would recommend to other athletes as Karel is an experienced Cat 1 cyclist who has taught his body how to suffer for almost all of his life. He has learned how to think differently as a triathlete but because of bike racing, he has an extremely high pain and anaerobic threshold and often still races like a cyclist). 

So, I primarily went by feel in this race with a close eye on whoever was around me but also to not dig a hole I could not get out of. I do not wear a HR monitor when I race so when I did look at my Garmin Edge, I focused only on cadence and normalized power. I would also look at speed but really this was just to keep me honest with my efforts, along with power. I have all my mini screens set to lap so every 10 miles (markers on the roadside) I hit lap (see very bottom of page) so that I was only focusing on one-10 mile (or around 29-31 minute) segment at a time. This was the best way to pace myself and it is just like how we train….lots and lots of intervals to focus on only one segment at a time. 

I did a really good job with my nutrition on this course and I found myself to be really comfortable on the climbs. I was also handling my bike really well with every turn and descend on the course (I’ve heard there are 91 total turns on the IMWI course). 

There is no one “big” climb on this course but instead, several. Each climb comes with its own description but what makes this challenging course so incredible is the crowds. They are everywhere! There are 3 climbs that are packed with spectators. Tour de France-like feeling. The cheers can be heard before you even get to the climb and even if you are having a low moment, the crowds know how to give you energy that you do not have.


It was close to around 2.5 hours in the race (so around 75 minutes or so of riding, if I remember correctly) when I hear Karel’s voice next to me (and his disc wheel). We talked about our usual topic when we see each other “how was your swim?” and we both told each other our times and wished each other a great race. Hearing Karel tell me that I looked great on the bike gave me a huge boost of confidence. 

I can’t recall the miles but on the first “big” climb (of three), I heard someone in the crowd yell “Go Girls!” Girls, I thought? For so long I had been cheered on by the fans as “you Go Girl!” so suddenly I was being passed. 

It was Stacey and I knew she would be strong on the course due to her past race results. Because I knew of her, I didn’t try to pace off her. Although I reach my higher limits as an athlete because of girls who are faster than me, I was honest with myself as to what I could handle on this course and riding with Stacey was not practical. Rather than getting upset, I stayed focused as I was having a really strong ride. There was no need for me to overlook my success on race day by comparing myself with others. I had a feeling that Stacey would win our age group (unless something happened which I would never wish I any athlete – I need those faster girls to help me be a better athlete!) and I figured 2-3 Kona slots so I was still in the running depending on where I was in our age group off the bike.





Special Needs: 
How long was my spot? 10 second stop according to my Garmin. 

Since we rode by special needs when we started our first loop, I made sure to check where my bag was placed on the ground according to the many rows of bib number ranges. I actually ended up spotting my bag on the beginning of the first loop thanks to my purple ribbons so when I yelled out my bib number and pulled over to the side right next to my bag, the volunteer had my bag ready, I asked her to put the bottles in my rear cages as I quickly stretched out and took one last sip of my last bottle before I tossed it (I had tossed the other two on the course at the feed zones where I also grabbed water to sip and cool my body and then toss) and then put the 3rd bottle in my frame cage and off I went. 
What a great decision to use special needs!



Miles 56-112
One thing that I have learned in Ironman racing and has been repeated to me many times by Gloria (my mental coach) is that there are highs and lows in Ironman racing. You just have to keep yourself going. I certainly am no stranger to lows in racing and I wish I could say there has been an Ironman when I felt good for the entire 112 miles of the bike...or even the entire 140.6 miles. 
Nope, it hasn’t happened. 

From miles 50-80, I was just feeling a low. Performance wise, I was ok but it was just one of those times when I had to keep on trucking along. Since most of my pacing was with guys, as I had only been passed once on the bike by a female, I gave myself a little pep talk that I was riding really strong. Probably stronger than I have ever ridden before!

Strong is very relative as I was not anticipating a "fast" time close to 5:30 on the bike like I did in Kona or 5:29 in IM Austria. A strong, fast 112 mile IMWI ride by a female would be between 5:40-5:45 and that was a goal of mine, that I felt was also achievable with my current fitness and the current weather conditions.



We were blessed with great weather with most of the bike being around 77 degrees but my Garmin told me it did get up to 86 degrees in the sun for about an hour (around 4 hours on the bike so this would be around noonish). 

The clouds went away at times and I found myself a bit warm at times but I made good use of water at the aid stations to keep my body as cool as possible. By the time I got to the last 3 climbs (and saw my homestay Ed and his wife Judy along the course – cheering super loud for me which was awesome and also my new Trimarni friend Kayla) I got some mojo back and it was time to get my mind focused for the marathon.  I continued to take 1 MAP every 30 min or so throughout the bike. 

Riding back into town, on the path again (no pass zone) and up the helix, I was impressed with myself. It’s moments like that when I remove myself from competition for a Kona spot and I thank my body. I thank my body for not only being healthy that I can race in an Ironman but for not failing me and for being so strong when I ask it to be strong. It may not be my fastest 112 mile bike ride in a race but on the hardest Ironman course I have raced, I feel this was my strongest performance and I gave it my absolute best effort, stayed up on my nutrition and paced myself to the best of my ability.
It was certainly NOT an easy ride!




As for Karel…he was on a mission..... Don’t let anyone pass me, move on up.
And wow, did he ever move on up! 
Karel felt good on the bike, stayed up on his nutrition (he had 3 bottles of his custom INFINIT mix that I created + perform on the course, his own nutrition that he brought) and made sure he gave his absolute best effort. That was our only goal. 
No excuses, race the competition and not the finishing time. 


When I gave my bike to the volunteer after I dismounted my bike, I removed my cycling shoes from my feet and carried them inside the Terrace. I grabbed my T2 (bike to run) red gear bag quickly and was greeted by a dozen awesome female volunteers. 
I couldn't stop smiling but quickly did I realize that I am the only female in this changing tent!! 
They gave me the most awesome welcome!

The volunteer lady told me that I was probably the 10th or 11th female but I immediately thought age groupers. I wanted/needed to know AGE GROUP 30-34..where is my competition? Ahead of me, behind me…where am I?

I quickly put on my Brooks Pure Flow Run shoes and grabbed my race belt, my dad’s favorite Corvette hat  and two Infinit Napalm run flasks  and I was out of there with volunteers all around me, cheering me on. But first, I need a potty stop! 

I went pee twice on the bike but because I was working really hard, I was not able to fully empty my bladder in the last 40 miles. Oh how I needed to pee! While in the port-o-potty, I put on my race belt and hat (multi-tasking, Ironman style) and oh did it feel good to just sit. Oh wait, I have a marathon to run! As I was enjoying my brief “rest” in the potty, it just dawned on me…I was only passed by 1 female and she was the female that I thought would win overall amateur for the race and if I am 10th female per the volunteer and there are pro women ahead of me...... Could it be that I am not only 2nd age group but also 2nd amateur female? Holy cow! I got to get out of her. Potty stop is over!

It’s time to run for a Kona spot and find Karel out on the course.










112 mile bike stats:
 
Marni
112 mile bike – 5:42:58, 19.59mph
2nd age group after the swim, 2nd age group after the bike
21st female after the swim, 10th female after the bike
2nd female amateur after the bike


Karel 
5:11:30, 21.57 mph average
89th age group after the swim, 5th age group after the bike
521st overall after the swim, 43rd overall after the bike!!
41st male after the bike



Marni bike splits per Garmin Edge 510 (every 10 mile marker)
Elevation (somewhere around 5,000-5,300)
Normalized power: 160
91 cadence average
Variable Index (VI): 1.07

10 miles: 19.93mph, 96 cadence, 172 NP (normalized power)
20.43mph, 94 cadence, 165 NP
19.13mph, 93 cadence, 175NP
20.89mph, 94 cadence, 166NP
19.68mph, 91 cadence, 177NP
20.13mph, 91 cadence, 145NP
18.64mph, 90 cadence, 165NP
19.77mph, 88 cadence, 155NP
18.66mph, 88 cadence, 151NP
19.21mph, 88 cadence, 148NP
19.02mph, 88 cadence, 128NP

First 56 miles: ~2:47, NP 168, 20.07mph, 93 cadence
Last 56 miles: ~2:53, NP 150, 19.04mph, 88 cadence


A big thank you to Gloria and all of the Team Sumbal followers on race day!!
I can’t believe that I was 2nd overall amateur for all of the bike and I didn’t even know it! 



Thanks Adam B for the pics!