Ironman: The Bike
I've been giving Jon a hard time lately, but before I left for Idaho he sent me an amazing email with tons of advice for Ironman. Some was physical, some was mental. Some was generic, some was specific for me. All very useful. One of the things he told me was to use my (relative) strength on the bike for the run. Meaning I should take it easy a bit and save my legs for the marathon. This was tough advice. Although the overall time is what's most important, I wanted to have a decent showing on at least one leg and the bike was my best shot.
Still, Jon knows best so I held back. Basically, for the entire ride I stayed off the big ring unless I was going downhill. The first 10-15 miles of each loop are pretty flat and would have been a good time to gun it a bit but I stayed with higher cadence, lower speed.
There is a long steady climb leaving town as you head up to the hills and I saw the clock car leading the 1st place male coming back down. I thought it was pretty cool to see him and know that we were in the same race. He was going slower than I expected; more on that later.
The hills of Coeur d'Alene aren't big, but there are lots of them. And just to keep things interesting, the climbs were mostly straight, but the descents were winding curves or had 90-degree turns at the bottom. Which meant you could rarely take advantage of the downhill monentum.
I can honestly say I didn't think the hills were that bad. I did a lot of hill training and felt well-prepared for them. In fact, I almost looked forward to the climbs because that's where I passed a lot of people. I know you're supposed to ride your own race, but it still feels good to pass people from time to time. Especially when tbey're struggling up a hill on their $4000 bikes. Posers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first 40 miles or so of the bike. It was scenic, we had nice cool weather and I was feeling great. I was finished with the climbing and all I had to to was ride downhill for about 10 miles back into town to start the second loop. Easy, right? Wrong. That's when the winds picked up. Now you have to understand, nobody likes wind but they affect me on a much deeper level. I can deal with hills, I can deal with cold, but wind beats me down at an emotional level. There were times when I was struggling to maintain 14mph DOWNHILL. Remember that guy in first place going slowly? Now I knew why. I was having of flashbacks of Oceanside 70.3, where the farther I went the longer it would take me to finish.
I had hoped that the wind was isolated to that hill, but when I started loop 2 the winds were still there. Regardless of what Jon told me about taking it easy on the bike, I knew that I wouldn't be posting a fast bike time having to deal with this. I started redoing the math, worrying what would happen if I took an extra hour on the bike because of the wind. It may have been a silly concern, but it was something I had to consider.
I spent too much time at the Special Needs stop. I packed a ham sandwich in my bag and I originally planned on eating it at the stop. But I realized that was a dumb idea, I might as well keep moving while eating but it took me a while to figure out where to stow the sandwich on the bike. I took some Ritz Bits out of my Bento box and crammed the sandwich in there instead. I didn't want to eat it all at once, so I basically took one bite every 20 minutes. This way I had a constant flow of calories coming in without having a big lump of food in my stomach all at once. It took me over 2 hours to finish it. Oddly enough, when I put the last bite in my mouth I started to gag on it and had to spit it back out in my hand. Disgusting. I guess that meant that I was done.
I tried to spend more time in the aero position to compensate for the wind. Which meant going aero on winding turns downhill. A little scary with a few close calls of having to jump back on the brakes but no crashes. My chain popped off twice going up hills though.
At one point, a guy next to me started to chat:
Him: "Man, that was a SWEET car!"
Me: "What was it?"
Him: "A classic Porsche"
Me: "I missed it. I'm just keeping my head down to the road."
Him: "You're missing all the great scenery!"
Me: "I caught the scenery on the first loop."
That was kind of my attitude. I certainly wanted to experience the race, but at the same time I had to try to do a smart race. I feel I did that. Jon's advice of holding back on the bike worked. When it was all over, my legs felt... well they felt like they could run a marathon.