Friday, November 22, 2013

Ironman Arizona Race Report: The Bike

Ahhh, the bike, the discipline that scares me the most, the one where so many things can go wrong, the one in training that I never felt super strong at, the one that would take the most time of the day…so many thoughts went through my head at the beginning of the bike course. 

Lap 1---
First thought, my damn watch.  So I was wearing two watches, a regular stopwatch type watch which I had left on time of day and my Garmin 910XT which was set on multisport.  I’ve worn this watch several times and never had any issues.  It picked up satellite no problem before the swim but sometime during the swim the thing must have malfunctioned.  It was still collecting total time but it wasn’t giving me any speed readings, HR or distance.  Well, shit.  I had trained with this watch, how the heck was I supposed to know how fast I was going?  I’ll get back to the watch story in a minute.

Second thought going through my head, stay calm, keep pressure on the pedals (great advice from Coach Laura), ride within my ability and ENJOY THE RIDE.

Third thought that was there from before the race started, 3pm bike cutoff number 1 (mile 76), 4:15 pm bike cutoff number 2 (mile 80 something), 5:30 pm final bike cutoff.

As I made my way out of town and down Rio Salado Drive for the first time, I stayed to the right and just let people pass me.  This is something I am very used to.  Being a decent swimmer I typically exit the water and get passed during the rest of the race.  As I settled into what I deemed a good pace I sat in my aero bars and thought about what I was going to do about my watch.  Since it was still keeping total time and total time per discipline/transition, I started doing math.  As Mr. Pi and pretty much all of my teachers can tell you, math isn’t my strong suit BUT it would keep my mind preoccupied!

The course makes 3-4 turns on various roads before you get to the Beeline Hwy.  Each of these roads were nice and flat and on this first lap I didn’t feel any wind.  The temperature was warm (for me) as I had been used to doing rides in 40 degrees but it wasn’t hot.  I did question the number of people I saw with arm warmers though.  

I started sipping on my aero bottle right away.  My aero bottle was filled with water and nuun (cherry limeade and kona cola which tastes a little like cherry coke—both have caffeine which I figured I would need since I’d be running a marathon past my normal bedtime).  As I made the turn onto the Beeline Hwy for the first time I thought I should probably eat something, despite not being hungry.  I grabbed a few macadamia nuts and thoroughly chewed them up.  In fact, chewing my food became a good distraction tool.  I would try to chew everything 10 times.  Funny the things that go through your head during a race like this.

Pretty soon I hit the gradual climb up to the turnaround.  I stayed in aero and stayed calm as people were flying by me.  I kept telling myself to ride within my own ability and to keep pressure on the pedals.  I had originally done all my calculations for the bike based on beginning the bike course at 8:45 but since I finished the swim earlier than I thought and my transition wasn’t even close to 15 minutes all pre-race time calculations were off but in the better direction!  (P.S. Yes, I spent a considerable amount of time in the week leading up to the race doing math on my phone and on scraps of paper and using the tricalc app.)

Before I knew it I was at the turnaround, woooooooo hooo!  There was an aid station at the top and I noted that it had a bathroom in case I needed that knowledge for later.  A quick note on the aid stations, I ended up not stopping or taking anything from any of them BUT they were well staffed, friendly and every time someone made a handoff the volunteers and crowds would cheer it was kinda awesome!  The spectators at the top of the hill were also awesome; they yelled very loudly for every person that made the turn; even more so if you said it was your FINAL turn.

As I hit the downhill, I shifted into my hardest gear and kept pressure on the pedals the whole time—no coasting.  I told myself that on lap three if I was doing well I could coast some if I wanted but not now.  I still didn’t feel any wind which was awesome!  I looked around at the cactus and tried to enjoy the bit of free speed.  Turns out I did nearly 10 miles at a 21 avg pace per the tracking.  Downhill with pedaling will get you there.  One thing I didn’t do was ride aero for the first part of the decent but it didn’t seem to affect my speed much.  I even passed a few people.  I actually passed a lot of people when we got back to the flats, enough people that it actually had me worried that I was riding too hard.  I checked in with myself and felt fine and felt like I was totally riding within my ability so I went with it.  

Just about then I saw the mile 30 mile marker, I glanced at my watch fully expecting to see 2 hours or more (which would have me at 14-15 mph avg)  I was f’ing shocked when I saw 1:40 something.  Holy shit, who am I?!?!  As I made the turn on Rio Salado Drive I started looking for the fam, I rolled all the way into the turnaround and didn’t see them, sad.  I glanced at my watch and saw 2:13 for lap 1—whoa!  Just as I got settled back into my aero bars I saw my Dad and gave a yell!  They clearly weren’t expecting me so soon but I’m glad I saw them.  Later Mr. Pi told me he thought that there had been something wrong with the tracking as he noted "Alisa never rides 21 mph" --haha tis true but on that day I DID!

Lap 2---
At this point the pro’s were passing me on their third loop but I continued to settle into my pace and just stayed within my ability.  I checked in with myself about hunger, thirst, bladder, etc.  Everything felt fine though I admitted to myself that I probably needed to eat more.  I made it through all of the turns to the hwy and paid attention to the not so calm looking flags.  Through most of the turns we had a cross wind but it didn’t feel too bad, I stayed aero and stayed calm—pressure on the pedals.  As I turned onto the Beeline Hwy for the second time I felt no wind…I figured that meant tail wind.  I looked at the bright side and thought, maybe the hill won’t feel too bad then. 

As I hit the hill, I kept checking in with myself and I felt fine so I carried on with the pace I was going.  I also decided it would be a good idea to eat some more, as I reached into my bento I promptly pulled out my PowerBar Harvest Bar and it fell straight to the ground, oops.  Good thing I knew I had more food at special needs should I need it.  Instead I went back to eating and CHEWING my nuts.

Pretty sure this was right after I dropped my food but I'm giving a thumbs up and I'm happy!

As I climbed up to the turnaround I saw a mile 50 sign, I looked at my watch and saw under 3 hours….WHAT?!?!  The fastest I had ever ridden 50 miles prior was like 3:15.  At the turnaround, I got a lot of go Rev3 cheers, not sure who that was cheering but thank you!  Actually throughout the whole day I got a lot of Rev3 love, including from my teammate Nina on the run course (more on that later).  Anyway, I made the turn and immediately HEAD WIND.  Eh, oh well, at least there is a downhill.  Again, I shifted and kept pressure on the pedals and pedaled through the windy downhill.  It was about then that I wished I was more comfortable descending in aero, I think that would have cut the wind some, oh well.  When I got back to the flats I went aero and kept pedaling. 

I also knew special needs was coming up, I checked in with myself, did I need anything, did I want to stop.  Hmmm…I didn’t really need anything but my aero bottle was almost empty, my bottle in the cage was empty and I knew I had premade stuff in my bag—including my secret sauce! As I rolled up to my box, a volunteer held my bag out and kept my bike steady as I poured my premixed Nuun in the front bottle and threw a new water in the cage.  I also dumped some powerbar chews in my bento along with a piece of gum and more nuts. Then I went for my secret sauce, a can of starbucks double shot coffee.  Oh man it tasted delicious.  Even the volunteer said it looked good.  I told him he couldn’t have any though!  I checked in with my bladder and decided I didn’t need the restroom so I off I went.

As I made the turns back to town I looked at my watch again and felt good about where I was at.  I don’t remember the exact times but it was well ahead of my best case scenario.  On Rio Salado I started looking for the fam and saw my whole crew.  Anyone that has ever done a race knows how much of a boost it is to see family and friends.  It was amazing!  I felt awesome as I made the turn and headed back out for my third and final lap!

My Dad with his sign looking proud!

Lap 3---
Again, I saw my fam on the way out of my final lap.  I sat up and gave them a wave, I was feeling awesome.  As I hit the turns I realized that I did kind of need the bathroom, so I decided that I would stop at the first aid station.  I waited in line for maybe a minute but was in and out in a jiffy. Again, volunteer held my bike for me and asked if I needed anything, I didn’t so I was off and riding again.  As I got back on my bike I definitely felt the winds.  It still wasn’t anything terrible but it felt stronger.

Heading out on lap 3, telling the fam how much ass I was kicking

There I go...

As I made the turn onto the Beeline Hwy for the last time I really tried to enjoy myself and soak it all in.  The bike course was a LOT less crowded and there weren’t giant packs of grotesque drafting going on anymore which meant that I paid extra special attention to staying out of draft zones. 

As I climbed up the gradual hill for the last time I really felt great.  I thought this last climb might kill me but I think the tailwind really helped.  I made the final turn around and got lots of cheers from the folks at the top as I told them it was my last turnaround.

Again, on the downhill I shifted and kept constant pressure on the pedals but this time with the stronger headwind and some cross wind gusts I really had to recite to myself that I would be okay and that any free speed I could get would help me.  I tried to stay calm but a couple of times the cross wind gusts definitely scared me.  Every time one came up I thought, thank goodness it isn’t a windier day and that I’m not 5’1’’ and 100 lbs.  I can’t imagine riding in 20 or 30 mph winds.  I also can’t imagine being a small female…really on the bike or during the swim.

As I approached the mile 100 marker I was ecstatic!  The girl riding next to me said, “farthest I’ve ever ridden,” and I said, “Me too!”  I looked at my watch and saw I was WELL under 7 hours and decided to start backing off the pace some which was easy since I was riding into a headwind. I also went for my spearmint gum.  During long training rides, mint gum always did wonders for me.  It made me feel like I was brushing my teeth and starting the day over.  It didn’t disappoint this time either; it perked me up a bit and was a welcome change of taste.

I hit Rio Salado Drive and starting looking for the family I couldn’t wait to tell them how freakin’ awesome I was doing on the bike course.  Sadly, I didn’t see them.  I was disappointed but also secretly thought, heck yeah I’m riding so fast my family is missing me!

As I hit the dismount line, I looked down and saw 7:02…HOLY SHIT man, 7:02!  My absolute pie in the sky best case dream was 7:20 and I really thought I’d be more like 7:45-55.

I got off my bike, handed it to a volunteer and realized how wobbly my legs felt.  Oh boy, the marathon. I grabbed my bag and walked toward the change tent.  As I did I also noticed that my right eye was feeling really weird.  I figured I smudged my sunglasses and that it would be better when I took them off.

I sat down and the tent was much less crowded this time.  A volunteer dumped out my bag and asked what I needed.  I opted for full change.  I baby powered my feet and put on my calf sleeves, new socks and my running shoes.  I grabbed my Rev3 visor and headed out. 

Immediately I noticed my right eye was still totally blurry---what the hell?  Oh well, I could see that’s all that mattered.

Total Bike:  7:02:20
T2: 7:03