(Okay, okay. I know this is a very long race report. Still trying to hold on to every memory of every turn of ever second from that day. That is just how much fun I had!)
Clipped in at the bike start line at the top of the helix and enjoyed the coast winding down the spiral, getting adjusted in the seat; making sure my sunglasses were where I wanted them to be; making sure my bento box was velcroed shut.
Although it was sunny, it was still cool at 9:00 am but I made sure to have my bike jersey zipped and my arm warmers pulled up. I just settled in to a pedaling rhythm heading out on John Nolan Drive. There were a few other bikers around me... a couple of guys and a woman. Most were just taking their time getting in to the groove.
There is a turn off the parkway that becomes a single lane, no pass zone that leads riders to the Alliant Energy Center (which, back in the day was known as the Dane County Coliseum. I saw Bruce Springsteen there when I was in college. I wonder if my down jacket is somewhere in the Lost and Found room there.... I digress....).
The race officials harp on this as a no pass zone at the pre-race meeting. There is plenty-o-information about this section written up in Athlete materials, etc. And yet, on race morning, some idiot trys to flex his testosterone around by passing me and the very slow man in front of me as we are riding under the tunnel.
I called him out on this, saying "Hey Dude -- no pass -- you don't want that penalty this early!'.
He mea culpaed, but still zipped right on by. Whaddya do?
In my last post, I talked about elements on race day feeling very routine. This is exactly how the bike felt for me. Routine. Normal. Regular. Could have ridden that course with my eyes shut. (Okay. Maybe not.)
I had been to Madison every month from March on riding that bike course. My coach had me riding it as the stick; the stick and one loop; two loops; the whole course and,every now and then, even threw in a couple of "okay, when you are done with Midtown Road (the last of the three bitches), turn around and ride back to Old Sauk (the first bitch) and then ride them again. Just for FUN! (My coach has a 'funny' sense of humor).
I had also decided to break down the course in to very managable distance chunks. In years past, I had thought of the course as the stick and the loop. This year, the stick had five parts:
1) Monona out to Whalen Road
2& 3) Two stop signs on Whalen Road
4) Seeing the Verona Water Tower out the distance
5) passing across old PB to get in to the loops
The loop(s) got broken down by:
First yucky turn up followed by nice zip down and around Valley Road
Easy aero stretch along Hwy G
Mt. Horeb (big hill)
Witte Road rollar coaster
Garfoot windy wonderfulness
Easy aero stretch in to Cross Plains
Stagecoach to stage for the three big hills
Old Sauk Pass
nice long aero stretch from there
Stretch back to Verona
Staring in July, there was construction on the course that diverted the route away from Mt Horeb (yet another fun hill, but not quite as bitchy. Long, but not quite as steep). There were two detours to choose from. You could go one way, which included a bunch of big, nasty hills, including one on Norwegian Trail (would you expect less from a name like that???). The other way had less, big nasty hills, so it became my detour route of choice....
The point is is that I rode those hills a billion times over the summer. AND rode the hills of Menominee, Wisconsin, as part of the Nature Valley Family Fun weekend, where riders could ride the same routes as the professionals taking part in the Nature Valley Grand Prix. (Great event, by the by.... hills were tough and the day was hot, humid and rainy, so it was perfect IM traning, right?). AND rode the hills at Hillfest bike festival. So. This year, those three bitches (and their "scenic rolling" cousins that make up 90% of Ironman Wisconsin's bike course had nothing on me!
I only say that partly tongue in cheek. Hills are tough. Period. But I've learned that even the Pros go slow up most of them. I've learned that I just have to gear down and pedal up them. I've learned that you DO get up them and eventually there IS a down hill where you can just enjoy.
I was in a very good mood for most the first loop. I felt strong and comfortable. I drank something -- usually Infinit -- about every 15 mintues and ate a little something -- either a little bit of a Bonk Breaker, or a Fig Newton or a gummi bear -- about every 17 minutes. I chatted a little bit with other riders as I passed them.
I got to Special Needs with an average of about 15.84 miles, which was very, very good for me (considering the hills).
During training, when I'd be out in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, I'd stop at one of the many Casey's -- a gasoline station/convenience store combo -- located throughout the state. The pitstops allowed me to use the bathroom, get more water/gatorade and food. I found that plain, boring dull turkey sandwiches were morphed in to super delicious, best meal I'd had in hours, morsels of goodness. Besides filling my belly, I discovered during those training rides that I tolerated them very well as I continued the ride. No GI distress; no nauesa; no problems.
When packing my IM WI bike bag, I decided to pack half a turkey sandwich, which I DEVOURED when I got to special needs. It was perfect. I had gotten a little tired of the Fig Newtons/Bonk Breakers/Gummis nutrition plan. Having something different -- and tested -- to eat was great.
Although I had a tiny nag in my head about the second loop (and I remembered all too well how lousy I felt pulling out of special needs and riding towards the second loop in 2010), I told that nag to shut up and I pedaled off with some confidence.
I was wearning a GPS device from myathletelive.com. This allowed people to find me all along the course. It was great for Natalie, Warren and Lance, because they could find me on the course to see me a number of times. It was a GREAT boost to see them and have them cheer for me.
I stopped a couple of times on the second loop. Once to get water to refill some nutrition; twice to quickly stretch my back. But the second loop went astonishingly well.
By the time I hit the turn back on to Whalen to go back in to Madison, was smiling from ear to ear. I had really ridden well and was confident that my bike time would be much better, which would afford me more time on the run.
The only slightly unfortunate part about the ride back was that we headed straight in to a headwind for most of the last seven miles....but again, since I had trained in wind all summer, this was less of an issue for me than I had feared.
I rode back in to transition 7 hours, 29 minutes and 53 seconds after leaving it. One hour and one minute FASTER than I rode in 2011.
My friends Gary, Marcia and Marty were volunteering in the T2 bag area, so I got big cheers from them as I came in to change for the run.
Marcia came in to the change area with me and helped me get set up (dry clothes, water belt, etc). I started out for the run but had enough time that I stopped for a quick, three minute massage focused on my lower back. H E A V E N.
Then out the door, porta potty break and on to the run. I saw Warren, Natalie and Lance right out of the gate, chatted with them as I walked along and then broke in to my (hoped) 3 minute run/1 minute walk routine.
The night was still young!