Or, the truth about the Ironman Wisconsin bike course, as viewed through the eyes of a real person.
First, let me just acknowledge that it has been a long, long time since I've posted. So long ago, in fact, it was probably snowing, since it was FEBRUARY.
It is now late June. Only eleven weeks to go until Ironman Wisconsin. Time has been FLYING and will continue to just clip along now, faster than Chrissie Wellington in aero.
Training has been going pretty well. I'm getting in the miles, the yards and the hills. I'm healthy and uninjured (a big plus over last year's continual Achilles issues that plagued me all summer). I'm working well with my Coach and I'm having some fun. These are all good things.
I've done some new things for training, including riding in one of the routes at Hillfest and doing the Nature Valley Grand Prix Gran Fondo ride in Menominee WI. That was 65 miles of hilly, rain-soaked fun. (Really! It was!). The highlight for me (and my bike) was scrambling over to the side of a huge, steep, soaking wet hill to get out of the way of the professional racers screaming down the hill at breakneck speeds. It was awe-inspiring and confirmation -- yet again -- that much of what I'm doing for "fun" takes a lots of chutzpah and an attitude of no fear. This for me, translates to having really good brakes.
I also have incorporated some training tactics that I've used in the past. For example, I just got back from a really great training weekend called Wisconsin Brick Adventure or WIBA. The weekend is hosted by a team of EVOTRI athletes, who share their knowledge and expertise with the rest of us FOR FREE. (Well, we have to pay for our hotel and our meals, but considering some IM weekend camps cost as much as $800.00, -- which, by the by is more than the current IM registration fee, FREE is a bargain).
This is my third year attending WIBA. Natalie (IM Godess that she is) and I went in 2010 when we were both in training and I've been back every year since then.
We spend the weekend swimming, riding and running the course. We share stories and training trips with each other. We brag or complain about past races. We worry and fret about the upcoming race. I've met some very nice people at WIBA that have turned out to be good friends. It is a great weekend.
To kick off the event, we all meet at a local Madison restaurant to share a meal and to hear a course preview talk.
I've heard this preview presentation three times now. The guy giving the presentation is a rock star (aka Kona qualifier) triathlete. He is young and vigorous and apparently has a Vo2 that rivals Lance's. I admire him a great deal, but he is a liar.
Okay, maybe not a liar liar, but he tells triathlon fibs about the course. Okay, so maybe not fibs, but his perspective, coming from a Kona qualifing, "I'm-enjoying-the-post-race-buffet-while-you-are-still-out-there-slogging-away-on-the-course" is really much different than mine.
He is not the only one to spin a few yarns about IMoo's bike course. Granted, most course descriptions are written by folks that finish the race well before the midnight cut-off.
So, for all the rest of you regular people that will take longer than 12-hours to finish IM Wisconsin, let me tell you the truth about a couple of the lies we've been told:
Lie: "The Stick is flat". Ha. The stick, which is the 15-mile portion of the bike course from Monona Terrace out to Verona is not flat.
While it is much flat-ER than the loop (which we'll get to shortly), it is definitely not flat. On the way out, there are some rollers that just may trigger the following thought: "What the hell was I thinking when I swiped that credit card and signed up for this?" After riding two loops (we are getting to that, I promise), you have to ride the stick back in, where there are at least two long, not-very-pretty hills. So when they tell you that the stick is flat, don't you believe it.
Lie: "The trick to riding the hills on the loop is to just relax and spin up them." (See! I told you we'd get to the loop!). Here is what I have to say about this: HA!
"Just spin up" is triathlon's equivalent of "just say no". While it may be true that some -- maybe many -- young, gifted athletes with legs as strong as tree trunks can just make a couple of clicks down on the cassette and then merrily spin their feet around the pedals, MOST of us regular people can't get in to a gear low enough to "spin" up the four big hills on the loop. I'm clicked all the way down in to the small ring up front and the last one on the back and it is still a grind, grind, grind up those hills. But, grind we must and it is all okay. Just don't be taken in by the idea that you can actually "spin" up those hills.
Now that I've burst your bubble about the bike course, let me tell you a couple of true things: the course, while challenging, has its rewards and is just beautiful.
After every hard climb, there is an equal reward that comes from cruising down the backside of the big hill. This gives you some time to catch your breath, lower your heart rate and helps to remind you that you are doing some thing pretty remarkable.
The views around you all along the course are truely amazing. The views from the vistas, the wonderful farm land, the colors, are all just breathtaking. Take it in; send a little note of gratitude; and enjoy, for Wisconsin really is God's country (says the woman from Milwaukee).
Are the hills worth the ride and the effort? Yes (says the woman that has yet to complete the race by midnight). Each time I've ridden the course, I've learned some thing new about it and myself. And, while I may not have perfected spinning up those hills, I am getting better at getting up them more efficiently, and I sure enjoy the views.
That ain't no lie.