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After finishing up a great swim and T1, I was off on the bike. The bike started on the top of Monona Terrace which meant that the bike started with a ride down the helix to street level. I was on my brakes the whole way down because it a little congested and the curves were tight.
As soon as we got to the bottom of the helix, we headed out through the parking garage’s toll booths and then onto the road. This is totally random, but as we rode through the toll booths, all I could think of was the Toad’s Turnpike course of Mario Kart. I tried unsuccessfully to find a picture of the course, but there are multiple places in the game where you zip through toll booths.
Any ways, as soon as I got out to the street, I started looking for Jennie. She was planning on being somewhere at the start of the bike. Sure enough! There she was!
Right after seeing Jennie, my right contact started to bug me. It was really blurry and felt like it was going to fall out. I had to laugh at the irony of the fact that I had just told Jon the other day that I had never had a problem riding with contacts before. I pulled off to the side, pulled out the contact and made sure it hadn’t folded over on itself. I put it back in and it was better for a couple miles, but acted up again. I eventually got to an aid station with water, rinsed it off, and it was good for the rest of the day. I think what happened was that I got some water in my goggles during the swim and the algae in the water irritated my eye. I’m really glad that I got it straightened out though because it would have been a long ride with it bugging me.
The IMWI bike course is a lollipop shape with a 16 mile stick out to Verona followed by two 40 mile loops. The stick portion is fairly flat and I spent the first 16 miles getting comfortable. I got passed by a LOT of people. It was a bit demoralizing, but this was my race and I was sticking to my plan. I did pass a few people – a couple of which didn’t like being passed. I had two guys who I passed that immediately sat up and passed me back. Whatever. If they can’t handle getting passed and want to burn themselves out this early on, more power to them.
At about mile 13, we hit the first aid station. I had just about downed my first bottle of Perform that I had packed on my bike so I was ready for a swap. The volunteers were absolutely awesome at each of the aid stations. They held out bottles and would run next to you to ease grabbing them. However, as soon as I grabbed the bottle and took a sip, I knew there was going to be problems. It tasted AWFUL! It tasted totally different than the powdered Perform. Oh well, too late to really do anything about it now as I only had two bottles of pre-mixed Perform on my bike. I did some research online and I am not the only person who has had problems with the ready to drink bottles of Perform.
As per my plan, I had started my Timex watch’s timer when I started the bike. I set it to beep every 15 minutes to remind me to drink and eat. The plan was to drink every 15 minutes and eat Gu Chomps every 30.
I cruised through the first half of the first loop feeling great. Like I have said before this course is challenging, but a manageable challenging. There are lots of small climbs where knowing your gearing is key. I was going conservative (stupid easy) on the first loop so as soon as I felt my cadence dropping, I would drop down to the small chain ring and start spinning. Most of the hills would be either preceded or followed by a nice descent to allow you to make up some speed.
(I totally stole this picture from Emily @ Speed Laces, Amazing Races)
In no time we hit the hills of Garfoot and Witte; huge descents followed by short, steep climbs. Having ridden this course before I had a good idea on how to ride these hills. It was sort of comical to see people who either had not ridden the course or didn’t know how to gear efficiently. They would fly past me on the descents and then wobble side to side on the subsequent climb trying to find a good gear. A lot of the people struggling up the climbs had fancy wheels and I had to smile at the thought that deep dish wheels may make you go faster, but they don’t make you a better a climber. Winning!
As we winded around the loop, we quickly approached the first of the three main climbs – Old Saulk Pass. Old Saulk Pass is the longest of the three climbs but not the steepest. I quickly dropped into an easy gear and started spinning. As I neared the top, I saw my cheering section! What a huge pick me up.
As I passed by everyone, I got a high five from my buddy Matt who came all the way from Cincinnati to cheer. Six years later, he has retained his “best man” status. However, he put a little too much oomph into the high five and just about knocked me off the bike. haha.
As you can see in the video below, seeing the cheering section really gave me a boost of momentum and I flew up the rest of the hill.
Almost immediately after Old Saulk Pass, we approached the Timber climb. This climb is shorter, but much steeper. There were a ton of people out cheering here. It was totally like the Tour de France. They were lining the streets with guys dressed in speedos and coconut bras, cow bells, and lot of cheering. Despite the tough climb, the crowd carried me to the top.
After Timber, there is a very steep descent with a sharp left turn at the bottom. It was a sharp enough turn that they had hay bales at the curve in case of accidents. The curve at the bottom doesn’t look sharp, but if you go into too fast you are in trouble. I got out of aero with my hands on the brakes just in case. Sure enough, some guy goes flying by me (and I was doing 35mph+). He got about 20 yards ahead of me and then I heard a loud PSSSTT!. He blew a tire! I could tell he was panicking because he didn’t know which way to go – left or right. Thankfully he decided to go left because if he had gone right he probably would have taken me (and maybe a couple people behind me) out. After winding through the curve, a couple other riders pulled up alongside of me and we shared a collective sigh of relief.
The final climb, Midtown, went better than expected. This was the hardest hill during training because it starts with a left hand turn at a stop sign so you can’t carry any momentum into the turn. However, with the streets closed, it was easier to keep up your speed. Halfway up this hill was a drill sergeant yelling at each rider. I was having a great time so as I passed I yelled, “Yes sir, drill sergeant sir!”
Ok, time to go off on a tangent. I may be the last person to have seen this, but apparently this was a popular Internet meme a while back. I saw all of these signs on the course that referenced a "Honey Badger”. Things like “Honey Badger Don’t Give a Shit” and “You’re a Crazy Honey Badger.” Now, I know that the University of Wisconsin’s mascot was the Badger, but what the heck was a Honey Badger? I Googled it when I got home and figured it out. Now that I know what the signs were referring to, it makes them a lot more funny.
After the climbs it was only a matter of miles before the 2nd loop started.
Almost immediately into the 2nd loop, there was the special needs stop. I stopped and grabbed a fruit punch Gatorade I had packed because I was so sick of the nasty Perform as well as couple mini Snickers bars.
For the most part, the 2nd loop was much the same as the first. I played it a little less conservatively and pushed it on the descents rather than just letting my legs recover. At mile 70 or so, I started to get really sore. My upper back and neck were killing me. I think it was a combination of two things. Number 1, this was the longest I had ever worn my aero helmet, and number two, I was absorbing every bump of the rough pavement through the aero bars. I honestly don’t think the roads were that bad though. I know there are lot of complaints about the conditions of the roads, but to me, they are just typical Midwest roads. There are a couple (mainly Stagecoach) that are brutal, but for the most part they are manageable. To combat the soreness, I found myself getting out of aero a bit more on the second loop to let myself stretch out.
Nutrition wise, on the 2nd loop I started to alternate water and Perform at the aid stations because I knew I couldn’t keep drinking only the Perform. It was making me burp like crazy and not settling at all (cue the foreshadowing music).
In no time, I was back to the Big Three Climbs to see my cheering section.
I felt really strong on the hills even after having ridden 80 miles already.
To give you an idea of some of the crazy spectators our there, Jennie snapped a picture of this guy who would mark up and down the hill with a megaphone cheering for riders.
After completing the climbs, it was just a matter of time before I would be heading back to Madison. I have to admit that my mental facets started to fade a bit towards the end of the ride. There were a couple points where I saw a climb coming up and had to look and my shifters and think to myself which ones operated which cogs and which direction I had to move them. Normally that behavior just comes naturally to me, but after 90 miles I was confusing myself.
With 16 miles to go, I turned back towards Monona Terrace. The wind had picked up a bit on the 2nd loop and I had to fight it on and off throughout the loop. Luckily though, when I turned back, I had the wind at my back all the way. I ended up finishing the final 18 (or was it 19) miles with a smoking 21+mph average.
Right before Monona Terrace, I saw Jennie and gave her a thumbs up. I was so ready to get off the bike at that point. 113 miles on the bike was plenty for me. Yes, you read that right. 113 miles, not 112. I checked with multiple people and everyone had clocked 113+ miles on the bike course. There was one change on the course from last year (not sure why) and it made the course a bit longer.
I ended up finishing the bike in 5:58:46 to break 6 hours with an 18.73mph! According to my Garmin, my moving time was 5:55:53 which means that I stopped for a total of about 3 minutes for special needs and to mess with my contact.
Overall, I am really happy with how the bike ride went. I felt like I stuck to my game plan the entire time and didn’t let my ego get the best of me. I was sort of hoping to average 19mph, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over a high 18mph average.
At the end of the bike, I slipped out of my shoes before climbing the helix. At the top, I handed my bike off to a volunteer and headed into transition. It was so cool to not have to rack my own bike. Did I mention how awesome the volunteers were??
T2 didn’t go nearly as smoothly as T1. I still had some lingering soreness in my upper back and neck so I took some extra time to just relax. I changed my socks out, put on my shoes. I tried eating a PB&J that I had packed, but could only get a couple bites down. I found some sunscreen that got left behind and put some on. In transition there is table with a bunch of random stuff (chamois butter, sunscreen, Vaseline, etc.) that athletes use and then just leave behind. So, whoever left behind their sunscreen, Thank You! I was putting on the sunscreen when another athlete offered to get my back. I returned the favor and we were off. On the way out of transition, I hit up the porta potty to drain the tank.
Then it was time to run! Stay tuned!