Sep 16

Ironman Wisconsin: The Bike

If you missed my previous posts about Ironman Wisconsin, feel free to scroll down or follow the following links:

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!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2011/09/16/ironman-wisconsin-the-bike


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  1. Tim C.

    Well done on the wheels! Almost peed myself watching the honey badger video (in class!)
    Tim C. recently posted..Playmakers Classic Triathlon

  2. Mandy

    I have so much to say about this!! First, great bike report.

    The helix freaks me out. Sounds cool though.

    That dude in the chief suit is funny.

    How did I hear about Honey Badger in Caratunk and you miss it? We are usually a little behind. Like those things called cel-u-lar tel-e-phones just came into fashion here. But Honey Badger, he’s been here for months! ha ha 😉

    I can’t handle Perform, I used my own stuff because Perform doesn’t work for me. Gives me the ickkies.

    So you should be getting a 141.6 sticker? WTF is up with that?

    IM volunteers are the most amazing people in the world.
    Mandy recently posted..Happy Retirement Mom!

  3. peter takeda

    awesome bike time. yea i tried that perform for the first time on sunday at Muskoka 70.3 and it was disgusting. thankfully i already finished the race when i tried it. i couldn’t imgaine anyone drinking that for the entire race

    peter takeda recently posted..Muskoka 70.3 Race Report

  4. Jeff Irvin

    Excellent ride Kevin and great job not getting sucked into the macho-man pass fest that happens on the first 40mi of an IM bike course.

    Us folks at Cedar Point enjoyed tracking you on the IMLive site and texting with Jennie! Just wish we could have been there!

    Now hurry the heck up and get to typing up the run report!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Bullet Points within Bullet Points

  5. Greg

    Solid day so far. Great swim and strong bike! I had never heard of the honey badger until this post…WOW!!!

    Glad the rapid descent didn’t cause issues for you, especially with a rider blowing a tire in front of you.

  6. adena

    That bike ride sounds crazy.. now I can’t wait for the run!!! I love these long race reports but I hate the waiting part.

  7. Morgan

    I’m just in awe. I think I will always be in awe of every single ironman event and competitor. Well done on the execution of YOUR race out there, talk about a picture perfect ride! I also loved the comparison to the Toad Tollway! LOL!
    Morgan recently posted..WWKD

  8. Kristin

    The optometrist in me says THROW THOSE CONTACTS OUT!!!! you don’t want some nasty fungus to start growing. Congrats on a great bike. Hills and everything you rocked it
    Kristin recently posted..Let’s Get The Show on The Road

  9. Elizabeth

    Way to go on the bike!! That’s some sweet peddlin’. btw, my husband and I have a standard response whenever one of us accuses the other one of doing something really stupid or crazy, and that of course is “honey badger don’t give a shit.” lol such a funny video.
    Elizabeth recently posted..Go Ahead: Walk a Mile (or 1,000) in My Shoes

  10. Heather

    How exciting! I loved the video where you started hammering after the high five. I can totally relate to the energy gained from seeing people you know cheering their hearts out for you! Sounds like it was an awesome time with wonderful spectators and volunteers!

    My contacts always bother me on the bike. I made sure to bring a couple extra pairs just in case anything bad happened. It would have sucked to ride and run with one contact! Glad you got it taken care of though!

    Looking forward to your run report!

  11. Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race

    I 2nd Jeff’s comments and HTFU and type that run report man.

    I am loving this. You executed such a great plan and stuck to it. Kudos to you. The contact thing was a non expected issue and you handled that perfectly as Ironman is all about handling unexpected issues.
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..What Do The Pro’s Eat?

  12. katie

    you look GREAT on the bike! I am very often worried about my contacts for the same reason. eeks.

    also, I don’t like it when you talk about foreshadowing music…. 🙁
    katie recently posted..random friday facts: autumn edition

  13. BDD

    Solid bike, way to control the inner ego and stick to the plan

    I cant wait for the run, I know you earned something more then just the title Ironman, cant wait to hear about that and the rest of the race
    BDD recently posted..Lost Art of the Group Ride

  14. Matt Smith

    Great job on the bike. It’s obvious that riding the course previously was a tremendous help. It was obvious as you described knowing the correct gearing and the treacherous turns. 18mph is an amazing average. I think you did great by keeping to your goal and not letting the contact get you jacked up in the head. I know that the food wasn’t wanting to stay down, and I’m curious as to any tips you might have on how to keep it down…

    I love reading these reports! Now comes the marathon!
    Matt Smith recently posted..Once more to go, and it’s the big one.

  15. Jon

    Ah yes, the honey badger! Look up the shark narrated by the same guy.

    You did awesome on the bike!

    “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!”

    Ssssshhhhhh, dont tell anyone, but its all mental 😉

    Sorry about the perform not tasting great. What were the bottles like? Sports top?

    Cant wait for the run! You seem pretty strong coming off the bike.
    Jon recently posted..I’m A Mess, But I am Going to Keep this Positive!

  16. Kristin @ Lazy Marathoner

    Nice bike execution. I don’t think the roads are bad at all! Some people are just picky 🙂 I found Midtown to still be the hardest in the race, I think it’s because there are less spectators and it’s more steep. It was really windy by the time I was on the second loop, total misery. Really great work, this is one of the hardest IM bike courses and you nailed it!
    Kristin @ Lazy Marathoner recently posted..Short and Sweet – Fourth Ironman Finish

  17. Derek

    great report and Excellent ride !!
    love the video

    I saw you walking out with your bike toward the mount line – I was on the ledgeof the pkg ramp overlooking the bikes and yelled your name


  18. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    What a great bike report!! YOU DID AWESOME!!! Woohoo!!!
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Harvest Moon HIM Race Report

  19. lindsay

    wahhhhhh. an extra mile. waaahhhhhh. aren’t you an endurance athlete? don’t you sign up for long races? sheesh you’d think you were an 100-m hurdler or something. 😉
    lindsay recently posted..in five years

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Haha! How would have felt if that Green Bay Marathon was 27.2 miles instead of 26.2??? 🙂 It wasn’t so much the fact that I had to bike an extra mile, but I don’t get how they can screw up something as simple as measuring the course. It bugs me when a 5k is a tenth of a mile short or when a race like this is long. I paid my money, get out your ruler and learn how to use it.

      1. lindsay

        valid point. it is their job to organize/hold the race, measuring ought to be a pretty big to-do on the list!
        lindsay recently posted..in five years

  20. kc

    Great job sticking to your game plan. You did really well out there especially with all those climbs. I love the part about the fancy deep dish wheels not making you climb any better …true that! We don’t need no stinkin deep dish wheels! The honey badger video is priceless …I am going to be a honey badger at IMFL!
    kc recently posted..you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ …

  21. Matt Oravec

    Dang you crushed the bike!

    That is the big difference between our races… never once did Heather or I get sick of the bike or want to get rid of the bike. Granted we raced much slower and had a much easier course, but this was our best ride of the year, we had hated our bikes during training A LOT… must have been your hills.

    That is so cool you saw Jennie numerous times. Had to be awesome to keep your mind occupied wondering when or where you would see her next and having something to look forward to on the course.

    You did awesome on the bike splits too.

    Nutrition wise, we played a few wild cards too on the course. I only drank half of my infinite… and I was switching between gatorade and water at each aid station. Wanted the water to dilute whatever I was putting in my stomach for prep on the run.
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Lessons from a 140.6

  22. Colleen

    Nice bike! Sounds like your day so far is going exactly according to plan (minus the contact!)

    I love that you had a huge support crew – makes it so much easier, doesn’t it?!? And that chief… awesomely motivating!

    Love the honeybadger video. I had seen it before but showed it to Tom. The signs would have made me laugh for sure!

    Can’t wait to read about the run…

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