Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Bike

The start of the bike leg of an Ironman always feels a bit like organized chaos to me – like a stadium emptying after a big concert or football game and everyone finding their own way - and Ironman Texas was no exception. It usually takes the first 20-something miles of the race for things to settle down and for the shuffle of fast swimmers, slow swimmers, fast cyclists and slower cyclists to work itself out.

The crowd support heading out of town was great as well and made for a nice send off into the rolling hills of the Piney Forest area. I quickly settled into a comfortably hard pace and put it on cruise control at that effort level.

I rode the hilly portion of the IMTX course twice leading up to the race so I was really happy when we approached Montgomery and the road began to look familiar. I pushed the down
hills which helped me power up the up hills and kept the pace dialed in on the flats. I saw a couple of familiar faces on the course throughout the day which is always a great pick me up.

The wind was pretty calm and we had nice cloud coverage for a good portion of the bike segment, so I stayed cool, or rather – not hot. The volunteers, as usual, at the aid stations were incredible. I chose not to use the special needs bags for the bike or run because we were told that we would not get them back and I didn’t want to lose anything. Plus, I had everything nutrition-wise that I needed with me on the bike (from what I understand, no one got the bags back, so I was glad I didn’t use them). So, as we approached the half-way point and special needs I stayed to left while a lot of people stopped.

At the half-way mark, my total bike time was less than 3 hours and I realized that if I kept pace that I could break six hours on the bike. I made a mid-race decision to go for it. My fastest HIM bike split is about 3 hours, so hitting 6 hours in a full would be a big deal for me. I knew I was jeopardizing my run, but I felt strong and knew that a fast bike split would give me the best shot at breaking 12 hours.

My only concern at this point in the ride was that I had not seen Doug and Ryan yet. I made it a game to look for the suburban, which helped pass the time, but it was also a bit disconcerting – where were they???

Around this time I went over a rail road track and lost a bottle. I have always thought it was silly that athletes who lose nutrition don’t stop to pick it up – especially if they are going to need it, so I stopped to pick up my bottle. Unfortunately, the top broke on the fall and I lost most of my liquid concentrated nutrition in that bottle. I made two bottles with 3.5 hours worth of nutrition each, so losing that bottle would have been a game changer if I had not brought a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot “just in case”. I did pick up my broken bottle as to not litter. Overall, the stop was only about 30 seconds, max.

After the nutrition mishap I did a quick re-evaluation of my nutrition plan and adjusted accordingly. I still had plenty of calories to get me through the bike.

Around the 75 mile marker I FINALLY saw Doug and Ryan! What a pick me up! I normally would have just waved but I decided a quick kiss was in order, so I made another 30 second stop to say hello to my support crew and managed to bruise my quad getting off my bike. Thankfully, the bruise didn’t really hurt or show up until Sunday. Doug told me to get going quickly because they had been stopping bikes for as long as 3 + minutes to let cars pass at the major intersection where they were. From what I understand, there was some drama around this because it should not have been happening, so hopefully race officials will get that squared away for 2012.

I took off after seeing Doug and Ryan with a renewed sense of purpose to get back to transition because I knew that is where I would see them again. I finally stopped for a potty break at the 90 mile marker and then the countdown was on! For reference, I stopped at least 3 times during IMFL and 2 times at Cedar Point, so I was happy to have made it 90 miles without a potty stop. With an empty bladder, I felt refreshed and the break was good for me mentally as well.

At this point in the race, I am like a horse running to the stables. I was still focused on breaking 6 hours and my pace had slowed a bit during the second half, so with my albeit brief stops, I knew it was going to be close. I kicked it up a notch as I counted the miles off one by one. With 10 miles to go, my feet hurt, a deep ache. I did my best to move my toes around and just ignore the pain. I knew it would go away as soon as I got off my bike so I was incentivized to get back to transition as quickly as possible.

As we got closer to transition, the crowd support got bigger and bigger, which just fed my adrenaline. As usual, the last several miles felt long, but as I finally approached transition and was surrounded by the excited crowd, I got a huge smile on my face. I took a deep breath and thanked God for a safe ride and no mechanicals. I saw Doug and Ryan as I dismounted my bike and ran it into transition.

It felt so good to hand my bike off to a volunteer! I immediately stopped to take off my bike shoes to alleviate my foot pain and so that I could run more easily to the transition bags and the change tent.

I was amazed when I saw the cumulative clock time as I rounded the corner to the gear bags – it was around 7:35 – I knew that I had done what I needed to do on the swim and the bike to set myself up to break 12 hours. I was not sure what my bike time was, but I knew it was close to 6 hours and I was really happy with that. I was even happier after the race when I found out that I had indeed broken 6 hours on the bike, finishing it in 5:59:56. 4 seconds to spare!

I easily found my bag and went straight into the change tent. It was pretty empty and I had two volunteers helping me. I realized at that point that I had forgotten to put my all day sunscreen on my face before the swim so I was thankful to have a spray bottle of sunscreen in my bag. I sprayed it in my hands and did my best to get it on my face. I also changed socks (now wet and dirty from running in the grass), put on my shoes, changed the nutrition I carry in the back pocket of my tri top from bike nutrition to run nutrition, put on my visor and Garmin and gave the volunteers my sunglasses and bike gear and then I was off.

Bike Time: 05:59:56 (hell yeah!)
Average Speed 18.7 MPH, or 30 KM per hr for my Canadian friends :)
Overall Place: 891 / 2156
Gender Place: 134 / 537
Division Place: 21 / 78

T2 Time: 00:04:25
Overall Place: 288 / 2156
Gender Place: 71 / 537
Division Place: 12 / 78


Matthew Smith said...

I think it's awesome that you beat 6 hours! That's just amazing. Nice work.


My feet were killing me too..
Left foot in particular.. so bad that I had to stop a lot on the run ..
Great job on the 6 hrs..

Ironman By Thirty said...

Awesome job! 3 hours for a HIM is smoking fast you did it back to back. Incredible!

Love and Puppies, Christy said...

Nice job on the bike! My goal was to break 6 hours on the bike at COZ last I am super jealous! Congrats!