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Saturday, June 27, 2009

2009 Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report - The Bike

The bike course is two times around what I can only describe as a 3-loop course. The first loop is an out-and-back course around 14 miles and change in total distance. The middle loop (which I will refer to as the big loop) is the monster - a 40-mile pseudo out-and-back (there are sections on the way back that differ, sometimes significantly, from the way out), technical course with a large amount of climbing and a ton of turns. The third and final loop (to which I won't really refer to at all) is a 1-mile out-and-back stint that feels like it was added simply to get the distance right at 56 miles per course iteration.

My bike started out well enough. I felt good and fast even with the wind and slight hills. People were passing me, but I was consciously focusing on keeping my heart rate from going through the roof. It was already high from coming out of transition and my goal was to get it back down as soon as possible. The long, gradual downhill going out on the first loop allowed this to happen. The bike wasn't very exciting in general. It's 112 miles. That's a lot of time to just ride and think about anything and nothing. I'm pretty sure I got bored at some point and just wanted it to be over. The hills were fine on the first lap and I stuck to my nutrition plan almost perfectly. Just like in training, it was damn near impossible to get any solid food down which makes it very good that most of my calories were liquid. My coach, who uses Infinit as well, said that there was enough water in the bottle when I asked him if I needed to supplement my drink with plain water. Infinit is just a powdered mix that one mixes with water.

My only real complaint about the bike is that people were blatantly drafting and I never saw any penalties given out or in the results. I understand it's hard to not draft when there's a pack of 8 riders all together, but it seems like there could be some better enforcement here because of a lack of spacing out. One might argue that at the beginning of the bike everyone is clustered together so it's almost impossible to space out, but I'm not talking about the beginning of the bike, I'm talking about mile 40 and beyond. My coach said that this may be what eventually drives him from the sport. It's almost impossible to be competitive at those distances when you're the only one following the rules.

I came in for the end of the first set of loops and went out on the second stopping at mile 61 to get my special needs bag - a new set of bottles and two more energy bars which wound up going uneaten. The hills on the second lap were a lot harder but I suffered through them fine. My average speed didn't drop very much between the laps which meant I was being consistent - a good thing in an Ironman. At mile 75 on the way out, I finally saw my sister and she didn't look happy. I did some math in my head and figured that I was well over 20 miles ahead of her and remember thinking "oh my god, what happened?" It turns out, her rear derailleur cable broke at mile 4 on the bike and due to a mixup in communication they sent a sag wagon instead of the support vehicle so she wound up waiting an hour before being able to get back on the roads. I wouldn't see her again until I was over halfway done on the run. At mile 81, the gastro-intestinal problems started and while I'd had to stop for a quick 0:30 pee earlier, this was a 5-minute bowel expulsion - as gross as that sounds. However, after getting back on the bike, I felt great and was able to pick up the pace a bit and made good time coming back into town and T2. Bike time: 6:24:38, a full 24 minutes slower than I was hoping for and even given the potty stops, I wouldn't have hit it. I have to look at the data to see what happened.

My dismount was good and I left the shoes in the pedals rolling right up to the dismount line which looked like it was being manned by a group of volunteers playing red rover as they were lined up side by side across the dismount line. I remember yelling, "I got it, I got it." hopping off in perfect time and running with my bike a few steps before a volunteer said "here, let me take that." I forgot that in Ironman, you don't have to do a lot of stuff you normally have to do in the shorter events. I grabbed my run bag and headed into the changing tent. Finding an open seat towards the exit (everyone tends to cluster towards the entrance) I sat down and the volunteer following me asked me if he could just dump my stuff out on the ground. I said yes and he did so going through the stuff that had fallen out and putting stuff he didn't think necessary back in the bag. One such item was my bottle of sunscreen. By that time it was fully overcast but not yet raining. The wind at this point was moot because it wouldn't make much of a difference for me on the run. Changing shorts, donning my visor, putting on my fuel belt and spare race number (the one I wore during the bike came off due to some clumsy hands - mine), I headed out of the changing tent and got about 10 steps when I had to go again. Fortunately there were vacant port-a-potties right there in T2, but unfortunately, I was in there for probably 5 more minutes hence the rather slow 8-minute T2 time. After I did my thing, I headed out of T2 and on the run.


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