Monday, July 27, 2009

Vineman 70.3 Race Report - Part 2

Bike

The Vineman bike course is known for being beautiful. The 56 mile one-loop course takes athletes past dozens of wineries. I think the St Croix course is prettier, but I'm more of a beach gal than a fields of grapes gal. The Vineman course was definitely pretty though, when I made myself pay attention to the scenery.

I started the bike at about 8:05am. According to NOAA, the air was 56F, 87% humidity, and a 3mph southward wind. I didn't notice the wind or the humidity. One thing I forgot to mention when writing about T1 in the last post was that during the transition I decided not to wear my arm warmers on the bike. The night before and pre-swim, I'd planned on wearing them and peeling them off as I warmed up. I've read over and over again that you choose your bike clothes before the race and stick to the plan because post-swim you aren't thinking straight. Well, probably a good general rule. But I was feeling warm with the sun on me and I didn't see any fog, so in T1 I decided to skip the arm warmers and just wear my bike shorts and sleeveless meshy tri top, but I did put on the wool socks. I thought I'd brought two pairs of socks, 1 wool and 1 not, so I could decide based on weather. Well, I wanted the non-wool but couldn't find them. The temperature was fine for the ride though, so I'm happy with what I chose to wear.

I hit the first attention-getter hill after just a few miles, and I thought "oh #$% what have I gotten into? they say the tough hill is at mile 45." I was pleasantly surprised though as that was really the only tough hill until mile 45. I changed gears a lot as the course had rolling hills. I tried to be ready to shift quickly on the descents in case a big hill was around the corner. I stayed in the aerobars when I could, but was on the horns often too, for quick shifting and braking. I'd had my bike readjusted the day before the race and I hadn't had time to try out the new fit. The previous week we'd lowered the handlebars 2cm and raised the seat 2cm. I had some hip pain a few days later and was uncertain as to the cause. Bike change was certainly a possibility, even though it hadn't bothered me on the first ride. So Saturday before the race, we split the difference (moving bars and seat back 1cm closer to its previous position) and hoped for the best. It worked fine. I kept my bike computer set to cadence instead of speed. I didn't want to get wrapped up in my pace. Keeping a high cadence (90rpm on the flats, 60-90 on hills) was more important.

My plan for nutrition on the bike this time was to replace my water bottle at each rest stop. I had two bottles, one of water and one of concentrated Heed. Heed is a sports drink but it uses maltodextrin instead of high fructose corn syrup (found in Gatorade). Maltodextrin is a longer lasting sugar (or so they say). I hadn't trained on Gatorade Endurance formula, and since I knew it had HFCS in it, I wasn't sure I wanted to try it. It was tempting because it's what they'll be serving at Florida, and it's nice to not have to carry your own drink around. I hadn't tried my planned method of drinking until race day. Plan was to have 5 packets of Heed (500 calories) in one bottle mixed with as much water as I could fit in the bottle. Sip that and drink from the plain water bottle with each sip. Basically diluting it in my belly. It was a little strange to do that. Early on I thought maybe I wasn't going to have enough water. I was also eating Gu. I had a flask that held 6 Gu packets, all tri-berry flavor, with caffeine. This was also my first ride that was fueled primarily on Gu and Heed. I had a handful of GF pretzels in my Bento Box, and had two packs of honey almond butter too. I ate a pretzel or two every hour to maintain my sodium level. The almond butter never sounded good. I planned on 4 hours on the bike so figured I should make sure I only drink 1/4 of my Heed bottle each hour.

During the beginning of the ride, I kept leap-frogging with 2 others (mostly I was passing them on the hills and they'd fly past me on the downhill). Finally we decided we might as well introduce ourselves. I met Jason (who I later saw on the side of the road fixing a flat) and Nikki who was also 30 (I could see it on her calf) and has a sister named Kendra. There were lots of cyclists on the road, and it was a bit of a pain to avoid drafting. Drafting isn't legal, so you have to be 4 bike lengths behind the person in front of you. When you get passed, it's your responsibility to drop back! Incentive to keep up the fight!

The bike rest stops were supposed to be at mile 18, 29, and 40. I thought for sure they were off when I came across the first rest stop after just 66 minutes. My goal was to maintain 15mph after all. For bike rest stops, they had portapottys, gatorade, water and probably some bananas, etc. It basically works by having volunteers yell out what they have in their hands "Gatorade, Gatorade", a cyclist comes by yells "Gatorade" and the volunteer yells "Gatorade" back at them while handing it to them as the cyclist whizzes by at 20mph. In my last half iron, I stopped at most rest stops, got off my bike, refilled my Camelbak and bottles, then continued on my way.

By the time I got to the first bike rest stop, my water bottle was about 1/3 full and Heed bottle was 3/4 full. I'd had a few swigs of the Gu too. I decided to use this opportunity to make a pit stop since there was no line and I knew I'd have to go now or at the next stop. A volunteer grabbed my bike and held it was I used the portapotty. The plastic water bottles they were passing out didn't look very sturdy and I was worried it might not stay in my water bottle cage. I was afraid to risk it falling out and then just having concentrated Heed and Gu for the next hour. So I opened up my water bottle and the volunteer filled it with water for me. All this took just 1 minute and 43 seconds!

Back on the bike Nikki and Jason were way ahead of me and I found myself repassing people who I'd passed before my break. At some point a ton of men in their 40s flew past. It was funny how the wave starts were staggered such that I was having super fast triathletes pass me hours into my race. I came to the second rest stop so fast I couldn't figure out what was going on. I checked the odometer, but it looked like they were in the right place. Only 35 minutes had passed. I didn't need more water yet. At the same place there was a timing mat that we rode over. I thought of how my parents and husband would soon see how I was smoking the bike course and be so proud of me. I smiled as I rode over the timing mat. Only after the race did I learn the live athlete tracking wasn't working!

More hills, more wineries, more descents. At some point I hit almost 40mph on a downhill. I stretched when I thought of it. I stretched my head to each side when I could. I stood up and stretched my calves and bent over to stretch my hamstrings. I reached each arm behind me and then straight up. All to hopefully prevent a tight back on the run. The sheriffs and highway patrol were monitoring the streets we had to cross. Plenty of unhappy motorists had to wait until there was a gap in the cyclists. They were great, and some of them even cheered for us. At one point I heard a CHP yell "come on, come on!" I thought it was yelling at us to ride faster through the intersection - he sounded mad. It seemed like good motivation for us to work harder. Turns out he was yelling at a driver to hurry up and get out of our way.

At the last rest stop, I knew I needed more water. I decided to give the race course water bottles a chance. I took one last swig of my own water and tossed my Mikes Bikes water bottle to the side of the road. I yelled "water" and someone handed me a plastic bottle of water with a sport top, like the kind you might buy at a convenience store. It fit in my bottle cage, but was a smidgen loose. I tried not to think about all the bottles I'd seen strewed on the ground that had clearly fallen off other cyclists' bikes. When I rode over train tracks that warned "Walk bike over tracks" (a permanent sign, not specifically for the race), I went slowly and carefully to avoid losing the bottle.

While leaving that last rest stop, I knew Chalk Hill was coming up - at mile 45. I had no idea what to expect. Someone told me it's nothing like St Croix's Beast, but that was the type of hill I was afraid of and dreading. At the same time, I love conquering a good hill, and I love riding up notorious hills since they never seem as bad as the Beast. Soon enough, we hit it. I had to ask someone "is this Chalk Hill?" Yes, it was. A minute later someone asked me the same thing. The hill was definitely a hill, but it wasn't nearly impossible, which is what I'd mentally prepared myself for. At some point I realized I wasn't even using my granny gear, so I geared down and just spun up the hill, every so often standing to get some more momentum.

I was pretty much riding on excitement. Here I was at the top of the big hill. I only had 11 miles to go! I hadn't even reached that "when is this bike ride going to end?" stage. Shockingly, I never did! I figured I'd entered some time warp because everything was happening so fast it seemed unreal. Just over 36 minutes after the last rest stop, I was cruising into the second transition area. There were plenty of runners on the course. Someone yelled "Go STC!" when they saw my jersey. We had to dismount our bikes and run a few hundred feet to get to the transition area with the bike racks. I let one person pass me because I was taking very delicate steps running on this grassy field in my bike shoes, trying not to sprain an ankle. Just after we passed another timing mat, I realized I should take off my bike computer so that I'd have the stats (mileages, average speed) from the actual riding, and not this running portion. The bike computer read 56.01 at the end of the day though.

Bike time: 3:15:04.6 (avg 17.22mph) (avg 17.3mph by my bike computer, which doesn't include quick rest stop)

More on T2 and the Run later! Until then - Race Photos are online - Look up bib #878

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