Monday, August 21, 2006

The Last Long Weekend

Well, I thought I'd give you a few more details about the long weekend. On Friday, as I mentioned, I did the full IM distance of 2.4 miles. My budgeted time for this is 1:30, but in fact I don't really care. As long as it's before the 2:20 cutoff, what's 10 minutes on either side of 1:30? Considering how relatively little time in the day is spent in the water, this is not where I'm going to lose my mind over a few minutes.

(By the way, all the pictures here have been updated in the "training" photo album over there on the right.)

Still, it was good to have the distance covered and get some idea of what I'm capable of. I finished the first 1000 yards in just under 18 minutes, and stayed pretty much within a minute of that for each subsequent 1000, which was great - it means I didn't go out too hot and I was consistent. If I can maintain that at Ironman, with a wetsuit swim to boot, I should be okay. That and mastering the mass insanity that is the swim, but I have a few ideas of how I can handle that.

Friday night, then, was the long travel night before getting up early for Saturday's epic brick workout of 112 mile bike and 4 mile run. It rained and misted mostly all evening on the way to Madison, and when I awoke to ominous clouds I considered changing my plans and scratching the ride to Sunday, which was forecasted for bright sunshine. I would have done that had there been rain forecast all day or something - it's too close now, and I don't need to prove to myself that I can ride in rain. But in fact, the forecast for the day called for mostly clouds but no rain and high 70's for an afternoon high. Solid.

Mike and I loaded up and headed out to Monona Terrace, which is pretty much the nucleus of Ironman - all starts, finishes, and transitions come and go from there. A local Masters swim group was swimming the IM course that morning and had set up buoys - it was useful to see the actual course defined. It's really long and narrow, with each long side of the rectanglular course going parallel to the shore, each probably half a mile, with the short ends of the rectangle connecting them 100-200 yards or so. In order to avoid the traffic we drove the first 3 or 4 miles away from Monona Terrace on the bike course until we were just out of town. Then I got organized and got on the bike.

I've ridden the challenging 40 mile Verona loop several times now, but had never ridden the 14-16 mile stretch from Madison to Verona. It seemed shorter than I expected, and also with more rolling hills than I'd expected. Somehow in my mind I'd figured that stretch to and from Madison would be flat, with the hills only on the loop. No idea where that dumb assessment came from, but it was good to learn otherwise.

The morning was really foggy and humid when I started out - so much so that I couldn't wear my glasses for the first few hours because all they did was fog up. The course was, as usual, full of other riders training for Ironman. It's a cool feeling being out there - you know that it's likely everybody you see is doing the same thing you are, for the same reasons. If one of us is stalled on the side with a bike issue, we call out "okay?" to each other, and assist where we can. It's an unlikely comradarie that I appreciate.

That's me on the left (what the hell am I doing in the middle of the road!?!?). The fog made for some interesting descents those first few miles.

40 or so mostly uneventful miles later and I was on the other side of Mt. Horeb, about to begin the Roller Coaster. This is the section, beginning with the first descent, that nearly killed me in July when I suddenly had the uncontrollable wheel wobble at 40mph. With new wheels I was confident - but still a little nervous - about tucking in, staying off the brakes, and just letting fly. But it felt great letting go, no wheel was wobbling, and in that the last of the ghosts evaporated.

The rest of the ride was clockwork. My nutrition was sound, hydration solid, and everything clicked okay. I ran into a bit of stomach cramping around 80 miles in, but it passed after a few miles. Oh, and I wore a pair of shorts that have comfortable padding - meaning I don't chafe much - but I found it was really, really painful to pee...and took a long time. Too Much Information, I know. Anyway, since I didn't have any problems before the ride, or after...and have never experienced that on my long rides in other shorts, I think the culprit was the comfy, but ultimately unhealthy padding. A good lesson to learn now, rather than that day.

The hills. Here's something about those Ironman hills, of which there are three that are sinister. When you're away from them, and especially riding other hilly courses like I've been doing near Stillwater, you have a tendency to minimize them. You've heard me say on my other long rides that the hills were Ironman caliber or something like that. Right. No. When you get back on these hills you realize you've just been telling yourself that, because these are difficult. The first is steep, then levels off with a bit of trickery, then steep again, but mostly long. The second, not half a mile later, is steep and straight up, but short. The last, a few miles later, is consistent and winding and long. They all suck. And they aren't the only three hills on the course - I discovered there's on more formidable one awaiting me on the road back into Madison - but they are the most significant.

The happy thing for me was discovering that I've gotten stronger since I first rode them in June. I watched my heartrate and my power the whole time, careful not to spike either and trying to find a consistent, level pace. It hurt, but not as bad as it used to. The true test came on the 2nd lap, and I found that, while they were a bit harder - especially by the 3rd (and surprise 4th) hill, I was okay. I wasn't cramping, my legs weren't screaming, my heartrate wasn't sky-high, and I didn't collapse at the top and stop pedaling just so I could rest.

No I'm not giving Mike the finger...look closely and you'll see I'm giving him the universal sign for "still kicking ass".

Finally, and with a little bit of course adjustment to actually reach my 112 miles (since we'd started a few miles in from the actual beginning), I finished in the sunshine and heat in 6:33. This is a whole one minute later than last weekend's 112 miles in 6:32, so I was pleased with that kind of consistency. I'm not holding myself to that though - I've budgted myself 7 hours, and if you consider some maybe more lengthy bio-breaks or a longer rest at the halfway point, when I get my bike Special Needs bag, I might have time to spare in the event of anything unexpected. Anything under 7 hours is gravy, a happy and unexpected bonus. Most importantly, my pace from the first 12 mile stretch, then the first 40 mile loop, then the second 40 mile loop, and finally the last home stretch never wavered more than .5 mph for any of those intervals (so my 2nd loop was .5 mph slower than my first loop, and the other sections were within that). That means I watched my pacing enough to not go out too fast and I didn't blow up my legs with too hard an effort on the first 40-60 miles. All good things.

Then we headed over to Lake Monona again for my 4 mile run, which I'd finish up at the Terrace. The run felt great. It always feels great to just be off the bike and move from horizontal (in the aero position) to vertical. After last week's ride I was pretty wiped out, but this week I felt pretty good. My legs were under me right away, I found a comfortable pace that was faster than I needed it to be, and was enjoying myself. I felt hungry, but nothing an aid station can't satisfy. When I finished up the 4 miles, tired but not exhausted, I spent 10 or 15 minutes looking for Mike around the Terrace, which gave both of us an opportunity to explore it a little.

This parking lot is where all the bikes will be for transtion - I'll actually ride down and up that helix (which will be covered with spectators) to get back and forth. Pretty crazy.

This view of the capital will be something similar to where the finish line is, again right near Monona Terrace.

Again, huge thanks to Mike. His coming allowed Amy to stay home after several hectic weekends of her own, and he drove all the way there and back, allowing me some much needed naps. He navigated the course flawlessly and with a helpful, cheerful attitude, was a master of Gatorade-Bottle-Preparing, and snapped these great photos (I think the descents on the roller coaster are way cool). It really was an invaluable way to do my last long ride, and it wouldn't have been possible without him. So shout out one more time to Mike!

A few other shoutouts while we're here: Todd raced his last Sprint of the season this past weekend, and it looks like he blistered a top 3 finish in his division...6th in his gender, and 7th overall...'zat right dude? Crazy! Kickass and well done! promised a full race report to my mail box tomorrow. I also want to shout out to some regulars, friends, and fellows who are now in taper as well - SLS, qcmier, IronWil, Derek L., and TriSaraTops. Also, today our Athlete's Guide became officially available at, and today I got an email that allegedly our bib numbers will be in by Thursday! How freaking exciting is that!!!!!


Anonymous said...

I'll second your shout-out to Mike! Wow!! You're awesome! Go Team Bintliff, represent!

Nice work Todd!

Todd said...

Ah yah my man! Well done!

Yes, you heard correctly, it was a pretty good day last Saturday. The race report is coming today, I promise. Work's been a bit hectic so far this week.

Mike, you are the man!

Everyone, enjoy your tapers, you've more than earned them, almost time to cash em in.

Thanks anonymous.

See you soon X and Team Bintliff...PS, are the shirts blue and shiny? I sure hope so!


TJ said...

sounds like you are ready to rip it up. enjoy your taper.

Pharmie said...

You are totally ready for this race. I can't even believe how fast you are on the bike. Enjoy the taper, and try not to drive Amy crazy while you are on it!

triteacher said...

Beautiful ride, post & pictures - gets me pumped for the big day!!