Saturday was a beautiful day for a bike ride.
I woke up early and headed down to Lake Anna, the venue for my first 70.3 of the season, about 1.5 hours south of D.C. I wanted to ride the course and get a sense for what to expect on May 14. This is something I did for my first half IM last year (in Ellicott City, Md.), and it was extremely helpful not to be surprised on race day with hills, turns and scenery. So I packed up my bike, gear and a cooler filled with a wide variety of food, rolled down the sunroof, turned up the country music and hit I-95.
When I finally arrived at the park — it’s a pretty long drive on back roads once you hit the interstate exit — the sun was out, the temperature had hit 60 and I was one of only three cars in the whole place. Perfect. So I put air in my tires, packed my bike full of nutrition and water, grabbed the cue sheet I’d made and clipped in for 56 miles.
I rode the two-loop Kinetic Half Ironman course last year, but for 2011 the course has totally changed thanks to construction on some of the roads around the lake. Now it’s a two-loop lollipop course — you go out for 8 or so, do two loops and then come back. It’s billed as having rolling hills.
The verdict? It sucks. There’s nothing rolling about it. It’s basically flat and boring as hell. There’s one hill toward the end of the loop, but it’s so minor that it’s not even worth discussing. There was a ton of wind when I was riding, and by the end I couldn’t spend another second in aero battling that. The other issue was the total lack of street signs. The Setup Events map of the course isn’t all that clear, but I managed to make a cue sheet that checked out with GoogleMaps. Unfortunately, labeling of any sort seems to be optional in rural Virginia, so I managed to miss turns. Twice. I went way out of the way and only realized it when I hit a T-intersection that required a turn clearly not on my cue sheet. The second time, the road just flat-out wasn’t labeled. iPhone and Google FTW. Again.
The sucky impact of this was that I didn’t ride a second loop of the course. I hadn’t used enough ride glide (OUCH), my neck/shoulders/upper back/arms hurt like hell from being in aero and I just didn’t need to ride 70 miles when I’d only planned to do 56. Plus, I had a short brick run to do upon returning to the park. So I cut it short and headed back to the lake, disappointed that I didn’t get the full race-like experience I was hoping for. 42.66 miles total.
Notice that extra little detours at the top and right side of the map. Those were my wrong turns. The good news is I averaged 18.1mph, which was pretty good considering how angry my crotch and upper body were and how windy it was. I don’t blame the new saddle, but rather the overall bike fit and my epic ride glide fail.
When I returned to the park, I quickly packed the bike into the car and threw on my running shoes. Uffo. For starters, I haven’t done a brick since my last tri in October. My bibs were rubbing like crazy. And the hill out of transition is STEEP. My feet were barely moving one in front of the other and my Garmin read 10:10 pace. Uh oh. Thankfully, after a quarter-mile or so I rallied and hit 8:15 average pace for 2.5 miles. That’s more like it. Once I get into a groove on the run, I’m good to go.
This was also a test of my hydration and nutrition plan, and I think it was mildly successful. My general strategy is to drink every 15 minutes on the bike and eat every 30. The first two food options are 1/4 of a PB&J (Smuckers Uncrustables on race day), followed by 2-3 shot blocks x 2 and the remaining time spent with Gu. I drink a few sips of water with each. My watch beeps every 15 minutes to remind me to do all of this.
The eating went relatively well. I think the solids are good to start and it gives me plenty of time to digest before I have to get off and run, which I don’t want to do with a full stomach. So I’m taking in about 200 calories an hour, which I think is a reasonable amount for a 70.3.
My hydration was not so successful. I only have one bottle cage, which I can’t actually reach without falling over — my tri bike handles just a little bit differently than my road bike and the frame is so tight that the bottle gets stuck — and even though I carried a second bottle in my jersey pocket I had a hard time taking a hand off to reach back and grab it. So I drank less than a bottle for 2:25 worth of riding. You’re supposed to do a bottle an hour. Fail. I immediately made a plan to head to Bonzai and purchase a hydration system that goes between the aerobars that I don’t have to actually mess with while I’m riding (more on this in the next post). Minimal disruption to my form is a good thing.
Anyway, the day was generally a good one, and I feel better knowing I’m prepared for the race. As a reward, I hung out on the beach by the lake for a few hours and got a solid sunburn on my back. These kinds of full-day activities turn my car into a little mini-apartment:
This is why I drive an SUV — to carry everything I could ever possibly need for any occasion.
See you in two weeks, Kinetic!
Do you test out the course ahead of race day, if possible? Any nutrition tips for me?