Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ironman Syracuse 70.3- The Bike

When last we left our hero, me, in the IM Syracuse 70.3, I was struggling with some volunteers to get my leg out of my wetsuit. With that problem solved, I was free to run the roughly quarter mile from the beach to my bike.

Just in case you are wondering, that distance doesn't count. This is one of those lousy nuances of the sport. The technical rules state that the race distance does not include transitions. Since there is a timing mat just outside of the beach, you are officially in transition a few short steps from the water. All of the distance that you have to travel to find your bike is not measured. The time it takes you to get there still counts against you. The amount of energy expended still works against you. It is a phantom effort as it never gets recorded.

In the Transition Area
I knew right where to find my bike. One of my many analities is that I will do a short practice through transition. First, I will look at my bike and the surrounding area. I am searching for landmarks that will help identify position. Here's a pic that I took from the vantage point of my bike:

If you look closely, you'll see a white flag-thingy. This served as a good marker as there was very little chance of the medical area being re-routed mid race. I could use that flaggy thing for both transitions with a high level of confidence that it would help me out.

Upon arriving at my bike, I followed my own T1 tips and hand things set up for me.

I have my sunglasses on top of my race number inside of my helmet. I would normally have my race number already on my body but the WTC tends to have weird race bibs that are not very waterproof. I put the sunglasses on top of the bib purposely. The reason? Paper weight. Should a nice gust of wind happen by and my number be on top, it could fly away. Now, they are firmly anchored underneath 2.3 ounces of plastic. That should hold em.

I ran to my bike (no walking for me this time). I draped my wetsuit over the bike rail (the next 2 slots were no-shows giving me ample elbow room). Glasses--> Number--> Helmet--> Strap--> Go. I believe I made it out rather efficiently. I'd like to give you more data but the official race results, for some reason, are not available as of this posting.

On to the Bike
The ride starts off rather quickly. There is a nice downhill. If you plan on doing this race in the future, do not immediately drop into aero. There is a set of railroad tracks that deserve your attention and you'd be best served to be more stable. The mile after that is smooth and fast. Then, you make a sharp right, go once more over those same RR tracks and start the ascent.

You go up for the next 11 or so miles. This is slow and arduous. However, for those of you who took middle school science, you would know that you are loading your bike with Gravitational Potential Energy.  This means that for each slow, painstaking pedal stroke, the energy from your muscles actually gets stored in the bike. At mile 12, I opened the floodgate and that energy came pouring back out as kinetic energy, AKA speed. And, it kept coming and coming.

Last year, I had made a shot at 20 mph. I semi-succeeded. This year, I believe myself to be stronger and faster on the bike. This is one of those opportunities to test hypotheses.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the 2011 (on the left)  and 2012 races through mile 12.

Really, at this point it was too early to tell. I do know that my perception of the hills this year told me that I was in better shape. I think the evidence starts to be apparent at mile 9. Miles 9-12 were much faster this year than last year. This trend continued to show itself through the data for the rest of the ride.

My ending pace for 2011= 19.9 mph. My ending pace for 2012= 20.2 mph. This includes a rather slow mile 55-56. The reason for my drop in speed was due to the run course change. The run course merged with the bike course in the last mile. The cycling portion of this road was reduced to about 6 feet of space sequestered by cones. The cones on the right granted runners space. The cones on the left granted motorists space. We were stuck in the middle and in a "no-pass zone". I was a slave to the people in front of me. No matter. I was coming in to port ahead of schedule and taking the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and prepare for the run.

So, I was finally able to break my coveted 20 mph barrier for the first time in a longer than Olympic triathlon. I had a nice swim. I had a good ride. I was ready for the run.

Stick around, as I've got some interesting stories to tell you about that experience.

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