Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 IMLP- The Bike

After getting passed by fellow Rochestarian (seriously, that's what they call people from here) turned Pro Jennie Hansen, I ran towards transition. In enter the chute and find my bag.

Here's the bag system: Your "bike bag" has all of the stuff you need on the ride. In my bag, I have a helmet, sunglasses, race belt (complete with race number firmly attached), cycling gloves, and shoes. All gear were placed in my helmet which was placed on top of my shoes. Plastered to the bottom of the bag was my chamois butter, AKA crotch cream. I, of course, needed to know none of this. In the changing tent, they have hired the most wonderful valets to help dress/ undress/ redress you. I refer to these people as "The Most Awesome People on Earth" but officially they are called volunteers. I basically reclined on my plastic, rental fold-up chair and let Mr. Awesome do most of the work. He dumped out my bag, placed the helmet on my head, handed me my glasses and gloves.

Much to my disappointment, he refused to apply the chamois butter. In his defense, he did accept the task of taking all of my swim gear and placing it in the bike bag. Further, he did this as I ran out of the changing tent with my hand down my pants.

Once in a while, a different Awesome Person will have your bike waiting for you as you run by. No such luck for me. I was stuck finding my own bike. Luckily, it was racked near the end cap making it a rather benign experience. By the time I got to my bike I was well lubed, had my helmet chin strap buckled, and had donned my gloves. My bike nutrition was already on the bike. My water was filled up. I was ready to ride.

The initial part of the course it treacherous. It is very downhill with sharp turns giving you a slalom-like feel. The first year I did this (wow, back in 2007), I did this stretch in my aerobars. Either I am smarter or more of a coward, but I just won't do that now. I stayed firmly on the pursuit bars until I made my way into calmer waters.

As you can see, the initial downhill portion doesn't last very long. Some of the roughest climbs are placed early on in the ride. Many people have a habit of feeling fresh and excited during this stretch, which ends around the 8 mile mark. I swallowed my ego and let these people pass me. I decided that a good spin would serve me well in the long run. I stuck to my race plan, which was to attempt a 5:45 in the ride. I had lots of time to kill.

If you look at the map, find the word "Olympic" and follow it down to "Keene". Then, look up at the hill profile to the spot where the hill bottoms out. That's an 8 mile stretch of virtually no pedaling and super high speed. I reached a top speed of 48 mph on this stretch. This includes a headwind attempting to slow me down.

At the town of Keene, we take a left hand turn and get back to reality as compared to the average triathlon course. It is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. On race day, this meant a tailwind. There's nothing greater than a sweet tailwind. In regular triathlons/ training rides, I average around 20-22 mph. Between Keene and Jay, I averaged roughly 23.5 mph. I am not that fast. This was further proved by the fact that I was being passed by many, many people.

What helped me out was athlete number 755, Erica. She passed me during this stage but ever so slightly. Now, I'm a stickler for the rules. Triathlon rules strictly forbid drafting and "you must maintain a 3 bike-length distance between you and the hottie in front of you" (verbatim).
Erica was traveling at a pace in which I could handle and I did not mind, ahem, hanging out at 17 feet behind.

Erica was perfect in many ways, however, the Banter was able to pass and out climb her. See, after the town of Jay, you reach a town called Upper Jay. You pass this town, follow the Au Sable River and come back to the town of Upper Jay. I am a firm believer that this town is poorly named. It is at the bottom of the hill. It marks the "ascent". This picture doesn't do the initial climb justice. What you are supposed to see is a 8-10% grade climb that endures for the about the next 2 miles. Everyone on the course, except for maybe the most skilled of climbers, is in their smallest gears and still pedaling hard. I was no exception. Still, I forced myself not to kill the pace and tried to spin at as comfortable of a pace as I could.

Working in my favor, I believe, was my cycling endurance. We, as a group, had already completed about 35 miles at this point and had done a fair bit of climbing. I maintained my patience and refused to hammer. Yes, people were passing me. Yes, there was an entire peloton of riders that I refused to join. Yes, I maintained my regular nutrition and hydration plain. I was, thus far, having a good ride.

At some point between Jay and Upper Jay, I had this though, "I'm riding on borrowed energy." See, I'm a pseudo-science geek. I know that elementary physics has this thing called the "Law of Conservation of Energy". Basically, it states that what goes up must come down. The problem is that I already went down. The down portion was expressed as Kinetic Energy, AKA all of that speed. The Law requires that I must give it back. The climbs are Mother Nature's way of restoring the balance.

Well, the 2 miler from Upper Jay to the town of Wilmington was just the tip of the ice berg. Remember, I had an 8-mile drop at the beginning of the ride. That vertical distance must be restored and I'm six miles in the red.

At the town of Wilmington, the nice profiles of the Adirondack Mountains, should you care to look around. (Here is one of my favorite landscape pics taken from a small bridge in Wilmington.) Seriously, people miss the beauty of the world when they are caught up in the Ironman. Pitty.

Even worse is the fact that this is where the pain starts. From that pic back to downtown Lake Placid is roughly 11 miles. Almost all of them are uphill. On race day, exactly all of them were against the wind. All of that speed I had gained on the downhill and flats was about to cash in on my legs.

To make matters worse, this is also the worst stretch of road for smooth pavement. Not only are we going uphill, but we are in a section of road that I lovingly refer to as the "CrotchiNator". It's sort of like the Terminator but exclusively focused on your perineum. There are obstacles of all kinds. Potholes? Check. Grooves in the pavement? Check. Expansion cracks every 10 yards? Check. Any stretch of road that is smooth for more than 100 yards? Nope. It's figuratively insult to injury. I repeat my cycling mantra and spin on.

There are some cues that the hills are coming to an end. First, there are these hills called the Cheeries and the Bears. I'm not sure why they have those names but they are obvious. There are 2 Cheeries; Big Cheery and Little Cheery. There are 3 Bears: Mamma Bear, Baby Bear, and Papa Bear. Papa Bear marks the last major hill before you hit town. It looks like this.

As you can see, the road is less than could be desired. The hill just keeps going. Worse, the hill doesn't end at your sight limit. There is a sharp right hand turn and the hill continues to go up. On the positive side, the are people. Like real Homo sapiens. Lots of people line the street giving you a Tour de France feel. All of them are singularly rooting for you to make it up over the incline and to complete your journey. It's easy to get lost in the moment.

Lap 2 is where everything calms down. Except for the wind. Meteorology 101- surface winds can be caused by uneven heating of the Earth's surface. As the sun increases in the sky, uneven heating increases. Therefore, more wind. More wind equals slower speeds.

To make matters worse, the winds were in our faces on the downhills. Free speed just got a little less, um, free. The upside- the wind was pushing us on the flats. The flat section is between Keene and Jay. The Au Sable River- East Bank is on our right. This is now the 3rd quarter of the ride. Life is good.

For all practice purposes, Jay is not a good sight. That town marks the ascent. It sucks the first time around. On round 2, the legs are more tired. They are not dead, but the dagger has been inserted. As the course turns around to head back into Placid, the winds smack you in the face. While going uphill. The dagger twists.

Road conditions still suck
I have bonked at this stage in the past. Not today. I'm, oddly feeling great. Granted, I'm not going very fast. At one point, a dude fly fishing on the West Bank, while wearing full blown hip-waders, may have actually walked past me. I didn't mind. I have studied this course and race extensively and I know that there is a marathon to follow these hills and crappy road. Having made numerous mistakes on this portion of the ride, I sat in. Spin spin spin. At no point during the ride did I feel like I was pushing. I kept everything under control, just like I planned.

As I came back into town, I was greeted by all of the crowds. And, for the first time in the day, I got to see the Wife and dogs. I missed her on the first time around. She yelled as she hung out around Mirror Lake. With all the athletes, spectators, and commotion, the dogs were as excited as I've seen them on race day (see photo to the left).

My goal for the ride was a 5:45. I came in at a comfy 5:55. The winds slowed me down that much. The highlight was that I felt better than ever. I had dropped from 143rd place to 228th place, which I find completely unfathomable. There were at least 100 people that passed me in the peloton on on lap 1. Other than Erica, I can't remember passing another person myself. Yet, the data doesn't lie. I was poised for a great race indeed.

Next comes the real challenge- the run.

1 comment:

  1. Been a month...let's hear about the infamous "RUN!!!"