Overall, I loved the course. I wasn't scared and I didn't find it impossible. I did find it very challenging but I knew it would be like nothing I had ever experienced before. I have improved a lot on the bike in the past year and with the last few months dedicated to specific Ironman training with my power meter (thanks to Shawn) I had confidence in this bike course.
Karel told me not to worry on an overall time and to just race my plan. Shawn told me to stay within a certain power, especially during the first 70 miles of the course.
Because I did not drive the entire course, I re-drew the bike course so I could visualize the course and I also used Mapmyride.com to see where the elevation changes occurred on the course and how long each climb would be. In addition to the help from Karel riding the course on Sat, I felt well-prepared for all parts of the course.
In order to stay confident in this 112 mile ride, I told myself I had three things going for me for this IM.
2) Gearing + Great bike
3) Love for climbing rollers
As Karel and I were walking to the swim start, I told him how nervous yet excited I was to ride this course. I overly emphasized nervous and scared and what he told me really helped me calm down. He told me that if we were here for a vacation, I would be super excited to ride on this course. He was right. Whenever we travel to GA I always love a challenge. Well, this bike course is a challenge and I was up for it.
As far as the three things that were going for me, I had to remind myself that I could do this. I try really hard not to think about 'what's next' in an IM but as I was exiting the water, I knew what was next.
When the bike started, we had 10 flat miles to Wolf Pen Branch Rd. This is the first steep climb of the course. I am not sure how long the climbs was, but it was pretty steep. It went by fast and I didn't over-exert myself to get to the top. I had to remind myself that I still had 100 miles to go.
I was actually more scared for the descend on this road on the way home rather than the climb so I changed my gear into the small ring and made my way up to State Rd. 42. It was windy on the course but because of the constant rollers, I felt as though the wind didn't hold me back. I am use to 20-30 continuous miles of wind here in Jacksonville, on FLAT roads, so I welcomed the change of riding on the flats. Although I don't train on hills, I enjoy getting out of the saddle for short or steady climbs.
After 7 or 8 more miles of rollers along State Rd. 42, we made a right hand turn onto KY-1694. My friend Kate who did the course last year told me to drive this part of the course. Although Karel rode the entire course for me, it was good for me to see what was coming.
I think I was at mile 18 when I made this right hand turn because I wanted to remember how much I had left in the race after I was making my way back to downtown Lousiville.
After you go a few miles on a fairly flat road, the road curves to the right and you start descending and descending and descending. There are a few turns but nothing that you need excellent bike handling skills for, however, you have to trust your bike. Karel told me that there is no reason for me to touch my brakes and the reason why he told me this is because I have a bad habit of squeezing my brakes when I go down hill. I trusted him and never touched the brakes. At the bottom of the hill you go over a bridge which has a few potholes and then you start climbing. This out and back section is fun because as you are descending others are climbing in the opposite direction. Then, as you are climbing, others are descending.
After the descend you start climbing. I think the whole up and down, turn around, up and down section of KY 1694 is about 6 miles so it goes by fast but it is a lot of work. I enjoyed it and that was probably the most fun I had on the whole course. I wished Karel was right there with me cause I wanted to tell him "I'm not afraid!!".
After that section you go about 10 more miles until you make a right towards La Grange. This is KY 393. I liked this part of the course because I saw the sign that said La Grange 8 miles and I knew I would see my parents and Karel very soon. I think I was around mile 35 or so when I saw my parents and once again, completing a series of climbs and descends. There is not part of the two-loop course that is flat so I must say that you have to be ready for every part of this course. Therefore, the course goes by really fast.
I saw my parents but they didn't see me until I yelled at them, sat up from my aerobars and waved. My parents saw me as I zipped by them but in addition to smiling at them, I loved the cheering section of people at La Grange. Rather than taking the school bus which was available for spectators from Downtown to La Grange, my parents and Karel drove there.
I had a few miles of feeling down because I knew it would be 30 more miles before I saw them. But because I didn't know much about this part of the course, I had to stay focused.
There are two tight turns on the course and some slightly narrow roads. However, the course is absolutely beautiful and designed perfectly for an IM race. I had heard there were some "scary" corners with some crashes in the past two years but I think that is due to people not paying attention. Karel told me that you can anticipate all turns on this course and he was right. There was nothing that came right at you in terms of right or left hand turns and the roads were windy so that you could descend at a fast pace without having to worry what's behind the next turn.
There was one challenging section of the course which is Ballard School Rd. The two-lane country road is small with a few steep, yet short climbs. I enjoyed this part because you go slow but it is just bump after bump. The course had a few shaded parts but overall, it was a fairy warm (not hot) day. I noticed a few horses along the way and even said hi to one of them. He looked at me so I wanted to give him a wave. I always talk to animals :)
After making a descend, you make a sharp right hand turn off Ballard, onto Old Sligo rd. Here you go from descending to a short, yet steep incline. On the first loop, my chain fell off. I guess I didn't anticipate the climb right after the descend and my SLOW 90-degree rt. hand turn, so I just hoped off my bike, put it back on and started climbing again. It didn't take but a minute and a little grease on my hands and I was back riding again. I think I forgot about that less than a mile later cause I had a few more steep climbs ahead of me.
You end up back on state rd. 42 again and it is a good 10 miles until you make the 2nd loop. Although this part was absolutely beautiful, with farms everywhere, it was lonely, windy and long. I kept thinking about seeing my parents and Karel again so that kept me pedaling away.
Rather than thinking that I had to do the loop again and feeling tired of the work I would have to do again, I just broke it down into sections and took it mile by mile.
First part was after I saw the sign to La Grange again, 8 more miles til I see my parents and Karel..YAY!
Second part I was getting close to La Grange, there was Karel and his bike and then there was my parents. YAY!
Next section was Ballard Rd. and the tough series of climbs. There were more people on the course at this time because of the athletes on their 1st loop as I was on my 2nd loop so I tried to scoop out people that I could cheer for. There were a few people that needed a boost up the climbs so I told them good job. I cheered for the tandem bike with a blind person and his teammate as I passed them on a climb and then cheered for them again when they passed me on a descend. Yay...I made it back to Old Sligo and my chain didn't fall off.
I finally arrived back to state rd. 42 and I hadn't looked back once during the whole day. I was just doing my thing, not worrying about anyone but myself.
The only time I was passed by a female (2 of them) was on Ballard Rd. I didn't even try to "chase" them down because I didn't want to push too hard on those tough climbs. They were in the 30-34 age group so I just let them go. Other than that, I was riding the boys.
On the way back to downtown I had another low moment for a few miles but that quickly went away when I went straight, passed the left hand turn, which took people to loop 2. Nope..not me...I'm almost done!!
I started getting excited when I got to mile 80 because I started doing the math in my head. Because I didn't look at my average speed or time during the entire bike, I needed to know how I was doing at this point.
Because my plan was to race how I trained, I knew I didn't need to focus on speed, only power. I knew what I could hold for power for a "long" ride and I listened to my body during all of the climbs. I was a bit more aggressive on the downhills for loop 2 and I saved my energy to power home for the last 10 miles of the course.
There is one loooongg big climb right before you make a right hand turn to descend on Wolf Pen and after making that long climb, the "scary" descend was gladly welcomed. Ahhh, nice.
The 10 miles home went by quick and I was spinning away. My hip started bothering me around mile 90 and I wasn't sure if this was overuse from being in an IM or from my piriformis injury that just won't go away. I tried to ignore it but I kept standing on the flats to try to loosen myself up in my right hip area. I saw Karel on the side of the road with his bike with a few miles left to go and I yelled to him "Babe, my time is 5:36!!!". I wanted to tell him about my hip but I decided to just let him enjoy my fast bike time since I was pretty sure I would be suffering a bit on the run with my hip pain.
Although he knew I was having a great ride, I think we both were in shock at my time because we thought a GREAT time would be 6 hours for me.
I guess my love for rollers and great nutrition plan worked for me because I PR'd by 8 minutes and went 5:44 with an average of 19.5 mph. Couldn't have asked for a better day out there.
Here's what I took in over the course of the 112 mile ride (what works for me may not work for everyone):
3 bottles (24 ounecs) each with: Sustained energy (1 scoop) + Heed (1 scoop) + 1/2 scoop base aminos mixed
1 Bottle water for drinking
A few squirts of water for cooling (although I never felt super hot but the water felt sooooo refreshing on my neck and back)
1 Hammer Endurance Amino per hour
1 Endurolyte every 90 minutes
3 Twizzler cheery bites
3/4ths Hammer Bar
No cramps, no "bonking" and no muscle aches (besides the rt. hip pain the last 20 miles). I felt really good and I was super happy with my time.
Aside from the Loop section of the course, I didn't find that there was any trouble with drafting. I would go miles with only seeing 5 or 10 athletes ahead of me. Maybe this is cause I entered the water quickly at the start but I absolutely loved this course for an IM race. This course had a few patches of spectators but most of the course is quite and you are just one with nature out in the Bluegrass state.
I was 37th overall female on the bike (counting pros). Yay! All that bike training paid off. I have to give a special thanks to my good friend Katrine who joined me in many of my interval Tuesday morning rides....oh the pain and it was all worth it! In addition to Shawn for showing me that power training is the way to go, I have to thank Karel for finding the best bike for me and for letting me use his race wheels and new racing tires. I LOVE my Black Hawk and it fits me perfectly!