Race Rehearsal #1: 112 Miles Like Clockwork…Except For The Clock
Unless I’m in some sort of M. Night Shalyman movie (not the crappy kind), I have survived the race rehearsal at Coeur d’Alene without being attacked by neo Nazis. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to report that this weekend was a success in every way for me, except for the part involving Garmin, which I will get to later.
So, I headed out to Coeur d’Alene (which is here after called CDA because I have spent too much time in my life already spelling out long names) Friday night. Before heading, I picked up my bike from the local bike store. Turns out my Cervelo needed some much needed TLC. The chain, rear cogs, and the internal cable routing were showing their age so I had all three replaced. In addition, I finally got my new Continental GP 4000s put on.
It was a good 4 hours to CDA, I can’t really complain with scenery like this:
My lodging for the evening was the River Bend Inn in Post Falls, Idaho. 45 dollars on Priceline! My brief synopsis is this: clean, cheap, safe, quiet, and far. Anyway, after arriving, I went to setting up the bike for the rehearsal.
As there was no nutrition support during the ride, I had to pack a lot more gear than I will on race day. Went with the Xlab carrier on the seat. Plan was to carry one water bottle and one Hammer Perpetuem bottle (each bottle had 4.5 scoops) for each three hour loop. Up front, I had the aero bottle between the bars. I also had one Bento box with the ever important ID, cash, credit card, phone, wad of duct tape, and…toilet paper. No poison ivy diaper for me. With all that junk hanging off my bike, my ride looked like the International Space Station. At least I can take solace that my ride would be way lighter come race day.
Saturday morning, I had a few sips of coffee and a hard boiled egg sandwich. I do take a lot of caffeine in my daily routine, but on long days, I find it easier on my stomach to take the caffeine in slowly with the caffeinated Café Latte Hammer Perpetuem.
After a quick hop in the car, I met up with the guys from the team around 8:30 next to a quiet skate park with free parking. It was great to finally put a face to the posts that I have been reading for about a year. After some introductions, it was back to business and off we went.
Now, here is an interesting tidbit that I must share to prior to discussing the ride. I have never had a flat during a race. Ever. Yes, I said it. EVER. I also announced this fact to my teammates prior to the ride. Of course, it was assumed then that I would have no less than three flats during the rehearsal. My luck is even more interesting when you consider the fact that a mere 2 minutes and 42 seconds into the ride, we had our first flat. But not from me….
Following a quick fix, we were back on our way. The forecast had called for a windy day, and the first loop along the lake confirmed the weather guesser’s predictions. It was gusting more hot air than burrito lunch day at the US Capitol. Being a mere 142 pounds, I had to brace myself pretty hard in order not to pull a Mary Poppins flying act. First minor hill set along the loop went decent. Watts were reading slightly high to just below my goal hill watts of 158. As I finished up the first loop, I came back into town near my goal watts of 147. As my readers know, I hate riding in traffic alone. There are so many idiots out there with driver’s licenses. Luckily, I had some company this time as well as an all important bike lane for most of the entire busy section, and we made it to the turn onto Kathleen Ave unscathed. After navigating around the golf course, it was time for the real show to begin.
When I did the race back in 2009, I had a significant difficulty with the climbing section. The course was like a debate with Tyra Banks; beautiful to behold, but you know eventually you are going to end up torn to shreds by some skinny chick:
I must be making progress because this time, the hills seemed easy. It is amazing how SLOW one must go to keep the watts from spiking. At times, I felt like I was moving enough just to keep balance. Yet, despite the ever present doubt about taking it easy on the hills, I found myself cresting over the top and powering to the next hill in excellent condition.
With traffic and lights, the first lap finished up around 3:15. For my special needs, I took six Fig Newtons and one can of Red Bull, much to the horror of my teammates. One word of advice for my fellow newbies: make sure you test your nutrition plan, like Red Bull, before you decide to go use it on race day. For some reason, I can stomach it without a problem. Others, many others in fact, may end up hurling. You don’t want to figure out that Fig Newtons give you horrible diarrhea on mile 90 of the ride race day.
After a quick five minute stop, we set out for the second 56 mile lap. While the wind earlier the day was tough, the afternoon wind was something out of a Hollywood disaster movie.
I swear, along the lake, it felt like I was constantly turning into the wind to compensate. I did my best to stay aero, but with the gusts, it was nearly impossible for me to stay safe on the bars. Some relief was had after the turn around as the crosswind turned into a tailwind. Unfortunately, as I made my way back into the hills, it flipped pretty much into an all the time crosswind. That’s how bad the wind was; it defied the laws of physics. The second loop through the hills proved to be only slightly more challenging than the first loop. By this time, our group had thinned out, and I spent a good deal of time by myself. Story of my life. This is was actually a good thing as I had a chance to pace myself. Despite the odds of a half naked Asian dude surviving 112 miles in northern Idaho, I made it back to the start in about 7:15, with traffic, lights, and regroups.
Now, remember how I said we parked next to a quiet skate park. Well, on a sunny Saturday night in CDA, the aforementioned skate park and its parking lot turns into a teen/kid haven that would have made Mad Max (of the Thunderdome era) comfortable.
Of course, nothing felt more comfortable than to be prancing around in my tri suit with my expensive bike in my truck bed. I started the run as quickly as possible and I am ecstatic to report that all systems were nominal. Legs felt great. Stomach was neither hungry nor stuffed. It was right where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, my bike and truck were not right where I wanted them to be. As such, after a 20 minute systems check, I cut the run short and went back to fetch my bike and car.
Overall, the race rehearsal went outstanding. I wish I could give some numbers, but alas, that is where the one major facepalm of the day comes in. When I started the ride, my watch had warned me that its memory was getting full. Of course, in the excitement of the morning, it didn’t dawn on me that 6+ hours of data is a lot to store. So halfway through my second loop, my watched declared itself too full and STOPPED recording data. As far as I can tell, it continued to give me feedback but none of the data was stored. I have searched high and low for the Garmin files. I have installed and reinstalled software and drivers. I have even hired Navy Seals. Nothing. The data is simply not there. All I have is a few chunks of data labeled as “running” for 17 minutes. Fortunately, I was able to keep an eye on my average power during the ride. Last numbers I recall had me averaging around 134w. I expect my pNorm to be north of that slightly, but probably not quite at my goal of 146w. Judging from how I felt starting the run and the rest of the evening, I think I can afford to give it a bit more and be okay for a decent run.
One other thing. I have to give an incredible shout out to TTBikeFit. It is a bike fitting service that did an online bike fit for me using video. Last time I did this route, I was out of aero for the last two hours of the race because my back was killing me. This time, I had little to no discomfort. In fact, I can honestly say that I was more comfortable in aero and I only started getting pain when I had to sit up more due to the wind. If you need help with your bike fit, check their service out. Ask for Todd.
One other note for the newbies. There will be table in T1 with sunscreen. It is important for you to stop and put it on well. Or this can happen:
Last time I rode this course, I finished up the ride at an appalling 7:08:58. Hey, I was really new to all this. Ride time this go around was roughly 6:30-6:45 minus all the traffic and stoplights. With a little more, hopefully, I can finish up a little less than 6:30. With this and my swim improvement of 12 minutes, this year’s Ironman is looking good.