The bike starts out with a descent down four levels of the parking 'helix'. Somewhere in the middle of my third 'WEEEeeeee!!!' I caught a glimpse of Jim and Sarah cheering for me from the other end of the barricade. I'm glad I got to see them before mile one of 112.
The course is laid out like a lollipop with a 12 mile 'stick' that goes from Downtown Madison out west to Verona. Then we did 2 loops around the countryside.
The first miles of the bike were uneventful. Most of us were taking it pretty easy. There were 6+ hours of cycling ahead of us. It was pretty crowded out on the course, but I have a feeling that the race marshals were turning a blind eye to any drafting. At least for the first 25 miles or so.
|Heading out of town.|
I stuck to my nutrition plan to a T. Every 20 minutes, I took a gel, or 3 shot bloks. Then, every 60 minutes I'd take some Endurolytes - essentially salt pills to keep me from cramping up. This was the same plan that worked pretty well for me during the Liberty Half Iron back in June.
The crowds along the route were nothing short of amazing. You could never go more than a mile without seeing a line of folks cheering, a backyard party, or someone at the end of their driveway with a cowbell.
The most interesting crowds were along Timber lane heading south into Verona. This is where we encountered what are affectionately referred to as 'The Three B*tches' - three steep rollers in rapid succession. Each one individually wouldn't take too much out of you. They were very steep, but not terribly long. However, having these 3 in a row was crazy.
Fortunately, the crowds along these hills were crazy too - something close to what you would see on an ascent in the Tour de France. You had your mandatory 'Man in Devil Costume', folks dressed up as farm animals, and lots of guys in Speedos and wigs. You know - if you're into that kind of thing.
The first 60 miles or so went by fairly quickly. There was always something to keep my mind distracted from the work my body was doing. I kept the pace slow, but steady - constantly reminding myself that I still had a marathon to run later. By mile 70, things started to drag a little bit. The nutrition that had served me so well for a 56 course was starting to get tired. The vanilla gel started to taste a little 'oogy', and my shot bloks got harder and harder to chew. The sport drink still tasted good though, so I took in more of that for calories.
At about mile 80 I was beginning to wish that I would have paid more attention to applying Body Glide to my sensitive areas prior to the bike. During an Ironman, friction is no man's friend. I promised not to make the same mistake in T2.
Thank goodness my legs still felt great. Even climbing the B*tches a 2nd time wasn't too terrible. Although, I did have to shift a much lower gear to keep from straining up the hills. I could tell that my average speed was dropping, but I was still scared to push too hard for fear of blowing out my legs for the run. Once I crested the last bee-yotch, I knew it was mostly downhill back to Madison. There were still plenty of fun-loving crowds in Verona to push us through.
Heading back on the 'stick' portion of the course, I started to feel anxious for the run. Of the 3 disciplines, it was the one I was least confident about. My body was starting to fight back against my nutrition telling me 'enough of this gel crap, gimme some real FOOD!'.
Finally seeing the lake and the Monona Center again felt great. It was strange. After over 6 and a half hours out on the course, the swim was starting to feel like something I had done WEEKS ago. I spun up John Nolen drive and up into the parking structure, unstrapping my shoes and hopped
I jogged through another crowd and into the Terrace to peel off my bike jersey, strap on my running shoes and tackle my first marathon.