And we were off, slowly heading down the helix. I had heard that this is where some crashes can happen so I stayed to the right and took my time descending. Next we rode on a narrow bike path for a couple of miles until we finally hit the main route, aka, real roads. I kept fussing with my watch because it wasn’t in the right screen and finally I decided to just pull over rather than risk crashing while trying to get it figured out. A quick stop, and after finally getting it to the right screen- the plan was to ride between 145-150 HR, so I needed to see that data on my screen- and I was back on the course.
The bike course is referred to as a lollipop, in that the first part of the bike course is the ‘stick’ which is 15ish miles going from Madison to Verona, and then you hit the ‘lollipop’ which is a 40ish mile loop that you ride twice before you head back down the ‘stick’ again towards Madison. Thank goodness I rode the course during the summer because it’s a tough one. Tougher (in my opinion) than Louisville, because the hills are pretty darn big (especially the ‘Three B*tches’, a name created for the three huuuge hills on the loop that you do twice) rather than the rolling ones in Louisville, where if you get enough momentum going down, you barely have to climb going back up. You had to really climb these and at least three of them you are in your smallest ring huffing and puffing.
From the start my legs didn’t feel great, and my right hamstring was still tight, but not as tight as I feared and I could pedal without really noticing it. I tried to just focus on my heart rate and my nutrition. Just like Louisville, the plan was to drink water every 15 minutes, drink Infinit + water every 30 minutes, take an Enduralyte every hour and half of a Honeystinger waffle every 1.5 hours., which would roughly give me 300 calories an hour. It also kept me busy/distracted which helped make the time go by faster. As the miles ticked by I noticed that I was rarely passed by any women and I was passing a lot of men. A lot. Which made me nervous that I was biking too hard, but I was within my planned heart rate range so I went with it.
When I passed through Verona (one of the big areas to spectate, around the halfway mark) I could hear someone yelling my name. I looked over and it was Trish and JMR!! I waved to them as I rode by, so excited to have actually spotted them! I was hoping JMR would do his long-ish run while I was on the bike since there were such few opportunities to spectate on the bike, but I guess they decided to try and see me 🙂
Several miles later I was at the halfway point and rolled up to special needs. This year I decided to have a premixed bottle of Infinit and a bottle of water (both which I tried to freeze the night before but our little mini fridge just got them really cold) wrapped in foil instead of carrying a baggie of infinite and mixing at an aid station halfway through, which is what I did at Louisville. This was a really good plan, even with a bathroom stop, it was still faster than my stop during Louisville. Soon I was rolling out for loop #2. Here we go.
My legs were still feeling tight but surprisingly not any worse. However, my calves were starting to join in on the fun and they felt really swollen, a feeling like I was retaining a ton of water in them. Well this is all new. I’ve never had this happen during training…oh boy, I was hoping the run wasn’t going to be a disaster. On I went, passing more men (ha) and then I was back at the three b*tches. The crowds weren’t as thick as they were the first time I went through, but there were definitely some very energetic people out cheering us on, which really helped climbing up those hills the second time. After climbing the last hill I knew that was the last tough part of the course and soon I would be riding back into town. I also looked at my watch and realized I was riding pretty darn close to the same time I rode at Louisville. Woah. That surprised me. I was tracking my pace throughout the bike, sticking to heart rate rather than pace and assumed the pace would eventually be 16mph or lower, but instead it was pretty close to 16.5. That made me really happy after such a horrible swim.
I hit the stick and was ready to be done, my legs were really grumpy and I was tired of taking in nutrition. I had one last Honeystinger waffle to eat and had to force myself to chew and eat the darn thing. ‘It’s energy’ I kept telling myself and finally choked it down. There was a big-ish hill around mile 100 (I lost track) that surprised me, but it still wasn’t as bad as the three big ones on the loop. I passed two more men (yes, I remembered…because I was amazed), and then I could finally see the helix. Hooray!! Up I went and I was at the dismount line. The man catching my bike (I may have almost run into him because I was tired and didn’t stop quickly enough) had an AMAZING australian accent. As I handed my bike to him I said “I love your accent!” (which I’m sure was dumb to say, but I think I was a little out of it after riding for almost 7 hours….aaaaand I really love australian accents 🙂 He humored me by being polite and saying ‘thank you’ (in a really nice accent) and off I went to Ballroom D to grab my run bag and then Ballroom A to change gear.
This time I actually got a volunteer! And it wasn’t crazy crowded! She helped me dump everything out of my bag, and got me water while I pulled off my shrug and changed socks. My hands were so shaky, just like at IMLOU. What is with that? Nervous energy? I stuffed three gels in my pockets of my Coeur tri shorts (I LOVE these tri shorts- they are the best), threw on my hat and hustled out of the ballroom to get on that run course! Well, I stopped again to pee, then I was on my way!