Friday, August 21, 2015

Timberman 2015: Bike Course (Part II)

(Missed Part I about the swim? Never fear, you can read it here!)

The farthest I have ever biked in my entire life is 60 miles, which I did three years ago. The trip took, quite literally, all day. I woke up early, ate breakfast, biked, stopped to meet up with people, biked, stopped for coffee and water refills, biked, stopped for lunch. . . . You get the idea: lots of stopping, and lots of food.

This Timberman bike ride, which was to take place immediately after swimming 1.2 miles, would be the second-farthest I’ve ever ridden and, if everything went according to plan, would happen without any stops at all. This latter fact presented the main conundrum I faced while planning for this race: how, when, and what was I going to eat?

I'm no stranger to endurance sports, just to endurance sports that last a quarter of a day. Marathon nutrition—at least for me, once I figured itout—has been fairly straightforward: a Gu at mile 6, a Gu at mile 13, and Gu at mile 20, with two of the three containing caffeine. However, a marathon has only taken me, at most, three-and-a-half hours. The bike ride of this race alone was going to take me longer than that . . . and then I was going to have to run for thirteen miles.

After collecting and considering a multitude of advice and practicing with a few different foodstuffs, I decided to go with SHOT Bloks. I don’t eat them when I run because I have trouble running, chewing, and breathing at the same time, but my breathing is much less labored on the bike, so chewing while continuing to breathe wouldn’t be as difficult.  And when it comes down to it, I much prefer anything chewable to gels. Gels are just . . . slimy. Plus, with all these little gummy blocks, I could parcel them out and divide up the bike ride into timed "snack breaks." I planned to eat one block every fifteen minutes, with an extra two blocks—at least one of which contained caffeine—on the hour.

In hindsight, I'm not sure if eating exclusively SHOT Bloks was a good nutritional decision, but breaking up the bike into fifteen minute “snack times” was enormously helpful to me mentally.

Oh, look at that, I’d think, glancing at my watch (which I had looped around the handlebar of my bike for easy viewing). Only five minutes left until my next snack. Which flavor should I choose this time?

The first five miles of the race flew by, and then ten, and then . . . and then we hit the steepest hill I have ever attempted to climb on a bike, otherwise known as the Marsh Hill Monster. This is a hill so long and so steep that as I started up it, huffing, puffing, and forcing my legs to grind in their little pedal circles, I actually saw people off to the side who had dismounted and were walking with their bikes. No way am I doing that, I thought, gritting my teeth and trying not to topple over onto another cyclist as my speed dipped down below 6mph.

Nearly one mile and 300 feet of elevation later, we crested the hill. If we have to do that again, I thought, trying to regain my breath and jiggle my water bottle out of its holster, I actually might not make it to the top.

Fortunately, that hill was the only one of its kind. The terrain flattened, and I zoned out (still eating my SHOT Bloks, of course) until mile 30, when I rode past an aid station and saw my GCR teammate K___! We rode the next five miles together, chatting about the race and just trying to keep our minds off of how much our crotches hurt. Seeing her and casually chatting, even for those short few miles, really lifted my spirits. It made me more glad than ever that I had chosen to do this race with teammates.

For the rest of the ride, I focused on keeping my cadence at 80rpm, so that my legs would “spin” and I wouldn’t wear them out. I traded positions with a woman in a black tri kit for a while, but eventually I let her ride ahead and focused on drinking the rest of my water before we got back to the transition area. After all, I still had a run to do.

Click here for Part III: Run to the Finish >>>

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