Monday, March 20, 2017

Ironman New Zealand Bike: race report

As anyone who has ever ridden a bike with me knows, I am a damn good eater.  I eat, often and a lot.  It took a while to train my body to eat enough (this much?) on the bike but once I did, nearly all of the GI issues of my earlier ironman days disappeared   Since then, my nutrition plan for ironman hasn't changed.  It means that by the time the race rolls around I am really fucking tired of Bobo's bars but they work and it's not supposed to be a gourmet buffet anyway, it's a race.

On that note, I got rolling and noticed that I was starving so I put a bar down right away.  There were some little punchy crosswinds as we rode by the lake but I knew it was going to turn into a killer tailwind once we got out of town.  Traffic was pretty light so I chewed and ate and drank and made my way out to the long out-and-back road that is about 90% of the bike course.  
I had power goals for the ride, as we do, and I settled into what felt like the right effort and was happy to see exactly the numbers I expected showing up.  It was cool and overcast on the way out; the tailwind meant we were fucking flying which was awesome, it was so much fun to ride that fast.  As I got closer to the turn-around I could see how miserable everyone was heading back in so I was prepared for it.  I got stung by a wasp somewhere in there, I felt something hit me and thought I had a piece of glass stuck in my thigh until I looked down and saw that he was still attached to me.  I actually got stung several times on the ride, once down the sports bra, once stuck in the helmet in what was probably fascinating to watch as I tried to shake him out without crashing.  That's two.

I had only ridden about forty minutes when I felt hungry again.  I put down some fluid as I hadn't been drinking much with the cool conditions of the morning (and I had peed about sixteen times during the swim so I knew I was hydrated) but it didn't help so I went through my second bar.  That perked me up but I blew through it fast, and just after an hour on the bike I was starving again.  I had packed over 1300 calories to tide me over until special needs but I started to get concerned because I knew I'd be burning through fuel faster on the way back in. 

I'll try not to say either of these thing again but I get to say them once: the wind was ridiculous, as was the drafting on the return trip into town.  I didn't get irritated by the wind as I know I can't do anything about it, but every time a pack flew by me, especially with a woman wedged in there, I just thought, oh come on.  A few times I tried to - legally - pace off of them but that's obviously a useless exercise as they were moving far more rapidly than I was.  I ate my last bar about forty miles in and pretty soon after that, I started to lose power and heart rate.  That's a bonk, I know it's a bonk, I knew it then, clear as day, but I was out of calories so I tried to make myself as small as possible in the bars and get to my special needs bag as quickly as I could.   I saw my athlete that was racing and that was a relief; she had a bad bike crash earlier in the week and I was pretty worried about her getting through the swim.  I tried to grab a few things from aid stations but it must be said that aid stations on the left side of the road were, hysterically, possibly the most challenging thing about this race.  My right hand isn't used to weight plus steering and my left hand isn't use to snatching at high speeds and it made me laugh about how not-coordinated I am, or maybe just how unaccustomed my reflexes are.
I came through town, it went by fast, it was awesome to see my rockstar sherpa Emma & Lauren's husband Bill and then finally I made it to my special needs bag.  Even though I was starving I knew better than to shove down a thousand calories at once so I ate a bar, peed, and headed back out, maybe 3-4 minutes here.  I gave myself a little talking-to as I went, yup, that was a bonk, but the calories are getting in there so let's soak up this glorious tailwind while it's here and get that power back up, suck it up sunshine, here we go (I use too many commas when I talk to myself, not just here).  And it mostly worked, I didn't really feel like I came around until I hit the turn-around but my power wasn't abysmal, just running that little bit low.  The second trip back into town actually felt better than the first, or maybe that was just all those glorious calories finally kicking in.  Someone rolled up from behind me and passed me and said, Are you Katie? I think I read your blog, as he went by (Hi!  Sorry I couldn't hang on the run, nice man in the orange kit) and then I leapfrogged with him and a few other riders most of the way back into town, it kept me focused and trying to maintain steady power output.

The ride felt like it went by quickly although just like the swim, I knew the conditions would slow it down a bit.  The last hour or so I started to feel a bit off, I couldn't place it but glassy, detached somehow.  I figured it was just still being low on calories even though power and heart rate had come back to normal, so I continued to steadily push bars and fluid and hope that would fix it.  I was certainly ready to be off by the time I got back into town but it wasn't the horrific take this fucking bike away from me now that I have felt before in ironman, more like, okay, cool, what's next?  

In the past, I have run really well off of stupid windy conditions on the bike, and I was hoping to find that again.  My legs didn't feel bad at all, no niggles or pain in any of my normal spots.  And in hindsight, this is one of the better rides I've had at this distance.  I held more than ten watts higher than I ever have held in ironman but not at the expense of more heart rate, and I'm proud of that.  Even though I bonked a bit, I didn't drop that much and most of the time I was still riding higher than I've ridden in the past.  I'm working to troubleshoot where the bonk came from, because I'm confident it happened well before I got on the bike, but other than that I'm pleased with this effort, especially with all the considerations of how early it is in the year and in my general return to training.  There was never a real low in the ride, it felt like my mind and my body worked together to keep me stable, steady, unemotional except for calm, and there was a lot of good in this ride despite the actual on-paper result.  

Bike: 112 miles, 6:29:16, 7th AG
Nutrition: 6 Bobo's bars, 2 Stinger Waffles & 1 pack of Skratch chews for 2520 calories which is ~386/hour & 6 bottles of NBS Hydration + some water at aid stations for 140 ounces which is ~21 oz/hour.

I sat down in T2.  I still felt off, I couldn't quite place it but calories and hydration are always a good start.  I ate a banana and a pack of chews, I drank most of a bottle of water, filled up my little handheld and drank about a third of that and then finally got going.  It felt like I was in there forever but I knew that I needed to figure out whatever was going on.
And as soon as I started to run, I could feel it.  My legs felt like a million bucks.  That gave me hope, I just needed to get whatever the fuck was going on with my body sorted out and then I could run.  I saw my amazing friend Emma again and I gave her the hugest happiest smile even though I felt a bit weird because it was in there, the marathon I wanted.  It was in there, I could feel it, I knew it, and I was coming for it.

T2: 3:51