Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons Learned in L'ville

Saturday morning I awoke with a lump in my stomach. I was not looking forward to the ride after my last experience here in Lousville; however, God is good and the air temperatures were predicted to be much lower today (about 89 degrees), but I also think part of my problem the first time is not knowing the course.

For some reason, I tend to have a fear of the unknown. I build it up into a much bigger issue than it really is. When we came down in June, friends told me how hilly the course is and by golly it was. By the time I was done riding, I was convinced it was going to take me 10 hours to get through the bike course which basically meant WTC was going to pull me from the course.

Having done the course once, I knew what to expect today which helped immensely. I knew the  hills were tough, but doable. I knew I had to focus on relaxing my shoulders pulling them down away from my ears. I knew I had to hydrate and focus heavily on nutrition. My goal was to get some good food in my belly early in the ride so that I could switch to more of a lighter, liquid diet later in the ride in order to prepare for the run. I wasn't planning on using Perpetuem today. Instead I wanted to try Infinit to see if was a better option for me. I filled my aero bottle and one other bottle with water while the 3rd bottle had Strawberry Hammer Heed.

After checking our tires and lubing our chains, we started off on our adventure. The first 9.5 miles were a nice, relaxed pace. Awesome Cheryl let me take the lead since she's faster than me and would leave behind eating her dust. When we hit the light to turn on to SR 42, the light was extremely long. We chatted with another biker and I decided to start working my nutrition plan of over-fueling by have a Chocolate Outrage Gu Gel. The light finally turned green and we were off spinning toward the hills.

As we approached KY-1694 about 18 miles into the ride, I had a scary thought, "I'm hungry." I never want to have thoughts regarding hunger or thirst on race day. It was time to eat. Opening a Stinger Waffle on the bike is not an easy task. I kept looking for a "Tear Here" spot, but couldn't find one and had to resort to using my teeth. Finally, the package was open and I wolfed it down. On KY-1694, you have to prepare for some long hills. Important race day notes: Enjoy the long down hill on the way out because you are going to have to go back up!!! Stay in the small ring until you see the cabin at the top of the hill. Don't be fooled by a small flat. You will lose momentum. After you turn around, enjoy the long down hill again because the hill on the way back to SR 42 is loooooonnnnngggg. Grrr. Have I mentioned I don't do hills well?
IamTri aid station map

Cheryl & I met up again at the first aid station right at the corner of KY-1694 and SR 42. Unfortunately, this aid station didn't have Infinit which through my plan for a loop. Instead I decided to go ahead and use Perpetuem and put three tablets in my aero bottle and enjoyed a bagel and peanut butter. Cheryl asked, "You put the solids in your water bottle?". Me in all my confidence replied, "Yah." Conversation closed.

The IMLOU course is not really flat. "Rolling hills".... but yes constantly rolling hills. Some areas just get worse. The next big hill section comes at you on KY-393. There are at least 4 big, long hills on this road. I say at least because in my oxygen deprived state I really lost count. Important race day notes: Stay in small ring because the hills just keep coming.

Turning on KY-146 from KY-393, the road is a slight incline through Buckner and into LaGrange. We stopped at the 2nd aid station not because of a nutrition need, but because I desperately needed to blow my nose. With Cheryl directly behind me, I didn't want to perform a Farmer's Blow and saturate her with snot. After getting through LaGrange where they were holding the Oldham County Days festival, we turned on to Ballard School Road, the road where I bonked on the last ride. There are three major hills on Ballard School Rd. and the 3rd is a doozy. I actually have to stand to climb the last hill. Luckily, the road ends with a beautiful downhill which allows you to gain speed - which is then DESTROYED when you have to take a sharp right turn on to Sligo Road which also starts on an uphill. Two strikes. Not liking Sligo Road now.

By the time we turned left on L'Espirit Parkway, I was having a pain behind my left knee. I had a hard time pushing on my left side up the hills. A left turn onto KY-153 and it wasn't long before we were at the mile 50 aid station. Thank goodness! I immediately got off the bike and sent a text to Jeff and Chris, one of the Intimidators, to see what great insights they had for my knee pain.
Pain behind left knee every time I do hilly course at abt 50 miles. Is it bike fit? Pedal stroke? Help

Chris, being the experienced Ironman triathlete, had a number of suggestions, but for the day suggested sliding back on my saddle to see if that helped. Regardless, it sounds like I will need to take my bike into Little Ade's on Monday for a small adjustment and hope it helps. The best part of this aid station was the Diet Coke and Pringles. Who would have these simple things would taste so heavenly? I also discovered that I really liked peanut butter on bagels or pretzels sticks. Tell me how I'm going to carry those on race day???

While we were re-freshing our drinks, Cheryl suddenly had a very thoughtful look. After a few moments of discussion, I came to the conclusion that we were staying at the aid station for a little bit longer since it appeared Cheryl was in the beginning stages of dehydration....sluggish legs, chills and discolored urine. We stayed at the aid station while Cheryl downed another bottle of water.

Since the air temperature was only in the high 80s and she wasn't sweating as much, Cheryl hadn't been drinking as much on this ride. Lesson learned: Dehydration on the bike can surprise you. Cheryl and I discussed a hydration plan for her. Later we decided we needed to invent an aero bottle which would yell at you if you hadn't taken a sip in 10 minutes saying "DRINK BITCH!". Oh yah. Definitely working on that product.

Finally able to leave the aid station, we took off on SR 42 planning on making the second loop so we could complete the full 112 miles. At the beginning of the 2nd loop on KY-393, I stopped to make sure Cheryl was ok before heading on. Really I was using Cheryl as an excuse. I was a little worried about my knee which had been feeling better until the last couple of miles. I knew we were facing more hills on KY-393 as well as Ballard School Road which definitely made me nervous. Because Cheryl now had to go to the bathroom (YAY!!!! FINALLY!!!), we agreed to keep going since that was the closest bathroom. No, Cheryl was definitely not going to pee on the bike. Ewwww.

The second loop on KY-393 was just as lovely as the first (insert rolling eyes here). As we turned on KY-146, I said to Cheryl "I could easily turn around and go home, but just think of the sense of accomplishment we'll have in getting the 112 miles done today and knowing what we'll be facing on race day." Hmm, the fate gods must have been listening, waiting for their opportunity to laugh at me.

Since Cheryl is faster than I am, I told Cheryl to go ahead on the bike so she could get to the bathroom and I'd meet her at the LaGrange aid station. As I pedaled my little heart out, I felt a sudden sharp pain on the front of my left knee which caused me to gasp. Tears sprang to my eyes. The pain quickly passed, but my concern was definitely growing. By the time I arrived at the aid station, I knew I shouldn't keep going. Every few minutes I would feel a pain in my knee and I could not even imagine damaging my knee this close to race day.

At the aid station (where the bathrooms were closed much to Cheryl's chagrin), I considered asking for the SAG wagon to come pick me up. I was really not sure I could make it back to the Yellow Lot. We discussed going ahead with the 112 miles, but with Ballard School Road ahead I knew those big hills could definitely hurt my knee. We decided to head back to the Yellow Lot via KY-393....ugh....I was not crazy about going back on those hills, but no matter which direction we went we had to deal with hills. Plus, we passed a bathroom at the Marathon Gas Station in Buckner so Cheryl was relieved to head back to find an open bathroom.

As we hit the hills, I consciously pushed back in my saddle which seemed to help. Miraculously, I didn't have any more pain in my knee. After KY-393, we still had the rolling hills on SR 42, but I tried to stay in a smaller gear and kept my cadence higher. I wanted to just let my legs spin, just as I will on race day, so that I could transition easier to running jogging 26.2.

We hit the Yellow Lot at 95 miles. Getting off the bike, I was curious to see how I felt....I FELT FABULOUS!!! I felt like I could actually run. I didn't feel like I wanted to crawl on the ground and take a nap. My mood, my entire outlook on IMLOU, my confidence level soared. I was actually looking forward to race day.

So what were the lessons learned from this ride?

  1. I really need to stay in the small gear on the hills. (Ugh, as if I'm not slow enough already.)
  2. Cheryl needs to focus on hydration. I am going to tape a note to her bike to remind her to drink on race day. I told her if I caught her on the run because she hadn't hydrated enough I was going to kick her ass. 
  3. Perpetuem Solids are not meant to go in a water bottle. If you actually read the bottle (Duh!), it says "CHEWABLE". That would explain why those solids hadn't dissolved in my aero bottle.
  4. My plan to over-fuel seemed to really work. I felt great. The peanut butter was fabulous....but how am I going to have peanut butter on race day? I need to find something which is just as filling and portable. 
  5. By riding steady and relaxing my shoulders, I will be able to complete the IMLOU course. on time. 
  6. The IMLOU course really isn't that bad...if the weather cooperates. Experiencing the course before race day and more than once is a MUST for me. 

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