Ironman Florida Race Report – The Bike

Part II of a four-part series…


After getting my words of wisdom from Coach Chance, I made my way to the “Bike Out” area. As I crossed the mount line, there were plenty of people stopped and throwing their legs over the bike while standing still. What’s up with that? As I’ve learned in my short period of time in triathlon, the “flying mount” is how the cool kids do it.

So, I took a few quick steps, grabbed hold of the handlebars and launched into the air like a flying squirrel in a phone booth. Yet another successful flying mount! The day will come when I completely screw this up and fall flat on my face in front of the gathered masses outside of transition. Today was not that day.

I rocked it!  Just like this kid…

Pedaling out of town I quickly realize how cold it is. Damn, I KNEW I should have grabbed that vest. What a sissy I am. Too late now. I pedal onward. The Ironman Florida bike course is one giant loop that heads out of town in a northeast direction before looping back to town mostly in a southwest direction. On this day the wind was out of the northeast, meaning we rode into a headwind almost the entire way until the turnaround.

My initial goal was to average just over 21 mph for the ride. If I was able to do that, it would put me at about 5:15. I didn’t feel that pace was unreasonable, nor did I think it was too hard to hurt me on the run. I don’t ride with watts (I don’t have a power meter), so I usually end up riding by “feel.” I have a pretty good ability to tell when I’m pushing too hard and know how to use my gears to my advantage.

Into the headwind, I rode a LOT in the small ring with a high cadence to keep the pace up with as little strain on the legs as possible. I make up the difference on any decline by getting as aero as possible and quickly shifting into the big ring and using the terrain of the course to increase my speed. I’m amazed by how many people I see sitting up on the “downhill” sections to stretch, shift in the saddle, etc. That’s what the “uphills” are for! Sure, this course is almost totally flat for 112 miles, but there are a few times when you have to get out of the saddle for a short climb.

I do my best to follow Coach Chance’s orders from our many training rides. I believe it went something like this; “Never get out of aero position unless a tree falls on you!” There aren’t many big trees along the course, so I knew I had little choice but to stay aero for the entire ride.

I had mapped out a pretty simple nutrition plan. I had a 40 oz. Standard Speedfil on the bike half-filled with water. (I grabbed water on the course as I went by aid stations to fill it, as needed.) In my aero bar-mounted 16 oz. bottle I had 350 calories of Carbo-Pro with one tablet of Strawberry Lemonade NUUN.  I had another 16 oz. bottle (with same contents) mounted under the back of my seat. I packed 5 GU Roctane Cherry Lime packets with me and took one every hour. I also took a salt tab every hour. I stashed two extra bottles (with 350 calories Carbo-Pro and a NUUN tablet) in my special needs bag along with a banana and a Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar.

The first 2 hours of the bike went pretty smoothly. I had a small pain on the inside of my left thigh, but I tried to ignore it as best as possible. It felt a little bit like a pulled groin muscle. I hoped it wouldn’t bother me when I got to the run.

Fighting the headwind out of town made it hard to keep my 20 mph goal but I didn’t get too worried about it. I was mostly concerned with saving my legs for the run. As they say, when it comes to having a good Ironman, “it’s ALL about the run!” And that’s good news for me. I love the run! Bring it on.

Because the temperature remained in the 50s for most of the first half of the ride, I wasn’t sweating much and had to make sure I drank my bottles even if I wasn’t thirsty. Most of my calories were in liquid form, so I HAD to get them down. This created a new dilemma for me. As I rode along, I quickly began to realize I was going to “off-load” those same liquid calories. I always wondered if I would be able to pee while on the bike.

Attempt #1

Looked behind me. Coast was clear. I rise out of the saddle and keep pedaling along. I try to think about a babbling brook, the sound of water being poured into a bucket, a strong-flowing waterfall. Nothing … Darn it!

Attempt #2

I stop pedaling and give it another shot. Still nothing… finally, the faucet begins to flow at a slow trickle. At this rate, I figure I should just forget it and stop at a port-a-potty. Nah… I’m not giving up THAT easy.

Attempt # 3

I get to a small downhill section, stand up and coast. Suddenly, I’m having one of those moments you have in college when you’ve had too much to drink. You’re asleep in bed, dreaming that you’re relieving yourself in the bathroom, only to wake up when you realize you’re peeing yourself in bed. (Please tell me I’m not the ONLY one who did that in college!)

That’s what peeing on your bike feels like. It’s mostly a mental game. Your mind is telling you that you’re not supposed to be doing this. Once you win that mind battle, it’s pretty easy. So easy, that I do it three more times. By the fourth time, I’ve become a so good at it, I’m expecting to be awarded Le Short Jaune when I get to T2!

NOTE: After each potty break, I grab a water bottle as I ride through an aid station and spray myself down a little to “clean” up. If I had stopped each time I had to go, it would have cost me about 5 minutes, at the very least. I also would have found it much harder to beat my 10:30 time goal.  (yes, I realize this hardly makes sense to the average person who is still puzzled by the fact that I peed myself… four times. But I wasn’t alone!)

Other than my plethora o’ pee, most of the ride was pretty uneventful.

While I was busy wetting myself, my wife was busy enjoying some much-deserved  margaritas (in a bag.) Classy, I know.

The wife and a puzzled-looking Coach Chance plotting strategy.

One of the highlights on the road was seeing members of the Dynamo Multisport team out on the course. It was easy to spot Team GREEN.  It was also easy to hear them. It’s amazing how much noise a couple of people can make with some vuvuzelas! Thanks for the GREEN love!

After reaching the turnaround, I slowed for a quick stop at the special needs area and swapped out my two empty water bottles for new ones and grabbed the banana and Clif bar out of my bag. I eat the banana and stash the Clif bar for later.

The most annoying part of the ride was seeing several large groups flying by in the other direction when I approached the last turnaround section at Mile 95 on Steelfield Rd. (Note: Steelfield Rd. is awful.  It’s nothing but bumpy and chewed up asphalt for the entire section.) However, this is the only part of the ride with rough road, so I can’t complain too much.

I had been pre-warned about the large packs of riders but still shook my head in disbelief every time I saw a group. What’s the point? I’m sure you rode sub-5 hours and perhaps you snagged that elusive Kona slot. But do you feel good about drafting for half of the race? Personally, I know I wouldn’t feel good about it. At one point early in the ride, I found myself behind a large pack. There was nowhere to go. I had to hang back and wait for a small opening to appear on the left side. When I finally got some space, I had to crank hard to zip past them and get out front. Half of the group was chatting and socializing. Annoying! If you’re going to draft or ride in a pack, go fast enough that other riders don’t have to worry about crossing the double yellow line to get around you while you ride sitting up in your saddle. (End of rant.)

Without question, the absolute worst part of the ride was the final 5 miles into town. With the condos, hotels, tattoo shops and Waffle Houses lining the sides of Front Beach Rd., the wind was whipping extra hard in all directions. Mostly, it was directly into our face. At one point, it turned into a mini-sandstorm. I’m not going to lie, it truly sucked.

By the time I made the final left hand turn and headed towards transition, I was ready to ditch the bike. I’d had enough.

Just at the moment I started to think “holy crap, I still have to run a MARATHON,” I spotted my wife on the side of the road exactly where I told her to be. She was jumping up and down yelling “GO! GO! GO! HONEY! RIDE LIKE THE WIND!” Little did she know…  I was DONE riding like the wind. I officially had had enough of that bike. Get me off of this thing!

I finally reached transition and handed my bike off to a volunteer. (With this being my first IM, I totally forgot somebody was going to take my bike from me.) What a great feeling it was to finally hand her off.

Bike Splits:

BIKE SPLIT 1: 55 mi 55 mi (2:45:15) 19.97 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 95 mi 40 mi (1:46:02) 22.63 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 17 mi (51:42) 19.73 mi/h
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi (5:22:59) 20.81 mi/h

My time ranked 308th overall and 57th among 40-44 AGers. Not too bad, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

I attempt to “run” to grab my T2 bag, but I was hurting. It was sort of a shuffle/walk/jog/sashay thing I had going on. I’m a TERRIBLE sashayer. I get my bag and head inside the changing area and plop my sore backside down on a chair. There’s a nice volunteer helping me. What a treat.

I can’t find my CEP socks! (Mini-freak-out.) “Are these them in your shoes?” he says calmly. I was so out of it, I forgot that I had put them in my shoes to make things faster. Gee, that kind of backfired on me. I struggled a little to get the socks on, but I knew I wanted them for the run.

I stand up, put on my Fuel Belt, visor and sunglasses and run out.

My T2 time was 5:42. That’s pretty awful, but I was mentally out of it for a minute or two. That’s my excuse so zip it!

Once I start running out of the Transition area, I find myself quickly getting excited about the fact that I ONLY have a marathon left to run. I’m sure that’s a common feeling for Ironman veterans, but for me, it was very odd. For a split second, I think about what a daunting task it was when I ran my first marathon in 2009. I finished that NYC Marathon in 3:46, blowing up at Mile 20 with nasty hamstring cramps.

Now, almost two years later to the day, here I was starting my first Ironman marathon. My legs felt good. My nutrition was solid. I was ready to get after it. My run goal: beat that NYC marathon time! On top of that, I wanted to cross the finish line in under 10:30.

As I stride under the “Run Out” banner with renewed focus and determination, I look down at my right hand with the initials of my wife and kids written on it. I then look at my left hand and the words “Eat That Pain!” I was ready.

I make the turn East on South Thomas Drive and let out a quiet, barely audible “Let’s get it ON!”

Photo Credit: NL4S.com

To be continued…

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4 Comments

Filed under Ironman, Triathlon

4 responses to “Ironman Florida Race Report – The Bike

  1. Slayer

    Another cracking entry on an always fun to read race report. It looks like strong bike but not an easy one at all. How much did you hold back?

  2. Ty

    Inspiring post Mike.

  3. Now I understand why those bike catchers wear gloves! Ew… 🙂

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