Friday, February 12, 2010

Cloudy with a chance of Crazy

This past weekend Kyle and I made the trek out to St. George, Utah to obtain a course preview for the upcoming adventure in my life. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this course that the Ironman folks set out and frankly I didn't want to get caught up in what other people were saying. I needed to see/ ride/ run/ experience it for myself. My posts usually follow a story, so this won't be the most comprehensive course report, nor will it be the most humorous, but this is me. And my adventures in St. George. Here it is: Day One.

We left mid-afternoon on Saturday and it rained for 95% of the drive. Pouring rain. Poor Kyle, really. After ditching our camping plans (late arrival, and me being a fair weather fan, and Kyle wanting to get to bed after a stressful drive) we checked in to the Quality Inn. Woke up to a continental breakfast and went in search of the start of the loops.

The IMSG (Ironman St. George) bike course is a 2 loop course with an additional 24 miles from T1 to the start of the loops. Day One of operation course recon consisted of looping out the course (90 miles). It started out like this:

And this: that intersection will be a popular spectator location as you'll see your athlete 3x on the bike and 4x on the run. So I hopped on Kermit for a sure chance of crazy. It was raining already; my shoes were soaked by mile 2. Alright, 6 hours left to suck it up. The beginning of the loop is pretty mellow, with a few ups and downs. It follows a random course through the town and residential areas (even past a road named "Rachel Drive" - which is sure to bring a smile to my face on race day). Finally made it onto Hwy 91 for a real treat...more rain and more hills. The whole "backside" of the loop is basically up. Not real steep, nothing too intense, but just a slow moving up. People are going to blow up. I road this day knowing I had to conserve for the 2nd loop, and the 2nd day. Also, my feet would not allow me to push any harder as they were becoming blocks of ice. Spinning up with my compact crank and 27 in the rear, Kermit and I were getting the job done. I'm sure my experience in May will look quite a bit different. After you reach the "top" which was after what others were calling a "significant climb"...maybe 1 mile, over 350 ft of elevation gain, and approx. 7 min to get up (with ice blocks on my feet). You'll know what I'm talking about when you come up upon a 170 degree turn...then the hill hits. Someone had mentioned they had to walk up the steep section...I'm sorry, and I don't mean any disrespect, but I was almost laughing at the thought. I wouldn't consider myself a sissy, but I ride with a compact crank and a 12-27, and 650cc wheels for a reason. Mashing will blow you up. I have learned to hold a higher cadence and keep my HR where it needs to be. I didn't even have to stand up at any portion of the course. Anyway, after that "steep" section it teeters off a bit but the elevation keeps increasing. As I made the turn onto the road back to town, I saw this:This is at the turn onto HWY 18. The road becomes smooth (or slushy in my case) and bends around one of the last up sections into a long descent. Again, nothing too steep, and fairly straight. In non-icy conditions, you will be able to stay aero the entire way down. Unfortunately that 17 miles ends way too quickly, and you end up back at the start of the second loop.Looking back up at this. I have to admit, it is gorgeous. And I'm sure by May, things may be a little more green and a little less white. Either way, Kermit will fit in. :)This was one of the small glimpses of blue sky we saw the entire day. The colors were vibrant! But alas, the gray was back. As were the moods when I had to dismount my bike 4 times per loop for this:Freaking cattle guards. Really? These aren't the nice painted ones from the great western. Or even the roll bar ones from north county. These are 1' wide holes with flat, slippery bars. Again, I ride 650s, and with one small turn of my wheel my bike would've been sucked in and me over the handlebars. They were even difficult to walk across. People will be pissed if Ironman doesn't cover them.

Shortly after this I flatted. A car came by and I asked them if they saw a red Xterra truck to kindly tell him to come back for his little fallen frozen solider. Don't start the "she's a girl and can't change a flat" remarks yet. Come on, I work at a bike shop and I've been around the block a couple times. Give me some credit. I changed my own flat, but I needed a new tire anyway, which was in the car, so I figured it be best to just do it all at once. So after the change of the new tube and tire and not wasting a CO2 expedition, I was off again.
Here's the "steep" climb. You can see the road below, which is where you come from, make that turn, and then head up. Outside of Torrey Pines-esk type of hill. Shorter. Yeah, hills done. Descend. Finish. 90 miles completed. 6 hours of frozen toes. Time for a hot bath. Who needs an ice bath when you are frozen already?Kyle, my favorite sherpa. He drove the entire 90+ miles (even took a wrong turn, and I thought I'd never see him again) without a peep. He changed my socks and warmed me up multiple times. He did bottle switches, drink mixes, gu exchanges as if he was a pro-tour team car. Photographer, encourager, and driver. He is my favorite, and I am indebted to him. (I see many hours of belaying/seconding him up the multiple Joshua Tree climbs he intends to conquer, after this ironman.)

Final thoughts. It's not that bad. It's not a PR course, but's my first Ironman, so a finish will be a PR. I spent a lot of time out of the aerobars and will have to think hard about which bike to bring. If it's raining, I'm bringing cookie monster (my road bike), no question. I'm not a great descender with Kermit when it's dry, so in wet conditions my nerves tend to build. and I don't relax, and I waste energy. So, we'll see come race week. 11 weeks away.

Next up, Day two. More bike course preview and yes, the h-e-double hockey sticks of a run. Nice job Ironman peeps. You have raised the bar to crazy.


idropboys said...

Well done. Riding GWL so many times makes anything seem doable right. Good to see what is out there for us :-)

beth said...

really awesome review- thank you rachel!!!!!
i'm freaking scared. esp. after san diegiuto today.

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

Nice race report. You have the best attitude. I was laughing to see you riding in a rain coat. Nothing seems to dampen your attitude.