IMFL Race Report: The Bike

by Beth on November 15, 2012

After swimming and swallowing a lot of salt water, I was handed my transition bag and headed into the host hotel to change for the bike. The transitions for this race were some of my favorite parts of the day. I had my own volunteer who helped me empty my bag and get everything where it was supposed to go. Being able to take the time to connect with others is one of the best parts of doing an iron distance event as opposed to a shorter race. Not every second is critical and it’s okay to take a minute to say thank you, to encourage others, and to say hi to your family. In the changing room, I saw my friend who had gotten out of the water just a minute before me and was able to wish her luck on the bike. I talked to the gal sitting next to me and we realized that we both were cancer survivors. I asked my volunteer how her day was going. When I left the changing room, I felt energized and excited to get on the bike.

For the last half of the season, I had been riding with a heart rate in high zone 1 to low zone 2 which was letting me put out enough power to ride about 17 mph depending on conditions. I also had a lot of success running off the bike all season when I stayed in that heart rate zone and in that power range. My plan was to ride as I had trained as long as I looked down and saw that I was going the minimum speed to finish the bike in the max allotted time. I only needed to bike 14 mph to accomplish this barring mechanical or other serious problems, so once I saw that I was biking faster than that, I tried to ignore my speed and concentrated on heart rate and power.

Coming out of the swim with a time in the top third of swimmers meant that there were a whole lot of people behind me. I would see about 450 people pass me on the bike as I stayed within my target heart rate and power zones. This is when it’s important to have left the ego at home and just concentrate on yourself. I was actually impressed with the caliber of athletes that I was in front of in the swim. It made me really proud of myself and all of those hours I spent in the pool. Other racers were very friendly on the bike. I often had little bits of conversation as I passed or was passed. Everyone was encouraging and it made the hours on the bike pass quickly. I stopped once on the front half of the course and once on the back half for a potty break. I didn’t have to wait in line and everyone seemed to be happy and having a good day. At special needs, I changed out my bike bottles and quickly got under way again only because I was feeling fine and ready to ride, not because I felt any pressure to hurry.

By mile 70, I was feeling fantastic. It just didn’t seem like there was that much farther to ride and my legs felt great. By this time we had been biking into the wind, which we would have for about 40 miles coming straight at us, but it wasn’t bad at all. It was maybe 8-10 mph wind which is pretty calm for this race. It was a relief to turn into the wind and realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Once I hit mile 80, I started passing people. I guess everyone who was going to pass me already did and now I was passing people who were fading on the bike. It was getting hot and after 5-6 hours on the bike people were wearing out. I was charged up. It wasn’t because I was passing people, but because I never imagined biking that far and being so happy the entire time. I knew that I was going to have a lot of spring in my step to start the run and I was thrilled. I probably passed 30-40 riders and finished the bike in 6:33:45/17.07 mph.

Here are a couple pictures:

I could have easily titled this post “Race Nutrition” because eating and drinking on the bike is a huge part of the entire race. I had practiced and fine tuned my race nutrition and stuck with my plan religiously. Even if I didn’t feel like eating or drinking, I did anyway. I brought my own nutrition and only used a half bottle of water and a few sips of sports drink from the course. This let me ride past the aid stations without having to slow down or get caught up in the crowds. I was also happy to be sticking with what I knew from experience works for me. I used EFS sports drink, which has the highest electrolyte content of any sports drink which is enough for me to forgo taking salt pills even when riding in the heat. I used the EFS Liquid Shot as my gel product and Bonk Breaker bars for some solid food. With my bento box for the Liquid Shot and Bonk Breaker bars, my aero bottle on the front, two bottle holders off the seat and another on the upright, I was able to carry enough nutrition for half the race and I just changed everything out at the special needs stop.

So what will I do differently for IMFL 2013? I won’t approach the race any differently, but I am going to change up my training. For the whole season, I had a nagging upper hamstring/glute ingury that felt like a knife in my butt when I rode. This limited how hard I was able to pedal and ruled out any interval training. While I was able to do the high cadence spins on my schedule, I couldn’t do any of the intervals and hill work that would have let me improve my power output. My power numbers are pretty anemic. If it had been a really windy day, I would have been able to finish in time but it would have really slowed me down. For my size and condition, I should be able to sustain a lot more power. Miraculously, my hamstring and glute did not hurt at all on race day. During the two weeks leading up to the race, I got some treatment for it which in combination with the taper was enough to keep it quiet for the day. I’ll need to address the root cause of the injury in the off season, get it healed up and then start training to gain strength and speed.

With the bike and swim done, all that was left was the marathon. Just a little run to round out the day. Next post, I’ll write about the run and what it was like to cross the finish line.


KC November 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Beth, I have the exact same issue where glute meets hamstring and it is like you described, like a stabbing pain. I felt it almost all day long and especially when sitting in the car or at work. Not fun! I have had this issue since may 2011 and the only thing I found helpful was ART …ACTIVE RELEASE TECHNIQUE but it isn’t a cure. I few months prior to IMFL this year, I stumbled upon another blogger’s post and that was like a miracle. I had no idea that the psoas muscle was the big culprit. All this time I was addressing the glute/piriformis/hamstring tightness when in fact is was not caused by any of those muscles. I researched how to properly stretch the psoas and it was amazing to not feel pain anymore. here is the link to the blog post, hope it helps you too:

James November 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Thank you for posting and the nutrition advice. It will be of great help when I cycle in a race! Will you be doing this again next year?

Anne November 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Beth!! You did it!! After being away from blogging for a little over a year, I’m super excited to come back and read that you are an Ironman! You are amazing!!!!!!! Congrats!! :)

Londell December 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

I have been reading the series and was planning to comment after the last post. The run entry said “comments closed” so leaving it on the bike portion. Inspirational!!!! My girlfriends best friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and I told her your story. One that deserves repeating for years to come! Thanks for openly sharing. You put in the mental and physical time to succeed and you did it! In addition, it was great to follow you on the web! I went to the club twice during that race, to inspirational following not to exercise! Carry on!

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