Ironman Marshland — The Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
The bike course is fairly straightforward. After riding through Cambridge and the surrounding countryside we passed the local high school which began a 40-45 mile loop. After completing the loop nearly twice, we turned off and finished the course with about ten miles of empty countryside and then a final mile through town.
The temperature rose steadily from 66 to 82 degrees. After ten minutes of keeping my heart rate and watts down, I began to work. My plan had been to ride the first half of the race between 200-205 watts and then to “negative split” by riding the second half at 205-210 watts. The plan did not materialize.
For nearly 30 minutes I rode too hard. My normalized power was around 210. Then I balanced out and found myself having trouble holding 195. After about an hour, I hit a bad patch. From the look of the chart below, it lasted about 20 minutes before it finally passed.
On the first lap my NP was 192 and the average speed of 22.4 mph. The second lap NP was 191 and the average speed was 21.8 mph. I got up to 27.2 mph for a maximum speed. I’m not sure what was going on there unless I was trying to regain a group after slowing to pee. The cadence dropped from the first half too, from 92 to 87 on the second half.
I saw a beautiful bald eagle. It was soaring in a arcing pattern and was close enough that I could see between its feathers at the tips of its wings. Shortly after the one time that I rode through water — less than an inch for no more than two seconds — I heard a squeaking. I thought it ridiculous that my bike would develop something so annoying after such a short splash. After looking all around I could not identify any rubbing or reason for the squeak. It was getting more obnoxious when I spied, off to my left, a small bird about two stories up in the air. It looked like a small seagull and for about 30 seconds it flew with me and kept its head turned to look my direction while I watched it.
The effects of riding in the exact same position were radically underestimated. It is damn hard to ride without many turns and with absolutely no change in elevation. On the second loop I developed the tactic of coming up out of the saddle every time I changed from one road to the next. By the second lap I was developing bad habits. For example, every time I reached for a bottle to drink I stopped pedaling. I also must have tried to pee at least five times on the second loop before succeeding around mile 95.
I was able to count the guys going past me in my age group but was unable to do anything about it. For much of the ride, maintaining 190 watts was quite difficult and anything beyond would result in a real let down after about four or five minutes. In all, it was a good solid ride but not a blockbuster. I was very conscious as I started about not riding too hard because I didn’t want to ruin the potential for a really strong marathon. As it turned out, I rode as hard as I could and just didn’t have more.
I didn’t have any trouble with food or drink. My nutrition plan is pretty ironclad now. During the first hour I drank a bottle than contained 20 ounces of Ensure. Starting at the beginning of the ride, on the bottom of the hour I would eat a Bonk Breaker and at the top of the hour I would take a Gu gel — repeat four times. During the fifth hour I did not have solid food but relied on the gels. The first two bottle handoffs I messed up because I was going too fast.
Probably the best part of the ride for me was the last 30-40 minutes. I was alone. After being caught by a group of three guys during a pee break, I rode up to them and kept rolling straight on by. At that point, I began to focus on the next person or group to catch until I turned off toward Cambridge. The final miles are through the countryside and past farms. I had the roads to myself and you can see below around mile 97 that my speed increased.
A lot can be said about the distance, or the accomplishment, the tactics or gear of triathlon. The final word should be that it is fun. It is plain old fun to ride fast. At Ironman Maryland, I had fun on my bike.