Sometime last year I registered for the HITS Palm Springs olympic distance triathlon, which was held the weekend of December 5-6. I forgot about that and realized in early November that I had this race on the books. I wasn't really in the mood to do the race because I had completed Ironman Arizona just three weeks before, and Kona five weeks before that. Given that I was a bit dissatisfied with my IMAZ bike, I emailed HITS and asked if I could register for the full and volunteer the following day to pay for the difference. They abided, and so I planned to do the full swim and bike. An aquabike is fantastic training and I planned to nail the bike as hard as I could knowing that I would very likely fade at some point.
The logic here is that while I now roughly know my tipping point for an ironman bike, I don't really know that point for just riding that distance. Could I hold over 150 heart beats per minute and still feel strong at the end? Normally I keep my long rides and race efforts not much higher than 145 beats per minute and usually even lower than that. In other words, I want to understand my profile better. By pushing the pace knowing you won't have to do the run you experience different sensations than what you might normally, so you can assess your mood, nutrition, timing, and cramping in ways that you might not normally experience when riding at ironman pace.
Unfortunately, I set my alarm for 4:40pm and not am so woke up at 6:30 when the race started at 7:30. I made my way to the race start but full distance athletes had already started. I spoke with the race director and asked if I could just do the bike segment and get a DNF. They were fine with that, and given that the water was about 55F I was very happy with the outcome.
I prepped my bike, etc., and watched a bunch of the half-distance athletes coming out of the water and jumping onto the bike. Everyone looked miserable, obviously the water was very cold. I started the bike ride based on when I thought the full leaders would be coming out of the water. In hindsight, apparently they were quite a few minutes behind so the leaders must have been wondering who was this guy way in front of everyone slamming it.
The HITS course is pretty terrible, to be honest. It's very flat but there is wind, and it is four out and backs. While people might complain about this, keep in mind that the cost for this race is generally quite low relative to a WTC ironman. The main problem with the course is that there are lots of bumps, cracks, and holes in the course. While this is manageable for two out and backs, everything became very uncomfortable on the third and fourth out and backs.
I had a seven scoop bottle of Perpetuem but started to burp this up late in the ride. It seems that my body can only handle about five scoops. I had increased my load so that I didn't have to stop at special needs. I took six gels with me. I probably would have preferred having a few more gels as I faded a bit towards the end.
In terms of the race I started out very quickly and started chasing down all the half-ironman athletes. It was pass, pass, pass. I passed the 56 mile point in 2:18, which actually was faster than any of the half-ironman finishing athletes, and wound up with a total time of 4:41. The winds increased and changed directions throughout the day, but unfortunately I was having power meter issues again so had to once again rely on my heart rate. The first 60 miles or so I managed to keep my heart rate in the upper 150s, probably around 157, but the last lap and a half my effort level decreased some. On the last lap I really started to struggle, but just tried to stay positive. The final ten miles or so I was having some GI isssues and a bit of cramping. Luckily, the temperature was not especially hot, but I did take some Base Salt when I felt some of the cramping.
Ultimately, I completed the bike in 4:41 and change, just outside of my goal. I just couldn't manage to maintain my effort the last twenty miles despite my efforts at telling myself to buck-up. However, I did get some useful information, and feel fairly confident that I can hold a higher heart rate during the ironman bike moving forward. Normally, I'd be around 140 or so, but think I can handle closer to 150. It was nice to roll up to T-2 and tell the guys that I'm good, no need to put on the running shoes.