Oh, the Ironman Canada bike!
There were many long, slow climbs (thank you, 12-27 cassette), screaming descents (top speed = 46.4 mph!) and smiles the entire way.
Like the swim, much of the bike is a blur. What I do remember: running through T1 and seeing a flash of my family, and my sister taking pics; the pros flying down the hills in the Callaghan Valley; crap, I forgot chamois butter!; being cold for the first 45 minutes (hence the arm warmers); the ridiculous pelotons on the flats near Pemberton; and, focusing on what Johnny told me: No nutrition for the first 40 minutes.
Not that there was a lot of time to snack right away. I was too busy taking in the breathtaking views, settling into my saddle, climbing up 10 percent grade mountains and bombing back down.
And, I loved LOVED every single second of it.
The bike started from Rainbow Park with a longer run across train tracks and around a corner before crossing the line to hop on. It was a bit congested, but I made it through, shoe un-Velcroed, clipped in and started pedaling. Almost immediately, you’re smacked with an uphill followed by some rollers before you reach the Sea-to-Sky Highway (which, for the first time ever, was closed to traffic).
The first 30 miles on the out-and-back to Callaghan Valley went by in a blink. I really just pedaled, focused on my pedal stroke and my gears, yelled at Nick when we met on the highway, and soaked it in that I WAS DOING AN IRONMAN. I used all gears and was thankful I’d switched my cassette for one more climbing gear. And, as they said at the pre-race meeting, what goes up, must come down. And, fly down we did… I ran out of gears on almost all descents and just had to coast. Quick peaks at my Garmin – because I dared not look down for too long – showed well over 40 mph several times! Definitely not a course for someone who fears fast descents.
The spectators in Whistler, and really throughout the entire race, were fantastic. They lined both the upper and lower villages, which made riding through awesome… so cool to ride along a jam-packed spectator-lined highway! So much cowbell, so many signs and lots of hooting and hollering. Seeing my family around mile 30 was a huge boost; I pedaled a little harder after that :)
After biking through Whistler, the course went north, mostly descending into Pemberton. Again, the views were spectacular, the climbing… plenty. I biked around many, many people (so many people racing!) and vaguely recall a guy drafting off me up a hill (do the work, dude!) and subsequently getting a penalty. I went back and forth with a few guys for miles, which was a bit irritating. I honestly think many guys cannot stand being passed by a woman, so they speed up to pass back and then almost immediately slow down because they can’t keep the pace.
Once into Pemberton – again, a wonderful host community – I stopped at bike special needs for about 30 seconds to pick up my third bottle of Skratch Labs raspberries. I had a bottle of water from an earlier aid station, so I poured that in and was on my way to the flat stretch on Pemberton Meadows Road.
Photo courtesy of dbsteers; instagrammed by me.
This is where the bike got hard. Not that flats are difficult, but I just had a tough time sitting in aero for 30 miles with few adjustments. What made it more frustrating, however, were all the pelotons. I cruised solo, around 21 mph average, for all of it and was passed by massive groups (men and women) like I was standing still. And, a couple times race officials motored by and did nothing but watch them bike! Not impressed. I debated hammering that stretch, but chose to conserve a bit because I knew how grueling the ~22-mile climb would be from Pemberton to Whistler.
Anyway, I passed many from the pelotons during the climb back to Whistler, so that was fun :)
Image courtesy of Ironman Canada. But, elevation gain is was off… my Garmin read close to 5,400 feet, and Nick’s about 5,600 (others have said 6,600 feet… how can Garmins be so different?!).
And, that climb back! Though it was never-ending – and there’s an insane descent down a crazy S-curve (I love descending, but this one was terrifying) – I had a ball. Climbing is my strength, and I was pumped to be finishing 112 miles with it. My legs felt awesome the entire ride, and I don’t once recall ever thinking I was tired. I did have to pee, though, for at least the last 90 minutes… I didn’t want to lose my rhythm and stop at a mini-biff and actually going on my bike seemed so… weird. Just couldn’t do it, so I held it and kept pedaling.
Nearing the village, realizing I far exceeded my time goal – hello, sub-six! – I couldn’t stop smiling. It truly was a fantastic day on the bike. #bikelove
After a bit of winding through Whistler, I hit bike dismount and, to my surprise, handed my bike over to a nice volunteer. I had no idea they racked your bike for you!
The only bummer on the bike: My Quarq didn’t work. At the start, it read upwards of 600 watts, which definitely wasn’t happening. So, I calibrated it – twice – with no luck. A third calibration and it still didn’t work, so I pretty much gave up looking at it (around mile 100, it stopped working all together). It maxed out at close to 1,300 watts, which is laughable, with an average of 300 watts. Anyway, I knew how I should feel climbing so I had some juice left for the run, so I just went by that. One reason it’s so important to be in tune with your body – you never know when your equipment may fail!
A few final thoughts on the bike:
- Start in an easy gear. Because it’s easier to get going and because you’re climbing almost as soon as you exit Rainbow Park.
- Smooth roads. It’s not every day the Sea-to-Sky Highway is closed to traffic (um, never!). The incredible views were made even better by the super smooth pavement; potholes were few and far between… not something you want to worry about when you’re biking 40 mph! Just a few spots of weaving through orange cones and avoiding the dashed yellow center line divets.
- The course. Pretty sure there isn’t a more beautiful place to bike. And, I loved the out-and-back because I got to see Nick twice… such an energy boost to see him crushing it! It was super fun to see friend Sonia twice, too!
- The Whistler and Pemberton communities. Closing the highway between the two was a big deal and surely impacted both. And, I can’t say enough about how welcoming and wonderful they were. Thank you!
- Turn on your Garmin(s). Fully charged, they last a long time and then you don’t have to wait to find the satellites (because we all know how annoying that can be).
- The weather. We lucked out with absolutely perfect race conditions… a low of 50, a high of 75, clear skies and no wind. Clouds and rain blanketed Whistler the next four days.
- My coach. I couldn’t have been better prepared for this course. And, I owe it to you, Johnny. Thank you!
Nutrition // three bottles double Skratch Labs raspberries (~480 kcals); PB+chocolate chip Bonk Breaker (270 kcals); Lauren’s Megan Nuts Picky Bar (200 kcals); chocolate outrage GU (100 kcals); two packs Honey Stinger chews (320 kcals). Total: ~1,370 kcals.
Bike gear // Argon 18 E-118 bike, SOAS Racing vintage kit + pink peacock arm warmers, Giro Air Attack helmet, Oakley Miss Conduct Square sunnies, Specialized trivent shoes, Garmin Edge 500, Profile Design bento box.
Official bike time // 5:56:04, 10th AG, 30.33 kmh (18.8 mph), 76th female.
T2 // 4:18.
Next up: Run recap!
See swim recap here.
Also, thank you, awesome Sista, for all the great photos!