The TTBikeFit BLOG:
We don’t post that often these days, but there is a ton of good archived info here and when we have something REALLY SMART to say, look no further!
More 300 fps super slo-mo geek candy. Shot at the the same spot on the Queen K as the men – about mile 108.
My annual installment of high-speed video from the Queen K is ready for your bike-geek enjoyment! First up, the Men, shot from the intersection of Hina-Ami and the Queen K, about 4 miles out of town. So we are at mile about mile 12 on the way out and mile 108 on the way back. The second video has the names of the riders as they are much more strung out. They are shown in the order they passed – I did miss a few guys but got all the big names. It is interesting to see who stays up front and who disappears.
Everyone has heard about the difficult conditions on the Kona bike course near the turn at Hawi. If you get classic Ironman weather, which you almost always do on race day, the Hawi winds can only be described as shocking. It is unlikely you will ever have ridden your bike in anything approximating the jet blast blowing from your right-front quarter as you climb the last 7 miles to the turnaround.
The winds along the Kona bike course, not just at Hawi, conspire to make what could be a very fast course indescribably difficult. As I drove out to Waikoloa, 25 miles out on the Queen K yesterday morning, the wind were moderate from the ENE, meaning they were a cross headwind. I Left Waikoloa on my Kestrel 4000 at 8am, a bit earlier than the first pros will hit the same spot Saturday. For the first 9 miles to Kawaihae, the Queen K rolls as it does for the entire 34 mile stretch from Kona. Yes you must climb, but all in all it is fast. Except for that bothersome wind. At this point it was merely bothersome, but enough to take what should have been an easy 21-22 mph average at IM watts to something notably south of that.
After a quick 1 mile descent to the boat harbor (and sea level), you make the right at the sign for Hawi. From here it is 18 miles of climbing. Although you see the water quickly dropping away, most of the climbing is gentle enough to maintain a good pace. And you actually have a tail wind helping you. The terrain quickly becomes parched desert wasteland, a stark contrast to the gleaming sapphire Pacific constantly present to your left. All proceeds reasonably well until a small green sign, “Hawi 7”, appears up ahead. The sign might as well say “Hold on for dear life” or “Abandon all hope ye who pass” for it is here that Pele flips on the afterburners. One second, serene calm, the next a gust smacks you on your right side and nearly blows you over. A few hundred meters pass where Pele toys with you – gust, calm, gust gust. Then all Hell breaks loose.
Did I mention that this is the point where the real climbing begins? It is also where you begin to see the first signs of living vegetation in quite some time. The roar in your ears is deafening, as 30 knots of gusty blast pounds you from the right front, and then head on. Speed drops to 9-11 mph, and watts creep up towards FTP. Staying aero is worthwhile for sure, but also extremely sketchy. You have no choice but to grind away as the miles slowly tick by. If you stay upright, Hawi eventually appears. Your average speed has been annihilated, your ears ring.
Expecting relief at the turn, it does come. For about a mile you fly downhill as fast as you dare, like you have a rocket pack on your back. But almost as soon as the fun begins, it turns ugly. The wind starts to shift more to your left, and you get shoved over towards the lava. Let the swerving begin. Here is where you burn calories via the death grip on your bars. Aero is just too risky, and you find your hands squeezing the brakes. So depending on how much of a daredevil you are, you never really get the full benefit of the wind at your back, and end up using energy fighting your bike when you could be resting.
The little green sign appears soon enough, and the terror largely subsides, now replaced with a headwind. Yes you mostly descend, but there are also some climbs and false flats. A power meter is a huge advantage here. In some spots your brains is saying – “dude 14mph – quit slacking!”. But the power meter says, “dude 300 watts – chill out!”. The course here, and in many spots on the Queen K, is hugely deceiving, and the power meter really keeps you in line.
Back in Kawahae at sea level, you are greeted with a fairly steep one mile climb back to the Queen K. The other time I rode this part of the course the winds were blasting in my face, but it was cloudy and actually rained a little – not typical. Yesterday there was just the heat, no wind. The sign at the top of the climb says it all: “Kona 34”. For most of the 9 miles back to Waikoloa the wind was calm and speed was good. But then a mile or so before Waikoloa the winds returned, having clocked about 180 degrees since I left. Which of course means that they are once again in your face, like some kind of a cruel joke.
Lessons learned: This half of the Ironman bike course tests you constantly. It tests your ability to dose your effort. It tests your bike handling skills. It tests your patience as it throws obstacle after obstacle at you, gnawing away at your average speed. Ultimately it tests your resolve to plow through and come out the other side fresh enough and sane enough to run a good marathon.
I think it would be a huge mistake to have any preconceived notions of average speed or time for this course. The conditions are so extreme and variable, both from day to day and from minute to minute, that they will decide how fast you go. I could easily see a 20 minute delta depending on what the course throws at you. Staring at your average speed as it dwindles could drive you insane. Hence the value of power meter – at least you know you are putting out the right level of effort.
Early this week temps were relatively mellow, and winds were calm. Get a day like that on race day and many records will fall. Even last year the winds at Hawi were largely absent, and competitors (or at least the front part of the field) didn’t face real winds until nearing Waikoloa on the way back. Most of the time though the conditions follow the classic script. The successful athlete will do the same – follow his own well-rehearsed script, stick to plan, control what he can control and not allow the elements to dictate his race.
Here’s what the 2011 Kestrels will look like (click on images for bigger pics). Note the new Oval wheelsets (Kestrel’s owner Advanced Sports also owns Oval) and Oval front ends. I can say that the 2011 4000 looks even better in person – see small photo of a custom build I just did for a Fuel Belt Race Team member. The frames are all essentially unchanged from 2010 other than graphics. The road versions of the Talons will have the same graphics and wheels as the tri versions. With the recent addition of the 4000 to the lineup, Kestrel now has three TT frames that each fit differently and cover all the bases from the very conservative, short and high (reach stack) Talon to the very aggressive long-low Airfoil. The 4000 covers the middle territory and we have been finding that the geometry of the 4000 fits a very wide range of athletes.
We’re all familiar with it: that burning tightness that crops up during one of your long rides. It can appear anywhere from the base of the skull to the base of the neck and even back between the shoulders. It’s one of the most common complaints I hear as a fitter. And as such, my first piece of advice is to make sure that your fit is not exacerbating the issue. If your reach or drop are off, not to mention pad placement and spacing, you don’t stand a chance at mile 80. But even if you do have a good fit, the neck burn can still test your will. So as the big end-of-season IM races loom, I thought I would put down a few tips to help prevent the burn.
1: Stop craning your neck! Seems obvious, but it is easy to forget. You do not need to have your head up above your shoulders, neck bent 90 degrees, face forward, all the time. Remember to maintain a neutral neck position, in line with your spine, as much as possible. This even applies to those times when you are on the base bars. Learn to roll your eyes up instead of bending your neck like the vulture on Looney Tunes. Not only will this help your neck, it’ll make you more aero!
2: Stop drafting! Yup, if you are too close to the guy in front of you (of course I am assuming this is a training ride as no one would dare do this in an actual race) you will have to crank your neck up to keep an eye on him and make sure you don’t do a face-plant in his bum when he hits the brakes. If you must draft, hit the base bars or ride the roadie. Otherwise, stay draft legal and let your neck chill.
3: Stop pulling up and away from your bars and pads. Learn to lay into those suckers! Learn to just collapse right down onto them and release all muscular tension from your upper body. Keep pedaling though! And don’t fall over… If you can’t do this it might be time to have your fit checked.
4: Look from your belly! Sure you’ve heard that it is best to breath from your belly. Well next time you do need to lift the head and look way up the road, don’t bend your neck, push your belly down to your thighs. Your field of vision will miraculously expand upwards with no neck stress. This is meant to be an occasional tactic, not full time.
5: Get the right glasses. This is key – whatever shades you use must NOT slide down your face, and the frame must not obscure your view while aero. This will force you to crank your neck all day long to see over or under the frame. Check out frameless adjustable models like Tifosi Vogels if this is an issue for you (it is for me). And if the glasses get covered with sweat, gel or some other gack, you might just have to do without them.
6: Slide back. This is good for those long training rides where you’ve spent a fair time in the base bars and you did a big swim workout the day before – your shoulders are just toast. So move back on the saddle. Yup – slide back off the tail when cruising and sitting up. Moving back shifts more weight to your butt and takes some of the burden off you shoulders. Once again, this an occasional tactic.
7: Trim your eyebrows. This surely won’t apply to everyone, but those of us with simian-esque foreheads and/or Einstein eyebrows will do themselves a great favor by keeping those suckers in check. Just sayin…
8: Do the turtle. Let your neck settle down between your shoulders, and rest the back of your skull on your shoulders. Relax. Once again if this isn’t an option for you, it may be bike fit time.
9: Pump some iron. Or something…. Let’s face it – in a good aero position your big melon just hangs out there on the end of your neck like one of those bobble-head puppies on the back window deck of a 1972 Ford LTD. No matter what, you DO need some conditioning to stay that way for hours. Bike time helps. But so does some supplementary strength training. Do some flys (W’s, T’s etc) on the Swiss ball with some dumbbells. No not your teammates, but actual weights.
10: Get loose. Work on shoulder flexibility – it’ll help your swimming too.
Hopefully you’ll find a few useful tips in there. I use them all and they really work. Except that Ape/Einstein/brow thing. Not sure where I got that one…
It’s always great to see good sportsmanship out there on an IM race course. There is so much BAD sportsmanship, (i.e., drafting, “its-all-about-me” race tactics, etc) at most races that it sort-of restores your faith in humanity when you see examples of real sportsmen out there.
Example one: Fuel Belt Captain Vinu Malik. Vinu is the toughest IM competitor out there, yet never has a bad word for anyone unless they REALLY deserve it. Apparently a drafting peleton he passed between Keene and Jay (the flat part of the course) irritated him so much that he couldn’t help but shout a few choice words at them. The response of one of the paceline participants? “Watch your language please!”. Vinu executed his race perfectly like he almost always does. Hit his power number on the bike to the watt (as planned by his QT2 Coach Jesse K). Then got off and ran a IM marathon PR (at age 43 in his 31st IM on a very tough course) of 3:16. He moved from around 30th place to 13th, making sure to stop and kiss his baby daughters each time he passed. Alas, with over 500 people in his age group and only 10 slots, he is not going to Kona. Instead of bitching and moaning about anything and everything and making excuses, he simply summed it up with a smile and said that he’d been on the other side of winning the last Kona slot many times, so that’s just the way it goes. The guy who got the last slot in his age group, Sean Reilly, wrote Vinu a really nice email telling him what a class act and great ambassador for the sport he is. Right on. These guys both raced hard, put it all on the line, executed as well as they could, and let the chips fall. I hope some of the peleton riders see this and learn something.
Example two: Sean Watkins of Lava Magazine (the hot new tri mag – just hitting the stands – check it out!) and many-time national track cycling champion did his first IM at Placid. He had been here in Barrington for the Providence 70.3 with his SO Heather Jackson, and it was here that a bet was made. Vinu expected Wattie would crush him on the bike, but that he would have a good chance of running Wattie down. So, the wager was that if Vinu passed Wattie on the run before mile 25, Wattie must don a particularly sharp pair of Ironman Super Hero Under-Roos briefs. How exactly this would happen logistically was another question.
As it turned out, Wattie never did lead Vinu, as he rode conservatively, fearing the run. When I saw Wattie pass us at mile 11, I just so happened to have the briefs in question in my pocket, and took the opportunity to waive them in front of him as he climbed the hill. He immediately went from “blinders-on-zoned-out” to laughter and picked up his pace a little. Then, we got lucky. Vinu had finished and was already showered, eating pizza, drinking beer, holding his daughter, and cheering on the folks still out on the course. I realized I hadn’t seen Wattie pass by yet, but could have easily missed him in the crowd. Still, something told me he was near. I handed the briefs to Vinu, and sure enough, ten minutes later, here he comes trudging up the hill. The rest is better illustrated with pictures. Yes he ran the last two miles to the finish in 11 hours clad in under-roos. Now that is what I call good sportsmanship! Never let anyone say Sean Watkins welshes on a bet!
We rode a loop of the IM USA course this am. I was really looking forward to riding this course with power, since when I did the race two years ago I rode blind (malfunctioning computer) and totally roasted myself on the first loop. The plan for me today was to simulate IM race pace by averaging about 70-75% of FTP, and try not to exceed 90% of FTP on any of the climbs. This was really an eye-opening ride for me versus how I rode the course in the race. While my absolute FTP is pretty decent, I am heavy at 90kg so w/kg isn’t great, and on these hills w/kg rules.
It quickly became apparent that if you focus on speed and average speed, you will quickly be demoralized and likely go WAY too hard in the first 7 miles of the bike. Sticking to my power and ignoring speed, I felt like I was crawling up the hills out of town. I used a lot of the 39×25. By the time I got to first “truck going down a hill” caution sign, my average speed was only 16.5 mph and average watts was a bit high at 245. Then you bomb down the 4 mile descent in to Keene, and voila, the average speed is over 21 – cool. Without the power meter keeping me in check, I would easily have ridden 120%+ of FTP on many of those climbs, burning several matches in the process.
The next section of the course is the fast section from Keene to Jay. And this year you pass Jay and ride another 5.6 miles to Ausable Forks. This out and back replaces the old out and back, and is much flatter and faster. So you now get about 20 miles straight of nice aero cruising roads. We easily averaged 22+ mph for these 20+ miles at about 220 watts.
Then the party is over – the right turn towards Wilmington and the first 1.5 mile climb begins a long painful deterioration of the nice average speed you have worked so hard to accumulate. The short story here is that from this point back to town (about 20 miles) we averaged about 17 mph at an average power of about 235 for me. Once again there was a lot of 39×25, 10 mph action. This year’s course still uses the flat first mile of the old out and back, so you skip the hills on this section. But there are still plenty of long climbs with 10% grade sections all the way back to town. To keep my power under control, I had to go SLOW and spin easily.
So the net effect, remembering that no race wheels were used, no aero helmets, and we had flappy vests on, was a time a little bit under 2:50 at 230 watts average for me. Lis averaged about 172. This really isn’t much slower than I raced it two years ago, except that I did the first loop in something like 2:38 and the second well over 2:50 if I recall correctly – ouch.
So if there ever was a course to be a slave to your power meter on, this is it. If I had to race it without one now, I’d just drop it to my lowest gear on every big climb and spin. Anything harder than that and you are really asking for trouble on the run. Ask me how I know…
We will be in Placid to support our teammates and TTBikeFit athletes this weekend! Look for us in the house next to High Peaks Bike Shop on the main drag along with the Fuel Belt crew. I’ll have tools. work stand, etc for anyone who needs some last minute tweaks/fixes. For those not doing the race I’ll have some Adamo demo saddles, Keywin pedals, Lazer helmets, Speedfils and Tifosi glasses to check out. I’m even bringing a Kestrel 4000 frameset. Lis and I will be riding the loop Fri and/or Saturday am at IM race power (ping us if you’d like to join), along with some swimming and biking. Then to the brewery for some real training! Best of luck to all Fuel Belt and TTBikeFit athletes!!
Lisbeth finished 2nd AG overall at Providence setting a new PR run split after a typically solid bike. All this was accomplished after a wrong turn on the swim course that resulted in crashing into some rocks on the exit and smashing two toes. They really looked and felt broken but x-rays proved otherwise. She was beaten by a minute by one under 29 woman.
This result follows another 2nd overall at Rev3 Quassy and an overall at the Patriot half. So that is 3 convincing AG wins and top 1-2 overall placings – not bad for a mid 40’s mother of 3! Her work with Coach Al Lyman this year has really paid off on the run while keeping her bike and swim solid. Now to start prep for Kona!
Shot at approx mile 40 of bike course at 300fps. More to come from the Providence 70.3, stay tuned….