Thursday, March 18, 2010

ironman scouting report

i finally got it done. i rode the ironman kansas 70.3 bike route today. couldn't have picked a better day. it was significantly warmer than it has been and the southwest wind helped push me back toward the finish when i was at my tiredest.

my most important discovery of the day was that there are dogs at two of the turn arounds. when you get to shawnee heights road, there's a dog that will come out on the road and bark. not much of a problem. just an annoyance. but just before the turn around at n. 500 road on county road 1029 there are four dogs, one of which is a pit bull. they will chase a cyclist to n. 500 road where you're somehow supposed to turn around without being knocked over or bitten. someone needs to let the organizers know about this. it's going to be a serious problem on race day if they don't.

that said, let me back up and give a proper scouting report. having never done a triathlon, i may make comments that won't be all that helpful since i'm making assumptions that may be off base. you're getting a pure cyclist's view. remember that!

as soon as you exit the water at clinton lake and hop on your bike, you'll leave the boat ramp parking lot and round a curve. just out of sight as you approach this bend is a short, but steep little hill. before you leave the state park there are two other such hills. these will be especially difficult since you won't likely have your bike legs under you yet. the last of these is just before you leave the park at turn onto e. 900th.

e. 900th is a mixed bag. almost immediately after you turn onto it, you'll dive into a short downhill followed by a not-so-steep uphill onto the dam that makes clinton lake a lake. the dam is a wonderful flat ride that will allow you to get your legs warmed up. on the far side of the dam where the route map shows a slight curve, you'll have to climb up a bit before descending to the turn onto county road 458. the descent is really fun if you don't think about the fact that you're going to have to climb back up it after you've ridden almost 50 miles.

the next few miles are fairly flat and you can't miss a turn. it's all the same road even though there are name changes - e. 1000th road becomes n. 1000th becomes e. 850th becomes n. 950th.

as soon as you round the corner onto n. 950th and see the sign for county road 1039, you can think of me. it's right there that the 20-year-olds accelerated and left me in the dust back in november. a pox upon them all!

just past this intersection, the road tilts upward. shift down! it's a steeper and longer hill than it looks. you'll keep climbing a bit after the "summit" you can see. once you crest, you'll ride a series of rollers and then encounter a long slight slope up to and just past county road 1029.

just past 1029, you'll start the curve that angles toward 1023. the curve climbs just a bit and then plunges down to the bridge over a small finger of the lake. then you climb and climb up to the intersection. you'll see a steepening of the hill ahead. don't panic! your turn off is before that section.

turning southwest onto 1023, you'll climb a short distance and then enjoy a long, shallow descent into a flat valley bottom. enjoy it while it lasts, because the hill on the other side of the valley is a difficult one. i don't claim to be a great climber, but i'll warn you, riding up it this morning i dropped down below 10mph. it's over a mile long.

now a bit of info that i think is helpful. all the road changes shown on the map - from n 851st diagonal road to n. 850th to e. 100th - are just that. name changes. you're on the same road the whole time. just follow the corners and you'll make it to n. 700th road where you actually have to make a 90-degree right turn.

i would recommend shifting down before you make the turn because you will immediately begin a slow, steady ascent that lasts for over a mile and crosses into the next county. remember this ascent. it will be a blessing when you return.

you'll pass several crossroads as you travel n. 700th toward the shawnee heights road turn around. you'll encounter several rollers, a couple of which will be a bit of a challenge to climb. you'll keep thinking you're coming to the turn around, but it will not come. when you pass an old schoolhouse on the right, you're getting close. you'll pass it and then soon see a steep downhill followed by a steep uphill. you have to climb up to the turn around. you can start cursing the ironman organizers now, because this is not a pleasant ascent. trust me. and, as i reported before, there's a dog right at the top of the hill.

a small aside here...i've developed a new murphy's law for cycling. it goes like this. a dog willing to risk life and limb to chase you, lives at the top of every difficult climb. played out twice today and once on tuesday. must be true.

turning around, you'll descend quickly and then have to climb back up the hill you bombed down just minutes before. this hill is steeper, but shorter than the one that you climbed to reach the turn around, so don't despair. shift down and get out of the saddle and it'll be a piece of cake.

from the top of this rise, you'll encounter the same rollers as on the way out. they will be easier than before because the general trend of the road going east is downward.

at the bottom of the descent, shift down as you prepare to turn back onto e. 100th. there is a short climb immediately after you corner and you don't want to be caught off guard. you have been warned.

the rest of the journey back to n. 950th is pretty pleasant. that monster hill you hated on the way out will suddenly turn friendly. the hard climbs are on the outbound trek.

so now, you've complete your first out and back, you've bombed down the hill and over the bridge, you've crept up the hill that was so fun on the way out and you're approaching county road 1029. say your prayers. 1029 is not fun! as i was riding it, i kept thinking, 'how do i describe this section of the race?' here's what i settled on. there are four SIGNIFICANT hills on this southbound road. the first hill is the hill i set me personal fastest max speed on last year - 45mph. that was going down. climbing up, i dropped below 8mph. it hurts. the next three hills are either steep or long or both. and the fourth one is the one with the four dogs. note this: when you crest on one of the early hills, i don't remember which, you'll see a blue water tower in the distance. you will not have to ride that far. be glad. there are more significant climbs if you keep going south. i know because i rode past the turn around to avoid the dogs. from the top of hill 4, i could see another long, torturous ascent. i stopped and rested there today. rested until i saw a car coming from the north. then i clicked in and rode hard toward the dogs' house. i timed it perfectly. the dogs saw me, prepared to give chase and i wizzed past them just as the car was approaching. the car had to slam on its brakes and honk to avoid the stupid mutts. the honking stopped them in their tracks and i rode on, laughing evilly to myself.

two climbs later, i turned onto n. 750th. this road was my favorite. it was almost all downhill to county road 1. wish more of the route was like it.

after turning onto route 1, i was on familiar turf. this is a part of the route i have ridden numerous times with the lawrence bicycle club. if you turn right instead of left as the map indicates, you'll end up at lone star lake. that's info only. don't do it. turn left and follow the generally flat, curving road into a small town and then turn left onto n. 661 diagonal (aka county road 1039). a few curves later, you'll be back on n. 950th headed back to the state park. the next few miles are blessedly flat. push as hard as you can without depleting your reserves. there are still two climbs to go before you reenter the state park. the first of these is the curving climb back up and around the corner to the descent onto the dam. this was the hardest climb of the day for me. it is long and steep and you'll be tired. don't say you weren't warned. as soon as you can see the lake again, it's safe to breathe a sigh of relief. you'll get a brief respite as you cruise across the dam. on the other side, you'll have to climb up to the state park entrance again and then negotiate the two short, but steep climbs inside the park before a final descent to the half marathon transition area.

and there you have it - a fairly complete scouting report. hope it helps those of you who will be racing in june. if you're coming from another state and think kansas is flat, put that out of your head now. this route is the work of some devilish people. its climbs are not alpine, but, i said it earlier, significant. (57.12 miles @ 16.1mph)
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