After the swim and run #1 you will arrive at Transition 1(b) fresh as a daisy (positive self talk is critical!) and ready to tackle the 56 mile course that wides around Lake San Antonio. First, kick off your run shoes and resume a normal T1 transition. You will hop on your bike and ride past the grandstands and underneath the finish line arch to start the ride.
- Be forewarned, if you are putting your bike shoes on as you ride make sure you are capable of doing this quickly. After going past the grandstands you will be navigating one mile of ups, downs and turns as you ride along a road that parallels the lake. It is a bit technical so you want to be situated before you get to this section.
- Beech Hill, at mile two, will be the first of many climbs you will encounter on this scenic, yet challenging course. Most likely, your legs won’t feel awesome on this climb after the swim and run. Don’t fret, it feels crappy for most everyone. I tell myself that having to climb so soon forces my legs to warm up quickly. So, I look forward to getting up this climb and finding my bike legs the further I ride.
- Due to the hills on the course make sure you have proper gearing. Depending on how strong you are a 25 or 28 tooth cog on your rear cassette will be a welcome relief when you are climbing Beech Hill, Nasty Grade and all the hills in between.
- The first 19 miles of the ride are full of big rollers. Make sure to keep the power and effort up on the downhills. This will give you more momentum to get up the next hill.
- At mile 19 you will turn right on Jolon Road. Jolon Road is the “flattest” part of the course. In addition, there is usually a tailwind. Keep the effort up but save 1-2% for the last 16 miles of the course.
- Be aware of the army vehicles driving in the opposite direction of racers on Jolon Road, they can make their own little wind gusts when they go past. Remain relaxed, lean slightly left into the gust and you will be fine.
- A right turn at mile 35 will take you onto Nacimiento Lake Drive. This section is full of rolling hills and sweeping turns—it is fun! Remain focused, keep the effort steady and take care of your hydration and nutrition.
- A left turn at Mile 40.5 will start the climb up Nasty Grade. It’s about two miles long. The pavement is a bit bumpy so it’s good to be climbing it and not descending! It is sunny and exposed and usually feels very warm. Once you get to the “top” you will make a right turn and KEEP CLIMBING. However, after you finish the last bit climbing you get to enjoy a long descent.
- The descent at mile 46 is fast. I prefer to take it holding onto my basebar so I have access to my brakes and feel more stable. If you bend your elbows and get low it is the same as being in your aerobars and more secure, at least to me.
- After the descent you will encounter more rolling hills, false flats and most likely, a headwind as you head back to the park. This is the point on the course where pacing and fueling well can pay big dividends.
- You will make a right turn at the entrance to Lake San Antonio. It is easy to think you are “home free” at this point but stay on it…you are not! The rolling hills that you went down as you made your way out of the park are now the ones you have to climb back into the park. If you are not prepared for the last 7 miles of this course it can be a little disheartening. Remain positive, you can put some time into your competitors here if you were smart throughout the ride!
- The last mile of the ride is a descent down Lynch Hill. Depending on when you started the race and how long the ride took, you might encounter racers running down the hill towards the finish line. Keep focused and play it safe. You are not going to make up or lose a ton of time here.
- If you take your bike shoes off before you dismount DO NOT do this at the top of the hill or while you are descending. There are a couple hundred yards at the bottom of the hill where you can do this safely. However, similar to putting them on while riding, make sure you are competent and able to do this quickly. If you are unsure about it, just wait until you get off your bike to remove your cycling shoes.
- There are seven aide stations on the bike. My advice is to keep yourself topped off with liquid and fuel the entire ride. There is no shade and it can be very hot. It is better to have more than enough versus running out. Aide stations are at miles 7, 19, 26, 36, 42 (the middle of Nasty Grade) and mile 47. This bike course will take a little longer than other half distance courses. Plan your nutrition accordingly—some extra fluid and another gel or two may be needed.
- If you keep on top of your fueling and hydration throughout the ride you will set yourself up for a great run.
More on that in my next installment of Wildflower Race Tips…..
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