Ironman Coeur d'Alene was a breakthrough race for me and the decisive part of the day was on the bike. The decisive part of the bike was my performance in the crosswinds and hills. This was my 4th CdA and 2nd time on the new course and I knew from last year that the course would reward an all-rounder who could climb but also be aerodynamic in the cross-winds on the exposed sections out on highway 95. I had high hopes for my performance there and set goals that I knew were attainable if I could train, absorb training, and perform to my potential. I trained for what I thought the demands of the race would be, in the hopes that I would be able to race more tactically and lose less time to my peers on the climbs than the previous year. Best Bike Split was an important tool in my understanding of the problems.
During the train-up I became very interested in the details of aerodynamics and rolling resistance and learned as much as possible. I became obsessed with tires, latex tubes, aerodynamic clothing, and body position on the bike. Two of the tools I used in my preparation were a trip to the UW wind tunnel and Best Bike Split. Using my exact CdA from the wind tunnel and Best Bike Split I was able to create a very good power pacing plan. BBS seemed to predict my TT performances pretty well so I knew I had entered in the variables correctly. .
Playing around with BBS showed me the importance of being able to put out power on the climbs. Whether it was the NP model or the TSS model, putting a power cap on the hills really slowed me down. Poor tires or poor pavement really slowed me down as well. So, with that understanding I started parsing the BBS race outputs and analyzing what power I'd need to put out on flats, climbs, etc. to give my best possible time but still finish the bike with a reasonable TSS that I could run off of. Using this data helped me shape my training plan and the structure of my bike workouts, and keeping a close eye on my real-world FTP helped close the feedback loop knowing that I had entered in the data properly and that I would have the fitness to execute the plan that BBS was spitting out. The final piece of the puzzle was the BBS Cheat Sheet that they rolled out right before CdA. The first one I saw on twitter for an athlete doing CdA looked eerily similar to what I thought mine might be like so I quickly re-ran the race data and checked the cheat sheet. Having this cheat sheet made executing the BBS plan SO much easier. This simplicity, the knowledge of what my exact FTP was, and the confidence I had from knowing that I had a pretty OK CdA set the conditions for a good day on the bike at IM CdA.
In the first hour on the bike I felt very good and had to hold myself back. I quickly worked my way through the post-swim field, somewhat too easily perhaps it seemed, and wondered if my power meter was off. By the end of the first stretch out into what turned out to be a pretty brutal headwind I and a few others had worked our way to what seemed to be the front of the race and I knew this would be the group for the day. It was at this point I had an important decision to make... I noticed how when the headwind turned to a cross wind I really started to take time out of people and that the headwind was really beating people down but it was a little less bad for me. Knowing the weather conditions as part of the BBS model was one of the inputs to this decision making process and was a powerful tool to have. I knew the cross winds would be as bad or worse on the 2nd lap and felt like that would be a buffer to any over-biking I did on the first lap so I decided to go hard for a while and see what happened. Coming in to the end of the first loop it seemed like there were 4 of us left and so I consolidated a little bit hoping that we would all be together for the start of the headwinds on the 2nd loop and share the work into the wind. At this point it seemed like we were all suffering, but once again I seemed to be suffering a little less from the headwind. Eventually the overall amateur race leader went to the front and from then on it was the two of us out into the headwind and then back into town.
The eventual winner and I came into T2 together, me with a 5:04 bike split, and I went on to run a IM marathon PB of 3:17 off of the 11th best overall and 3rd best amateur bike split despite a relatively low TSS of 280. I won my AG by 25 minutes, I was 3rd amateur and 11th overall, I qualified for Kona, but most importantly I *finally* had the race I always knew I was capable of. BBS predicted a bike time of 5:08 or 4:59, depending on the pavement variable I chose and I came out at 5:04. Clearly the advantage I had in the headwinds and crosswinds was the difference in the margin I won my age group. My peers all swam and ran just as fast as I did, and surely a quick poll would show that they all put out as many or more watts than I did on the bike.