Bike Your Best



By Carol Smolsky


Whether you’re training for your first half distance triathlon or need a “tune up “ race for the Kona Ironman World Championships, the Pigman half is by far the best race for you. It takes place it August, which all but guarantees you a hot day. The timing is perfect for a tune up for Kona as you’ll have time to recover and will know what you need to work on.


Remember, registration for the 2014 Pigman Long Course (half) opens in December.  Mark your calendar and sign up so you get your spot. There’ll over $5,000 in cash prizes for pros and age groupers, as well as giveaways.  If it’s your first half, you’ll have lots of time to build up your mileage. Several pro triathletes have competed in the Pigman.


To help you stay motivated and have the best race next year, here are some bike training tips and records.


There's nothing average about a 56 or 112-mile bike portion of a race. Before even getting on your bike, simming in cold water can chill your feet and lower your core temperature. Torrential rains, a mountainous course, gusty winds, killer heat and humidity or bone chilling cold all factor into an average time. Bike wrecks, flat tires and drafting penalties are misfortunes that will impact your race. Be sure to consider all these and more when lookng at your race results.




While exercising in the cold, your body can lose heat more rapidly than it can produce it.  In a cold-water swim your core temperature can drop. Wear a long-sleeved wetsuit. Your head looses the most heat, so wear an additional swim cap under your race cap for an added barrier.  For 50-60 degree water, use an under the chin neoprene skullcap. In transition, dry your feet and put on socks. Stand and stretch your hamstrings while putting on your bike shoes. Wear a long sleeved jersey or arm warmers that you can discard during the race if it warms up.




Hot, humid days raise your core temperature and heart rate, which leads to fatigue. Don't get off the bike and start your run dehydrated. Hydrate, starting 24 hours before the race, and continue until you are done. You need two 24-32 oz. water bottles per 56 miles of biking. Take only sips of water for 10 minutes after a warm water swim to avoid stomach distress, then start consuming calories. In sunny conditions wear a white bike jersey, a well a ventilated helmet and waterproof sunscreen.




You can check the elevation profile and route of most courses online before you register.  If the bike and run are both hilly, you want to adjust how you attack the hills to save your legs for the run.  Drink your fluids on flat and downhill portions. Have your bike mechanic help you with gear ratios for hills.  Know where the hills are, how many and count them off as you do them.




Biking with a strong wind push from behind is usually countered by a strong headwind, and 80% of biking effort is overcoming wind resistance. When biking into the wind, get as aerodynamic as possible and STAY there. An aero helmet, snug fitting clothes, aero water bottles and nutrition accessible to you in your aero position all work to keep your mph up. When biking with a strong side wind, stay aero while maintaining balance. When going by buildings or terrain that block the wind temporarily, be aware of the gust that will meet you at the end of the building or hill. With a strong tailwind, enjoy the recovery and do some calf and hamstring stretching.




A lightweight aerodynamic bike, and lightweight aerodynamic tires help you maintain your best speed.  Properly fitted and comfortably padded areobars help you maintain your aero position and decrease wind resistance. Shifters on the aerobars keep you aero. Replace as many components as you can afford with lighter carbon fiber ones: frame, handlebars, aerobars, seat post, stem, shoes, quick release sets, seat, wheels and fork. Disc and deep rim wheels cut wind resistance, but don't race on disc wheels with strong crosswinds. Position your spares and changing tools behind your seat to reduce drag.


Here are some Ironman records to motivate you:


Chrissie Wellington holds the Ironman bike record for females by finishing in 4:36:33, averaging 24.29 mph in Roth, Germany, in 2010.  The fastest ever Ironman bike split was set by Andrew Starkowicz. On a carbon fiber bike with a disc wheel, he completed 112 miles at 2012 Ironman Florida in 4:04:39, or 27.55 mph.  The oldest female Ironman finisher is Sister Madonna Buder, who finished 2012 Ironman Canada in 16:32:00 at age 82. Her bike split was 7:54:15. The oldest man so far to finish an Ironman, Lew Hollander, was 82 in 2012 at Kona, Hawaii. He finished the bike leg in 7:40, or 14.6 mph.