Kel and I had the luxury of being able to head out and ride the Syracuse 70.3 bike course today...TOGETHER!! We had a great time, although I did manage to get sunburned...ugh. I sprayed my back, but when I was in aero, my jersey revealed more skin that didn't get sprayed.
Anyway, I wanted to take a few minutes to put down my thoughts on the course. Since it's so close by, I know a lot of people who have been riding it, but most of the opinions I have heard were from men who have ridden it, and a women's perspective is always a bit different I find.
The course has been changed a few times. I rode the first course a few months ago and loved it. I was disappointed when it was changed because there was an amazingly steep hill included in the revised course that even Kel said was VERY hard. (The old course was hilly also, just a longer, more gradual climb for the first 15 miles.) Well, before I got a chance to ride that one, the course was revised again. Hopefully, this will be the last change.
This is the course we rode today. Here is a link to the map with interactive elevation.
The first 12 miles, which I'm calling the first 3rd because it took almost an hour to complete, is pretty much all uphill. Around mile 2 there is a pretty steep hill that got my heart going, but it wasn't too long. Then, you turn onto Sweet Road and the climbing begins. It is pretty relentless with hills and false flats. I actually got excited when my MPH got over 14!!! I stayed in an easy gear and and tried really hard to spin up. This is what everyone says to do, right? You know..."be patient and don't blow up on the hills." Well, that is all well and good, but if I had been taking it any easier I would have been going backwards and my HR was still in Zone 4. Definitely something to work on for me.
After the long 12 miles, the middle part of the course begins with a fun downhill, and then progresses into rolling terrain. At mile 20 there is a killer descent that goes straight back up into the steepest hill of the ride, but fortunately, that hill is not too long. Once that hill is done, you can kind of relax and know that the super hard climbing is pretty much done. I think the key for this middle section is focus over the top of the rollers. I found that I would slow for the climb, but then not get my speed back up as quickly as I am able to. I would just kind of zone out. This is also a really pretty part of the ride, so I might have gotten a little distracted.
Miles 28-36 were the most challenging mentally for me today. We had a pretty tough headwind, the views and the road were not amazing, and I found myself starting to think about my aches and pains instead of just riding. There are a few small climbs during this part and coupled with the wind, it was enough to get me a bit down. I'm definitely going to work on a mental strategy for this section of the course that I can put into place for race day.
Miles 36-44 I loved. When I rode the original course I also loved this part, although in the revised course you are going North, and it was much easier going South. Despite the climbs though, we had a little tailwind, which always does great things for my confidence. It was also shady and quite beautiful along this way. I felt much stronger here (I'm sure the tailwind didn't hurt).
From mile 45 to the end, there are some crazy descents. If the first part of the course takes patience, and the middle part takes focus, the last part takes guts. People who can go fast and not get scared can make up some good time here. I found myself patting the brakes here and there, but for the most part let gravity do the work. There are a few climbs in the last few miles, but they are pretty easy to move over because of the general downward momentum.
For some reason I am just destined to do hilly half-ironman races this season, I guess. Rev3 Quassy and Syracuse 70.3 are very different courses. Both are hilly and demanding, but I think overall Syracuse 70.3 is a bit easier. Rev3 Quassy is either up or down...there is no flat section. Syracuse seems to give a bit of everything. I'm just putting this in here so I have something to compare to. My time at Rev3 Quassy was 3:33ish. My time today was 3:22ish. Not a big difference, but a difference nonetheless. I also like to hear myself say that I've raced a harder course than Syracuse 70.3...it just gives me a little confidence boost.
I certainly have some work to do, but I think I can successfully ride this course faster than I did today.