Tips for the bike:
• Drive the course before the race. It’s only three loops (about 37 miles each), so it won’t be that much car time, and it will be good to check out the roads ahead of time. There’s not the endless lush scenery you might see at a course like Lake Placid (let’s just say it’s a lot of desert), but it makes a nice backdrop for a one long bike ride.
• Don’t think of the three-loop bike course as a challenge, see it as an opportunity to mentally break up your day and to physically manage pace and effort. “Rather than keeping an eye on your watch to decide when to bump up effort, you can break the course into loops and build effort on each loop,” Herschberg says. “Having defined loops makes it less tempting to change your race plan and gives you once less thing to think about on a day when you need to maintain strong mental focus.”
• Herschberg’s pacing suggestions: Take the first loop to settle into your Zone 2 pace, the second loop to build to a nice steady effort and the third to enjoy being almost done and maintaining your solid race pace. Also, the hill up Beeline is just enough to break monotony and pace lines but not enough to make you dread it on each lap. Take it easy on the way up and push effort on the way down. The span from McKellips Road after crossing under Pima Freeway back to transition on the last loop should be the only part of the bike course that requires you to change tactics mid-loop—maintain a high cadence and switch to water only to help your stomach settle for the run.
• With such a flat 112 miles, even the athletes with the most practice in their aero bars will start to get a little fidgety toward the end. Use inclines as an opportunity to get out of your saddle for just a second to stretch your back.
• Be prepared for wind. You may be flying on the way out of the main out-and-back on Beeline Highway and have a big wakeup call on the way back. Or vice versa. “If you know that the wind is going to be against you coming back into town, you can prepare mentally to face it,” she says. Also be aware that the winds can shift at any time, so a head wind out does not mean you’re guaranteed to have a tail wind on the way back into town. Each loop may feel windier, so prepare for a few long stretches into a headwind without exerting too much effort, but don’t go too easy if you have a tailwind either.
• One bike course highlight is the energetic crowd as you go through town every loop. (Just try not to smile as you speed through—it’ll be tough.)