Monday, 15 September 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2014 -- The course

The curves of Garfoot Road
Jen and I ran the entire run course Thursday afternoon. After lunch of plain white rice from the nearby sushi restaurant, we started with the loop around the capital. Straight away came a brisk rain shower during which we paused under the nearest awning, but it turned into sunshine an hour later.  There was no wind to be felt in the streets of town.  The run starts by circling the imposing capital building, and proceeds west through the University of Wisconsin campus.  It was just letting out for the day when we passed through, and the sidewalks were full of students.  The marching band was holding practice.  
We parked at the not parking sign
After a brutal climb up Observatory hill, the road is pointed towards the capital.  You can see it tantalizingly close, just a couple blocks away when you arrive at turn-around.  It's an out-and-back. It's 10 km to get here, then 10 km back. It took us 3 hours altogether, with variety stores for fluid refills, and lots of heated discussion over what the map meant.  We made more than a couple of wrong turns, getting completely off course near the stadium, and taking the lakeside leg early. For dinner we went back to Red Sushi, the one fancy restaurant which we went to the entire trip.

I hope they sweep up the storm debris
Friday we went biking.  We drove to the town of Verona where our volunteer station was located and parked.  We did one lap of the bike loop.  It's a very tough course, not just from the incessant up and down of the hills, but the poor condition of the roads.  Most of it was tar and chip surfacing.  That means they spread tar over the asphalt, then pack it down with fine stone chips.  Where we come from that's done to extend the life of the road for a couple years before proper resurfacing.  Here it seemed to be a standard practice in lieu of proper pavement. It was years old, with plenty of cracks.  

Lots of tar and chip
The storms had blown some debris on the roads from the tree canopy.  They better send a sweeper around or there's going to be some flat tires. 

Let's throw some dirt out there
The surrounding countryside of corn fields made us feel right at home, except that the hills are really long and steep. At times the road would seem to just disappear into the woods in front of us.  The worst was shortly after the aptly named Windy Lane, where a steep downhill was interrupted by a right turn halfway down the hill.  That was followed by a winding passage downhill with a hairpin right turn immediately at the bottom.  There goes all your speed. This must be the one I've heard of with the hay bales at the curve. The next downhill section was really a lot of fun (Garfoot Road).  Fast, with plenty of turns, but not too steep and dangerous. 

The road just drops away to nowhere
Along came a horrible railway crossing with huge gaps.  Then, stagecoach road where the cracks had left the side of the road split like cobblestones.
When you let the lawyer write the road signs
Now comes the dreaded climb up Old Sauk Pass.  Just steep enough that if you stop, it will be tough to get moving again, and it goes on for ages.   Once again, the road just seems to drop off into nowhere. It's one of the steepest hills I can remember and it's downhill and super fast.  

It's a great course that I'm really looking forward to racing. 

The railway crossing
Friday afternoon, Lake Monona had calmed considerably from the whitecaps the day before, and they had placed the markers, so we put on the wetsuits and went swimming.  I had a moment of panic seeing how far away the furthest buoys were.  I can't swim two laps of this in 2 hours!  It's one lap, they changed it, someone told me.  Oh good.  Whew.  Jen was tired from the long bike, so we sent to the first turn marker and came back.  It was her longest swim ever.  

Ooh! pine cones! The road needs pine cones!

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