Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Preview TRY Charleston Half Bike Course

Not even a week ago, we decided on a whim, that it might be a good idea to head over to Charleston SC after our Parris Island Triathlon in order to preview the bike course of our upcoming half iron distance triathlon... That race is just 4 weeks away (yikes!) and since we were sort of in the area already, it all made sense.

After that decision, I sat down with the course description on the race website and mapped the course on in order to upload the course to my Garmin* for easy breezy navigation on preview day.

*In case you want to know, how to upload courses on your Garmin Forerunner 305, here is a little tutorial, that I wrote a while back.

I say one thing right away: We didn't ride the course 100%, but hopefully we covered between 90% and 95% of it. The race site is going to be the KOA Campgrounds, but outside of the race, there is no where to park, if you are not camping there. So we ended up parking in a strip mall maybe 1 mile up the road. Right at the beginning, the course said to turn off Highway 17, but when we tried that, we ended up in front of a gated community. So we cut out this whole piece through the community by staying on Hwy 17. Also, I am not sure, if we turned around on Hwy 17 even close the correct spot. We still ended up with 56 miles, but I think that was mostly due to parking away from the course start and getting back to the parking lot, since it's a point to point course on race day.

Here is a quick shot with my ride, right before we headed out. Those are cool sleeves (not arm warmers... it was toasty) that I like to bust out in order to avoid sun burns. I tend to get those quickly, especially in the first couple of sunny days, because I have to get used to that whole sunscreen thing all over again. Actually, my face felt hot for the rest of the day, even though I slathered on the 30 SPF. One more thing about the outfit: I really like how my AOMM jersey goes so perfectly with my bike. ;-)

We hit the road at 8.30AM under a sunny and cloudless sky. The weather forecast showed a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the morning, but for the first 10 miles it was sunny and just as it started to warm up the clouds rolled in and kept everything at a comfortable temperature. Only the last 7 or 8 miles felt hot again, because the sun was out once more.

Gloom and doom in Awendaw, around mile 13 into the course.

Let's get into the nitty gritty of the course:

1. First stretch on Hwy 17 (Mile 1-6): There was some bumpiness going on, but I am assuming, that the gated community (see above) at around mile 4 will be part of the course and will cut out the bumpy stretches.

2. Back country roads on the way out (Mile 6-19): Smooth sailing asphalt and pancake flat. Not a ton of traffic expected... No spectators expected either. Lots of tree lined roads should provide some shade.

3. Out and back on Hwy 17 (Mile 20-32): Good asphalt and of course pancake flat. It's a two lane highway, so traffic shouldn't be too bad. Even with just the two of us on Sunday, that stretch was okay. No trees close to the road on the way out, so probably no shade.

4. Steed Creed Road (Mile 33-37): Smooth asphalt and some "hills". I think this is the only section where you have a noticeable elevation change.

5. Hallway Creek Road (Mile 38-48): The first 7.5 miles of this road sucks! The asphalt is rough and the vibration was driving me nuts. Those 7.5 miles felt like an eternity. At least it's flat and once again, it's tree lined, so depending on time of day, there will be some shade. After you crossed United Drive, the asphalt is like glass and feels sooooo good.

6. Hwy 41 (Mile 49-52): This section scared the skittles out of me. It's a one lane highway and it was busy and half of the cars that we encountered in this short section acted like complete idiots. I was hoping that this won't be an issue on race day, but by now heard back from people, that the stretch is scary on race day too.

7. Dunes Community (Mile 53-56): Nice neighborhood and smooth roads. Home stretch of the bike course.

This course has the potential of being really fast, depending on the wind. It's not scenic, but the back country roads are nice and quiet and the road conditions are mostly good!
Despite having raced the day before, we clocked an average of 17.9 mph for this ride. Granted that we did draft off each other (not going to happen on race day) and Terry did a lot of the pulling.

This is what 70% of course looks like.
On a site note: Some of the route is also covered during the Palmetto 200 (or at least was in 2010, when we did that relay) and it was fun to ride by e.g. a church and recognize it as exchange zone from two years ago. I actually can remember from the Palmetto, that we saw some cyclist from the TRY Charleston Half on the course on Hwy 17... Who would have thought, that we'll be back just two years later to be part of that. At the time,  we both just had one sprint triathlon under our belts!

Terry during a food stop.
We kept our stops short and sweet and I actually just had three "Sunrise" bars during this ride. I felt fine throughout, because I had quite a big breakfast, but once we were done, all I could think of was FOOD! Good thing, that there was a Mellow Mushroom just across from where we parked.

Gotta love the paintings in the Mellow Mushrooms.

After we inhaled our lunch, we immediately hit the road back to G-Vegas.

Bye bye Charleston... See you next month!!!

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