Trying to break the boredom of our weekend rides in the cornfields of Central IL, my husband Dan, our friend Steve Barcus, and I decided to shake things up with a trip up to the Wisconsin Dells to recon the REV3 course!
We stayed at the Edge-O-Dells campground in our RV (there are SO many campgrounds around the Dells!). After getting settled, we headed out on our bicycles with intentions to preview the 56 mile Half-Rev bike course! However, since we got a late start, we weren’t able to actually ride the entire course- we took a shortcut (which only saved us maybe 6 miles!) order to get back before dark (we did… barely). I will give you my impressions… however, you should also check out my friend Mike Bernico’s blog- he has detailed accounts of both the bike and run courses! We did DRIVE the rest of the course, so I can give you a fair review.
Roads: for the most part they are in great condition! There are couple rough sections, but they are pretty short-lived. That is great for us coming from chip-seal country!! :)
Weather: We didn’t have to deal with much wind, but it was hot! Make sure you have a nutrition plan and PRACTICE it beforehand- what works during an easy training ride may not work during a race. I used Powerbar Perform and Green apple gels… yum!
Tip 1: There weren’t many places to stop for water on the route (of course there will be plenty of aid on race day!). If you plan on previewing it prior to race-day, my suggestion would be to bring a camelback, carry 4+ bottles of water with you, or go a tiny bit out of the way to stop in Baraboo (15mi) or Caledonia (35mi)- check out course map here
Tip 2: Powerbar has a great article specifically addressing racing in heat and humidity… it talks about the physiological changes your body goes through, and gives specific recommendations and tips throughout the article, specifically at the end.. check it out!
Course: Rev3 course maps are very thorough- even though this course had a lot of turns, we were easily able to follow the map. It even marked the significant climbs and technical descents.
Terrain: hills. Hills. HILLS! Bring your climbing gears. I agree with Mike in his assessment that this course is more challenging than IM Wisconsin, but not as bad as Horribly Hilly Hundreds (or Dairyland Dare, etc.) I rode my tri bike with a compact crank and an 11-28 cassette, and I was glad to have the extra climbing gears!
Tip 3: I would highly recommend getting a climbing cassette with at least 27 or 28 cogs! Even if you can get by with a 12-25 or 23 mashing up the rollers and standing on the steeper hills, your legs are going to be TRASHED for the run (which will also be hot and hilly!).
Most of the hills are rollers, and the course is pretty “fair” – you’ll be rewarded with a downhill! For the first 30 miles of the course I rode, I was able to stay seated for all of the hills- including Bluff Rd. (near Devil’s Head-mile 18ish), which was one of the two NASTY climbs on the course. It starts off pretty steep… but the grade becomes a little more forgiving as the climb progresses.
When we rode it, there was a lot of fresh, loose gravel on this hill. It didn’t bother me climbing it (since I was going ohhhh 4-5 mph??). I’m sure the gravel will be smoothed out by race day :)
On the back half of the course, watch out for BEICH Rd. (mile 33ish)! From the base of the climb, it is about 800m to the top. From the stop sign at WI 78, it is 1 mile to the top. That doesn’t seem so bad (and tell yourself that during the race!)… but that hill is a beast. It is twisty and turny and you can’t see the top… and it seems to get steeper. We drove it, so I can’t give it a fair assessment…but Mike told me that Bluff Rd. was harder, so I’ll go with that since I DID ride that one :)
The guys reaching Tower Rd., the top of the Bluff Rd. climb!
Tip 4: The descents are FAST. Whether you are an experienced rider not, be predictable, hold your line, and play it smart. I am no descending expert, but I am confident that I can descend safely. If you are uncomfortable with descending and need to brake (like I do!)- “feather” your brakes, DON’T slam on them or hold them too long. Alternate the rear and front brakes, quickly and lightly. Have confidence, be “one” with your bike! When descending into a turn, put your weight on the outside leg, which should be straight.
I LOVE my Pearl Izumi tri kit!
The rest of the weekend we “recovered” properly and enjoyed the attractions the Wisconsin Dells has to offer!
Tip 5: WEAR water shoes or sandals if you go to the parks. The pavement was flippin’ HOT and gave us blisters on our feet as we sprinted/hopped from one spot of shade/wet ground to the next!
Tip 6: Avoid the water rides and stick to the lazy river before the race. I tweaked my neck a little on one of the slides (not serious), and I was glad that didn’t happen BEFORE our training ride ;)
This probably won’t be a PR course… but it sure is going to be FUN! The views of the “dells” and the countryside are gorgeous. I hope to see you all out there, especially my REV3 and 25+ Tri-Shark teammates! If you haven’t already, register for this race, held in August, here!
~ Laura Vadeen