Today I went out riding in Clinton NJ where I'll be racing the half iron distance course in late September in the first installment of the JerseyMan triathlon. Today was second official organized ride, but it started at 8am and I wanted to get finished little earlier so I headed out on the course few minutes after 7am. The course was well marked and if I did not goof off I would not need to back track few times I did. The ride started at the parking lot about a mile and a half away from the Spruce Run park entrance. The first few miles are rolling terrain with few small climbs, but nothing very serious. I missed one turn and had to repeat the little loop twice to backtrack. Adding good 2 miles and two nice climbs very early in the ride. Third time is a charm and I found the turn and got back on track. In the race the climbs will not be there so the first part is relatively easy ride. Once you make turn on the route 513 it is rolling hills which means that if you keep momentum going you will not have any problems and will not need to get much out of the saddle - unless you want to. Descend to Frenchtown is great and in the race I'll let it go. I did take it easy today and did not ride aggressively on most descends not knowing what follows. From French town the route continues on RT29 which sports a lot of flats and false flat sections. It is nice, scenic although towards the end I was little bored - you will definitely not want to leave your aero position on this section. Then after a short ride on Rt519 you turn onto Lower Creek Road look for rough road, few bumps and potholes. They are hard to see under the tree cover and you may be surprised few times. I'll definitely not hammer in that section and the course asks for 23 mm tires. Then you will ride through the covered bridge - I snapped photo of it and also the NJ Multisport has it on the main page of the event.
After sharp right turn after the bridge there is some climbing to do - pretty steep hill on which you may as well stand-up and get your lags straightened. I climbed all the way up, rode for about half a mile and then rode back because I though I got lost. Oh well I climbed the hill again, met with one of the race directors in the middle of the climb. He warned me about the open grate bridge few miles up and off I went. Don;t get me wrong the course was very well marked, I just goofed off and did not pay attention and missed turns or got unsure where I am because my bike computer crapped out on me from the beginning so I could not really go by the provided turn-by-turn directions. Lots of adding and subtracting miles. But from this point on I did not have any issues. Soon I was back on route 519 which is really fast and you can let it all go. From this part on the course is more open - no more tree cover and shielding from the wind. If it is windy on the race day a lot of us will struggle in the second half of the course - just be ready. On Rt519 I was passed by bunch of bikers and it was cool as they were easy riding and I was keeping-up with them for about two miles. I have no doubt that if they wanted to lose me they could, but it was fun to get a bit of draft :-). Then I had to turn to the back roads.
From this point on the course is mostly flat, but has quite a few turns so make sure to keep your momentum through them not to lose much speed. This part is not really technical, but it has a lot of flat sections where you speed-up and then you have to turn and accelerate again. Then the course back tracks the initial about 6 miles of rolling hills and ride through the neighborhood. You can probably stay seated on all the hills including the climb on Main road. Then you ride over the highway 78 back to the park. I took time to cool down and rode to the park entrance. Probably the most challenging will be the climb back to the park from the road 625. It is not hard climb, but it is pretty tough after 54 miles of riding.
Towards the end of the ride on White Bridge road I got another nice draft - see the picture below. I just kept my distance. Did not want to end up on the spikes. Just a minute after that I stopped to check the directions when one other athlete flew through the intersection. So I hopped on the bike and followed in his path - until my phone rang and I had to stop again and chat with Dasa about where we are going to meet after the ride.
The bike course is nice, but it is a little deceiving course. I would not say it is pancake flat in the middle as some suggested - it has quite a lot of false flats and may actually be quite challenging mentally. You can easily maintain 23-25mph in many flat sections and it is probably worth getting more aero wheel set. To me I'll need to watch for the long flat stretches where it gets really boring especially on route 29 and route 519 on the way back. I'm more of a hills guy and enjoyed racing in Poconos this year. So we will see how I handle this course. I need to get my power meter together and prepare pacing and nutrition plan for the race otherwise I'll have troubles. It is no Olympic distance or Sprint. This distance will require more detailed planning than what I did for Steelman - "Go for it maintain speed over 21mph and never look back".