I scored my first time-trial podium finish last week. Although the use of ‘podium’ makes it sound a bit more glamorous than it actually was – more like having a quick scan of times on a clipboard and heading home thinking you’ve done ok. Then looking at the results on the club website the next afternoon and realising you’d somehow ended up in 2nd place. I actually started reading the results from the bottom up (old habits die hard). By the time I’d got to the top 5 I thought my time was missing!
One of my goals for this season – my second year of racing TT’s on a proper TT bike was to try and get around Bristol South’s Chew Lake course in under 20 minutes. Over the rolling course of 8.3 miles this requires an average speed of 25mph / 40km/h. My PB from last year was 20:40 so I’d hoped it would be achievable. I trained quite hard through the winter, trying to use the TT bike on the turbo trainer at least once a week to get used to riding in a more aerodynamic position. It got to the point that I was sick of threshold riding on a TT bike before the season had actually begun. My first race around the lake in April resulted in a personal best of 20:14, tantalisingly close. I got a bit held up behind traffic too, so was convinced that the sub-20 was just around the corner. My next race in May resulted in 20:18, despite putting out a bit more power (325 watts vs 320 watts) and feeling like I’d ridden harder too. Going hard doesn’t seem to equal going fast.
Last week was the annual 25 mile TT around the lake – 3 laps rather than 1. I’d never raced a 25 before so had no idea how it would go. All of my duathlon races are of a one-hour duration and I’ve run quite a few 10K’s too at around 40 minutes, so felt confident about managing my effort for the distance. I decided to aim for around 290 watts but mostly just ride on feel. I’d also read some 10K running advice which was to run the first two-thirds with your head and the final third with your heart. I decided to apply this logic to a 3 lap cycling race.
Last few moments of shade before heading out to race
Despite the 7pm start, the conditions were baking hot. There didn’t feel like much of a need to warm up, more of a need to keep hydrated and out of the sun. My concessions to the conditions were to replace the visor on my helmet with sunglasses for better ventilation, and to ride with a bottle on the bike. I was the 9th rider off and immediately tried to rein it in, asking myself the same question that I would repeat for the next hour: “Can I maintain this for another x minutes?”
It wasn’t really until halfway through the second lap that the first proper challenge presented itself. Everything was going well, I felt comfortable and was going quicker than expected when I caught my minute man. I’d overtaken a few other riders but I’d expected my minute man to be faster than me so wasn’t expecting to catch him. About a mile after overtaking I glanced behind and saw he was close behind. Not close enough to be gaining any kind of slipstream advantage, just close enough to rattle me and make me think I’d slowed down. It got to me and I tried to increase my effort. I can’t be the only person who suffers from this – despite it being a race against the clock, and a race against yourself it’s very difficult to not be influenced by overtaking or being overtaken. My heart rate began to rise and I started to feel the effort. I started to feel differently about the “can I continue this” question. I eased off and told myself not to look back.
A few miles later I looked over my shoulder as I came out around a parked car and saw empty roads behind. I felt relief.
I felt fine coming through to complete the second lap, like I could have kept riding all night. It was a great feeling. It’s a rolling course with a couple of rises that take about a minute to crest. I stayed in the saddle on these but came out of the aero position and onto the handlebars for on each lap so that I could stretch my back and neck, but more importantly to take a big glug of water.
Halfway through the final lap I was starting to suffer from pins and needles in my left hand and arm, but more painful was a tightness in my neck on the left side. It became a real mental challenge to keep going hard and I tried to just focus on my legs and relax the rest of my body. Knowing that I only had 10 more minutes made it manageable and I pushed on.
I crossed the line in a time of 1.01.26 with lap splits of 20:15, 20:32 & 20:39, the consistent pacing giving me great satisfaction. The time of the first lap also gave me lots of confidence that a sub-20 really should be achievable having got within 15 seconds on the first lap. Either that or I only have one race pace and I should just stick to 25’s!
Finish line wreck
I felt completely trashed at the finish line. After hanging around and receiving some much appreciated praise, I felt my body beginning to seize up so I clambered awkwardly onto my bike for the short 5 mile ride home. It required a huge effort and I contemplated phoning my wife to come and pick me up, unsure if I was going to make it. It was fairly pathetic and probably harder than the race itself!
Results (top 5):
||Bristol South C.C.
||Chew Valley C.C.
||Bristol South C.C.
||Somer Valley C.C.
I’ll be back this week for the one lap version and another crack at sub-20. Surely it’s within grasp …