They call it the “Race of Truth.” It is the Individual Time Trial. I did my first one ever last night at the Greenville Spinners Summer Time Trial Series. The truth is that I hated it… and loved it.
I realize there wasn’t a lot on the line. This isn’t a sanctioned race with all points and everything. However, I was pretty nervous. The person I was most competing with was myself. I wanted to do well and see what type of benchmark I could set for going forward.
The plan was to arrive early and take my time getting set up. I wanted to make sure I got signed up and warmed up with time to spare. Things got off to a great start.
I was early enough that there was time to go out on the course and ride it at a leisurely pace. The goal was to go out and back at an easy, but consistent pace to figure out the road and wind conditions. My thinking was that if I rode consistent I could compare the times of “out” and “back” to see which one took longest. That might help me come the real execution.
Turns out I went out and back in about 28 minutes – 14 minutes out and 14 back. Hmmm, it seemed that the wind was equally working for and against me in both directions. I tucked this information into my head and headed to the Greenville Spinners’ tent to get my number.
I would be rolling off at 6:35. The clock on my Garmin, which I was using for my timer, was several minutes off the official time. This was good to know as I saw one person miss their start and another almost arrive late. Thankfully, I had time to warm up.
Unfortunately, I was dealing with this iBike again. I’m sorry. I want to give this device a chance, but I just don’t trust it. Every time I go to ride it, I end up trying to calibrate the thing in hopes that I can get the correct reading. In the warm up, I would look down and see either 0 watts registering or what I thought was a very low reading. Once again I stopped to do a calibration ride. Then it was time to pull up to the line.
John’s wife, Catherine James, was starting off two minutes ahead of me. An older rider doing the TT Merckx style was my minute man. Behind me was Neil Browne of CarolinaCyclingNews.com. I knew Neil was a pretty good Category 3 racer. Since this was my very first event as a Category 3 racer, I figured he would be a good measure for how I would compare with my new category compatriots. Mostly, I was hoping he wouldn’t overtake me!
My first new experience was being held at the line. What they do is get you up to the line and then they hold you there while you are completely clipped in and poised to go. “Hmmm, how do balance myself, make sure I get started strong, and start my timer without falling over?” I had visions of myself wobbling off the line and tipping over.
Thankfully, I got away okay. Though, next time, I think I will start right off in the big ring and then work my way up on the rear cassette. Still, I had the bike moving and now things were much more familiar. This was just like riding a bike and doing a 20 minute interval.
I caught my one minute man shortly before reaching the railroad tracks. I wasn’t feeling the best, but I was settling in and knew I would get a tail wind going down 3M hill. I just divided things up and focused on making it to that point. Once there, I just set my mind on making it to the turnaround.
The pace I was setting would have me at the halfway point in under 10 minutes. My mind starting wondering what that would do to me if I burned myself going out and then hit that head wind going up 3M hill. I backed things off just a bit as I started up the hill to the turnaround.
It wasn’t until I reached that point that it hit me I had never done a turnaround in a TT — I had never done a TT! What is the protocol? Are there rules for how this happens? Would I be directed what to do, or was I just expected to know what was going on?
Up ahead I could see a blinking light of a vehicle. Then I could see a cone in the middle of the road. There was my teammate Matt just passing me going the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see someone make the turn before me. I slowed slightly with indecision.
The cone was right at an intersection. I thought perhaps I was supposed to do my turn int he middle of that crossing. Of course, this was a little past the cone. As I passed the cone, Sam Smith was there with an incredulous look on her face. “Where are you going?” she asked. “Aren’t you going to turn around?” Finally, I got the TT rig going in the opposite direction. I’m certain I lost at least 10 seconds making that turn. Oh well, you ride and you learn!
Almost immediately after getting turned around and starting off, I felt really bad. I had made the outbound leg in just over 10 minutes. If I could have held that pace, I would have done VERY well. However, I knew I couldn’t. Now it was just a matter of hanging on and minimizing the damage.
As I neared the turn that would put me into the head wind toward 3M hill, I started to get that feeling that I often get on the second lap of Tuesday Night World Championships. It is that feeling that I am about to croak and the various body parts were saying, “You are hurting us. We can’t do this. You need to stop.” I had to put that out of my mind. My two thoughts were, “No, body parts, we have been here before and if you’ll just hang with me here we’ll feel better in a couple minutes.” The second thought was, “I will NOT get overtaken by Neil Browne!”
Coming up 3M hill I wasn’t even aware of where I was on the course. My head was down and I was only thinking about the rhythm of my pedals. As I made the turn that would take me to the railroad tracks and then the finish, I started to feel my body getting in order once again… I wasn’t feeling good, just my body parts had finally stopped their rebellion and were working together through the pain.
Just over the tracks, I caught Catherine. She was riding very strong and ended up winning the overall among the ladies. However, it is always a help when you overtake someone because it gives you a goal to aim for when you first see them and gives you motivation to show you are going fast as you ride past them.
That brought me to the dip and the finish. Going into the dip, I started to get stitches. I just kept trying to take in deep breaths and keep pushing. Finally I could see the finish. My body was again telling me, “Hey, stupid, there is the finish line. You’re basically done. Why don’t you just coast across?” Glancing at my timer I saw that it would be very possible for me to make a 23:30 time if I just kept pushing.
I did and I started to feel that nauseous sensation as I neared the line. I couldn’t push out of my saddle. I just keep the same pace across the line. I stopped my timer at 23:32 — that ended up being the official time of my very first individual time trial. The good news is that Neil didn’t overtake me. He finished 6th with a time of 23:09 and I was 7th with my time. The winner, to no one’s surprise, was my teammate Eric Christophersen. His finishing time was 21:20 – and that was after stopping to pickup his computer that had flown off going over the railroad tracks!
I’ll give some more thoughts on this act of pain called the Individual Time Trial later. I think I’ve pretty much described why I hated it — it hurts. Next time I’ll talk about why I loved it and why I’m looking forward to getting out there again.