The last couple of days I have been in one of my bicycle funks. The last week or so has been really disjointed with the delays in my bicycle repairs. Just some short rides on my TT machine and the fixed gear have all I’ve been able to pull off. I had no idea how I would do at the Greenville Spinners Summer Time Trial Series.
The funk goes deeper than that, but I’ll save that for a later blog post. This instance is to give a report on the TT that I decided to do last night. I figured since I wouldn’t be doing the road race on Saturday, I might as well give it a go in the race of truth.
First, I should point out that the course has been changed. Since the beginning of the TT series the course remained consistent, until last night. It is still an out and back totaling 10 miles, but the start-turnaround-finish is different.
It is somewhat of an optical illusion as you look at the two maps. The original course seems longer, but it is because gap between the start and turnaround is closer together on the first map. It is the “golf course hill” that is the major new wrinkle in the course and places the turnaround farther along the course (as shown in the below map).
What this means is that the start/finish and turnaround points create a whole new approach to the strategy of the course. While the two elevation profiles (seen below) appear very similar, it isn’t the case. For instance, in the middle of the profile you see a smaller bump then a steeper climb up to the turnaround and then a smaller bump following as the course mirrors. However, these two sections while looking similar are completely different locations.
While the first course started at a higher elevation, the new course has more total climbing. On the new course, you climb 486 feet with multiple 3% to 5% grades. On the old course, the climbing totaled 230 feet with most grades not exceeding 3%. Of course, that also means there is downhill involved since it is an out and back course. However, the decided difference between the two courses is definitely the extra 250 feet of climbing.
So, how did I do? Well, I at least got off to a better start than last time! This week I had the opportunity to get off work a little earlier and was at the course shortly after 5 PM. I got my machine out, got it set up and then went to register. I chose 6:33 as my start time. I hoped the wind would still be calm, but I would also have more time to get warmed up.
I then went out on the course in my shorts and t-shirt. I just wanted to get a feel for the road and plan my approach. Of course, I felt pretty rotten just getting on and starting to ride. However, by the time I made the turnaround and started back, I was watching the cadence and speed picking up as my legs warmed. When I reached that point, I shut it down and cruised easily back to the start.
I got in my skin suit and climbed on the trainer to spin along easily until it was near time to start. Nearing my time slot, I got back on the road and noodled around until time to get in the chute. By this time, I was feeling pretty neutral. I had no idea what would happen. I could do great or I could blow up. My emotions were pretty calm.
Some things I changed from previous attempts were 1) to not wear shades. It seems simple, but the shades I have just don’t cut it in a time trial. Invariably, the top of the glasses obstruct my vision as I am tucked forward on the bike. 2) Rather than try to “look right” by having my helmet lined up lower on my forehead, I pushed the helmet back so that I wouldn’t have to bend my neck so much to stay in an areo position. 3) I was now much lower on the bike due to the changes I made to the bars.
One nice thing about the new course is that it starts out flat. On the old course, I had a tendency to go too hard down the initial downhill. It got me started with a higher speed, but I typically paid for it real fast and things would go downhill from there.
This time, I set my goal at what I thought was a reasonable 26 mph average. If I could exceed that speed without much effort — such as on a downhill — I would. However, I would not kill it on the downhill and focus on trying to get uphill as quickly as possible.
I reached the turnaround right on target. My average speed was 26 mph and I reached it in 30 seconds over 11 minutes. I really felt pretty good at this point. I certainly felt faster. However, this was about to change.
There is a good amount of climbing to the turnaround. I handled it just fine, but the problem is that you have to turn around and then go back over the undulating terrain and you realize that the majority of the climbing is packed right into this middle section. It gets tough soon after you make your turn.
Going up golf course hill, I ended up having to stand to try to keep my momentum going. I kept telling myself that it would get better after I reached the top. It did, but my legs were starting to tire and even the more shallow grades to follow were a chore.
One of the things that helped is that I was over taking the riders who started before me. It took me until nearly to the turnaround to catch my 1 minute man. Just as my legs were starting to yell at me after golf course hill, I saw my 2 minute man in front of me. It gave me a motivation to keep up the cadence. Once I got around him, I started glancing ahead to see if the 3 minute man might be visible.
All this time, my average speed was dropping. I was now hovering just above 25 mph. My 26 mph goal was now out the window. However, I was determined to hang onto the 25 mph line.
As I was climbing 3M hill the average dropped into the 24 mph range. However, I knew I was coming up on some flatter sections and I caught a glimpse of my 3 minute man. I set my goal to catch him and power through whatever pain to push that average back up to 25 mph.
I rounded the turn that would take me to my next point of reference… the railroad tracks. I moved over the white line in order to find the smoothest part of the road. I was slowly gaining on the rider ahead of me. My fear was that I would catch him right as we crossed the tracks.
Thankfully, I watched him navigate the rails just ahead of me. Then I went over them. When I did my bars dropped! I was now tilted way forward. However, I kept my concentration on the rider in front of me.
I cleared him in sight of the line and then settled in to meet my second objective. I glanced down for the last time and saw 24.9. I’m sure I was rocking back and forth as I gave what I had left to push my speed up in these last meters.
Result? 23:57 with an average of 25 mph. That was good for 2nd place in the Cat. 1/2/3 field and 3rd place overall. However, my biggest question was did I improve my overall effort from previous attempts? The fact that this was a new course made that tough.
The only thing I can go on is that I was beat by Chris Calder who finished the May event in 21:41 — the gap between us was 1:51. Last night, Chris finished with a time of 23:16. The gap during this event shrunk to 41 seconds. Sure, it is very possible that Chris had a bad night, but it is also true that everyone was having slower times.
All in all, I walk away from the evening with a positive feeling about my progression in the time trial discipline. The more of them I do, the more I understand my body and what it takes to pace myself. I’m looking forward to the next one so I can compare an apple with an apple!