I signed up for the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial on a whim as Chris and I drove up to Estes Park. I was perusing the listed events and this one was on Wednesday nights for seven weeks.
I figured, hey, I already cycle on Wednesdays, why not push myself into something I’ve never done before.
Disclaimer: I ride long distances. I’m an endurance athlete. At least I like to think so. When it comes to full ovaries-out, lungs-on-fire, about-t0-throw-up exertion over 9.5 miles, I shake in my chamois.
While this was on a whim, I don’t think I realized what I signed up for when I dished out the monies for not only the time trial, but for a USAC license AND a BRAC membership. Therefore, I’m putting my mouth (or legs) where the money is.
While I’m being honest, I have no idea how to train for time trials. I’m used to being in a constant and steady state over 100 miles. Going “ovaries out” for me is riding 120+ miles.
Last week was the first race of the seven time trials. I had no idea what I was doing. I had to get my bib when I arrived. I made Chris watch my bike at my car. Of course, mine is less likely to be stolen just by a quick scan of all the more “aero” bikes. I still stand with: It’s the legs that power the bike, not the other way around.
As I picked up my bib number: 274, the men asked for my license. I thought it was for USAC. Come to find out, I also needed the damn BRAC membership because having a racing license on a national level doesn’t matter on a local level. I had to pay these guys $5 if I wanted to race that day.
I also pinned my bib upside down. A lot of newbie mistakes, but if I’m not making them, who is? I didn’t realize it was upside down until a kind lady in the lineup told me, “Dear, yours is upside down. Let me help you.” It was one of those, bless her heart moments.
This Time Trial series is considered a rolling start: You pull up to the start line and a polite man stands behind you and straddles your bike wheel, holding on to the bottom of your saddle. I giggled and he said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to let you fall.” I don’t hear that phrase often, but it was uncomfortably soothing. The other man started counting down: 10 seconds… 5..4..3..2..1..go. And sure enough, it was quite the rolling start.
I read that there was a bit of an incline before the first turn, so I eased off a bit. After the turn, I turned it up a bit and then I was passed. Mind you, we’re all going off in 20 second increments, so anyone who passed me had 20+ seconds on me. You also don’t know what category these people are in, I just kept hoping they weren’t in mine.
There’s a headwind. There are hills. There are turns. There are cracks and bumps and holes in the road. But there are roadside cheerleaders, which always makes me smile. More cowbell please!
Unbeknownst to me, I was on the last bit of uphill. I stood up and peddled up the damn incline, legs on fire, lactic acid threatening to throw me off my bike, fatigue set in way earlier, and I just kept thinking “push.” I see this older man (women are the minority in most cycling events) at his truck, tape across the lane, walkie-talkie in hand and I think it’s the end. I raised my right arm so he could see my correctly-positioned bib number and sure enough, he radios in: 274.
Then I lost my voice. I have never lost my voice from cycling, but then again, I’ve never gone ovaries out, against wind, against tri-bikes, aero bikes, hills, and strong-as-hell riders. I didn’t bring water with me because who has time to think about drinking when you’re too busy gasping for air.
I clocked in at: 28:23.9 & 6th place out of 10 women in my Cat 4. Chris was encouraging as I berated myself for “poor performance.” My goal for the following week was to jump one spot and cut off a minute.
Well, I didn’t do that. This past Wednesday (April 13) I came in 6th again, shaving only 22 seconds off my time, coming in at: 28:01.0.
This second ride of the time trial series, I felt a bit weaker. I think it’s because I forgot to fuel up before the ride. I was also alone. I didn’t have anyone there for me before or after the race. I shouldn’t need anyone, but you know, it’s nice to have that support. The cowbells only do so much.
I could feel the fatigue set in right as I started up the first incline to the first turn. I tried to ignore it. I wanted to keep a pace at 20 mph. I had my Garmin turned on so I could see my mph and my heart rate. Maybe I focused too much on digits and technology and not enough on my legs.
The lactic acid set in one mile into the ride. Without music, I have to rely on my thoughts, and as a hardcore perfectionist, my thoughts aren’t always my best friend. People passed me as I coughed and wheezed. I kept trying to convince myself that they didn’t matter. I even said, “fuck that guy” a couple of times. And I repeated over and over and over: “I am strong. I am fast.” Lately, I’ve been listening to this life coaching podcast, “Life is a Marathon” by Bruce Van Horn. He’s all about the positive affirmations. I figured, hell, it’s not going to hurt to tell myself these things. Between the “fuck that guy,” “don’t worry about her,” and “I am strong. I am fast.” I thought I was pushing myself enough to cut off a minute and land in 5th place in my category.
There were a couple times I felt like I was going to puke. I thought to myself, “damn, if I feel like I’m going to spew, I must be riding super fast.” I was keeping my pace at 20 mph (minus the hills) and throwing all my weight into the pedals as I charged up hills.
I saw the old man, with his truck, the duct tape, and told myself, “Now’s the time to push. You only have to push yourself until that line.” Maybe it wasn’t enough positive affirmations, maybe it was the lady with the broken neck on the side of the road or the people telling us to watch out or the ambulances speeding down the road, coming at me head on, or maybe I just wasn’t on the ball. I crossed the line and nothing. I raised my arm so the guy could see my bib. I couldn’t hear him. No cowbells. The police officers didn’t even notice me as I crossed the road to leave the park. I had a sort of existential moment. Like, what I do doesn’t matter to anyone. The only person who cares if I fail or succeed is myself. And even then, my perfectionist-ic spirit told me I didn’t do as good as I could have.
My self-timed race showed I shaved off a minute. I was feeling okay, yet exhausted. My voice was weak too. I packed up, got in my car, and turned on the music.
I wasn’t sure what my rank would be in my category for this race, but when I received the BRAC email, it clearly stated: 6th place.
Immediately, the perfectionist started yapping at me: You didn’t improve. You’re slow. You’re weak. Why are you even trying. Over and over. Chris tried to encourage me, but I wasn’t having it.
I looked at the other women in my category and how far behind I was from them. Scrutinizing my every turn, cadence, my lack of aero-ness, all the horseshit that riddled and boggled my mind. How the hell was I going to get faster.
I went to Google for the answer, typing in: how to get faster at time trials. Blogs upon blogs with advice popped up. Some of the tips I’m going to try for my third race are:
- A proper warm-up: Ride easily for 15mins, then performing 3x10secs hard efforts with 2mins of recovery in between.
- Pacing: “Holding back” in the first 5 minutes of the time trial to warm-up to race pace. Pushing a tiny bit harder uphill, and then ease off slightly on the descents.
- Increase cadence: Push to have continuous cadence of 105.
- One-leg cycling drills: Warm-up:
10 min easy spinningDrill Set: Single leg intervals: 3×5 min
• Minute 1: Right leg only
• Minute 2: Left leg only
• Minute 3: Both legs at as high a cadence as possible without bouncing
• Minutes 4-5: RecoverMain set:
Progressive spin-ups: 2×10 min with 5 min recovery.
Start in a moderately hard gear with a comfortable cadence, around 75 rpm. Every 2 minutes, shift to an easier gear and increase rpm by 5. Keep the speed or power exactly the same as cadence increases (ex: 17 mph or 150 watts)
• Minutes 0-2: 75 rpm
• Minutes 3-4: 80 rpm
• Minutes 5-6: 85 rpm
• Minutes 7-8: 90 rpm
• Minutes 9-10: 95 rpm
Cool-down: 10 min easy spinning
With these four tips, I’m hoping to cut off a minute for next week and reaching to 5th place. Wish for the wind at my back.