Last week I rode my first time trial with Speed River Cycling Club. The club holds four time trials, one every month, throughout the summer. It’s a great way for participants to set their benchmark time and then assess their fitness and progress through the season.
The club record was set by Ryan Roth: 22:08.49 – 46.07 km/hr – July 18/12
The course is a 17 km out-and-back route on the rolling hills of Fourth Line East just north of County Road 51 (road to Ariss) Riders start one minute apart and race against the clock, attempting to catch the guy in front while avoiding being caught by the rider behind. It is a test of discipline, will and endurance as you try to maintain a steady effort just below your anaerobic threshold until the end of the course.
The thought of a time trial didn’t really appeal to me. It sounded painful. And it really was! I had never pushed myself at my limits for such a long interval before and I didn’t know what to expect. Previously, my personal best solo effort was 33.7 km/hr which I achieved on a 60 km training ride. I didn’t think I could do much better than that under any circumstances. On this day the winds were strong and gusty and I assumed that this would make it hard to even match my PB let alone beat it. Thankfully the winds were dying down as the evening progressed but there was still a pretty stiff headwind on the way out. I would guess around 25 km/hr.
Nine riders showed up for Time Trial #1. Nobody had a true TT bike on this occasion, however some of the guys had aero-bars, aero TT helmets, skin-suits, shoe covers etc. One guy was riding a single speed! I was slumming it on my one and only road bike, with standard road helmet and kit… and hairy legs to boot : )
We were seeded by estimated ability and sent off, slowest first, fastest last. Our time-keeper Steve held the bike and steadied us as we clipped into the pedals and awaited the OK to start. I was the sixth to go off, after Rob Nespolo and before Nathan Poultan (on the single speed). When I got up to speed my heart rate was around 166 BPM (my theoretical maximum is supposed to be 178 BPM) and I felt like I was riding near my limit. The headwind was demoralizing… my speed was as low as 25 km/hr on some uphill sections… my average was under 33 km/hr. I was riding hard and I didn’t know how long I could keep up the effort. It was a real mental game to keep going that hard. I found myself breaking the ride up into smaller sections in my head, and tried to focus on maintaining the pace until the next milestone… the top of the next hill, the half-way point to the turn-around, kilometre 10… and so on.
At the turn-around I was averaging around 33 km/hr, but now I had a tailwind and the speed went up considerably. I wasn’t any closer to catching Rob, but Nathan was about to catch me! He passed me around kilometre 10 or 11. There’s no drafting allowed but I tried to keep pace with him. I couldn’t. The gap was growing but I just hammered it out the best I could. “… more than half way there”, “… don’t let Gabhan catch you!”, “… only 5 more k to go” “… 2 k”, “… 1 more!”
Finally I hit the line. I was so glad it was over. This was a level of suffering I hadn’t experienced before. The highest average heart rate I had ever recorded for an activity. It really did hurt. My time was 28:07 for an average speed of 36.3 km/hr. I guess that’s my bench mark. Now the only question is… will I ever try to beat it?
I probably will : )