The Race of Truth

The race of truth.  That's what they call the time trial.  There's no place to hide, no wheel to sit on. It's just you and the clock.  And the wind.

And this spring there has been plenty of wind.

Cherry Valley TT:

The Cherry Valley TT is a 30K time trial on an out and back route.  It's a fairly flat route with a few small rollers, and it runs north and south.  The winds that day were strong and out of the west.  This race was more of a mental struggle than a physical one.  The winds were brutal and wore you down.  And being a cross wind, you had to deal with them for the entire TT.  

I started out well and was holding my goal power and feeling pretty good.  The winds were tough, but they didn't bother me until around the halfway point.  I had to lean my bike into the wind to hold a straight line, which was tough but not too bad.  The worst part was that the wind was catching the tail of my aero helmet and making the helmet sit crooked on my head, and gusts would occasionally catch and lift the tail pushing my head down.  It was never bad enough to be scary, but bad enough to be very annoying.  I had to be careful not to look down too often because that's when the wind was catching my helmet.

After the halfway point I began to fade and struggle.  My power dropped and the winds got to me mentally.  I was getting fatigued from fighting the bike and finding it harder and harder to dig deep.  But I kept pushing and finally got through it.  My power was lower than I wanted which was frustrating, but in the end my time was decent and good enough for second in my division and I think 14th overall.  

Bong 20K TT:

The Bong course (Bong Recreational Park) is one of my favorites.  It's a 20K loop and they hold quite a few TTs there every year.  The course is a rectangle, and exposed to the wind so if it's a windy day this course can be tough.  It's fairly flat with some rollers, but no big climbs.  A little hillier than the Cherry Valley course.

This TT went exactly as Cherry Valley.  The winds weren't as bad, and being a rectangle you started with a cross wind then a head wind then cross wind then finished with a tailwind.  Finishing with a tailwind sounds good, but that can be tough too.  I was going fast but I had such a good push that I was spinning out sometimes so my cadence was much higher than usual and my legs were burning.  Like Cherry Valley, my power faded around the halfway point and I finished with a lower average power than I should have.  Again, it was good enough for second in my division.  

I lost both races to the same person.  Cherry Valley by 14 seconds, Bong by 8 seconds.  I'm looking forward to racing against him again later this year to see if I can improve and move ahead of him.  

Cross Plains Practice TT:

Every Thursday there's a practice TT.  I try to go to a few of them each year, and this year I decided I want to make it to more of them because I've found them helpful.  Most of the courses take a little more than 20 minutes so I use these as my 2x20 workout.  I ride to the TT as my warm up, then do the TT, recover for 5 minutes, do a second TT on my own and then ride home.  It's a good workout.

Rain was threatening so there was a really small turnout - only 5 people including me.  Just as we were about to go, the skies cleared a little and the sun came out.  It turned out to be a great evening to TT.  

I started out with my power right where I wanted it and soon began to fade like I did in the races.  My legs felt good coming into this workout, and the winds weren't bad so I couldn't place the blame there.  Why was I fading so much this year? Unless I go out too hard, which I do sometimes, I typically hold my power pretty well.  And the power I was shooting for is a wattage I've already held on the trainer for a full hour so I should be able to hold it for 20 minutes.

At the turn around my power had dropped 10 watts, and then by accident I figured out the problem.  I had a bit of a tailwind right after turning around so with the push my cadence increased a bit over where I was and I noticed my power returned.  A slower cadence helps me run off the bike on long rides and it keeps my heart rate lower (about 10 beats many times).  So I've been trying to TT with a lower cadence.  My heart rate has been lower while TT'ing, but I've been fading.  I don't think the low cadence (78-81) works for me when pushing threshold.  So on the way back I tried to keep my cadence in the 85-90 range and my power came back and I brought back those 10 watts I lost and finished with an average power right where I started. 

So I finished the practice TT feeling pretty good.  I got some recovery and then headed back out hoping that wasn't a fluke and that cadence was causing my fading.  I kept my cadence in the 85-90 range and held the same power the whole time.  It was a good effort and a great workout, but best of all I learned more about time trialing and what works and doesn't work for me.  I'm looking forward to the next race.

The ride home was awesome and I really wish I'd had my camera with me.  The temp dropped and some rain had moved through the area, although I never got rained on.  So I rode home in the cool air on wet roads covered in a light fog.  It was great.  I really enjoyed the fog.  It wasn't bad enough to hurt visibility.  Just enough to make for nice scenery.  If I'd had my camera and knew how to take a decent picture I would have come home with some great shots.

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