My Time Trial Report – by Willis Wong
Although the time trial is meant to be a race which tests only the physical abilities of a rider, I do believe there is a heavy psychological effect that goes with it. For example, before the race, “will I beat my last time?” or even “Will I beat this guys time?” or more importantly, “will this guy beat MY time??”. All that goes through your head before the ride. During the ride, the question changes to “Am I beating my last time?” or even “will I lap the person ahead of me?”, or more importantly “will the person behind me, lap me??”. And then when it’s all over, despite all these questions, there can only one answer. And that answer will be the truth. How’s that for a head game?
The morning of my time trial, I made sure to drink alot of water, because the time trial route was so short (6 miles) that I could get away with not carrying a water bottle (an extra pound weight). I would have left my pump and spare tire off too for the weight savings, but that would have been silly getting a flat in the middle of nowhere with no way to fix it. The final weight savings was to go to the bathroom as many times as possible beforehand. The reason for my attempts at weight saving were because I had installed a clip on aero bar, to try to cheat the wind a little, but at the cost of about two pounds weight. Extra weight would surely hurt me in the hills, but I figured the aerodynamic advantage would be more valuable than lighter weight. Wind resistance is the number one enemy in this kind of ride, and not gravity.
I’ll admit the other reason for the aero bar was to intimidate a bit. I also purposely wore an old super small jersey so that it wouldn’t flap around in the wind. I wanted to look and feel fast. Of course the downside to using special gear for this race was if my time didn’t improve, I would look pretty stupid. So the gear was somewhat of a motivator to perform harder.
I was definitely surprised to see Nick show up with a road bike. He’s one of those natural athletes and up until now would be very competitive with us on his mountain bike. We always knew with a road bike he would be an absolute terror. So showing up the day of a time trial with a bike he hadn’t even tried out yet, well that will open your eyes a bit. However, I wasn’t intimidated because I never really considered myself a challenge to Nick, since he’s always going for the number one spot, which means his only competitor is Dino.
Back to my story: When it was my turn to start, I rolled up to our starting line, and our official starter (Anthony) and got my stopwatch ready. As he counted down for me to leave, the tension rose, and I could see my heart rate going up. He yelled out “T-minus ten, nine, eight…” and then when he hit “one…” I asked myself if he wanted me to go on one, or zero, or would he say “go”??? The split second seemed like forever, but then I heard him say “GO!” and I pushed off for my first crank, hoping to clip in on the first try…. Luckily I hooked the pedal cleat right where it had to go and engaged the lock with a loud “clack!” and I was off. I stood up for a few revolutions and tried to accelerate as smoothly as possible, shifting up to a gear big enough that I could start breathing hard riight away. A quick glance at the heart rate monitor showed 150bpm, so I then got into the aero tuck position and slid forward on the saddle, just like I saw in the magazines…
My strategy was to take advantage of the aero bar positioning and stay in the tuck as much as possible. I wanted to prove that the aerodynamics would matter. This sacrificed a bit of my normal riding position, so I felt a bit awkward and maybe wasn’t using my optimum pedal stroke. Also, my lungs were a bit squashed in the hunched over position, so I don’t know if I was breathing all that well either. I think I was hyperventilating within the first 30 seconds. It didn’t feel good. But I wasn’t doing this to feel good.
With my labored breathing I was able to maintain 19-22 mph on most sections. My heart rate was pegged at 178 bpm most of the time. Having that really kept me from getting too far over my limit. I recall from the last time trial that I pushed way too hard and felt like throwing up several times, causing me to slow down considerably. This time, with the monitor, I could see real time when I was pushing it too much, and could ease off slightly when necessary.
I didn’t attack the hillls as hard as I wanted to. I think because I preferred to stay in the tuck position (bad for hillclimbing) but at the rate I was going, I didn’t have a whole lot to attack with anyways. I passed by several cyclists, walkers, and joggers along the way. They must have thought I was crazy, riding in that tuck position all nutso by myself.
At about the halfway point I saw the flash of a white jersey turning up ahead. Could it be Hilario, who started two minutes before me? I never imagined I would catch up to him. But once I came around the corner and saw him up ahead, my thinking had changed completely from “how could I catch him?” to “I must pass him!”. Hilario is no pushover. So I figured if I caught him, I must be making pretty good time. I just kept my eye on my heart rate and tried to concentrate on my spin. If I pass him, great. If I don’t, at least I saw him, and my time should be pretty decent. As I cranked on in pain, I saw another figure come into focus. It was Val, who had started two minutes before Hilario. He had just passed her, and by the looks of it I would pass her as well. At that point I thought I must be doing warp speed to catch two riders. But little did I know that Val had chain problems (sorry Val!) and also stopped to give a woman directions! So I yelled out “Go Val!” as I passed her, and pressed on for my second catch. It wasn’t until the very last section that I did catch and pass Hilario. The final downhill right before the Deer Creek Wall. That’s where we always start our sprint. It’s a steep descent, with a bump at the bottom, and then a long straight hillclimb into a headwind.
Right after the bump, I whizzed by Hilario and shouted “C’MON, MAN!” to try and get a good reaction out of him. I figured it would be good if we raced each other up the hill to finish strong. And then I stood up and tried to pound up the hill, hoping my comment wouldn’t give him enough strength to pass me at the finish. As I climbed, it hurt, everything hurt. Unfortunately, I never heard Hilario on my tail, but that was ok just the same, because I had given all my energy to the ride, and there was nothing left for this sprint. Strategically, that was exactly how I wanted it to happen, because the amount of time I would have made up for in the final sprint would be minor compared to the energy being equally used over the length of the course. So I was glad to feel spent. But riding so hard that you have no kick makes you feel really slow at the end. So I stumbled across the finish line gasping for air and wanting to sell my legs for new ones on eBay, because they were very very used up. I stopped the stopwatch, noticed the time, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I knew it was over and that i had given it my all.
Not until we compared times afterwards did I realize how well I did. I had improved my last time by over a minute. I’d attribute it to the aero bar and use of heart rate monitor to maintain peak effort without going too far. Overall, it was a worthwhile test of mind and body. The race of truth.