The season is over for me now, sadly. I was due to race in the Leo 30 mile TT yesterday, but it was cancelled because of heavy rain. A pity, because I’d worked very hard on the spin bike in the week, and now I have no way of enjoying any benefit from that. On one hand I am ready for a rest – I haven’t had more than 2-3 days without a race or training session since September 2013. But on the other, I have really enjoyed myself and been going quite well at the back end of the season, so looking at it that way I’m sorry that the racing for 2014 is finished.
In my last post, I wrote about my experiences in making up the numbers in the national championships. Since then I have raced 3 times, all 10 mile races too.
VTTA EA 10
On September 6th I made the short trip down the A1 and A14 for the VTTA (Veteran’s Time Trial Association) East Anglia race, held on one of my favourite courses, the E2 near Cambridge. It would be the 3rd time I’ve raced here, clocking my best time of 21:06 in 2013, and then improving to 20:20 earlier this season on the day Alex Dowsett broke the competition record.
I didn’t have much in the way of expectations. I don’t believe that I currently have the ability to go under 20 minutes, but perhaps I could beat my previous best on the course? Conditions were very good. A warm, still day. I had trained well in the week and felt pretty good. As usual I went off too hard, but at the turn I was averaging dead on 30mph and 310w, which is as near as dammit the best ever.
On the return I slowed a little, despite finding a few more watts. I guess there was a slight wind against. Also I got a bit confused as to where the end was. There are two bridges, one at one mile out (and also of course 9 miles out), and one half way along at 2.5 and 7.5 miles. For some reason I thought the 9 mile bridge was the 7.5 mile one, and so the end came upon me before I had chance to empty the tank – it was more of a sprint than a measured output, which is not very efficient. Anyway I crossed the line with my Garmin recording 20:07 and 313w, which is the joint highest power I’ve done. So with a bit of luck I would get a PB for the course. Back at the HQ and sure enough my official time was 20:12. Also, for the first time I’d finished in the top 3. The race was won by my team mate Jason Kierman in 19:34, a brilliant performance! Substantially out of my league. Another team mate, Pete Balls had come (I think) 5th or 6th and so St. Ives won the team prize for the fastest team of 3. As you can imagine I was pretty pleased with this!
Two weeks later, on September 20th, I was back racing on the E2 in the ECCA 10 mile race. Now this time I *really* didn’t have any expectations of a good time, because it was a terrible day. My parents and brother were visiting so they came with me. We drove the course just after the race started (I was one of the later starters, so I had plenty of time) and I wouldn’t have raced in those conditions. Too much spray from the rain, I didn’t think it was safe. But the rain stopped and by the time I needed to warmup there was no reason not to go. It wasn’t very warm, and it was windier than either of my previous races on the course this season. I changed my helmet from the usual Giro Selector to the Kask Bambino, because it has a removable visor. I’ve never raced without a visor, but I knew that because of the amount of water around, the visor could mist up. The Bambino visor is held on by magnets and can be easily discarded, even if it is a rather expensive thing to do.
This race was my first as a “zero”. TTs are generally seeded with the fastest riders wearing numbers ending with 0 (10, 20 etc) and then the next group with 5s, then 1s, 6s, and so on. It’s done to try and prevent competing riders from encountering one another during the race. Anyway I remembered back to my first race where I wore number 19, among the slowest. The 0s seemed like proper hardnut athletes to me. But actually they’re often just middle aged plodders with a nice bike, too. Who knew?
In the run-up to the race, I had been thinking about pacing a little more. Usually I try and keep the power as constant as possible, but someone had said something in passing about the times when you’re on the power and the times when you’re not. I thought “but I’m always on the power…” So I thought I’d experiment by going substantially harder uphill and then accepting having to back off when the gradient points back down. I’ve always known that you should pace this way, but I end up going into the red uphill, and then not wanting to ease off downhill. This ends up with you getting to the next uphill and having to back off just when you shouldn’t.
I started, and very quickly realised the visor was a mistake. After about a mile, when I started getting pretty hot, it began to mist. By 2 miles I couldn’t see very much, unless I lifted my head. About a minute later I realised that lifting my head up wasn’t likely to lead to a fast time! So I removed it and frisbee’d it onto the verge. That’s about £40 down the drain!
I seemed to be going pretty slowly. I didn’t have a view of speed on the garmin, but it all seemed rather pedestrian. Although the wind was now hitting my eyes, it wasn’t causing me any problems. Power was marginally lower than the previous race at the turn, but I had given up the idea of a good time already, I was just motivated to try and not disgrace myself. I’m normally quite consistent, and it really pinkles me off if I am way below par.
This time I clocked the bridges correctly and wound it up at the 9 mile mark. As I crossed the line and looked at the Garmin, it had stopped at 20 minutes exactly. Umm ok! I thought this would translate to a time in the region of 20:05-20:10, which would be another course PB. Power was slightly down on the previous race at 310w. Presumably aerodynamics were slightly poorer too, since I’d worn a sub-optimal helmet (for me), and removed the visor after a quarter of the race. I also think it must have been a worse day. So perhaps I discovered something. Having analysed the data I think I have. I will possibly write about it over the winter months.
Anyhow the official time was 20:07, which was 5 seconds faster than I have ridden the course before. I thought this had given me 4th place, but a time on the board was wrong. Joe Gorman, who I’d never heard of, was credited with 21:09, but in fact had ridden round in 19:09. He was off early in the pouring rain. Incredible time. Dave McGaw, who usually beats me by 50-60 seconds was 2nd, but this time only 37 seconds ahead of me. I also beat a couple of people who I’d normally be beaten by, albeit closely. I was 5th, but given the conditions I have to be happy with that. It has given me a thing or two to think about, too.
Kettering CC / Sheppard Memorial 10 mile TT
In what was supposed to be my penultimate race of 2014, on 27th September I was in Kettering for their open 10 mile TT. I’d never ridden or seen their course before, so I made sure to get there early and went for a ride around. I’d seen the profile on Strava and it seemed a real challenge. Not out-and-back, but a circuit. Mostly uphill for the first 5 miles, then in the second half a couple of quite nasty uphill sections and a fast downhill. Probably not my kind of course!
With my experiences in the previous race I thought I’d try and make sure I nailed the uphills. But once I started, I realised immediately that I was down on power. I couldn’t maintain over 300w for any period of time, so the plan was all out of the window. By the time I got to the halfway mark I was under 300w. This dwindled still further on the long, fast downhill, which is immediately followed by the biggest uphill. I should have something in reserve for this, but I didn’t, trundling up it at just over 300w. I was hoping for more like 350 for that section. At the 9 mile mark I found some energy from somewhere and finished quite well, the official time being 22:59 and average power exactly 300w. Before the race I would have taken sub-23 minutes on this course. 4th place again. Also 3rd place on vets’ handicap, so I won the grand total of £25, which is the most I’ve ever won in a race. Not far off being enough to pay for the visor I’d chucked away the week before…
Goals and Review
My main personal goal this season was to go under 20 minutes. I didn’t really externalise this as a target, but it has been my only target really. I decided I wanted to go for it at the end of my first season in 2013. I had no right to set the goal, since I hadn’t even got within a minute of it at that point. But I thought “I’m going to do it”. If you’ve read the blog before, you might have seen that I got reasonably close – 20:02 in June and 20:04 at the Nationals. But that was the last chance I had really. Although I went close in the ECCA race described above, 7 seconds is quite a long way. So I fell just short. But overall, 2014 has been very good to me. My other main goal was to race the National 10, which I did do, and I seem to have found a place towards the top end in local races. I’m not in danger of winning one, but I’m usually around the top 5, which is no disgrace. When I first started I hoped to be ‘competitive with people having similar constraints’. That’s a bit nebulous, but I guess I meant similar age, similar lack of talent, similar time constraints. I’ve achieved that, at least.
After 2 years, I am none-the-wiser about what sort of training I should be doing to get faster. I have got faster, of course, but I haven’t found what training is best, and I have no idea really about what to do. So I decided a few months ago that I would get a coach for 2015. It might be considered a bit grand for someone at my level, but I am very passionate about my time trialling and I want to be the best I can. I am also very impatient and I don’t want to take 5 years to learn something that could be learned in 1 year with the right help.
A few months ago I started chatting to Matt Bottrill. If you know your TTing, you’ll know who he is: National champion at 10, 25 and 50 miles in 2014. Also competition record holder at 25 and 50 miles, and he rode the 2nd fastest 10 of all time to win the national 10 mile championship (and beating me by the small matter of 2 and a half minutes in the process). Fair to say that he knows what he’s doing. Matt’s going to coach me, starting at the end of October. Excited isn’t the word. Although of course I am paying for the privilege, I still feel very lucky to have this opportunity. This will limit the amount of detail I’m able to go into, but I will still be updating the blog with my experiences. It might be a bit barren over the winter, but if you check back every now and then, hopefully there will be some new stuff.
Re: the above photo, I call this two degrees of separation! Two massive degrees, I admit :D
Thanks for reading :)