Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TN State Championship Time Trial

Life had been barreling towards June 11th for the better part of this year. I focused all of my attention towards it, with the intent of trying to win the Cat 4 race. I knew going in it would be a tall mountain to climb, as the level of fitness I've enjoyed in the past has continued to elude me. I spent a large amount of time squeezing every bit of speed I possibly could out of my position and economics, but at the end of the day, I was shooting towards averaging a relatively low 235 watts over the 40k. Certainly not "strong" by most any cyclists measure.

Friday evening start times were announced. I had (correctly) picked out Matt Hunt as the man I would have to beat to win, and as fate would have it I was starting 30" behind him. Looking at it retrospectively, you could say this is where things went off the rails. Normally, a time trial, and especially a 40k are dictated by pacing properly and following your own race. For one thing, you generally have no idea exactly how you are doing compared to your competitors, so the best you can do is pace yourself well and hope it's good enough. I was in a fairly unique position however. I was as certain as I could be that I would know exactly how fast I needed to be to win... I needed to keep Matt within 30" of me. So, a choice had to be made... do I race my own race, or do I throw caution (and pacing) to the wind and try to keep first place in sight.

As I have mentioned many times in the past, I came to the State TT to win. I would be just as unexcited with second place as I would with last place, so the decision was simple. I would not look at my powertap, I would simply do all I could to keep my chance at winning in view.

Looks count for something, right?

Off and away

It was mercilessly hot even as I was gearing up and heading to the start line. I don't dislike hot conditions, but I knew this was going to be merciless as the entire course is on a no turn (except the turnaround) highway with no shade. I watch Matt take off and shortly it's my time to follow. With a moderate tailwind going out I know that I'm going as fast as I am on borrowed time. We pick people off at a feel good rate for the first 20 minutes, at which time I hit the lap button on my powertap so I'll be able to look back later. 255 watts avg. 20 watts higher than what I had planned for the whole ride. Nonetheless, my plan is so far working, I'm within spitting distance all the way to the turnaround.

And then, reality comes crashing in. Overcooking myself, along with 90 degree temperatures catch up with me, hard. That nice tailwind turns into a headwind, and those rollers I had been bombing down don't seem nearly as friendly going back up. I know it's all about damage control now, as Matt disappears out of my sight (and on to win!) and I am left with that long, gut-check ride back to the finish. I make a deal with myself that I stay tucked in aero on all but the longest climbs, but let my watts fall to whatever will get me there. At the second 20 minute lap I am averaging 213 watts, a meltdown if ever there has been one. The last twenty minutes is a grueling battle both physically and mentally, I don't care what anyone says, the hardest minutes of your (athletic) life are when you know it's over but you still have to get to the finish line as fast as you can. For the last 20 minutes I averaged 203 watts, as complete of a disaster as I've ever seen.

I stopped the clock in 1:00:05 - 24.7mph average over moderately rolling terrain. Good enough for 6th place, almost 3 minutes behind 1st place.

Looking back, it's easy to say it was a mistake to not pace myself, but I disagree. I think it was not only the right choice, it was my only choice. I knew going into the race I would need a lot of things to go right to claw away the top step of the podium, and given the opportunity to see exactly how fast I needed to go, I don't think there was a better setup to throw a hail mary. It's hard to separate results from the correct line of action, but it should still be done. I went all in, first or nothing... and with it probably cost myself a podium spot and certainly a much better time, but despite the fact that we endurance athletes generally phrase it that "we're racing against ourselves" eventually that simply isn't true... we're racing others, and sometimes to have a chance to beat them you have to go out of your comfort zone / planned pace/race. You miss all of the shots you don't take, as the saying goes.

I would like to thank all of my sponsors... Provision in particular... without their help I wouldn't have even made it to the start line, let alone the finish line. I'm not discouraged, now that this race is over it's time have some fun!

Some pictures of my buddies starting

Jimmy was looking for a back to back jersey win, but also had a tough day

Matt crushed all the 4's and can now claim back to back state TT wins, helluva ride

Sharon had a very rocky start, involving ripping her rear derailleur off her bike on the warmup and having to borrow another bike just to get to the start. Still snagged second too!

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