DNF

Sometimes a degree of masochism and a little bit of HTFU can go a long way. In general, this recipe works well for Time Trials where you need to try really hard and see just how far you can push it before your lungs and legs complain angrily and you come to a shuddering halt.

Today i attempted the Little Mountain Time Trial. I took the road bike because i thought the weather would be so ridiculous that it was probably the best bet for a safe ride. As i’m sure you’re aware if you made the epic schlep to the paper shop today, or even if you haven’t and simply opened the curtains to regard the raging apocalypse outside, you’ll know it wasn’t the best day to be out on a bike. 

The course was 39 miles long with a lot of climbing and two timed hillclimbs. I lasted 17 miles. During those 17 miles i was passed, at speed, by a fellow competitor after about 3 miles. He was my TWO minute man. I didn’t think i was going that slowly, but there you have it, TT vs Road bike, TT bike always wins. it was the flat section of the course. I reined him in a bit on a long hill but after that he vanished. this knocked my confidence.

Prior to riding i chose my gear really carefully. it’s the first time i’ve ever raced in a rain jacket and full tights. I was set to wear my neoprene endura overshoes, when i switched them for my altura ergofit waterproof ones instead. If you’ve read this blog you’ll know i don’t rate these. However, i reasoned that that with winter tights they would seal around the ankle, and the waterproofing would be the better bet. they did seal around the ankle, but the amount of water that got in elsewhere was staggering. These overshoes are completely ineffectual, avoid them at all costs. you are better off using reams of duct tape and a couple of tesco carrier bags. I am going to write a shitty, boring email to altura. The simple result was that after 6 miles my feet were absolutely frozen. In every other way i was fine. Well, nearly. I couldn’t get my heartrate up for toffee and was middling around at about 80% of max, and it was falling. My average speed was 20mph, which wasn’t appalling, but it was the quicker bit of the parcours.

The headwind was what made the decision for me. When riding into the headwind my speed crashed through the floor. At one point i was doing 12mph on the flat. i lost the will to ride and sat up. The route goes back past the HQ at about 17 miles, and knowing this gave me the option to climb off. With a further 23 miles to go and no feeling in my toes at all i stopped, got changed and left straight away.

I felt sorry for Ruth, the event organiser, having put on such an astounding event and then to be faced with a huge number of DNS and DNF. There is some unfinished business with this race and me, it was a target for this year on the TT weapon. It will have to wait. On the Chippenham Scale i’d have to rate this one at a 10, considering I failed to make it round. 

The weather has led to a wave of cancellations in other races, with good reason. The standing water on the course was certainly quite impressive. It’s been a ridiculously wet April and I feel that just as i was getting going my training and racing has been walloped by the elements. It’s a bit depressing, in truth. I just want a warm day and not much wind and want to ride my bike fast, unimpeded by endless rain and wind. Fingers crossed that by next weekend it might have marginally improved. hopefully i won’t get the cursed number – every time i’ve had a 13 in a race (twice), bad shit has happened.

Lastly, congratulations to Alec Baskaya who took the honours in the Reading Road Race this weekend, a brilliant result. We were chatting yesterday at the Bath 10 about how he is finding the power adjustment to road racing a bit tricky, or something like that. By all accounts he time trialled his way off the front of the bunch and won by minutes.

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Time Trial Pacing: 50s and 10s (in the pissing rain, trying not to crash or give up)

ever since some errant klutz posted on the interweb about how wonderful the weather was and how it was going to be a ‘vintage year’ for time trialling, i knew the die was cast. (incidentally, going by the ages on my startsheet for the BSCC 50 next week, every year is a vintage year for timetrialling). since then it’s been wind and rain, then more wind, and some rain, but mostly wind. this weekend both conspired together to create an old-fashioned tumult.

the answer to the question,’ how do you race in the rain?’ is simple, you don’t. it’s time to DNS, stay in bed, cuddle the wife or the dog, or both, whatever takes your fancy at 5.30am. avoid at all costs lining up in a greasy, rain-swept and windy layby on a nondescript midlands trunk road, the likes of which you would normally steer well clear of, with only a skinsuit between you and the elements for the next two hours.

needless to say, i ignored this advice, and thus found myself perched astride my stealth chariot, pointing at the asphalt whilst the timekeepers giggled from beneath their enormodome umbrella.  once i got rolling i was warmer, and whilst i never forgot about the rain, it slipped away from the forefront of my consciousness. i tried to pace this one slightly better than the last one – if you remember i learned that 50s are not quite the same as flying 200s.

this time round things improved. the goal was to get under 2 hours for the 50, rain or no rain. in simple terms this meant riding at a 25mph average. i divided the laps on the garmin to 12.5 mile intervals, and wanted to ride each one in under 30 minutes, with the first two under an hour. it’s patently not rocket science, but it requires a bit of discipline. i ate more before the race – an extra peanut butter and jam sandwich. i tried to keep my heart-rate  below zone 4 (90% of max) as much as possible. it seems to have worked, below are the times and average speeds for each of the 12.5 mile splits. it’s pretty much on the nail. the slower 3rd leg is the hill back from the turn and a nasty draggy bit, it was my worse section of the race and the only bit when i thought i was going to lose it. after that i got back in a rhythm and even picked it up in the last ten miles.

1. 29.01  25.5mph

2. 29.58  25.8mph

3. 29.25  25.0mph

4. 29.17  25.6mph

there’s also a classic ‘climbing heart-rate’ profile, which shows the pacing strategy quite nicely, with a bit of a dig at the end.Whilst i am pleased as punch with getting under the hour, and getting the pacing right, i was also blown away by andy wilkinson, who is clearly some kind of monster. he rode a 1.47. to put this in perspective, if i had been on a 30, and he was on a 40, he would have caught me before the finish. he clearly has amazing power and has done a 100 in 3.42 before. however, that’s not the half of it. he’s also done 302 miles in 12 hours. this is over 25mph. i feel weak just typing these figures. anyway, here are the sum totals of my paltry efforts…. note the early start time on a sunday morning…vile.

it;s interesting to compare it with the 10 i rode the day before, on some of the same roads. it was a weird course that went out in a sort of loop and was a bit lumpen. it was raining and windy so i adopted a total ‘PLF’ approach, making it round in 20.51, perilously close to my PB, and a really quick time, in fact, quick enough for 3rd place in a field of 110 riders, of whom only 3 went under 21 minutes.

i’ve included gradients so you can see the effect on hear-rate. the start is much more abrupt, get rolling and riding hard quickly, i stayed at around 85-88 for a bit, then just mullered it, with good results. the second half was 30 seconds (!) faster than the first. the heart rate also climbs quite nicely.

all in all, i’m glad i rode in the rain, i nudged my PB a bit quicker and broke the magic 2 hour mark. i also feel like a proper time trialler, hardened and battle-fatigued, riding the course on the day and discovering what the ‘race of truth’ really means.

more rain

i cycled to work today. on thursdays i always cycle to work because i have no choice, so i am genuinely at the mercy of the weather. and in this case, the weather showed no clemency, it completely hurled it down for around 40 minutes and i cycled through a weather front. the skies were black and the droplets stung my face. to make matters worse my ipod packed up after three songs of bill callahan, choosing to give up the ghost and leave me alone. even neoprene overshoes were no match for the consistency of the water, my feet ended up soaked, and my bag – having never ever let me down – allowed a tell-tale trickle in along the seam. by the time i got to work an hour later it was nearly impossible to take my clothes off, the layer of moisture creating an unpleasant clinginess.

colleagues look askance at my dishevelled appearance, mouths agog, and asked if i had cycled (a strange question considering the lycra, overshoes, helmet, gloves, and so on) and i replied; ‘yes, it was great’ with all the masochistic fervour of the truly possessed. it wasn’t great, it was grim.

despite all of this, there was a radiant beam of light through the rolling storm clouds – i appear to have rediscovered some form, for which i am very happy. i did a 4 minute assault on a particularly brutish climb on the way home, accelerating up towards the top and feeling the endorphin kick. it was brilliant. just in time for a trip to newport on saturday with the club.

other projects: a diamant columbus mixte, possibly a 531 beater too. good times. i recommend dave hinde for cheap and good fixed wheelsets.

and i have been listening to cornelius…

oh, and my love of both folk music and beards has been suddenly, revoltingly violated: