Today turned out to be nothing like race day near the Wyoming border a year ago. Of course, it was still windy but it was only 20-25 mph windy… not 40-50 mph gale force windy and it was much warmer. It had to be in the upper 40s when I started racing at 10:32 (approximately).
Having worked with Alison Powers for almost a year now, I felt much better prepared going into today’s race. It also didn’t hurt to have experienced the race last year. I knew much better what to expect out of the course, the competitors and myself this time around. I’ve worked hard in the off season to improve my general fitness, and my muscle to mass ratio. I dropped somewhere between 6-8 lbs and included moderate weight lifting in my off season program. Today I’d find out if any of it makes a bit of difference!
Preparation for race day started a couple weeks ago. I moved several of my workout from Pogo, my road bike, to Darth, my new TT bike I’.ll have to go get a picture of Darth to include here — you haven’t met him yet.
I took Darth up and previewed the course on February 9th (real race-day conditions – cold ‘n windy!) About a week ago, I started preparing mentally. I’d review the route in my mind, I’d visualize myself riding the route and I also started a couple of race-day lists. One list contained all the items that I need to bring to the race with me. The other was a time-line for race day. The time-line included everything – even allocating time for a final trip to the port-o-let. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I made several mistakes last year before and during the race. Last year, I didn’t bring a trainer to warm-up on. This year I did. And I did a very structured warm-up that Alison and I had worked out for me over the last several weeks. Without structure, my warm-ups tended to be too short, not the right mix of light and more intense riding and they didn’t really prepare me for the start line. I left the house this morning a few minutes before 8 o’ clock and arrived at the venue an hour later (after my first pit-stop at the Kum ‘n Go gas station just south of the venue).
Registration went quickly again – this year the paperwork wasn’t getting blown to Kansas! Instructions were to put your race number on your right hip. I filed that away under “Remember to put your race number on your jersey!” Next up was selecting the clothes that I thought I’d be wearing while racing. Until I got there, I had no idea whether I’d want to wear a snow mobile suit or my short sleeve team jersey. Turned out to be somewhere in the middle. I left on my GoLite base layer and put on my long sleeve Blue Sky Velo jersey. I had on thermal tights, which I exchanged for a lighter pair of UnderArmor tights. I pulled out a light weight cap and my HeadSweats Hot Pepper (summer weight) cap and put them aside along with a pair of glove liners. I had read that you generally don’t wear gloves while racing a TT — but I knew my hands would be cold if I did that, but I did go very light. Once all the clothing was piled up where I’d be able to find it after my warm-up, the next item on my time-line was the warm-up itself. The trainer was a snap to setup. I had remembered to bring a race skewer and a warm-up skewer – I wondered to myself whether or not I’d remember to switch them after the warm-up. I made a mental note to myself. About this time, I also remembered that I needed to put my number on my jersey. This task used to take me forever! Today it went pretty quickly. Right hip, no problem. At the last minute, I decided to take the water bottle cage off Darth. The race was only going to last 35-40 minutes and since I hadn’t practiced “drinking while driving” on Darth, I wasn’t going to start today anyway — so why carry water?
My parking spot was on the east side of a very large, 20-30 ft high berm. It was a wonderful shelter from the wind and I was able to warm-up in relative comfort. I started with a few minutes under 100 watts just to get the legs turning. Then I bumped it up for a couple minutes into the 120-130 range. Back down for a minute or so, then back up to the 140-160 range. Stayed there for a minute or two then back down to the 110-130 range. I included a few > 200 watt efforts just ‘cuz. They weren’t very long, but I wanted my muscles to understand that a big effort might be needed in the near future. Part way thru the warm up I had to take my base layer off. I was starting to get too hot. Who’d a thunk! I warmed up for about 20-25 minutes on the trainer and then took Darth out on the road. I felt it was important to see how Darth would be handling in this wind and whether or not my clothing selection was right for the “real” conditions. I’m so glad I did that. I found that I was chilled without my base layer – but only on my torso. My arms really weren’t cold and if I wore the base layer, I think they would be too warm. Back to the car I went. I rummaged through my cycling gym bag and found my Blue Sky Velo summer-weight vest. I put that on over my jersey and headed towards the start.
The other four gals in my age category (SW55+) were also making their way to the start. I recognized Pam Leamons & Ceil Murphy from last year – they both beat me. I also met Kathy Hix, a Blue Sky Velo teammate, for the first time. The fourth gal was Ruth Alexander. We ended the 2012 season racing against each other up at the Steamboat Springs Stage Race. She beat me in the TT and RR there. I took the criterium. They all looked lean and mean. The order of go was alphabetical and there was a 30 second gap between each start. Ruth went first, followed by Kathy,Pam, Ceil and finally me! When I got over to the frontage road, I suddenly realized that I had a problem. I had put my vest OVER my jersey and now my race number was not visible. Yes, it was on my right hip, but it was under my vest. DUH! Only one thing to do. Strip down and change the layering order. Normally this would be a piece of cake, but with the wind it proved a bit more challenging. But, I got it taken care of with a couple minutes to spare. The last thing I did before joining the line of waiting racers was to take a small lap and put Darth in a nice big gear for the start. Another lesson learned the hard way from last year when I was in the final countdown and realized that I was in my granny gear! UGH!
My pre-race analysis was that Pam and Ceil were the two to beat. I didn’t figure that Kathy or Ruth would be huge threats. Ruth is an awesome climber – but she’s very petite and on a road bike besides. Kathy just didn’t have that “killer” look in her eyes. She could surprise me – I’d have to watch for that.
I was much more relaxed this year. I was focused and I felt confident in my preparation. I knew that regardless of how the chips fell, I had trained hard and I would ride as hard and as smart as I could. “Ten seconds to go”…. “Four”….”Three”…. “Two”….. “One”…. “START!”. I realized that I was already half a pedal stroke down the road when the started finished his count down. Oh well. Sue me.
I was out of the saddle and sprinting, using those funky TT handlebars. In a few short seconds, I got up to my cruising speed and moved to the aero bars. I tried to settle into a rhythm. That wasn’t happening. My watts were all over the place — mostly too “hot”. More energy than I expected at this point was going into monitoring my effort and keeping my watts below 200. My plan was to stay between 165-185 watts for the entire race. And, from last year, I knew that the second half of the race is much more difficult since it is uphill and generally into a wind out of the NW. After what seemed a lifetime, things seemed to even out. I had Ceil in sight and unlike last year, she was getting larger over time instead of smaller. I was gaining on her!!! I caught up with her after a couple miles and went right by. Shocked the hell out of me! In my pre-race mental prep, I told myself that I had to stay or pass my “rabbits” on the way down because my competition definitely had the advantage on the return leg. That’s when they’d be coming back and passing me! Passing Ceil fit right in with my plan. Next up was Pam. I could see all three of the remaining riders when I looked up now. They were kinda bunched up. Certainly not 30 seconds between any of them anymore. I wondered if the order had already changed too. I think the next racer I passed was actually Ruth. This happened about halfway down the southbound leg. I didn’t catch up with Pam until about 200 yards before the turn-around point. I debated passing her then or waiting until we were heading north — but I figured, do it now because after the turn you might not get that opportunity! So, pass I did. I watched Kathy slow up for the turn. She was probably 100 yards out when she sat up and slowed down for the turn. Not my style. I rode hard and with about 20 yards to go, I down shifted, applied the brakes and glided around the cone without incident. I definitely gained time/distance on Kathy in that corner.
As soon as I was heading north, I re-doubled my focus on how my body felt and checked in with my breathing, all my muscles (especially my legs!) and my heart rate. All systems seemed fine. I was in MUCH better shape at this point than I was last year. It was a totally different feeling. My mind was racing through several scenarios as I settled into my 175-185 watt effort. Last year I barely made it back to the start/finish line. I struggled mightily the entire way back. I was concerned about the possibility of blowing up today. It didn’t feel like I was close to blowing up when I made the turn – but how quickly that could change. Right now, Pam was coming back along side on my left and Kathy was riding steady just ahead of me. I decided that I’d stay at my current effort and not try to ride away from them. I let Pam get in front of me (so I could see any attack) and I rode like this for the next couple of miles. My exertion level actually dropped a bit here and I felt like I was actually recovering and conserving energy. In the back of my mind I was wondering – where is Ceil and when is she going to make her move? I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. With a couple miles to go, I glanced back and there she was, about 30 yards back on my left hip — and coming on strong. I did a quick self-assessment and decided that I was still in good shape. I was not struggling at all and I had not depleted any deep reserves as yet. So, Ceil. Bring it on.
And, Ceil did just that. She came along side with the intention of leaving me in the dust. Instead, I enlisted a few more muscle groups that had been “resting” over the last couple of miles. I upped my watts, upped my intensity and upped my focus. From my standpoint, the race had just started! Over the next mile, Ceil and I jockeyed back and forth. She tried surging several times. Each time, I responded. I did not go on the attack though. At that moment, I realized that I was in a unique position for me. I was riding to preserve a win! I was riding from the front. I was in control. There were no other riders from our group ahead of us. It was just Ceil and me. All I had to do was finish less than 30 seconds after here and I win. Interesting.
We crested the last big hill before the finish shoulder to shoulder. I had pushed the pace up the previous hill to see what Ceil had left. I felt she was in much worse shape than I was. As we came over the hill with the finish stretch in sight, I decided it was now or never. I didn’t want to finish behind Ceil. I wanted to be the first one in our group to cross the finish line. I moved to a harder gear, I started turning over the pedals with “feeling”. I was heading to the finish and I didn’t want any last minute heroics to rob me of my goal. I was at my 110% effort level. Right before the line, I took the luxury of a quick glance to see where Ceil was. That’s when I knew I had it.
I started last in our group…. and I finished first. How cool is that?
P.S. Last year I got passed by a ton of racers on the return trip. This year, not a single other racer passed me. Not one.
P.P.S. Check out last year’s Frostbite TT blog entry – what a difference!