Come in number 21: Time is up

It has become almost a yearly tradition to ‘have a go’ at time trialling. I know I like it. I know what I do to get faster. I know I will DFL these days or getting that way. I know I will have past glories smothering me with that look of judgement in the eyes of others. SO, with that in mind, I obviously jumped in with both feet again last night and kicked off 2018 with the Vale Of Clwyd Time Trial League.

Let’s start addressing the excuses first… I am vast right now. Small objects are pulled into orbit…. this has its advantages as small screws and bearings no longer roll under the nearest immovable object – I incur my own ‘Fridge Suck’ as it where. Over the last 20 years, I have fluctuated between 11 and 18 stone. Twice. I know people who are the difference between those two weights – that is neither ‘big’ nor ‘clever’. I am currently about three stone (for those not stuck in the Dark Ages – that’s 42lb for you Americans – or about 19kg for you cultured Europeans) off of a weight I was riding the Fred Whitton on. This being said I have never liked riding uphill very much. Next up we can blame a broken shoulder 3 years ago meaning the aero position, specifically elbows-inl hurts. Finally, as I am wheeling them out like some kind of dysfunctional cabinet display some, the Top Trump – a bit of light heart butchery 6 months ago. So here we are, there we are, ‘Luggage’, as it were, out in the open.

Pffft. Twaddle. Two things matter.

  1. YOU TURN UP.
  2. YOU RIDE.

Pretty much everything else is a bonus. But today, I had two rather specific bonuses in mind. I had to beat the time I set on New Years Day of 28 minutes 57 seconds for the same course, and beat a friend of mine, who beat me by 8 seconds that day…. and to be fair I was exceptionally happy to be that close at the time.
– Things that matter? Check.
– Goals? Check.
Right best get the ball in motion then.

Lunch, check, late as usual, no one likes a dragging afternoon. Then come about 3pm – what was that – butterflies? OOOoo. I am not sure I approve of that. The day continues to 1730, and what seemed like “plenty of time to get ready” is now an hour, within which I need to prep and get there.

Kit on. Speed suit (as opposed to skin suit I don’t want to scare anyone) – while sociably unacceptable its comfy and cool on such a cosy day. Checks nothing falls off the bike on the turbo trainer. Air tyres. Rear lamp (on). Garmin (beep). Cosy top for ride home / hanging around if I get an early start. …. and before I know it I am heading down the road on the bike that steers just a LITTLE too vigorously for my liking, and pondering the wonder of ‘glasses’* without overthinking the whole thing with a series of excuses as to why I should not go.

Arriving prior to the “arrive 15 minutes before to sign on” – I find myself off 21st behind the Legendary Dave Watt – waif, powerhouse, and drinking legend. I am going to see him at the start, and at the end with ZERO chance of seeing him – even in the distance en route. Bum. However, Lady Luck throws me a lifeline in fast (enough) people behind me. Huzzah. Discomfort and general lack of fitness will be one issue but focus another – someone… no matter how far away is an ace thing. A veritable rabbit to chase.

20 mins to kill is now flying by, and the numbers on the backs of the people being counted down is getting higher and higher. Suddenly I realise that EVERYONE around me is making excuses. EV-ER-EE-ONE. The penny drops. They have “not been training”, been “off the bike”, “their first TT of the year” … the list could go on, but it would become rapidly more obscure and abstract. It dawns on me that everyone is worried, everyone thinks they are going to disappoint themselves, and everyone thinks that others imagine they are going to better than they are capable of**.

The waif in a skin suit in front of me is number 20 – and while I know he has been on a legendary bender the night before… he is an ATH-LEET and I won’t see him again until the finish.
“30 seconds”
“10 seconds”

“5, 4, 3, 2, 1″… and BEEP Garmin on. I am not even sure why. It just felt right. Gone are they days where your simplistic cycle computer needed starting on your minute man to tell how long you took to get around the course…. but hell, it just felt right. Hmmm – so me now. Attempts at humour re H&S and Heavy Lifts to hold me upright felt lost. Careful not to be an arse – but needed to be more upright. “Left, more, more, done.”

A minute is a long time to be suffering. But to be waiting for pain… yeah, its a different matter. The count down was upon me, and the conscious choice to roll away as opposed to put myself into any kind of debt straight off the bat.

This bike is very steery. Confidence is low as a result. The first bend its back off the aero bars, then trying to figure out where the wind is – as I think its against me. Shift up shift down, trying to find something comfortable and failing. The bridge by the farm, and around the bend toward the foot of the wall. This feels awfully slow, and seems to be all over the place in more than one way.

GEARING is a joy as I start to struggle with gravity. My old TT bike had an array of eight gears with one tooth increments and all of them were shouty long things. Clunking up through the block I am trying not to overcook things, but its starting to feel like getting off may be faster. My heart is skipping now, but I am breathing fine, no burning, so I am happy enough. Levelling off and my minute man catches me – which is both 1) impressive, and 2) indicative of how slow I was going. Pressing on and up towards the first turn.

The roundabout ahead… there are two people on it in high viz jackets. One appears to have a camera. Take a picture of me doing 45 mph in 3 miles time, not suffering and slow here now! I don’t know who they are – but I hate them with a passion which is distracting from the pain around my lower ribs… it would appear breathing hurts: Well that is inconvenient.

As the point at which the climbing stops comes into sight, the rider two minutes back catches me and heads by in a flourish of low body mass and youth. Not a bad guess from me in terms of when I would get company to be fair. But what is this? He… surely not… he’s not really pulling away that much – hes like 40m ahead and …. what… *squints* hes out of the saddle?!

<me>Selects taller gear, pushes, and focuses on the red flashing light on the back of this new prey </me>

Genuinely he is not getting away – or if he is – not quickly. Pushing now with something to focus on I am heading into the village with gravity very much on my side. Pushing 45 mph I am having to sit up and brake now, as I don’t feel at all confident on this bike into that corner, or down the uneven road ahead. Glimpses of the red light ahead still between bends and cars.

Traffic at the give way junction, brakes again. Ground lost. Back on it – trying not to push too hard – but I am winding this now larger gap in… and for the cost of a constant effort. Ribs no longer hurt, heart is no longer skipping, Things are good.

Until Blue Hand Corner.

Over the bridge, the road arcs to the left around a stone bridge. I have never liked this small climb. Today is no exception. Effort to not over do things, eye on power as much as anything else, gears – fffasands of them. Twiddle twiddle twiddle – progress – then clunk clunk back down, rolling road, bends, settling back into position.

This road always used to go on for “ev-ah” – but sights seemed to keep coming, and before I knew it the chevrons for the roundabout…. again feeling very slow here before the smooth white line of the Denbigh Bypass – and just keeping the pressure on to get as far up the other side of the dip without needing to trade speed for twiddling.

Bend, and back. Yelling the number on my back, or what I was pretty much sure it was as I approached the clip-boarded person at the side of the road. Done.

The feeling of relief, of achievement, no matter how slow you went is hard to articulate. It pretty much outweighs any concerns, any pain, discomfort, and rushes at you like bull. THIS is part of the addiction. You feel like you could do it again (proven to be false by failing to keep up with others “on their way to the pub”), right now. It came back to me, the feeling of adrenaline, endorphins, achievement, motivation, purpose. This is addictive stuff. Still assuming that you are DFL, but daring to assume you may have done better.

Fumbling around on the other side of a church wall for my cosy top, I pootled down to join the others, some who had been finished for 15 mins or more now. Before too long the clipboard appeared, and the official-de-jour read out the results to polite applause (which I always find quite uncomfortable). With each “At Xth place..” expecting my name to follow until … hang on, the person I was looking to match just had theirs read out… OH MY. Next up … “in 17th place….” there I am – 26:07 … I am very pleased with that. Very pleased indeed.

So yeah. About that. Sure, New Year… that was social, bad conditions, first time out on a new bike and Christmas for goodness sake. The last time I road this course was 2016 – where I took in a 5 mile (on my road bike), and 18 mile (on the TT bike I road at school!). While I was not DFL for either – it felt that way. I was fitter, I was lighter, but my mind was not really in the right place. So here I am – 2019 – revisiting the same discomfort with my head in the right place, but lacking physically – here is to as many as I can muster this year.

Same time, same place, next week?


I set those two goals – and exceeded them both.

  1. By almost 3 minutes;
  2. By 3 glorious seconds.

Next up is a 10mile TT on the 30th April… on a course more rolling… or at least it is in my mind. More about where I can make up time than lose it.

Smiles.

Positive.

No photo description available.



*Glasses: My Giro TT helmet has a visor. This means there is little to no point in wearing cycling glasses underneath the said visor. There is a notable difference in how far you feel from the ground between “everyday” glasses and my “cycling” ones. Why? I don’t know. But the every day ones feel far more ‘Penny Farthing’ away from the road, and as a result, slower in perception.

**Excuses: The converse is also true – having since heard of a story of someone who has been training all winter long and being vocal about their achievements being only a little faster than someone who “has not”. But these people are too busy being smug to be making excuses at this point.

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