Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, May 28, 2017

State TT Championship 2017

Yesterday was the state time trial (TT) championship.  It's one of my biggest races of the year.  However, this year I wasn't in peak TT form for several reasons.  These days there aren't very many TTs on the Georgia race calendar, and the TT championship was much earlier in the season than in recent years.  Additionally, I've been focusing primarily on endurance riding, a very different training goal than TT training.  Even though I didn't expect this would be my best TT championship race, I was still curious (and nervous!) to see how I would do.

Interestingly, the state championship was my first TT this year.  I missed this year's Tundra Time Trial in February because it fell on the same day as the Middle Georgia Epic (see race report from 2/20/17).  About six weeks before the state championship, I started doing TT interval training.  This is my usual preparation for a TT.  However, my body has felt different this year.  Specifically, in the past the limiting factor in my training has always been my cardiovascular system.  This year, however, my muscles felt like the limiting factor.  I couldn't maintain past years' power levels no matter how hard I pedaled, yet my heart and lungs didn't feel maxed out.  I'm sure I could get back my previous power threshold with work, but there wasn't enough time before the state TT.

Originally I had assumed that I would race women's Category 3.  I'm actually a Cat 4, but I've been a Cat 4 for so long that I feel like it's fairer to give newer racers a shot at the Cat 4 title.  The only way you can cat up is through mass-start races (road races and crits), not through TTs.  Because I gave up mass-start races after my serious crash a few years ago, I'll never be able to cat up.  (My epitaph will be Cat 4, 4 Ever.)  However, you can race in TTs, including the state championship, in a higher cat, which is what I've done the past few years.

This year I had a different option.  For the first time, masters women categories were offered at the state TT!  Men typically have masters categories in any kind of road race, but masters women races are relatively rare in this area.  So, I registered for the women's masters 45-49 group.  This seemed like a good move particularly given my less-than-optimal TT fitness.

Different types of cycling races seem to ebb and flow over time.  TTs were a lot more popular five years ago.  I don't know if fewer TTs on the race calendar have diminished interest in them or if dwindling TT participants have led to fewer races.  Chicken vs. egg.  Either way, most of the state TT categories had few racers.  You have to preregister for the state TT; there is no race-day registration.  Therefore, I checked the list of preregistered racers several times earlier this week.  I was the only registrant in women's masters 45-49...until Wednesday night.  That's when I saw Christine Grant on the list.  D'oh!  She's an excellent time trialist who always beats me.  Oh well, all I could do was my best, which was true regardless.  And who knew - maybe I still had a shot at winning.  (By the way, there were no women Cat 3 racers at the state TT!)

I did have one extra nice thing at yesterday's race: Robert went, too!  Although he hadn't done a TT in three or four years because he's been focusing on road races, he decided to do the state TT.  Not only did I enjoy simply having him with me, I also appreciated his being my soigneur.  He pinned my race number on me, which was much easier than having to do it myself.  At first he accidentally pinned it on upside down.  He fixed it, but he really didn't have to:

Although I knew I wouldn't be able to hold as high a wattage as the last few years, I had a power target in mind.  My plan was to not go out too hard, keep my power a few watts below target on the first half of the race, and then go harder on the second half.  I was hoping that adrenaline would let me hold slightly more power than I had been able to during my several weeks of TT training.  That turned out not to be the case - I could hold only what I had been able to during training, surprise, surprise - but otherwise my general plan worked well.

Christine was in front of me, starting one minute before I did.  The course was out-and-back.  As expected, I didn't see her until she was coming back from the turnaround.  She seemed to be about a minute in front of me then, but I couldn't tell if it was significantly more or less.  No need to worry about that - I just had to keep racing as hard as I could.  My biggest goal, other than hoping my best would be enough to beat Christine, was to break an hour.  The state TT has been on the same course for the last several years, and I've been able to finish in just under an hour (59 minutes and some odd seconds) the last two years.

I kept my eye on my power meter.  I talked to myself constantly: "Keep your head in this.  Keep pedaling.  A little faster.  A little more power."  As during training, I could go only as hard as my muscles would allow.  I tend to push a hard gear, but I had found during TT training that by spinning in a slightly lower gear, I could actually put out more power and, therefore, go faster.  I downshifted more than in previous TTs to keep my power and speed as high as possible.

Often during a TT, a snippet of song gets stuck in my head, which I use as kind of a mantra to keep myself on task.  This time it was a rather weird song, "We Belong" by Pat Benatar - not the most energizing TT mantra, but I didn't fight it.

As I got closer to the turnaround, I knew I would see Christine soon.  As soon as I spotted her, different song lyrics immediately jumped into my head: Oh, here she comes from "Maneater" by Hall & Oates.  That was definitely a better TT mantra for the second half of the race.

Doing rough calculations in my head, I determined that it was going to be close on breaking an hour.  I kept on and kept on.  I actually felt a little stronger in the last few miles.  At 56 minutes, I had about a mile and a half to go.  Pedal, pedal, pedal!

1 km to go.  Push it, push it!  I put my head down and crossed the line just as my Garmin turned over 1:00:00.  But what was my official time?

A cool thing about this race is that as soon as I finished, I received an e-mail with my time!  I didn't even have to wait until the list of results was posted.  I finished in...


Less than two seconds over my goal of breaking one hour.  Bummer.  Surely I could have saved two seconds somewhere along the course, probably at the turnaround.  But I rode as hard as I thought I could at the time.  The numbers are what they are.  I was actually quite pleased with my results given how my training had gone.  The only question now was how Christine had finished.  I was 99.9% certain she had won, but I did wonder how much she beat me by...

Her time was 00:56:43.51.  That's 3:17 faster than me.  Even at my best trained level, I couldn't be three minutes faster than what I raced on that course yesterday.  So, extra kudos to Christine for a truly outstanding performance!

Despite the pre-race barfiness and the pain during TTs (and they are painful if you do them right), they are worth it.  For one thing, you get to challenge yourself, setting goals and seeing what your body can do.  Besides that, it's a great group of cycling peeps.  I have fun seeing many of the same racers at TTs: Angela, Christine, Joy, Liz, Louis, and others.

Yesterday was especially great because my good friend Chad did his first TT since a horrific accident he had just over a year ago.  The fact that he survived is miraculous; to see him get back out and compete was a true joy.  Chad, Robert, and I went to Mellow Mushroom for lunch after the race.  It was fun to remember all the TTs we have done together in the past.  And, fortunately, the pizza was much less painful than the race.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mountain Music 200K Brevet

About two months ago I started not one, but two new jobs!  I’m excited, and things are going well, but I’m still getting my feet under me.  Although I’m riding lots, I haven’t had much time for writing.  Last weekend’s ride, however, is definitely worth a report.  It was my first brevet that started in another state.

The Mountain Music 200K, hosted by the Alabama Randonneurs, began in Ft. Payne, AL.  Originally, I had planned to do a permanent that day, which is the only Saturday this month I have available to keep up my R-12.  Then, when my rando buddy Andy posted on the Audax Atlanta Facebook page about the Mountain Music 200K, I changed my plans.  Not only did this present a terrific cycling opportunity, it gave me an excellent chance to visit my father and stepmother.  Ft. Payne is about a 3.5-hour drive from my house but only about a 1.25-hour drive from theirs – definitely an easier early morning drive to the ride, especially gaining an hour going west to the Central time zone.

I had a wonderful visit with Daddy and Marian – so wonderful that I stayed up way too late.  I barely got six hours of sleep before I had to leave for the ride, but it was worth it to get to see them.

The drive to Ft. Payne was easy, almost entirely on interstates.  A little rain fell right before the 6:00 AM start.  Fortunately, it cleared out, and we had a dry ride.

When I got to the high school parking lot where the ride started, I was delighted to see not only Andy, but also Robert N. from the Audax Atlanta club.  We Georgia randonneurs made up nearly 50% of the seven riders doing the brevet.

Me and Andy (photo taken by Robert N.)

It was a beautiful morning.  Although I had to wear arm warmers, it was a good tradeoff because the cool dampness brought out the fragrance of the prolific honeysuckle along the roadside.

After about seven miles, we began our first significant climb of the day, three miles at about 7% into Mentone, AL.  I have to admit that although mountains aren’t my favorite terrain in general, I do kind of like climbing them on my bike because I’m built for it.  I was the first one to Mentone.  This had a drawback, however.

As I followed the route and turned off of the main road in Mentone, I noticed a cool photo opp, one of those things where you stick your face in a hole to take a picture.  One of my life rules is never to pass up one of these photo opps.  Unfortunately, I had gotten to the top of the climb first, and no one was there to take my picture.  It wasn’t the typical animal or other similar scene.  It was a plain brown board with three holes and “Mentone, AL” across the top.  Delightfully prosaic.

Mike, Max, and Robert soon caught up to me.  We rode together for a number of miles.  Mike and I in particular rode at about the same pace.  One time we were riding past a peaceful herd of cows.  Mike said hello to them and then confessed to me that he talks to cows.  As if I would think this was odd.  Not only do I do the same thing, earlier that morning I had sung to a buzzard.  It was a variation on “Blue Sky” by the Allman Brothers Band: Don’t fly Mr. Buzzard.  I’m just riding down the road.

About 66 miles in, we got to the second big climb of the day, just after the control in Menlo, GA.  This one was about two miles at 8%.  Relatively speaking, the overall elevation gain wasn’t outrageous to be in a mountainous area: a little over 7,000 ft in our 132-mile route.  One thing that makes riding in the ridge & valley topography of NW Georgia/NE Alabama unique is that you can minimize your climbing by staying in the valleys.  You only have to climb if you get up on one of the plateaus.

Mike soon caught up to me after this second big climb.  We rode together to the next control, which was also our last store stop.  Max arrived soon after Mike and I did, and the three of us mostly stayed together for the remainder of the ride.

A highlight of the day was riding through the Little River Canyon National Preserve.  An incredibly scenic road winds around the canyon and offers multiple, beautiful vantage points:

The brevet included several info controls.  The last one was at a fire hydrant:

I think I'll go for a ride.

I felt good at the finish, a bonus given that I then had to drive 3.5 hours back home.  I said goodbye to Mike, Max, and Bruce.  Bruce is the RBA for the Alabama Randonneurs, and he did a fantastic job of putting on the brevet!

About an hour into my drive home, I started feeling really sleepy.  I pulled into a large, busy travel plaza along the interstate.  After making sure my car doors were locked, I took a 30-minute nap.  I woke up refreshed and drove the rest of the way home without feeling sleepy at all.

Thank you to all my Alabama and Georgia rando buddies for making my first out-of-state brevet so fun and successful.  I hope to see you all again soon!