Valley of the Sun – 2011
Today was the 15 mile Time Trial.
I did everything right. Had a light breakfast three hours prior. Foam rolled, stretched a little, did 40 minutes on the wind trainer and did three hard intervals to open up the legs. The weather was perfect and I was right on time to climb on to the starting gate.
The course suited me perfectly. 15 miles, out and back. No steep hills, but instead, a straight road with some rises; almost false flats. There was a little wind so I paced myself. I went out hard but not too hard. I could tell I was moving. Within about 8-10 minutes I was catching my .30 second guy (they stagger the racers in .30 second intervals) who was catching my 1:00 guy. All of sudden something happened that has never happened in all the years I’ve been cycling. My calf crinkled! I could visually see it shrivel up! I’ve cramped before but never, ever, at five miles. I couldn’t believe it. When I had warmed up there had been no sign, not even a hint of a sign that I might cramp and I had gone hard three times. I didn’t bring that much water because for such a short distance I didn’t think I would need to drink at all. I backed off for a few seconds and hoped it might have been just some freaky thing. Unfortunately, it kept coming back. I had no choice but to back off and slowly; both of the guys in front of me started to pull away. It just wouldn’t subside. I tried to pull with my right leg in order to fire the anterior tibialis which might stretch the calf. Didn’t work. I had no choice but to pedal with my left leg only. That’s how it went for a while until I approached the turn-around. I saw a volunteer and slowed down and asked for water. He said he didn’t have any “fresh water?” What? I guess that meant no. I continued to the turn-around and had to physically stop. I yelled “Does anyone have any water?” Luckily I nice state trooper said “I have some.” I had to wait for him to go to his car, come back and pour it in my bottle. Because I have a special aerodynamic water-bottle holder I couldn’t just take his Arrowhead bottle and put it on my bike.
I still had 7.5 to go, so I drank just a little bit and then hauled ass. About 100 meters later my bottle fell off my bike. Jeesh! Because the rear disc wheel I was using is thicker than my training wheel, I totally disconnect my back brake. I keep my front brake pretty squishy because in reality, you don’t need brakes on a time trial bike. You can’t draft and no one is allowed to be near you so you only have to slow down for the corners or the turn-around. As a result, it took me longer to slow down, and then, I had to turn around and go back and get my bottle! Now I’m pissed. I’m going as hard as I can go now, but I still have to keep coming out of my aero position to drink. In another mile or so, my bottle falls out again!!! I’m yelling at the universe now. I didn’t want to stop because now I was flying. This time it took me even longer to slow down and I tried to make a U-turn to return to get the bottle. Unfortunately, the course was open to traffic and there was a truck coming so I had to stop again, flip my back wheel around and go backwards on the course AGAIN to get my bottle. Normally, I would’ve left that bottle the first time, but I had to keep drinking so the cramp wouldn’t come back. No such luck. My right calf started to cramp again. I tried to ignore but it, but I could see it crinkling up. I had no choice but to pedal with my left leg again and this is how it went until about a mile and half to the finish. By then, my left leg started to cramp as well. I could see the finish up ahead. I either had to go hard and maybe lose it and have to walk, or instead, soft-pedal all the way in; which is exactly what I did. This had to be the worst time trial I’ve ever done. The only cause I could think of, is, that all week I’ve been thirsty and at night I was waking up three or four times with a dry throat. I guess Arizona is so dry, it crept up on me.
I was pretty concerned about cramping, since the race was 73 miles long. Four and half laps of a 16 mile course with an uphill finish. I drank a bottle of Cytomax/water every hour until I went to bed and kept waking and drinking through the night. Repeated the same ritual until I got to the race. Warmed up for a half an hour on my trainer and did three leg openers. The weather was spectacular except it was really windy. I could barely control my bike as I rode with my wheel bag with my spare wheels to the start line to put in the follow-car.
Of course some loco went off like a bat out of hell at the gun. If he can stay off on his own for 73 miles he deserves to win!
The pack was pretty mellow for the first lap until the hill, which was about 3km long. We went pretty hard up that hill but, I could stay in the front. The true climbers hadn’t really drawn their swords yet.
On the second lap, three guys got away and eventually got four minutes up on us. I got a bottle from my friend Karen in the feed zone and drank the whole thing. I was also pounding down salt pills every 30 minutes, plus, some nuts, raisins, a banana and some GU. My plan was to get my mueset bag with another bottle of water and more food on lap three. We weren’t allowed to feed on lap four.
The racers that were in contention now got serious about the break-a-way and organized a chase at the front. On the third lap up the 3k hill the climbers drew their swords and we were flying. No talking could be heard, only the whirring of the chains. I came unhooked at the top, but lucky for me, there was a descent which suits me fine. Dense muscle always descends faster than skin and bones. Unfortunately for us, we were neutralized (made to slow down) as the pro peloton lapped us. Good for the break-a-way though. Now we had to really cook. As we came to the feed zone I knew someone might attack, so I moved up to the way to the front to find Karen. Unfortunately she wasn’t ready and I could see her running to get the Mueset bag as I went through. Bummer….. Down the hill, right turn into a head wind for about four miles and then a right had turn to the hill. Ouch, now it was bloody. I did the best I could and came unhooked again, but so did a bunch of people. We worked together on the descent and caught the leaders.
We had now swallowed up the three man break and we were all back together for the last lap. On the descent we were neutralized again and the race was starting to seem very long. The dry heat was getting to all of us as you could see white salt cached on everyone’s faces. Into the head wind for the last time and three guys just slipped off the front. No attack; just slipped off the front. I was at the front and didn’t see a reaction from any of the racers in contention. (I had written all their numbers on a piece of paper that was taped to my top-tube.) Before you know it, they have a minute as we make a right turn before the hill. It got faster and faster. I got to the front to fulfill my promise to my buddy Mike who was in second place overall to keep him at the front. At 3k to go I was in front of him and said “stay on my wheel.” Just then some little squirt decided to turn it up three notches and attacked. I did everything I could to stay on his wheel, but ever so slowly started to unhook. I looked back and said “sorry” as Mike and the leaders passed me. I felt like I was trying to drink air. Tongue wagging, I somewhat recovered with 1k to go and started to reel some people in to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Long day…
A perfect day for a race. We were supposed to start at 12:05 but because of a crash in the race before us, there was a delay and we didn’t start until almost 1pm. By then there was a serious malaise setting in. However once the race started, that went away in about three seconds. The course was technical; a 1.2 course with a four lane home stretch that went into a one lane left-hander, sweeping right hand into a tight 90-degree right hander for about 50 meters into another 90-degree right hand turn which was a wide four lane street into a one lane tight chicane (s-turn) with a bunch of debris and road reflectors, to a slight four lane descent to another 90-degree right hand turn for 50 meters to the last 90-degree right turn, to the four lane home stretch to the start-finish.
I got to the front immediately and stayed there. Went for the first $50 prime and some 23-something-kid-going-on-12 snapped it at the line. That pissed me off. Two or three laps later I went for a $100 prime and didn’t get that either. Bummer. Got knocked once by some kid on the back stretch, but heh, that’s racing. We were never even were properly introduced! Somewhere in the middle of the race, I was about three back and I could sense a lull. A slight opening appeared so I jumped and barely slipped through it and scared the kid who took my $50. Hah. They pack eventually got me, but right before the chicane I attacked and got away alone for almost a lap until another guy caught me. It was him and I for a bit, but I was too tired from the day before so I sat up and waited for the pack. As we crossed the finish line the announcer yelled “five laps to go!” Argh… Anyone who races knows what happens when they yell that. Needless to say, I went from the front, to the middle of the pack, in about two seconds. It took me another two laps to get back to the front. One lap to go…. I’m in a good position but I wish I could feel my legs. As 45 guys want to somehow make it to the single lane left-hander the speed increases and you have to fight. I’m in a good position and make it through all the corners and the chicane. It’s the straight-a-way and it’s now or never. The attacks start flying up the left and the right. You can hear them coming; so, when they go, I go. On the left, some guy bumps into me. Whatever…. That doesn’t phase me; I just keep going. I get knocked back a few places into the second to the last right-hander. I didn’t have the snap to make up the ground in just 50 meters and rolled into the last turn in about 20th place. I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had for about 400 meters to the line in 16th place.
I ended up 33rd overall out of 78 racers. My buddy Mike got third overall. He had only beaten me by 14 seconds at the road race but I had a better finish today. It was all about the first Time Trial. If only I hadn’t cramped……
Nothing beats experience. That won’t ever happen to me again