By Andy Greenhalgh
Winter this year seemed to go on for ever. All my ‘shiny bit’ purchases have been made over the last year or two; these days its training and yet more training. My ever-patient coach Si Wilson sets ever more difficult training sessions, and, for me, the mental effort required to sit on a turbo for seemingly endless sessions has been the hardest thing about the sport.
Finally, the season has started, and a couple of early races suggested that the work I put in over winter may have worked and that quite possibly my ageing body might have responded positively to the efforts I have made. On Thursday last, I set a new personal best at a local event and finished in a (in my view anyway) creditable 7th place out of a 40-odd field. Only a few seconds less and I would have been 2nd. Great!
Two days later and with that result very much in mind, I set off on the drive to Newbiggin-on-Lune. The sun was shining, and the wind appeared light. All was well with the world. My new Rock Anthems album blaring out in my car, the journey was soon over. I parked up and was soon in conversation with a Carlisle based rider. ‘It’s a fast course’ he told me, ‘keep steady on the power as its slightly downhill on the out leg. It’s a slight climb coming back but as it’s a gentle side wind today, you’ll hardly notice that’.
During warm up on the turbo, I ran my plan through my mind. Si had warned me to start steady and build into the ride. He has warned me over and over again about going off too hard. My intention therefore was to aim for an initial 220-240 watts, and to increase to around 260-280 to the roundabout at 5 miles. I was confident that I could then increase to around 300-310 watts for the return; going over threshold in the final stages. This would or should equate to a race average of around 275 which I know I can do. ‘That’s its son’ I thought; ‘Can’t go wrong!’
An agreeable warm-up later, I set off for the start. It was only about 3 or 4 minutes from race HQ. On arrival, I saw that I was around 4th in line so decided to sit tight and wait for the off. Finally, I was called forward, and had the bike held for me at the 30 second call. Then my Garmin shut down!
The starter saw what had happened and chuckled as I quickly pressed the power button. I had never realised how slow bike computers are to start; or maybe it was just the particular circumstances of the day. In a flash, I realised that I had left it idling far too long and it had no doubt warned me that it was about to shut down whilst I was preoccupied with the starter and his mate. Then it was 5,4,3,2,1 and go. ‘Have a good’un’! I heard as I set off. I watched the Garmin load up and finally I could press the ‘ride’ button. The data came up immediately except for a huge blank in the power box. I can’t believe how dependant I have become on something that I did not know existed 2 years ago.
The initial half mile or so seemed slightly uphill, but my speed seemed ok. I got onto the skis and got into what I hope is the most aerodynamic position for me on the old (Specialized) ‘Shiv’. Seconds later my power showed up; I was doing 465 watts. No.No.No!
The remainder of the ‘out leg’ seemed to go well. I reduced the power to more acceptable levels and tried to settle in. I was expecting a substantial effect from the side wind but was relieved to see that it was not too bad. More about that later. I tried to get back to my plan but didn’t feel as strong as I expected to and wondered if it was the after effects of Thursdays race.
The roundabout came into view and I got lucky with the traffic. Slightly off-camber, but with a big radius; I was able to stay in my time trial position and got back on the power quickly. A quick check showed that my elapsed time was around 10 minutes and 30 seconds. I knew that the start and finish lines were almost directly opposite each other and so fancied that I was on for at least a 21- minute run which would see me better my previous PB by around a minute. Fantastic!
The L108 is straight. Very Straight! You can see for miles. And it looked uphill. All of it! And the wind! No longer a cross wind but what seemed to be a full-on head wind. My legs started to hurt. A lot! My power level intentions were heading out of the window fast. I was changing through the gears faster than Stirling Moss but could not find anything like my intended power. I was running this through my mind but could not find an answer. I know I can maintain my intended power; so why can’t I today? My speed (actual and average) was dropping faster than a fat kid on a water slide.
The last 3 miles were hell. My legs were screaming. I was shouting ‘Gracious this is arduous’ and was shouting other things as well. Finally, and with some relief, I saw the yellow high-viz jackets ahead. My power was now around 220 watts and I had had enough. I was through. I sat up and prepared to shout out my number (23) as I realised that the yellow jackets were nothing at all to do with the race. Absolutely nothing! I glanced over to see that they were giving me a half-embarrassed smile. It transpired that I was not the only one to make that mistake that day. Road workers eh!
The final half mile took forever. The usual ‘never again’ thoughts were going through my mind. Interestingly, such thoughts are ALWAYS replaced by the ‘can’t wait for the next one’ within 60 seconds of finishing.
I rode back to my car and met up with Carlisle Man.’ Well?’ I asked him. ‘That’, he said, ‘was bloody horrendous!’. ‘Not just me then’ I thought. After a 20-minute cool down, I wandered into HQ. A cup of coffee and a rice krispie cake later, and all was well. It was apparent that I was not the only one to have suffered. I was currently first in the V50 category and there weren’t too many results to come in out of the 80-rider field. One rider still out there was Neil Wood (Team Chronomaster); a great guy who was really responsible for a) my not giving up cycling within weeks of giving it a try, and b) suggesting time trialling as getting into one aspect of the sport competitively. Well, in the end, I just pipped Neil (although to be fair he nearly had ‘an off’ at the start), however two vets just beat my time of 23 minutes and 18 seconds. Still, a ‘tenner’ is better than nothing.
Finally, a message from coach Si. ‘I think you may have over-cooked the start’.
I think I did.
A final thanks to Shona McLean, the marshalls and helpers for hosting a great event!