Nearly 11 months to the day after "The Accident" and 12 months to the day of my 1st race here in Colorado, I again kicked off another race season by doing, as coincidence has it, the same race I did nearly a year ago: the Frostbite Time Trial near Ft. Collins. Since my 1st race season was cut short, I am looking at this race season as my rookie one, and one where my goals are to race and gain experience. And one where squirrels (and other road hazards) leave me alone. But about today...
I had two goals going into today's TT. The first was to beat last year's time, and the second was create a new personal best for highest average power over 20 minutes (not to bore you to death, but I have this device on my bike – a power meter – that measures watts produced, and the 20 minute average watts figure is the benchmark used to generate my "training zones." I'd go on, but can already sense the snoring coming on.) I knew there were more experienced TTers on TT bikes in this thing, so I didn't have a "place" goal.
Despite the name, the temperature today happened to be quite pleasant, all things considered – low- to mid-50s and sunny. Unfortunately, the wind was sweeping down the plain. This is an out and back course, running north-south-north, and the wind was coming out of the north-northwest at (I'm guessing) over 20 mph. So I knew the out-portion (distance-wise) was going to go by relatively quick, and that the back-portion was going to be a complete PITA. To be sure, it's still a level playing field for all racers, but it sure does change the way one approaches the race (but more on that later.)
I warmed up for about 35 minutes prior to heading over to staging area. During my warm-up, I rode on a separate north-south rode just to see how the winds would actually be. And man, when they were of the "tail" variety, they were nice! I could cruise along at 20 mph easily. But when I turned around and faced the headwinds... ooph. I knew right then and there that the winds would all but made my first goal (of beating last year's time) tough to reach. I got to the staging area a couple of minutes before my start time, drank some sports drink, and waited my turn. At 11:31a, I set off on the approx. 11.5 mile TT.
[Warning: Science Content!] The general wisdom in cycling is: work on the uphills and recover on the downhills. This might not make sense to you at first... wouldn't going downhill be like free energy and wouldn't one want to take advantage of that by pedaling hardest then? Answer: No. And here's why: it takes exponentially more energy to increase your speed by 1 mph when you are already going 30 mph than when you are only going 15 mph due to overcoming aerodynamic resistance.
So, not only was there was a strong tail wind on the "out" portion, it also happened to be slightly downhill with some rollers thrown in. So yes, I could really make some time on this portion. But I always had in the back of my mind that in a very short while, I'll be turning my bike around and facing a slightly uphill racecourse into the same winds that are helping me go about 30 mph, and needing to pedal harder and for a longer time to boot. This is where I had to change my approach to the race: without the wind (or with considerably less wind) I wouldn't have had much of a time difference between the out/downhill half versus the back/uphill half. Now and because of the wind, I knew there would a big time difference, and I had to parcel my energy accordingly.
Because I missed the mileage reading on my bike computer at the turnaround point, I wasn't quite sure how much further I had to go, until I came over the last roller and saw the finish about a mile off. It was then I picked up the pace and was able to finish strong, and (regrettably) with a little left in the tank. Probably, a little too much, actually.
How disparate were my numbers between the out and back portions of the race? The out-portion took me 11:46 to complete and I did so averaging almost 30 mph and 260 watts. As for the equidistant back portion, that took me 23:03, and I averaged a little over 15 mph and 280 watts. So the back-portion took me twice as long to complete (time-wise) at half the speed, using more power.
Overall, for my 1st kick at the can this season, I'm pretty pleased with how things went. My official time was 34:49, which means I wasn't able to beat last year's time of 33:06, so no big surprise on goal #1. But, after coming home and downloading my power data from by bike computer, I found out I was able to achieve my 2nd goal of the race: I now have a personal best for peak 20' average power! With hindsight, I wish I would have pushed a little harder during the back portion, but given my inexperience, I'm not going to beat myself up over that.