Thursday, March 5, 2009

TT: R.I.P.

A week ago, I put the wood to the rest of Ohio's Cat 4 cycling community and sent a stern warning: I intend to defend with vigor my USA Cycling ranking in time trialing.

Last I checked, late last year, I was ranked 4th in Ohio in my cat and age group (or one or the other -- I can't remember) in the discipline of TT.

Imagine how highly I might be ranked if I'd ever actually done a time trial. Because I haven't. Not one. And I have never been on a TT bike, or worn a teardrop helmet or a skinsuit. Says a lot about USA Cycling's rankings, doesn't it? Is the sort random? Or perhaps by weight? (The same rankings "computer" once put me among the top 10 Cat 5 riders in the U.S.; talk about damning with faint praise.)

Eight days ago, though, part of that changed: I did my first TT.

It was on a Computrainer in Ray H's basement, and it was only three miles long -- a prologue, if you will. But I kicked such ass on it that among the seven or eight riders who have competed in The Race at Ray's, I now rank firmly in the top 10.

My next highest priority

I don't like climbing, because I'm ill suited for it (i.e., fat). I now know that I don't like time trialing much, either, because I'm ill suited for that, too (i.e., I don't like pain). Still, it was instructive to try it, particularly with a watt meter running on the computer screen -- another first for me.

(I've never seen my power output before. Part of me didn't want to, because I didn't want to be discouraged; part of me was afraid I'd get sucked into it like a first-time crack smoker and wind up selling my plasma to buy a PowerTap on a Zipp disc wheel.)

I really came to watch, not ride -- although riding was in the back of my mind on my way from work to Ray's house. During that 10-mile trip, I tried to warm up to my threshold HR and could barely do it.

So I laid down my excuses (they were true, but still excuses) for Ray and the others: I rode hard the prior day and my legs were shot, and my heart rate was way behind my perceived effort, and I was wearing frigid-weather commuting clothes and riding my old bike.

But the peer pressure got to me.

Then Thom initiated me into the brotherhood by revealing the Sacred Secrets of Time Trialing: Find a level of exertion you don't want to be at because it hurts too much. Then stay there and hope you don't blow up.

I was off like a shot, and immediately my HR soared way above threshold. I was sure I couldn't sustain that, and I was gasping and my legs felt like Greg LeMond's liver. So I guess I was where I should be.

A little over one third of the course was uphill, most of that in the form of a mile-long climb that is probably a 4- to 5% grade; I was sucking wind on that, as my speed plummeted from 29 mph to 13 or so. Thom, Ray and Pete spat beer at me and flogged me with inner tubes to keep my wattage from dropping into the single digits. Then, when I saw the finish line, I managed to summon up the last 650 watts I had in my body to wallow over the line at a speed rivaled by only the swiftest of donkeys.

I wound up completing the three miles in 8:06, I think, which translates to 22.2 mph. But I'm pretty sure that is misleading. First, I had no aero equipment. Second, the Computrainer factors your weight into its calculations (heavier = slower, all other things being equal) and I accidentally told Ray I weigh 186. I meant to say ... uh ... 136. So I'm pretty sure if it weren't for those factors, I would've crushed Steiner's Zabriskie-like sub-7:00 time. In fact, I could've even beat Zabriskie himself -- because unlike him, I actually had a bike to ride.

- JN

1 comment:

Ray Huang said...

The truth is you did great!!