Texas State Time Trial Recap
Everyone looks fast at the starting line. Lots of slick bikes, disc wheels, fancy helmets, etc. It’s intimidating. Not to mention the fact that the one guy who beat me last year gets to start 30 seconds behind me, giving him a slight tactical advantage. That’s the beauty, though. You can’t let yourself be beaten before the race even starts. This competition, like most others, isn’t based on who looks the best or looks the fastest. It’s about who has the right combination of preparation, power, aerodynamics, mental fortitude, and luck.
The plan was to stay between 300 and 320 watts for the first 10 minutes and then maybe adjust upwards. Try as I might, I could not help but be a little above that, spending most of my time around 330 watts. Going into a slight headwind it was easy to keep the watts up there and my average speed was hanging out in the low 25’s, putting me in decent shape with the long tailwind section yet to come.
Last year, the guy behind me passed me fairly early in the race, and while I was half expecting him to do the same this year, I kept my focus and was determined to stay where I was supposed to be and not worry about what he was doing.
I have to say, the power meter was a total game changer. I can remember last year having the same feelings of an imminent blow up, that pain in the legs that made me slow up. When it happened this year, the power meter was there for me saying “hey dumbass, the reason it hurts is because you’re at 375 watts.” That was reassuring. A little adjustment back down in wattage was all it took to get back on track.
The middle of the course was, as usual, a lonely place. That’s where your mind plays tricks on you. There’s still a long ways to go and you’re starting to hurt. Suddenly 320 watts feels like 350. The adrenaline of the first few miles has worn off and the realization has set in – 25 miles is a long race. Maybe too long? The power meter numbers start to dip under 300 occasionally, prompting a little extra push. You start to think, “Why am I doing this? This hurts. Your heart rate is 177! You might die! It’s okay to quit.” Crazy thoughts. Then you remember that guy behind you. Nah, make him work. If he’s going to beat me, he’s going to have to earn it.
Once I made the turn and caught a bit of tailwind and my speed bumped up to 29-30mph, I knew I was going to finish. I was still a little worried that my heart rate was so high (nearly 180, actually finished at 185), but my power numbers had stabilized. It was still painful working at my limit, but there’s something about being more than halfway done that makes the suffering easier to take. I also started to pick up and pass more people, which serves as both a reminder that everyone is hurting at this point and a little motivation to not let off the gas.
Once I hit the intersection with 2 miles to go, I knew I had enough to pump out 360-400 watts the rest of the way. Everything was screaming, but I held on to my speed. Didn’t hurt that there were a couple of guys that I was able to catch and pass in the last half-mile. They had picked their speed up as the finish line came into sight, and everyone’s last little bit of energy served to help all of us finish strong.
Rolled across the line and knew I had pretty much left it all out there. Looking back, my power numbers were remarkably stable throughout – 320 watts for the first half of the race and 320 watts for the second half, although my average heart rate was 10 beats higher in the second half than the first. I didn’t quite hit my goal of 340 watts and a sub-56 minute time, but those were admittedly ambitious and not really very scientifically determined. I did, however, finally win a state champion’s jersey on my third attempt, so that feels pretty good!
Next on the agenda is to figure out what to do with the next 6 weeks. I don’t have any concrete plans right now, and that sort of works for me. I’m looking forward to doing some of the workouts that I’ve had to forgo to save my legs over the last few weeks. I’m not a big fan of doing endless challenges – I’ll take a few days to savor this one before deciding on anything concrete. The State Road Race is on the horizon in late September, but I won’t really focus on that until mid to late August. I think that the 6-week lead up to this race was just about perfect – I was mentally and physically fresh. Any longer and I may have started to lose focus, and much shorter and I likely would not have felt prepared.