When planning my race schedule this year, I knew that I really wanted to sneak a time trial in there. I’d never done a standalone cycling race before, but I’d cheered on Eugene at several time trials and thought it seemed like a good entrée into the world of bike racing.
The Church Creek Time Trial is 40k (about 25 miles) that covers much of the Eagleman course – so just like that race, it is flat and windy with very little shade. Just before the race Eugene had given me an early birthday present of a Giro Aerohead helmet, so I was excited to put it to good use! I was also planning to borrow his awesome Alto Cycling race wheels, but sadly they didn’t get along with my back brakes and I didn’t have enough time to experiment with making them fit.
For this race, you park at a middle school in Cambridge, MD and check in, pick up your race bib and get ready there. Then you ride about 10 miles to the start/finish line area. I felt great during my warmup out to the start line and was excited to test myself and have fun with my last real hard effort before the ITU World Championships.
Eugene had helped me practice some time trial starts earlier in the week and I felt pretty good starting out fully clipped in with someone holding up the bike, so I decided to go for it in the race. Unfortunately the woman who was supposed to start 30 seconds before me was late to the start line and started about 15-20 seconds late, giving me only a bit of time to prep and making me feel a bit flustered before starting. So, I still managed the real deal time trial start, but it was a bit wobbly and there’s major room for improvement there 🙂
I knew there were only 3 women in cat 5 and I was starting out second out of the three of us. I didn’t really care about placement and just wanted to push my limits and stay consistently in zone 4, but also knew that passing the woman in front of me would be an awesome confidence boost.
The start was super fast and I was hitting 21/22mph no problem, so I figured there was a tailwind and enjoyed it while I had it! I ended up passing the woman who started before me about 4 minutes in to the race, so I was happy with that and hoped I’d stay in front of her as well as the woman who started 30 seconds behind me.
I felt great until the first turn at mile 7.5, when we turned right and started feeling the wind. Oof! My speed dropped a bit and I just told myself to settle in, keep pushing hard and remember that everyone else was facing the same conditions. Then, surprise! The woman behind me passed me going just a bit faster than I was. It was hard to get out of her draft zone given that we were going around the same speed, so I just intentionally slowed down a bit to give myself a bit of a break. After a few minutes I was ready to pass her, so I surged forward and hoped I could stay in front of her for good this time.
Around mile 9 I started getting passed by some cat 5 men who had started 1 minute or more after me – certainly not a surprise, and while not great, it was kind of nice to see more people on the course and I didn’t let it bother me.
At the second turn at mile 10.5 the wind hit me like a brick wall! If I thought the last stretch was bad, this one was going to be way worse. Immediately after the turn, the woman behind me passed me again and surged ahead, and since I don’t do great in wind I just tried to ignore her and do my best to push hard and stay in zone 4. I hoped I’d pass her again eventually but I didn’t – she stayed in front of me for the rest of the race! During this stretch I actually passed two other women who were in the cat 4 race (one division ahead of mine), which felt amazing! I was starting to get hot and feel tired, so this was a great encouragement to keep up the hard work.
Finally at mile 17 I made the last turn and had about 8 miles to go until the finish line. I was already hurting from spending almost an hour in zone 4, but I knew I had a little more in me and I resolved to push it as hard as I could until the end. I really REALLY wanted to finish the race feeling like I’d left it all on the course and given my all. I geared up and my heart rate jolted up to zone 5, where I stayed until the end of the race. Right before the finish I spotted Eugene taking photos (yay!) and gave one last push to the finish.
I had just enough time to spot my friend Matt, who takes a lot of classes at Wired, at the finish – he did awesome and finished faster than his last race! And, Eugene had been kind enough to bring the car a bit closer, so after congratulating me and delivering me a smoothie, we popped in the car to head back to the school. The cool down ride may have been good for me, but man it felt good to get out of the heat and sit back and relax!
Back at the school results were posted – I had finished in 1:11:30 which put me at second place in women’s cat 5! And most importantly, I had nailed my pacing goal and was in zone 4 for 59:14, zone 5 for 12:21, and zone 3 for a whopping 36 seconds, putting my average heart rate at 169 bpm and my average speed at 20.86 mph. I’m so proud of this – as a triathlete it can be tough to compare yourself against people who are 100% focused on cycling – their singular focus means they’ll almost always be stronger than you. But, I managed to beat several of the cat 4 women and a few cat 5 guys as well, which was exciting and unexpected.
I’m not sure I could accurately call the race “fun,” because it was extremely challenging and a demanding experience, but that’s what I was looking for and that is what I got. I cannot imagine replicating an all out 40k effort in any kind of training scenario, and it was a wonderful exercise in developing my mental fitness as well. Definitely would do another time trial and hoping one will fit into my schedule next year!