Thursday, January 23, 2020

Learning the hard way

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There's nothing that quite brings an age group triathlete down to earth like competing against single-sport 'specialists'.  While I've never considered myself a good runner, I would have previously described myself as a semi-decent swimmer and cyclist. 

However, I was put firmly in my place last night as I participated (I would say 'competed' but that's over-stating the occasion) in my first-ever 10 mile road Time Trial.  Now obviously I've ridden my TT bike many times in training and as part of a duathlon or triathlon - but I've never done a do-or-die 10 miles give-it-everything effort on the bike before.

And so I lined up as no. 22 of 30 cyclists on the B4000 near Newbury in Berkshire, waiting for my time to set off. I'd driven the road many times, but never cycled it - so while I had a rough appreciation of the topography of the course, it's surprising how much steeper the hills feel when you're under your own power!

As my first TT, I really had no strategy or expectations (that's a half-lie, I had a target time in my head) other than to try to keep in my 'power band' of 90-92 cadence on the straights and just mash the hills as hard as I could.

I knew whatever strategy I had employed wasn't working when I got passed by Rachael Elliott with about 1-1.2km to go.  Crestfallen is a pretty good description; but I resolved to dig a little deeper to minimize the additional time she took out of me in the last drive to the line.

The winner of this (described by the Newbury RC club as 'tough') 10 mile course finished in 22:06.  I've no idea how you maintain that kind of speed!  Rachael clocked in at 24:29 (equal 7th out of 30 overall), my coach Mark Shepherd a little behind at 24:41 (10th) and then I brought up the rear with a leisurely 25:32 (14th).

I'll admit that I was pretty disappointed with my performance, but looking at the positives there are some valuable lessons to be learned and some questions that need investigating:

1) Cadence - as soon as my cadence fell below 86-87 I started to really feel it in my quads (lactic acid, I assume).  This raises the question of whether I need to spend more time training at lower rpm, grinding out big gears and getting more muscle strength?

2) Gear Choice / Cassette - there were a few sections of the course where I just couldn't get comfortable, change up and my legs burned, change down and I was spinning too fast and losing speed.  This is probably linked to #1, but also makes me wonder if I should consider different gearing on the bike.

3) Ignore the pain - I think sub-consciously I was still in multi-sport mode and was fearful of wrecking myself ahead of the (non-existent!) run.  I need to remember a TT is an all-or-nothing effort and give it 110% next time.

4) Leg strength - again linked to #1, but judging by how sore my glutes are this morning, I have some work to do in the leg strength department!  Could be tricky to address now we're 'in season', but will talk with my coach.

So I'll be back for more punishment next time.  If nothing else, I have a marker now and something to improve upon. And there's nothing more motivating than getting 'chicked' (even if it was by the woman who came second at the Oulton Duathlon last weekend)!

You can view the stats from the race here: (I started my watch early and stopped it late)

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Tagged in: cycling time trial TT

Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs


  • Matt Fisher Friday, 08 April 2011

    OK, so I was reminded by my coach to point out that (like Dambuster) I finished the race to find my rear skewer had come undone. No idea if this caused any brake rubbing or anything like that, but safe to say it can't have helped and thus skewer is definitely being replaced!

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