Race Report: Shaftesbury CC 50mile TT 23/07/16

 [Strava Link]

The good, the bad

Following quite a poor performance at the national 100mile Championship (which I've not written about, because there really wasn't anything to shout about with that ride) I was feeling slightly 'raced out'.

This all changed after a few good performances, on the 10mile H10/2 (19:40 course record) and P881r course (18:39). I found myself with a renewed enthusiasm and slightly more positive outlook. So I was looking forward to the Shaftesbury 50mile TT taking place on Saturday 23/07/16. The weather forecast was predicting rare 'float' conditions (hot, low air pressure, little wind) and the course, the E2/50c is one of the fastest.

 

The ugly

At the race HQ in the morning, it was extremely hot in the direct sunlight. I debated whether I should use a camelbak under my skinsuit, or just stick with a small aero bottle on my downtube. I felt well hydrated, so thought the bottle would be adequate. 

The start point was about 5miles from the HQ, so I set off nice and early and did a good 45min warm up en route. As I waited on the start line, I suddenly had a very dry mouth, not great news when I only had a limited supply of water on my bike. I thought I had better drink some of my limited supply, but it probably only left about 300ml for the race itself. I started to regret not using the camelbak.

The first 25miles of the race was good, averaging about 325w for a 47min 51sec split. I was really suffering in the heat though, and I'd already drank the tiny ration of water I had left. I had a gel instead, hoping that would satisfy my thirst. Unfortunately it was a highly caffeinated gel which probably made the situation worse. 

The second 25miles was a nightmare. Very dehydrated and my legs felt empty, struggling to hold power (I managed 295w for this second half). I concentrated on being as aerodynamic as possible to counteract my diminishing power. 

i really pushed in the final 5miles. I only managed 287w but it felt like I was giving it everything. My heart rate was sky high (for me) given the power I was doing, presumably a result of dehydration.

 
Increasing heart rate, but decreasing power! 

Increasing heart rate, but decreasing power! 

 

As I approached 49.8miles, I saw a slip road approaching, with a Marshall sat next to it. I couldn't see any signs telling me to turn off, so as I approached I signalled to the Marshall for clarification. Unfortunately, something was lost in translation and I took his hand flapping as telling me to continue on the main road. As soon as I had gone past the junction, I knew I had made a massive mistake. I'd missed the turning for the finish line. To say I was angry at myself was an understatement. 

What made matters worse, was that I was stuck on an A-road going totally the wrong direction. It took me 27miles to finally get back to the HQ. I was so dehydrated, I could barely turn the pedals, and was later sick on the way home at the side of the road!

I think I would have finished in around 1:37:30ish. It would have been great to officially get such a quick time, but it wasn't actually a great ride, I think because of the hydration issues. Steve Irwin won with a fantastic time of 1:35:13, with Richard Bideau a close second in 1:35:23 and John Dewey in 1:35:56. Three incredible rides! 

There were some incredible women's times too, with Hayley Simmonds breaking the competition record in 1:42:50 and Clarry Chung posting a brilliant 1:51:59sec time.

 

 
Where am I?! 27mile ride back to find the HQ

Where am I?! 27mile ride back to find the HQ

 

Race Report: ECCA 100mile Time Trial 19/06/2016

 [Strava Link]

To race or not to race?

It was a last minute decision to enter the 2016 ECCA 100mile time trial. Taking place just a week after the Newbury 12hr time trial, I was sure I would still be struggling to sit on the comfiest of sofas let alone a hard saddle. The concern of an embarrassing sub par performance was both a terrifying and very real prospect.

However, the course (E2/100C) promised to be extremely quick; entirely on dual carriageway with lots of dangerously fast moving traffic to help suck riders along. Entry for open TTs usually close 2 weeks before the race itself, so I decided to enter as a 'back up', so I wouldn't miss out if anything went wrong with the Newbury 12hr (race cancelled, crashed out, DNF etc).

The Newbury 12hr TT went well (link), but it took a lot out of me. With only a week till the ECCA 100 I wasn't sure whether I should ride it. I had 3 full days off the bike, then did just a few easy short sessions. The day before, I did an easy ~40mile ride on my TT bike with a few leg testers. I didn't feel brilliant, but good enough to decide I would race.

 

I've got the power

I've been resisting the urge to fit a power meter to my TT bike for racing. Although I ride with a power meter during training, I have no idea what numbers I could expect to see for longer races, so from a pacing perspective it would be fairly unhelpful, and I thought it could negatively affect me mentally if I see the power dropping right off during a race.

Despite my concerns, I fitted a Verve Cycling Infocrank meter, making this my first proper time trial with power. Technology!

Now with modern features such as power.

Early bird

All cyclists and triathletes are used to getting up early; it is part of the lifestyle. but this event set a new standard for early starts, with the first rider off at 04:45am. Although my start time was a (relatively) leisurely 06:05am, it still meant leaving Henley at 3am. It is quite a surreal experience (ordeal) leaving the house in cycle clothing heading for a race, while the last stragglers are still out and about, tucking in to a kebab and shouting drunken nonsense at each other.

Although 3hrs sleep probably isn't conducive to the best performance, the morning went very smoothly and I managed to get to the start line feeling relaxed and ready, with a few minutes to spare.

Dying a Slow death

I started the race hard, too hard, as usual, but now had a power meter to confirm I was going over the top. In the first 10mins I averaged 370 Watts. But i felt great! At the end of the first hour this had dropped to 330 Watts, and I felt not so great. This trend continued for the whole race.

 
10 miles in and feeling great. This didn't last long. (Photo by Davey Jones Cambride CC)

10 miles in and feeling great. This didn't last long. (Photo by Davey Jones Cambride CC)

 

At around half way through, I convinced myself the power meter was broken or had drifted out of calibration. I found it harder and harder to maintain numbers despite fighting it. I was slowly dying.

As the race went by, I kept re-evaluating the average power that I would be happy with come the end of the race.

 "Oh, it's dropped to 310w, I'd be happy with that"....

"hmm, 305w, well that would still be quite good" 

etc. 

The graph of my average power across the entire race highlights the slippery slope (this could equally be a graph of Mood vs Time):

 

Mood vs Time (or Power Vs Distance)

 

"You'll never drop a chain with that"

David Woodhouse had kindly lent me his 60T carbon chainring for the occasion. Apparently carbon chainrings have longer teeth than normal chain rings to stop the chain from derailing. Apparently...

Well, it happened. The chain dropped off at about 10miles, during an overtaking manoeuvre. It's quite embarrassing nailing past someone at 200% FTP, then immediately pulling over to let them pass again. I managed to sort the chain on the move, but probably lost something like 15-30seconds.

(Post race I mentioned this to David, to which he said "I have a chain catcher on mine")......🙄

 

The End.

I usually try to empty what little I have left in the final push to the line. My efforts were slightly hampered because I became convinced I had punctured with 5miles to go on hearing a hissing sound. Strangely, I wasn't too annoyed at the prospect of DNF'ing as I was disappointed with the average power I was seeing (297w), thinking it wouldn't be competitive.

The tyre was fine though (maybe just wishful thinking) and I went through the line in 03:28:17sec (28.8mph) for 3rd place, behind Richard Bideau (3:22:16 - incredible time, second fastest ever 100mile TT!) and Liam Maybank (3:25:28).

I think poor pacing, combined with fatigue from the Newbury 12hr meant I didn't get a time I think I was capable of. But, it's still a great result to finish 3rd in such a quality field, something I didn't think would be possible last year.

Top ten results as follows;

  1. Richard Bideau Pendle Forest CC 3:22:16
  2. Liam Maybank Twickenham CC 3:25:28
  3. Peter Harrison G.S. Henley 3:28:17
  4. Stephen Irwin North Lancs RC 3:28:25
  5. Jon Wynn T1 Diabetes.info 3:32:50
  6. Daniel Bloy Team Velovelocity 3:33:24
  7. Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team 3:34:02
  8. Dave Green Team Velovelocity 3:37:01
  9. Colin Ward Essex Roads CC 3:37:35
  10. Gavin Hinxman Kettering CC 3:38:02
 
Looking ropey at 99.999miles. (Photo by Davey Jones Cambride CC)

Looking ropey at 99.999miles. (Photo by Davey Jones Cambride CC)

 

Race Report: Newbury 12hr Time Trial 12/06/2016

Strava Link

The stretch of the A31 between Farnham and Alton is a horrible road, and the weather yesterday (Sunday, 12 June 2016) was diabolical. So what a perfect time and place to spend 12hrs riding up and down, as part of the Newbury Road Club 12hr time trial. My brain is still quite foggy from the fatigue and lack of sleep, so I have summarised the race report in 12 (symbolic) bullet points-

  1. A rabbit nearly killed me in the first 30mins. (He ran out from the undergrowth right in front of me). When he didn't, I hated the rabbit for not saving me from having to ride the next 11.5hrs.
  2. I thought I had a puncture in the first hour, but think it was just because I decided to use slightly lower pressure than  normal because of the rain. It still meant 11hrs of paranoid puncture thoughts.
  3. My position on the bike felt really comfortable for 5.5hrs. For the remaining 6.5hrs it was agonising. There was no in-between.
  4. Everything hurts during a 12hr time trial; Back, shoulders, neck, gooch, shins, feet. But not my legs.
  5. it rained persistently for the first half of the race, meaning I could barely see anything through my visor. Possibly a blessing in disguise as it forced me to pace myself.
  6. When it was raining, I wanted it to stop. When it stopped, I wanted it to rain again.
  7. As time passed by, my perception of how quickly it was passing changed. Hours 0-6 felt like 6hrs, 6-10 felt like 8hrs, 10-11:45 felt like 60mins, the final 15mins felt like an eternity.
  8. To pass the time I tried doing mental arithmetic to work out estimated finishing distances. I struggle to do maths when simply sat at my desk, but after many hours on the bike it becomes impossible. I actually think I started to become slightly delirious near the end.
  9. The wind picked up in the last few hours, making the westward leg soul destroyigly slow (~23mph) and the eastward return extremely quick (~27mph). It also made pacing difficult.
  10. My saddle bag and rear light fell off my bike at some point. As soon as I noticed, my chance of getting a puncture or mechanical problem obviously skyrocketed. Luckily, I got to 12hrs without any issues.
  11. I discovered the garmin 920xt battery lasts exactly 11hrs , then dies. So don't get one if you want to use it for an ironman (unless you plan on going quicker).
  12. Official distance is still TBC, but I think I managed to ride 311miles (fraction under 26mph average) and finished in 1st place. A huge improvement on my 2015 result of 292.15miles (24.3mph average).

I owe a massive thanks to the people behind the ride, that gave up their day (or part of) to hand me stuff in the pouring rain, while I barked instructions at them.  

  • James Churchard - who should really have been riding.
  • Lydia - did a great job of handing up bottles which I never took.
  • Joanne - sorry for accidentally spitting a bagel at your face.
  • David Woodhouse - thanks for the awesome caffeine turbocharged gel you handed me (even though it repeated on me for an hour).
  • Paul Elcock -  did an incredible job for 12hrs handing me stuff on the go. He mastered the art of taping all sorts to water bottles (including a spare garmin when mine ran out!). He wrapped food up in cling film and taped these to bottles, and each one was a surprise concoction. Some of them were edible 😀
  • The organisers and marshals who gave up their Sunday to put run the event and make it happen.

Some photos from the day taken by Kinesis Ttwo, who was there for the entire day.

Paul getting wheels ready because he thought I had a puncture. Because I told him I had a puncture.

Lovely day for it

Lovely day for it

Spent.

Spent.

Race Report: Hounslow & District Wheelers 100m TT 29/05/2016

[Strava Link]

After my recent ride on the H50/8 50mile course, which was surprisingly quick  (report here), I haven't been particularly looking forward to riding the 100mile version of the course, the H100/88. Not because of the awful road surface which inflicts terrible kinds of torture to the crotch region, or my fear of crashing while trying to drink from my bottle, or my bike disassembling itself as I ride. These things do weigh on my mind, because they are highly likely to occur, but not as much as the fear of the realisation that the 50mile ride was a big fluke.....

What's that noise?  

On race morning the weather was better than expected, but still only about 16degC with a strong 14mph NNE wind.

I decided I would try and wear my helmet visor (usually it is too hot and would just steam up with sweat) as aero testing has shown it to be significantly more aerodynamic. This had an unexpected consequence; because it cuts down on wind noise, I could suddenly hear all the rattles my bike was making during the race. This made the race a paranoia filled experience of noise diagnosing and trying to check my bike while I rode to make sure it wasn't about to disintegrate (not so easy travelling at 28mph+).

 (Poor?) Pacing

I eased myself in to the race. At least I thought I had, until I went through the 50mile halfway point in 1:43:10. This was only 11secs slower than the 50mile TT a few weeks before. I was pleased and concerned at the same time. I felt fresh, but did I feel 50% fresh? From that point on I found it easier to think in time rather than distance, reassuring myself that I only had left 1.5hrs, 1hr etc... I started to feel slightly under fuelled (at around 65miles). I wasn't drinking all that much; which was good from the point of view that I didn't need to pick up more fluid which would slow me down, but bad because I was losing out on the energy it would give me. I only had 3x gels which I rationed for the remainder of the race.

Photo courtesy of Cuchilo 

Twisted bars

The last lap finally arrived (80mile point) and with it the discovery that my stem and bars had slipped round quite significantly. While riding, I kept trying to check if the bars/stem were actually loose, but I didn't think they were. (Post race, I can confirm the stem was still tight. It must have gradually 'walked' around the steerer, a result of a combination of wrestling the front end in the cross winds, combined with the rutted roads and also that my stem has a small clamping area). It did make steering an issue (particularly as it felt like the wind picked up quite significantly) and made my position more uncomfortable. It also made me highly concerned that I might not make it to the finish.

Picture showing twisted bars after I had finished.. 

This was no way near as bad as #102, Michael Broadwith, who I past near the finish, and saw both of his extension bars had snapped in half. 

At the 90mile point I was confident my bike would get me to the finish. I tried to give everything I had, which turned out to be very little.

The course finish is just after a 'climb' so just when you think you are almost there, you have to put in a final big effort. 

 

Result

I finished in 3:30:22 (28.5mph), which put me in 3rd place (I think, full results not yet published...). 1st place went to Kieron Davies 3:27:34 and 2nd place went to John Dewey in 3:28:21. 

I was fastest at the halfway point by a few seconds; I don't know if my much slower second half was because of poor pacing, the issue with my bars, or the wind picking up. 

This result compares with my 2015 result on the same course of 3:45:11. This is undoubetedly a result of all the aero testing and refining I have been doing recently, with Rob Barrett, Athlete Service and David Woodhouse. I think I may be producing a bit more power compared to this time last year, but not 15mins worth. I regret not paying more attention to this last season, but at least it now feels like I am making huge improvements!

Top ten results as follows:

1. Kieron Davies, Drag2zero 3:27.34
2. John Dewey, Team Bottrill 3:28.21
3. Peter Harrison, GS Henley 3:30.22
4. James Hayden, Bishop’s Stortford CC 3:35.04
5. Michael Broadwith, Arctic Tacx RT 3:38.26
6. Charles Mitchell, a3crg 3:41.26
7. Jon Wynn, T1 Diabetes.info 3:42.23
8. Stephen Whitewick, VeloRefined Aerosmiths 3:43.20
9. Marc Townsend, Neon Velo 3:43.40
10. Alex Napier, Blazing Saddles 3:43.42