Fact: The first time trial of the year always hurts like hell. It doesn’t matter how many 2 x 20s you’ve done on your turbo, how many lakes of sweat you’ve created on the floor of your garage, nothing will recreate the leg sapping of race day, except race day.
For most testers, race season kicks off in March, April, or even May – much the same, on the end closer to May for triathletes. But for a select few crazies in Surrey, it started today, at the Redhill 18(.07 < roadworks). February.
As a gentle reminder, if you’re getting ready for event number 1 of the year, this is what’s coming:
(FYI – I know we probably don’t ALL experience ALL of these, but you know, Buzzfeed makes massive generalisations acceptable)
1) The ‘what is the meaning of racing’ moment
After months of training, pretending to diet (ohh, no, I shouldn’t… but if you insist!) and general slog, you find yourself leafing through the CTT handbook wondering if any of it is actually worth it. Really, riding with your heart rate at 95% of its maximum, wearing a silly helmet, chasing after some old bloke wearing a number one less than yours – isn’t there more to life?
2) Start sheet arrives – unease and/or panic moment
The start sheet heralds the moment that this sh*t just got real. You’re on a number somewhere between a 0 and a 5 and suddenly aware of exactly who is likely to be passing you at some point during your torturous hour. In my case, the race being in February, it would seem that’s basically everybody, since really only crazies (eg dedicated people and mental people who have ridden the event for 70 years) and those married to the organiser (me) are racing in the month following actual January.
3) The bike nightmare
The night before your event, it suddenly occurs to you that you’ll need to be riding a bike. With tyres that have not got a shiny ‘turbo line’ melted into the surface, ideally gears and brakes that work, and bar tape that does not resemble your neighbour’s dog’s chew toy. Unfortunately, your bike does not meet this criteria- resulting in an evening spent handling tools that you’d really rather swap for a large gin and tonic.
3) The clothing nightmare
Arm warmers, or no arm warmers? Knee warmers? And what sort of base layer?! And can someone remind me how I fit my hair under a helmet, because I seem to have forgotten.
The kit prep task may also result in the moment you regret those Christmas Quality Streets…
4) The pre-event niggle moment
This is where a body part that has been behaving for months will randomly decide to be unruly – a calf, hamstring or glute niggle suddenly becomes number one concern and you’ll be all on the massage, stretching and ice trying to SAVE THE LEG. Never fear, it won’t fall off, you’ll forget about it as soon as the bloke holding the stopwatch says ‘Go’.
Thankfully, if you’ve really taken (1) to heart, you won’t care enough for this to happen.
5) The Start moment
3.2.1.GO. Pedal Pedal Pedal. You may, after around 5 minutes, begin to wonder if your legs are made of lead, and it is likely by this point your heart is hammering so hard it feels like it might actually explode from your wide open mouth. Never fear, this is all very normal.
6) The equipment fail moment
All your kit has been carefully stowed away over winter, or perhaps used, but for alternative purposes, so it’s likely something is going to fail you. The Garmin is not set up for a race (who cares about cadence, I want to know how FAR I’ve gone and how far I have left!), the grip on the end of your shifter has escaped, your visor has steamed up because you forgot it had to have that special treatment (reasons not to race with a visor, no1).
7) The “Calm the f*ck down” Bridget moment
This is when you look down at your Garmin and realise you are in fact working hard enough – plenty hard enough – and actually it might just be a good idea to keep it a bit steadier, ride at a pace where you can breathe without doing a Darth Vader impression. Because keeping your heart rate below 195 is always a good idea, really.
8) The moment you want to die
Probably as a result of you not being ‘calmed down’ before. You’re perhaps 2/3rds of the way through the course, and it occurs to you that’s not very far at all, that the road ahead is long… Perhaps a little ramp in the road (or in the case of the Redhill 18.7, a huge ramp the height of Everest) that shoots your heart rate over the read line. You start to wish you had a gel stuffed up one leg of your shorts, and that you’d not forgotten the 20-minutes-to-go-Pro-Plus.
9) The moment you need to push harder
You’ve been dwelling on (8) for far too long, the end is so close – you’re wasting valuable seconds. You remember how you felt before the event, that just 20 seconds could make all that sweating worth it, and letting it drop now could undo all the good self-destruction you completed in those first few miles.
10) The final moment
Is that… a chequered board? A flag? Is there a man with a stopwatch next to it? There is! There is! You’ve done it! Stop the watch. Let the legs spin. Feel the elation – and no matter what time you did, you can smile – that was the toughest event of the year, and you’ve just remembered why you love ALL of this so much.
On a personal note…
My experience of the (very well organised) Redhill 18.7 was pretty decent. I finished in 54mins45. I rode the same event, when it was just 18miles, without the roadworks detour, in 2012, in a time of 56.22 – so 1minute40 off with an extra 0.7 miles to ride, I thought was rather decent, and enough to hopefully stop me telling myself I’ve not improved in the last couple of years!
I didn’t place too well, but as mentioned in (2) – the other women were all very competitive, so this was more a race against myself than a race for the podium. Power was all over the place, but for a course with quite so many ascents and twisty descents, this is fairly normal (I hope). Heart rate was a steady 183 average, lower than most 25 mile TTs, but it was February, and rather cold which probably explains that. As per (6), I really did forget to have ‘distance’ display on my Garmin, which was pretty annoying.