Ski slopes and achieving goals

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Last weekend I reached two of my end-of-season goals, a ‘21’ for a 10m TT and a ‘55’ for a 25m TT. Admittedly these PBs were set on fast courses, both with a considerable ‘ski slope’ to add to both the speed and fear factor!

The Saturday event organised by Icknield RC was held on the F11/10 10 mile course on the A41 (Aston Clinton bypass) near Tring. See link for course map and profile. It is one of the fastest courses in the South East due to a big ‘gift hill’ in the middle of the course, that you don’t need to climb back up again. This is also the course that Maryka set our club record on last year at 22:10. This year I had been just two seconds off her time on slower courses, so was quietly confident that if I could break the club record anywhere it would be here. With the August Bank Holiday event on this same course cancelled because of the rain, this was my first shot at a fast 10 mile course. My legs were feeling good and the forecast looked promising with hardly any wind so no fear of riding a deeper front wheel on this occasion.

I had arrived early and driven the length of the course twice to get a good mental picture of what the course was like, how long and steep the ski slope would be, which markers to use for pacing etc. The surface on the first or top part of the course is a bit harsh (rough enough to lose my rear light on during the event), but the slope and the bottom part of the course have beautiful smooth tarmac. Despite it being on a dual carriageway, this course actually felt quite safe as it is wide and there wasn’t much traffic. The bottom turn is a straight forward roundabout which doesn’t take too much off your average speed, but the turn at the top (after about 2 miles) is a bit more complicated and definitely slows things down a bit more.

Until recently I always just used to do my warm up on the road, but in the last month I have started to bring my turbo along for warming up. It adds some logistical ‘faff’ but also gives an element of control and the music brings me nicely into the zone. The bit I still find challenging is how to time the warm up exactly so that there is still time to run to the toilet if needed, change the turbo wheel out for the rear disc, do a final check that everything on the bike works ok, lock the car and ride to the start without feeling either too rushed or arriving way too early to then cool down too much again.

It was quite busy at the HQ (The Hub Aston Clinton which had a large terrace and even a large playground) and there were several familiar faces, both from my own club and others. I’m not sure how I managed to get things mixed up, but I was convinced to be off at 15:31 only to find out at the start I wasn’t until 15:41. Oh well, a bit more warming up and down the road then.

When it finally was time to go, I took it easy over the first part to the turn just to settle into things. After my experience with the ski slope start of the H25/2 on the A404 near Maidenhead I was slightly apprehensive about what to expect for the mid-course gift hill today. I shouldn’t have worried though as the road was smooth, straight, quiet and sheltered and with hardly any wind (if any there was a slight headwind) I felt perfectly in control and reached a maximum speed of 43.4 mph. The hill stopped giving after about 2 mile or so and then from the roundabout it was just a 2 mile effort against the wind and slightly uphill. That’s the funny thing about these short TTs: you spent quite a bit of time driving there, checking the course, warming up etc., and then it is all over in just over 20 minutes!

I clocked 21:13, a new PB, a new club record and good enough for the win too. Happy days!

To make sure my legs would be OK for the 25 mile effort the next day, I then (for the first time) did a 15 minute cool down on the turbo. The sort of thing Team Sky would do. I guess it helped a bit.

I had been contemplating whether to do the event on the Saturday at all as I knew I wanted to be fresh for the Port Talbot Wheelers event on the R25/3L near Neath in South Wales the next day. See link for course map and profile. On hindsight, the TT itself probably didn’t do much harm (and the time achieved was pretty cool) but the long lonely drive to Wales and the lack of sleep due to both post- and pre-race jitters definitely had a negative impact. The choices you make! How I wish I could have used one of my three ‘cards’ a year to ask my husband to come along and support and drive me.. but unfortunately he had to work this weekend 😦

I naively thought there would still be time to drive the course on Saturday, but when I arrived it was pitch black so I drove to the local B&B and set my alarm early for a recce drive the next morning instead. When driving the course, I could see why this course is regarded by many as one of the fastest 25 mile courses in the country. The road surface is good throughout and the gift hill just keeps on giving for miles and miles. The weather was good, although still slightly chilly at 09:11 in the morning. The ‘push off’ at the start was probably the best I have ever had (apart from one from Danny perhaps at a club 10 last year) and I quickly settled into a rhythm, starting conservatively on the single carriage way and then full gas on the dual carriage way. Because of the wide straight roads the course felt super safe and it was actually for the first time ever that I wished there had been some traffic! The only bit about the course I didn’t like so much is the very end where you come down into a T-junction with limited sight and then the finish is about 5-10 meter before the traffic lights. Unlike other courses, where you can really ‘sprint’ for the finish, this means you got to hold back a bit.

I crossed the finish line in 55:31 (a PB, new club record and win), happy but slightly confused about my number (wanting to blurt out the number from the day before).

By the time I got back to HQ it dawned on me how big this Port Talbot Wheelers event is. The car park at HQ was packed and the road either side of the HQ was lined with parked cars for what seemed like at least a kilometre. And then there were cars parked on the road leading towards the start too. As I was one of the very first starters, it was then a long wait for the results but time passed by quickly and pleasantly enough chatting to various other competitors and watching Matt Bottrill kit up for his competition record braking ride later that afternoon.

I have been trying to work a bit more on holding a good aero position recently, but on this occasion I only noticed at the finish that not only had I been slowed down a bit by wearing the old, not so well fitting long sleeve club skinsuit (because the short sleeve one was dirty from the day before and the Castelli has a broken zip), I also had been riding with the front zip flapping about half open for the whole TT. Duh! On the plus-side the NoPinz wallet for my number had held beautifully. See link for some images from the event.

Power-wise I was a bit down on what I had hoped for. Some of that was due to the profile of the course, but some because of the previous day’s effort. During the last few miles of the TT I knew I wasn’t going to be fast enough to get the required time to stay ahead of Paula Moseley for the BBAR (after her amazingly fast 100 mile on the A100/4 the day before). But I knew that was vain hope anyway. There are always those ‘what ifs’. And now of course I wonder if perhaps I should have done the A100/4 event as it does appear to be pretty fast on a good day and one girl who did both that event and the 100 mile on the E2 course I did earlier this year managed to shave off about 6 minutes. Take six minutes off my time.. and I would have been pretty close to Paula’s 100 mile time and possibly a bit closer or ahead in the BBAR (see link for current standings). But haha no way I would have done a ‘55’ for a 25 mile TT the next morning at the other end of the country!  Also, I may well have blown up because of appalling pacing or got a puncture or whatever. Best to just be happy with the choices I made, the times I achieved and be proud of how close I got.

The addictive thing about goal setting and achieving is that it keeps you striving for ever better and faster times. The goal posts keep moving … Safe to say that those are goals for next season and depending on what I decide my main target will be for 2015 I may not achieve them at all 😉

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