“Think fast.” The words swim around in my head, final instructions from Will. I clip both feet in, readying myself for the push.
“Thirty seconds” calmly states the time keeper as my pulse starts to race. “Ten seconds. Five, 4, 3, 2,1.” I feel strong hands give me a push and I tear away, racing up the first incline.
The 10 20 30 challenge
This is my chance: will I finally achieve my aim? I set myself a goal of achieving a 10 mile time trial at an average of over 20 mph to get under 30 minutes. Last year my fastest time was 31 min and 34 seconds. So far this year my fastest time for 10 miles has been 31 min 56 seconds. I seem to be going backwards and have become slightly despondent. Is the training working? Will I ever get to that magic 20 mph?
I don’t look at my speed. I display my power reading on the Garmin, aiming to keep it above 200 watts. But the route is a bit upsy downsy at first and it’s difficult to ride to power. I focus instead on “Thinking fast”. That means keeping my hands on the hoods and tucking my elbows in to keep my frontal area as small as possible. It’s not very comfortable and I switch between this and going onto the drops as I speed downhill.
The evening is warm with a gentle wind that ushers me round the first part of the course. I have tried to do everything right today. I had a large meal at lunchtime and a bowl of porridge late afternoon. And I spent most of the day lying on the sofa to rest my legs, watching the Tour de France to get into the right mindset. I feel strong.
When the going gets tough the tough get going
I have been training really hard over the past couple of weeks. The increase in my FTP I achieved in my first few weeks of training means all my training zone boundaries have increased by about 20 watts. This has made a huge difference to the difficulty of the workouts. When I first started, I found it relatively easy to reach the zone 4 and 5 targets. Now I can still reach the numbers flashing on my Garmin screen but I have to work hard. Really hard.
And the workouts themselves are harder - longer, and with more repeats. And I do the hardest workout so far, the dreaded 40 / 20s: 40 seconds at zone 4 and 20 seconds at zone 5, repeated 20 times. Then rest and repeat.
There are a couple of workouts where I think of ending it early and just slinking home because it’s so hard. But I don’t give up. Will has put his time and effort into giving me the right things to do and I don’t want to let him down. And I can be pretty stubborn. When I see the power numbers falling I push harder.
Look at that 20 min heart rate!
And it is working. I’m getting PRs and even trophies on Strava segments I have been riding for a couple of years without further improvements. These achievements spur me on to even greater efforts.
I also make sure I fuel properly on training days, and have proper rest in between. I have started to lose weight in the past few weeks. I put this down to the intensive training sessions. And not having cake for lunch every day.
Keep thinking fast
I’m halfway round the course before the first rider catches me. It’s Billy from the shop, all kitted out in his Flamme Rouge Cycle team kit, whirring past on his aero speed machine with its deep rim wheels. Did I say I’m on my regular road bike?
There is one major hill towards the end of the course. At the bottom of Mox Hill I risk a look at my average speed. It’s 20 mph. If I can hold this to the end I will make it!
I face the hill which seems to rise vertically towards the sky. I know I’ll be slow. I’m tired now and my heart rate is maxing out at just over 180 bpm. I want to keep enough in the tank to make the most of the downhill section which follows.
I struggle to the top which is where a second rider catches me. It’s my 15 year old son who started one minute behind me. I was faster than him last year. Now he’s beating me. I can’t let him get too far ahead. I start to chase.
The wind is not kind going down Mox Hill, mocking me as it flies in my face. It continues to fling itself at me all the way into Cople, along the stretch I had hoped to make up time after crawling up the hill. I reach the final turn towards Cardington and the wind retreats, giving up its quest to beat me.
I wind up into the final sprint. I can see the time on my Garmin which starts with a 29. I cannot let it roll on to show 30 min. I sprint harder. Why is this road so long? Where is the end time keeper?
Finally I see Dennis, a friendly face holding the stop watch. I call out my number “Nineteen!” as I speed past, voice croaking with effort. It’s finished.
How did I do?
I did it! Yes! Ten miles in a time of 29 mins 40 seconds, an average speed of 20.225 mph. To achieve the goal I set myself this year was amazing. What a rush!
What next? Now I have to think of a new goal.