One of my favorite parts of summer is attending the local time trial on Tuesday nights, referred to locally as TNTT or ‘Tuesday Night Time Trial,’ run by local cycling folk hero (and beer aficionado) Mick Hannah. It’s a 20K loop on country roads, complete with a few rollers, Illinois wind, and lots of rough chip/seal. It’s usually a somewhat low key event, and my schedule keeps me from getting out there as much as I’d like, but I always have a good time when I do.
Ever since last year, I’ve had a big goal at TNTT…to break an average speed of 24 mph. I’ve come really close, so many times! I’ve hit 23.7, 23.9, but I just couldn’t seem to flip it over to 24.
Last winter, I was tempted to sleep in a lot, but breaking 24 at TNTT got me out of bed. I’d get up early, early in the morning every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday and jump on the trainer with that goal in mind. I suffered through over 1,500 minutes riding at threshold intensity over the winter, trying to push myself to hit that magic number.
A few Tuesdays ago, I finally got to make an attempt at it. The wind was finally dying down from the spring, and was blowing at about 8mph in a direction that would help more than hurt. My bike FTP was at new heights. Due to a recent running injury I was taper and very fresh. This was ‘the’ Tuesday of the summer.
I really wanted 24. It was great to have a goal, because my season this year has lacked so much direction. For the most part I’ve felt like I was floating… What do you do, after you do an Ironman? I don’t know. When it was time to hurt, I haven’t really had a good answer, and I’ve raced somewhat poorly because of it.
But, I was determined to hit that number, and as I slowly rode the course warming up, I put together my race plan. I practiced the lines I’d corner with. I thought about winds. Most importantly, I prepared myself mentally for the push to come.
I rolled up to the line, second from the back to start. Breathing deeply, I waited anxiously for the ‘Go!’ and had my mind on 24 mph the entire time. The first part of the course rolls a bit, there is a stop sign, and there were some winds. Turning on to ‘2250’ the long straight away, about 3 miles in, it was just starting to hurt.
As with my half marathon earlier this year, I looked for the line, the place where I had to choose to perform, or be mediocre. I was already there. I did what I could to relax into the effort, control my breathing, and focus my mind on happier things. My average speed read 23.7 Mph. My watts were on goal.
Lana encouraged me to keep a mental catalog of happy thoughts, to pull out when things got hard. I was quickly digging through that catalog. As it turned out, this was a powerful strategy to keep pushing in this type of very hard effort, and one that I’ll certainly use again.
About 7 miles in, I really starting struggling to hold my goal watts, however my speed was now approaching 25 Mph. I knew though, that if I didn’t stay on the gas, it wouldn’t work out as I had just turned into the wind. My mind went to that catalog of positive thoughts, and I kept pushing, using those good memories as my very own ‘Patronus Charm’ and bleeding off just a few watts as my legs worked towards failure.
When I hit 12.2 I went all in, and I crossed the line at 12.4 totally done. My average speed was 24.4 mph by the timers, and I had accomplished the one thing that got me out of bed on those cold winter mornings.
And there it was…24. Mission accomplished.
So what’s next? Sub 30… That’s my next goal. I’m going to ride a 20K is less than 30 minutes. 24.86 Mph.