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Race of Truth

May 30, 2014 - John Stack
The River Road Time Trials sponsored by Placid Planet are under way again. As a refresher, this is a race that starts at the West end of River Road, goes out approximately 4 miles and returns. It is 8 miles of all out. Last year was my best ever. This year, not so much.

On the Placid Planet webpage, it says “A time trial consists of a rider racing against the clock to beat his or her opponents’ times”. It is, somewhat, especially for the top men and women. But its more for me. I have a number of friends that race there. But, there are some I always beat, and some that always beat me. It doesn’t matter.(OK – beating the wife of Mr Original Ultra 6er Loring Porter, Colleen, is always great). But that is the greatness also. Colleen and I are as close on this course as 2 can be. Two weeks in a row, we were exactly 11 seconds apart. Last year, our times were both better, but in my best race in years, we both pushed ourselves to PRs there. This has also been a real education on racing and competing.

How does one get better in a sport. Its not always the same. For the Wakely Ultra, I just put in lots of miles, and hang on for 9 hours over 55 trail kilometers (and try not to get lost). But to get better at the time trials, it takes a lot more. You have to put in the time on the bike. I’ve put in as much time on the bike as I did last year, but I’m still almost a minute slower this year. The PROPER training. Last year, I trained all winter and spring for the 6er . My legs were much stronger last year, and that definitely makes a difference. But not a minute of difference. Competition – that is a big part of it. Last year I was pushed hard on my best ride by Colleen who gave no inch. Don’t discount pure competition as a means of betterment. My buddy Wes has raced only once this year (and whupped me). But the biggest part is mental.

You have do this race both cerebrally, and fearless. 2 weeks ago, I had a slow ride in good conditions. I happened to wear a heart rate monitor. I topped out at 165. I realized I wasn’t wheezing and at a near death fall at the finish. That should have been an indicator of my time. In my PR last year, I was NEVER under 170, averaging 175. That is a near full on sprint for 22 minutes. The next week, I knew that I just had not been fearless enough to disregard that logical mind that told me to let up when I was in pain). I thought I would hold back just a little. That just a little slowed me down 23 seconds. I knew I just didn’t give it my all. And this race does not forgive those that are timid.

The next week, I rode harder, and dropped 23 seconds, purely on a better effort. This week, I messed up again. I didn’t switch into my big ring until half way on the first part. Mental error (seemed easier for some reason!). I hit the halfway point slower than I wanted. I let out a yell as I passed my friend Beth, racing for the first time. She thought I had broken something, but should know better after running with me for 3 years…Anyway, I had to use that disappointment to my advantage. I did push the last 4 miles for my best return time of the season, but at almost the exact overall time I’d had twice before.

There are 2 weeks left. I need to train even harder now. I need to push beyond what my body says I can do next week. I either have to start just behind Colleen (we go off in 30 second intervals), or start just behind women’s series leader Roseanne van Dorn, and do my best to not let her catch me.

There is another way. I could upgrade my gear. I have a bike that I rode on the 2005 Ironman. Same clip on aero bars. Mostly same everything. My friends Wes and Loring have gotten themselves Porsches while I still ride my beetle. Some bikes there are rocket ships. Many wear resistance cheating aero helmets and booties. But, If I got better solely on better equipment, that would not be as sweet. I’m not good enough to compete with the very best here. I’m somewhere in the top half of the pack. Spending thousands to beat someone who truly cares little about my time doesn’t seem reasonable. I will continue on my passable Specialized until I show I am worthy of something better.


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