After a 2UP TT on Wednesday it was time to get back to normal and concentrate fully on the weekend for my first 25 mile Time Trial. Course code for this one A25\25 which would be primarily on the A1 near Newark, my start time was 17:46 so plenty of time to get to the HQ in Norwell. A reasonably relaxed day gave me plenty of time to get myself sorted and then set off late afternoon. The journey over gave me a sense of how hot it was going to be, with temps around 25-28c I’d made sure I had taken plenty of fluids on board already and would of course be taking a bottle with me for the race.
Arriving in Norwell is a pleasant experience, lush countryside, £500,000+ houses everywhere you look and on rounding the corner I found the HQ. With the car parked up I signed on the start sheet and then began my customary pre-race routine of a trip to the toilet. With the load lightened I headed back to the car to start getting myself together, thankfully I’d found a shaded area to park but it was warm, very warm. I got all my kit lined up in the boot of my car while I relaxed for a few minutes, then I figured why delay the inevitable, time to wrestle myself into my skin suit. My technique for this, strip off naked, lay down in boot of car and then contort, sweat, swear and wriggle my way in, at one point I feared that I wouldn’t quite get in it but even though I was on the verge of passing out in the heat of an enclosed car, eventually up pops the boot lid, tadah, Supermurph is ready. Well when I say ready, it’s now just the delicate process of putting on my overshoes, safely done I’m good to go.
5pm – t minus 46 minutes
With about 45 minutes to go I decide to investigate where the start is, probably should have done this earlier but there you go, helmet on, power meter calibrated I’m off. Rounding the corner I see a familiar face, Dan Barnett, “have a good one” he says, “cheers mate” comes my reply as I head off in search of the start. Conditions whilst seemingly still where I’m parked feel quite windy, nothing major but still a bit of a shock as I negotiate the level crossing. Eventually I find the start and spin the bike around to go back to the HQ, not exactly pushed for time but I’m finding it hard to mentally calculate things. With a top up of fluids, car locked it’s time to head back and start my proper warm up. I put in a few efforts and then make my way to the line with about 5 minutes to spare. As I wait, Dan passes doing his warmup, the similarities between us are quite striking, he’s riding a bike and so am I, he’d be riding his bike a bit faster than me though, he’d actually be riding faster than anyone if things went to plan.
Race time – The Out leg
On the count of 10 I hit start on the Garmin, then it’s 5,4,3,2 and 1 and off I go. Setting off I actually have no idea where I am going but with marshals in place I’d need not worry as I knew I’d end up on the A1 eventually. The first section of road was not ideal, it was very bumpy and true to form I was being bounced all over. I kept my focus and glanced at the power, determined not to go off too quickly I had aimed for about 275W, the display said 297W, time to dial it down a bit. After about 1 mile I entered the A1 and settled in to my race, immediately I felt the headwind, combine that with some deceptively leg sapping ramps I was working hard on the bike. As if that wasn’t hard enough the momentary shocks of cars and lorries passing were a bit unnerving for a novice like myself, but hopefully my light was bright enough for the motorists.
With 12.5 miles done I knew the turn was coming up, the turn wasn’t quite what I thought it was, essentially off the A1, continue straight on for another mile or so, then a right hand turn, a left turn and then swing back onto the A1, thankfully whilst rather tentative through that whole series of turns I did what I needed to do, I also took a few swigs from my bottle. My mouth at this point was really dry, I couldn’t even spit, but besides that my legs felt good, my new position on the bike also feeling solid.
Race Time – Turn for home
With 14.5 miles covered it was now time for some wind assistance and to enjoy going down the other side of the ramps I’d faced on the way out. During my race I was determined to glance less at my power meter, (no longer looking at cadence and don’t bother at all with heart rate) so far so good, although I had noticed that it’d had a few malfunctions on the way out, the average power showing was a bit less than what I’d done.
I used the readout to my advantage, telling myself I had more in the tank. Having had a few hints and tips of Bill Seddon to begin with, I remembered a few things to keep my mental focus, “You have to be prepared to hurt yourself in a race”. With this firmly in my thinking I really dug in to keep my speed above 30mph, the speed did drop for a mile or so as another ramp presented itself, luckily you know it’s coming and although I did perhaps change gear a few too many times I dealt with the ramp and ploughed on. At this point I’d already passed at least 5 or 6 riders, but with no elapsed time on my Garmin I didn’t know exactly how I was doing but at around 21-22 miles I knew one thing, my bits were painful and numb in equal measure and my neck was starting to hurt.
The last 3 miles
Although managing to keep my speed up I kept going from comfort to agony, but what are you going to do? Stop? Not really so it’s about managing things and just getting to the line as fast as you can. It’s at these points I think about my little boy Charlie, thinking of him makes me dig in. My power had become a bit erratic and although focusing on my position I had to come off the aero bars about 3-4 times in the last 5 miles to take on board some fluids, it was pretty damn hot and I was pretty damn on the limit.
Going into the race I had a time of around 56 minutes in my head, I figured on a good day and the way I was feeling this should be possible. But this was also my first “25” so I’d hoped I wasn’t being too adventurous. With about 1 mile to go I just went for it, with a rider in the distance to focus on I gave it my all (not that I hadn’t for the last 24 miles), I saw my power go up so I felt my effort was being translated to speed as I headed toward the finish line.
As I crossed the line I hit the lap button to see 54 something appear, relief was the emotion, relief that I’d done a good time, relief that it was over. I was exhausted, my only mission now, get back to the HQ. Those 1.7 miles seemed to take forever but I made it back to car, stripped off (slightly easier than getting kit on), changed and walked to the HQ. The HQ was about 50 yards away, a taxi didn’t seem a bad idea but as I hobbled my way over to the timing board I spotted my name “54:52”, happy with that.
The next task was to get some cake and water, I slumped on my chair, 3 pieces of battenburg and a flapjack later I looked at the timing board again. Looks like I’d done OK, apart from a couple of riders including Dan who blitzed the field with a “50:02” the next 10 placings were close. Out of 65 riders I’d come in 12th, 2 seconds off a top 10, 1 minute behind 4th so for my first 25 that was more than I’d hoped, top 20 was the aim.
Summary and what’s next
As mentioned my power meter had cut out a few times (9 by the look of it), you can clearly see this on the graph, I’d expect 249W to be more like 255W possibly a bit more so I think that was as much as I could do, 27.34mph average over 25 miles is not a bad first go. I now want to get back to some solid training, the next races will be Cuckney on the 19th August where I’d be going all out to break 22 minutes, 3 days later it’s a return to my first course of the season, Hatfield where I’m determined to put in a fast time.