The short summary
As I crossed the line I hit the lap button, given the power I’d just put out over the last 10 miles I was expecting to see 21 something flash up, it was pretty gutting and confusing to see 22:34. I’d really hoped to finish the last Cuckney of 2015 with a sub 22 time but sadly it wasn’t to be. Admittedly conditions were far from ideal, it was pretty chilly and for at least 8 miles I could barely see anything due to my visor steaming up, but having put out 288 watts (13 more than I’d ever done in a 10) the time was still disappointing. It was certainly a slower night, I’d also faced the last mile or so in the rain but I guess that’s time trialling for you.
The detailed summary
Having got kitted up, I decided to go for a spin to get warmed up, due to the dropping temperature I also opted for my trusty Polaris long sleeved top as well but something didn’t feel right, for some reason I felt low at the front end. I knew things were ok as I’d checked everything before setting off so the bars must be fine, I was also struggling to get in the zone with my warm up. Not sure if it was the pressure of looking for that sub 22 time but whatever it was I just wished I felt better. After a quick spin, I came back to the car to check the bars, everything looked level so I figured, forget about it just try and get myself ready for the race, it might be ok once I start.
After a chat with fellow club mate Dan Farrand I pulled up on the start line, handed my jacket to Bill Seddon who was on starting duties and then clipped in. Mark counted me down, I hit start on the Garmin and sped off up the road. Knowing that I can produce 295W on the turbo I decided to up the ante and aim for north of 280W to the turn, I’d then try to just hang on for the return leg. I figured if I did 280W, that’d be a power PB and hopefully a time PB to boot. Having taken a momentary breather on the downhill section at the start, as the road began to incline I upped the power to around 10-15% over what I was aiming to average overall. This was going to be my strategy for the whole 10 miles, up the power on the inclines, maintain the average power on the flats and then focus on the speed whenever the road declined a little.
Looking at the data afterwards, for the first 2 miles my average power was 300W, a bit too high but as long as I didn’t blow up it’d be fine. The next 2 miles I hit 284W average so my legs were still responding to what was being asked of them, in between mile 4 and the turn, which includes the ramp just before it the power worked out to be 287W. During the race I could see the average was 291W to turn, a PB and maybe even that sub 22 was surely on? The legs seemed to be working fine, something that wasn’t was my visor, after about 2 miles it’d completely fogged up, the only relief coming from the odd bead of sweat running down, giving me a little window to peer through. I could see where I was going but it was hard to anticipate the changes in terrain, I’d often find myself pedalling too fast or too slow, neither of which would help.
I took the turn a little cautiously, having done 291W I figured a micro rest might help efforts on the way back, the stats show I was about 3 seconds slower than the best time I’d done but surely I’d be well up overall. I say surely, because I choose not to see the elapsed time on my Garmin anymore, I look at that when the race is done. But anyway back to the race, with the light dropping the fogged up visor was becoming more of an issue, the power wasn’t dropping too much. Indeed from the turn to 7.5 miles I actually put out 287W so still above what I’d aimed to hit overall. The lack of light and the visor fog really made things difficult on the way back, I was really struggling to spot the changes of terrain now, I was also struggling to find the best bits of road, I just decided to ride a bit nearer to the edge and face any consequences that might bring. On the way out I’d not noticed any wind, on the way back if felt like it was hindering slightly but as I couldn’t see the trees blowing I just dug in and concentrated on keeping the power up.
I produced 284W over the next mile but as I type this it’s dawning on me that I sound like a robot, it’s also dawning on me that showing average speed might be a bit better way of managing my effort. To do a 21:59 I’d have to average 27.29mph, my course PB here is 22:25 which is 26.77mph, given that I’d done 22:18 at Hatfield (26.91mph) then I really felt that 21:59 was possible, Hatfield being a bit slower than Cuckney. I guess if I used average speed I would have known that I was going to come in lower than my target time and could have pushed harder, I might not have been able to of course but still it’s now firmly in my mind to have average speed showing on Saturday when I race again.
Then it rained
With about 1.5 miles to go it started to rain, not heavy but further hindering my vision and also the display on my Garmin. It was at this point I thought sod it, just go for it. I don’t like riding in the rain, my bike gets dirty, I don’t like cleaning my bike I like racing my bike, so the quicker I could finish the better. I pushed hard and then remembered a mini pothole that was up ahead, “use the force murph, let go with your feelings”, yeah that didn’t work, “BANG” as I hit the hole full on, thankfully the speed or balance wasn’t affected but it’s worth remembering I am not a Jedi night. (maybe a rear disc wheel would help me sound like one next year though???). Through the rain, darkness and fogged up visor I spotted the finishing area, with my power still averaging 288W my speed increased on the slightly downhill finish past the chequered board, as I crossed the line I hit the lap button, 21:59?, 21:45? Well no not quite 22:34 was what my Garmin read, all that effort and not even a PB. What the hell had happened?
Results / Autopsy
After making my way back to the car Bill told me Xavi had done a 21:25, about 20s slower than he’d done a couple of weeks ago so clearly not a fast night given that he’d also produced more power tonight as well. Having looked back over the previous times of Ian Guilor he was also about 25 seconds down on what he’d normally achieved (assuming he executed the same race performance). I think the issue last night was where I put the power down and maybe where I didn’t, the strategy I employed was perhaps not an effective one, the impaired vision certainly affecting me there. But it’s all a learning curve, you can’t get it right every time so I’ll put this down to experience rather than beating myself up.
Cuckney for 2015 is now done, 2016 is sure to be an exciting one as we plan to put on 1 maybe 2 Open events there, it’ll be good to have course knowledge against some of the fast boys. But the final thoughts go to all the marshalls and helpers who have made Cuckney a success this year, especially Malcolm Smith who has ensured that every night has been run professionally and successfully, next year it would be great to see Malc on the start line, maybe I need to go on my time keepers course. Thank you for reading.