My legs were burning, my lungs were on fire, but I just focused on the road ahead of me. I had one mile left to go in the last time trial of my 2015 racing season and I was determined to give it everything I had. Only one more minute of wonderful agony and my season would be over, no reason to hold anything back now. I pushed a little bit harder and then flew across the line with a strange mix of feelings and emotions. Joy and relief, fatigue and strength, but overall a sense of happiness and satisfaction, knowing that I had pushed myself to the limit one more time.
Time trials, often called the race against the clock or the race of truth, are races where you turn yourself inside out and push your legs and lungs almost to their limit, for distances as short as three to four miles, or as long as twenty five miles (40K). I am still a fledgling in the bike racing scene, but I made my racing debut a couple of years ago competing in time trials.
I contested my first of these races on a chilly April morning in 2013. The race was only 5.5 miles; a distance I knew I could easily ride, but I was intimidated by all of the pointy helmets, disc wheels and very serious looking people warming up on trainers. Despite my trepidation, I put my bike on the trainer and started to pedal a bit, not quite sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I warmed up for about fifteen minutes (way too short of a warmup, as I later learned) and then I was off to go wait in line to start.
For those who don’t know, in a time trial, once you register, you usually get a starting time assigned to you (your start time might be 8:22am, for example). You line up a few minutes before your start time and they send each rider off at thirty second intervals. Usually they hold you at the start, meaning, you clip both of your feet into the pedals while someone stands behind and holds you upright by the rear wheel and saddle, until it’s time for you to blast off to time trialing glory!
Needless to say, my first time trial was not quite as glorious as I would have hoped. I almost fell over and into the clock when they released me to start, and as a result I had to unclip one foot from the pedal and I was so flustered that I had to struggle to get it back in. In addition, due to my brief warmup, I didn’t actually start to feel good and warmed up until almost the end of the race. Nevertheless, I suppose some lessons can only be learned by time trial and error, and I learned a bunch of them that morning.
Determined to do better the next time around, I entered a few more TTs that year and a few more the following year. The more races I competed in the more I enjoyed them and also improved upon my speed and confidence. When I am racing through a time trial course, I definitely feel like I am flying, soaring over the roads, working so hard to push myself to the finish and catch the competitors who started ahead of me. I love the feeling of pushing myself to the limit and flying through a course with all of my strength pushing and pulling the pedals.
I decided for the 2015 season, that I would do the entire New Jersey state time trial cup and my goal was to win it. The cup is comprised of 13 races, all over the state (even one in NY) and they are raced in all types of weather conditions; out at Sandy Hook with 30MPH winds, climbing up to High Point, racing all the way down in Cape May. Some races were flat, some were rolling, one all uphill, some rainy, some windy and many on beautiful days. At the end of the season, I had won several, stood on the podium at all but one, and found that I had achieved my goal of winning the state cup.
While I still have more to learn and hopefully will continue to get faster, I feel like I have come a long way from my somewhat clumsy beginnings. I believe that time trials are a great way to start exploring racing. These races are safer than a mass start race, the competitors are supportive, and even if you don’t have a time trial bike you can race against the fast non-TT men and women in the Eddy class (named after the famous former professional bike racer Eddy Merckx). Time trials really are a mental and physical test to see how far you can push your limits. Through more hard work, I hope to continue to push my limits and make my bike soar at even greater speeds in the future.