Last night I participated in my first ever individual time trial (ITT) race hosted by Balance Point Triathlon. The weather was fair with overcast skies and temperatures hovering around 17 degrees. Wind was West with gusts of 16-25km/hr which is typical for the area.
There were 37 participants and everyone had a great time, riding in rural areas does pose some problems at times but despite having to dodge cats, farm equipment and even flying turkeys it went off without a hitch. Thanks to the volunteers for help with setup and marking the turnaround etc. Special thanks to Ken Milner for taking the usual great photos and you can view them all on #flickr here.
Individual Time Trials are also referred to as “the race of truth”, as winning depends only on each rider’s strength and endurance, and not on help provided by team-mates and others riding ahead and creating a slipstream (no drafting). This being the first time I have participated in this kind of event was exciting and despite just getting over a cold I knew that it was going to be a challenge mentally pace myself and hold back. The start times were all two minutes apart and this kept things organized and efficient. Since I race “sprint” distance duathlons the 20K distance is something I am very familiar with but never with fresh legs, typically after running a 5k all out my legs determine the pace on the bike and does not allow me to ride at all out effort.
To do well in an ITT, cyclists must
- maintain a steady power output for long periods
- maintain a controlled heart rate for long periods
- have a smooth, regular pedalling technique
- position themselves to be extremely aerodynamic
- discipline themselves to operate just below the anaerobic threshold until near the end of the course
Beginners are often criticized for putting in a J profile effort, meaning that they often go out too hard in the beginning, compensate by reducing their efforts in the middle, and then realize towards the end that they have not put out enough effort during the race. As a result, the time trial is often considered the most difficult type of race for a cyclists. I do fall into the beginner category when it comes to TT racing but like anything I am game if there is a challenge involved.
I did a fair amount of research as far as warmup techniques and what I found was that this TT was going to be very similar to a FTP test. Giving the same effort for a certain length of time, balancing power and speed for a consistent effort throughout the whole race. I knew form previous rides of the route earlier this year that I was more than capable of giving a strong effort on the way back with the current wind direction and going out the first 10K was going to be the challenging part.
I have ridden the TT route many many times and I know every hill, bump and rough patch so I wanted to set a aggressive goal to really push myself. My goal was 28:00-29:00 (wind dependent) and even though I fell short of my overall time I couldn’t have been more pleased with my performance from a technique standpoint. My final time was 29:04 (41.28 km/hr avg) but I managed to maintain the same average power over both the first and second half of the race (260W). This was good enough for second place behind Ryan Powers and Elite triathlete from London Ontario.
The TT course was a 20K route, 10K out, 10K back and relatively flat with the exception of a few rolling rises that were about 3.5% grade, not exactly hills so you can stay tucked in aero the entire time. The total elevation gain was around 60 meters.
Here is some data for all you number nerds like myself!
The only spikes in my data are from the start obviously to overcome that initial rolling resistance and again at the turn around. The turn around point is fairly wide all things considered and I was able to take it at 20km/hr a good time savings!
Maintain a steady power output for long periods – Avg Power (260 W)
Steady even delivery of FTP wattage, I know from my off season training that I “should” be able to deliver 280 watts for 1hr. My power
meter is around 15 watts different from the computrainers so that translates into 265/270w FTP with my Power2Max power meter.
Maintain a controlled heart rate for long periods – Avg HR (150 bpm)
Consistent like I would expect it at this time of day. Later in the day for me my HR is always solid, it isn’t until early mornings or later evenings that this changes. When I say solid I mean my medication is at its peak so there isn’t much I can do about “getting it up” above 150bpm.
Have a smooth, regular pedalling technique – (50%/50%)
Even Left 50% / Right 50% balance, this is from countless one legged drills and years of practice.
Position themselves to be extremely aerodynamic – GOOD BIKE FIT!!!!
I am a very disciplined rider when it comes to settling into the aero position and not leaving it. I can attribute this to being flexible and having a good bike fit, lots of saddle time helps also.
Operate just below the anaerobic threshold until near the end of the course – The Last 2K
The last 2K of the course is a slight “downhill” and I knew that at that point I was going to give it everything I had left in the tank. I shifted into my largest gear 54/12 and as my cadence slowed I powered 50km/hr avg and hoped my heart rate would spike for the push to the finish. I managed 159bpm max as I crossed the line… so that is a LOT less oxygen then I would get at 180bpm+ which is where my HR should have been for this effort. Taking a look at the picture above you can see just how hard I have to breath to suck oxygen in……… In any case when you can see the finish in the distance there is just something that takes over and gives you that little extra. #beastmode
A big thanks to coach Gabbi and the volunteers again, a monthly Time Trial is something that is going to be happening all summer long and offered to Balance Point Triathlon club members and *non members alike.
*non Members pay a small fee
Check out 3SIXTY5 Cycling for some awesome #carbon wheels and gear!