“You can’t be self-conscious in a skin suit,” I told myself as I sucked in my stomach to zip up the front of my never-worn pedal RACING skin suit.
I figured looking and feeling uncomfortable had to be worth the two seconds this attire would knock off from my time. What I needed was strong legs, not an expensive one piece that hugged all the wrong curves.
I also layered up seeing as the name of our race was called, “Frostbite” and my go time was at 9:00 AM. The sun wouldn’t be out long enough to warm the roads. But I soon came to find out that my warm-up would sufficiently raise my body temperature and I’d be stripping off the leg warmers and base layer.
I knew it was going to be a rough race as I spun out my legs to a made-up-on-the-spot warm-up routine. They were heavy. They felt like two rolls of cookie dough, just fluffy and no oomph. I changed up the resistance, adding and subtracting during this 45-minute wishful thinking.
I neglected all the books (okay, the one and a half) I read that told me to visualize the race and the outcome. I was too busy distracting myself with my teammates. I watched my wolves undulate and listened to the broken music playing from my iPhone.
The day before I took my time trial bike out for a spin and it was shaky. I knew it had been too long since I was last on it for three reasons: 1. There was dust. 2. I forgot which lever shifted up or down. 3. I still had a RAGBRAI tag on the stem. You could say I was a tad underprepared for the race.
But what the hell, I thought. Surely no one is ready for race season at this point.
Time Trials are a race against the clock. Racers are sent one at a time at thirty second intervals. You race for fastest time. Most of the time you don’t know how you’re stacking up against your competition until the results are disappointingly posted.
I told myself I wouldn’t allow myself to go below 200 watts. I was recently asked, “Why 200?” Well, why not? It sounded good enough and I based that number off previous FTP scores. One was 192 and another was 177. I’ve also learned that plenty of people think FTP tests are horseshit. So again, 200 sounded good enough.
The biggest thing with Time Trials is making sure you don’t blow up at the beginning (or middle) of the race so a lot of it is pacing and obviously knowing what you are capable of doing. I low-balled myself and thought 200 watts was going to be a challenge based off my FTP tests.
I kept sight of the chick 30 seconds in front of me. Before the race I jokingly said my goal was to catch Teena who took off two or three minutes ahead of me. I didn’t think I’d be fast enough.
Once I rolled away from the taped white line and cycled away from the man’s legs that held me steady as I clipped in, my new goal was to catch the woman in front of me.
A speck of color ahead of me the entire time, I stayed at 200 watts, controlling my breathing, watching her the entire time, attempting to close the gap.
The wind swept me back and forth along the road as I chased down the competition. I never caught her. As I approached the turnaround cone, I saw the rest of my Category catching up to me.
The 200 watts didn’t help me chase down or move fast compared to these women. Two women passed me so I knew I wasn’t getting on the podium.
I figured 5th. I came in 6th. Out of 12.
It’s an ego check coming in middle of the pack after doing well last season. I’m trying to remind myself that this is not a judgment on the person I am. It’s data. I now know how long it takes me to race 11 miles and where I stack against other women. I know these women, my competition, will make me faster. I will become a stronger cyclist because of them. And I’m grateful for that.