How to start this report... I've tried a few times and failed to muster how I feel about it. Bittersweet is the best I can come up with. Again the top step has eluded me, but I had one of my best races, ever, which is all the more important. Of the things I could control, I think I hit a 95 out of 100 on execution, which in itself is probably the most important takeaway from the day. But let's start at the beginning.
The TN State TT was a race that was uncertain for a long time. Whether it actually was going to happen or not was up in the air until a couple weeks from race day. When they finally confirmed it in a new location, I was happy as my build up was targeting it and I do hate to miss timing like that. The new course was also a bit more friendly than the previous location, which thankfully included a good bit less elevation change.
Coming off of the Georgia State TT I made some modifications to my equipment, not wanting to run out of gears going downhill again (a problem I had in GA) I swapped from my 50t to a 54t chainring (I run 1x) and put on a slightly wider cassette. With 3% being the max grade I was certain I'd have the gears I needed going up and down. I had ripped my skinsuit at the GA TT, but fortunately Kevin Sprouse came through in the clutch and got me into the new Body Paint 3.3 skinsuit before he left for the Tour de Suisse. It was also my first time running the new, extremely quick Vittoria Corsa Speeds, the new king of fast tires. So, with my ride pimped out, it was time to go make what meager watts my motor can do.
We (my mother, wife and I) drove down to Dover on Friday evening, and I got in my final spin in at the hotel room. We had dinner at an excellent pizza place nearby and then watched the back half of Saving Private Ryan before bed.
Saturday we made our way to the race site about an hour and a half early, giving me time to get my numbers and get everything set up for my warmup. I spent about 40 minutes total warming up (with a 5' or so break to pee in the middle) including a ~5 or so build and a couple of 30" efforts to open the legs up. Finally it was time to slip into (nothing so elegant actually happened, it was actually a lot of tugging...very gentle tugging) the skinsuit and head to the start tent.
My holder did a fine job, and then it was time for the countdown.
3, 2, 1, Go.
Coming straight out of the gate I spiked my power a bit getting up the bridge, then immediately slipped into my position and found my rhythm. The goal was to hold very steady power on all the flats and uphills (the out of the course had a generally steady "false flat" profile to it) and then at the long drag (~3% grade) to the actual turn point to spike it up just slightly and expect to recover a bit on the following downhill. All in all, I wanted to keep my heart rate in the low 180's for the majority of the ride.
As I came over the bridge from the start gate I smash into the open bit of pavement between bridge and road. It jars me hard, and for a second I wonder if it was hard enough to blow a tire. It wasn't, but it was also not an experience I wished to repeat as I crossed the other side of the bridge.
They say nothing new on race day, and I try to stick to that. I'm decent at bunny hopping on a road bike, but admit I've never done it (in aero) on my tt bike... but the concept is similar, except for that slight bit less control and having your elbows locked in place and the body weight distribution and so forth... Perfect time to try it out, right? I pull hard on the end of the bars and then immediately after pop my feet. I take a great amount of pride in the fact that I landed it... not perfectly, but adequately enough that i didn't wipe out, which I suppose is good enough.
On a long straight out and back time trial you get plenty of time to think about things, which is a blessing and a curse. Some people can turn their mind off and just hammer, me I sit and think about things. It's something that has hurt me in the past, when I let my mind wander to "this sucks" territory... but this year I've worked hard on focusing on other stuff. I also moved my computer higher so that I can see the numbers just by glancing, which gives me some "motivation" to stay on watts and some buffer to calm me down. The other thing I've worked to focus on is staying as still as possible. Most of the guys I'm racing against out power me by a good 70-90 watts over an hour effort, so anything I can do to maximize my slipperiness is an absolute must.
Slowly, I start picking people off. As we near the turnaround I'm passed by a Cat3 rider, and I shadow him the remainder of the first half as we start going by an increasing amount of traffic. With the turnaround in sight and two riders immediately ahead of me I put in a "too big" effort to get by them (and to the turnaround first, so I can pick my line) which in retrospect probably cost me 15" or so overall. Fortunately after making the turnaround I'm able to get my heartrate back under control and start the fast return trip.
Holding my watts steady on downhills is a problem I have, so I really had to focus hard on what should have been the "easy" part of the course. I did a good job (for me) but still left some time out there. It's about this time I start to think to myself that the chamois in the Body Paint 3.3 is not the most robust... my undercarriage was really hurting! Finally I see the cones that lead back over the bridge to the finish line, and I get out of the saddle to try to power over. The stretch takes a lot longer than it did on the way out, and it's all I can do to stay in my right mind as I crest the hill and put in my last effort to the finish line.
Final Time - 57.52 on a slightly long course (25.3mi)
It was good enough for second place on the day, which was not the step I had hoped to land on, but it came from one of the best executed races I've ever had, so I am happy. It's also the first time I've "officially" broken an hour in a 40k, so small victories and all that. There is a saying in car racing "no replacement for displacement" and at a certain point it's true in human motors as well. The difference of motor size matter a lot more when the competition is also trying to check off all the aero boxes. It does give me something to look forward to next year, and motivation is always welcome!
Thanks to the Sponsors: Podium Sports Medicine, Visit Knoxville, The Feed, Harper Auto Square, Stoke Signal Socks, Yee-Haw Brewing Co.