This is a tough one to put down into words... it's not the end of the journey, just a step... but man, what a good step it was to take.
Monday, August 28 at 1p.m. in Rock Hill, things came to a head and I took the first pedalstroke toward trying to set the track record at Giordana. It's been something I've wanted to do for a long time now, something that I wasn't sure I *could* do, something I still don't think I could have done... and yet, something WE did. But let's get to the actual report first, and then I'll throw in all my shoutout/thank you's at the end!
My wife and I set out late Saturday morning for Rock Hill. My mom had planned to go with us as well, but unfortunately had to stay home leaving it just us for the long weekend. Our trip down was pretty uneventful, Regional championships were taking place at the velodrome and we made it there literally just in time for the last person to step off the podium. Drat. We spent the rest of Saturday evening and most of Sunday exploring the local area (and checking out some great places to eat!) and just relaxing.
Since I've had some very limited track time this year (and, well... ever) I was a bit nervous going into this, so I decided it would be best to do a little bit more on the track on Sunday than what was originally planned. I wasn't going to do any crazy efforts, but getting re-accustomed to riding the track was certainly going to be a boon. While there I met with some local riders, one of which (I am very sorry I forgot your name!) was nice enough to help me with my line entering and exiting the turns and "flattening" the turns. This was a simple, short little bit of advice that REALLY helped me out on Monday. As time was winding down I did a couple of laps timed at "race pace" to see how it felt. I was on my training wheels and not in my skinsuit but was still slightly up on the pace without feeling like I was really working too hard for it. That gave me a much needed boost of confidence and maybe for the first time of the weekend I really internalized that this might just work out. At this point I even let just the slightest bit of bravado slip in and texted Derek "I think this is going to go well." It's at this point I should point out my phone auto-corrected "well" to "terrible" and I had a nervous laugh... stupid Galaxy S6...
Monday rolled around and the overall feeling I had most of the day was one of nervous anticipation. Since my start time wasn't until 1p.m. and my wife and I are early risers, we had a LONG time to spend just hanging out. I had breakfast and half/half coffee (1/2 decaf) around 6:30, then a larger breakfast at Panera Bread (Quinoa honey almond oatmeal) with more coffee and a lot of water. At the point my pee turned light straw color I started drinking Skratch mix to make sure I didn't over-hydrate. We really lucked up with the time wasting as The Big Lebowski was on and let's be honest, there is no better way to get psyched up for a big event than watching the Dude abide.
Finally, it was time to make our trek to the velodrome and get set up. It never fails to amaze me how time simply crawls by right up until you are at the venue, then it's like somebody puts you in fast forward. Bob and Ivan at Giordana already had most everything set up and were ready for me... I can't stress enough how excellent and professional these guys were. As I was drinking my (absolutely terrible tasting) mix of Beet Elite and baking soda and contemplating things that those who attack hour records contemplate (which at this point is all the things that aren't controllable, like weather) Derek (Dalzell, my coach) and his wife arrive and the team is all together and there is not much left to do other than a practice standing start (and test the timing) and to make a few nervous jokes.
As far as weather goes, we got good temperature (maybe just slightly warmer than ideal) and a nice overcast, but with a good bit of wind. Some of the guys at the track said it was a bad day for an hour attempt, but it was what day we had, so we were going to have to make the best of it.
As I made my way up to the start line and clumsily tried to clip into my speedplay pedals (look, I'm a shimano guy... cut me some slack) I was struck very pointedly by the thought that Tony Rominger, one of the hour legends, didn't get up to speed fast enough from his start and fell unceremoniously, having to restart. (And fwiw, then setting the world record) As the countdown began, I thought... I hope I don't fall...
I make it through turn 1 and thankfully don't wipe out. Coming into the straight it's down to business and I click off the first of many laps at a pretty unimpressive 31.4" something that certainly won't gain me any street cred with the real trackies.
Our plan was to ride conservatively at the current record pace. Having never done an hour before (or really any sets over 20 minutes on the track) we decided that would be the most likely to be successful strategy. That would mean holding roughly low 22" lap splits. Lap #2 I'm at 21.8" and for the next 20 minutes I'm pretty much like a metronome clicking them off. Derek and his significant other did an excellent job relaying information to me, I got lap splits each time around and every 5 minutes I got a sheet of how I was doing compared to the record. At about 20' I was 1.5km up. I was smiling, giving thumbs up to Derek, things were going well.
An hour attempt is unique. The challenge isn't just a physical one, maybe even more so it is a mental one. There is just you and some lines. Every few seconds you try to line up entering and exiting the turn, and you see a flash card with your split on it, but otherwise you really see nothing and hear nothing. If you've ever done a set you may know the feeling... you look at your watch after what seems like forever has passed and you see that in reality only a minute or two has gone by. The hour is like that, except longer, and desolate. In a road time trial you have scenery, the danger of traffic, turns, other competitors, things to think about and ever so slightly distract you and take your mind off of small things that aren't really issues. On the track, you feel everything, and it feels worse because you have no distractions to take your mind off of it. The first thing to hurt, for me, was my pinky fingers. Wrapping them around my bars was just uncomfortable enough for it to start annoying me. Then my thumbs started to feel numb (from the loops of my bodypaint3.3 choking off circulation I guess) and all in all my hand area just bothered me. Then my lats started to feel the stress of holding me in position.
At around 30 minutes there were no more smiles, no more thumbs up. There was just one lap, followed by another. There were also starting to be more than a few 22.x" laps mixed in. As the day had worn on the wind had shifted, when I started it was hitting me coming out of turn 2, at almost the "perfect" spot to help me slide a little up toward the red line setting me up to cut the inside of turn 3. Unfortunately, as the day progressed the wind started hitting me exiting turn 4... and it was hitting me hard. For a while I tried to fight the bike and hold it in the sprinters lane, but as I have tried to convey little things turn into big things on the track. Fighting the bike was costing me a lot of energy I didn't have, so I eventually decide to just let the wind send me out of the turn wherever it wanted and to just ride it back down when it calmed. I'm sure it looked like I was totally losing control...hell, maybe I was... but it made sense to me at the time.
As the 5 minute intervals were coming up, 1.5km slid to 1km to .5km and finally to even pace with the record. 40-50 minute mark was steady 22" laps, a bit of a meltdown but not a disaster. At 15 minutes to go I remember thinking "I've done so many 15 minute sets... just do this one more and you never have to do another one." I could also hear everyone on the track trying to bolster me... part of me was very, very glad for the support, and part of me was concerned... were they trying to keep me going because it looked like I might stop at any second.
Honest moment, there was only one thing I wanted to do more than stop... and that was finish. At 10 minutes to go Derek started giving me minute to minute updates "9 to go!" "8:30" "Hold the black Line!" "steady!" and other things I'm not 100% sure I heard correctly, but I got the message.
"FIVE MINUTES, LIFT IT!"
Actually, from my lap splits at 7 minutes I started lifting, although I didn't feel like I was. I dropped back into mid-low 21" laps. At this point I was experiencing something I never have before... I saw things, I heard things, but they had no meaning. I could see Derek hold up my lap split, but it didn't hold any information that made sense. I heard my wife cheering, but she was foreign to me. I was a picture frame you buy at Target... There is a picture in it, but no meaning behind it. The only thing that I had to hold onto was a ferverous (or feverous?) voice telling me to push the damn pedals harder.
In the distance, I hear a whistle blow. I ride by and someone is smiling, giving me a thumbs up. Distantly, a realization dawns on me that the whistle means I can stop.
Panic grips me.
For the first time in my cycling life, I truly believe there is no possibility of me slowing down without wrecking. I'm not sure if slowing down will lock my legs up, not sure if I can support myself in any position other than the one I've been locked in the last hour. Slowing down is a painful shock to my system. I lift onto the basebar and my arms have support in them. I slowly ride down the track and have enough sense to let Derek know that I need someone to catch me. He does. Things happen, people, wife... all I can do is put my head into the aerobars and try not to fall over. I get off the bike and make it to the grass infield, where I collapse onto my back and finally have enough oxygen back to my brain to realize that the words being formed are "you did it."
We did it! The final damage was 41.03km/25.49mph, or 164 laps. I was only able to add 3 laps to Tim's record, but I feel it was everything I had to give, and I'm happy for it!