Saturday, July 23, 2011

What if....

... I had taken a recovery day yesterday.
... I had ridden a TT bike.
... I had worn a TT helmet.
... I had not drank from my bottle 3 times.
... I had put my head down 2cm more.
... I had tucked my braid into my skinsuit.
... I had not worn my non aero mtb gloves.
... I had dug that little bit deeper.
... I had not eased off before the finish because I thought I was already at the finish.
... I had not been caught behind a lorry.

These are all the excuses that I could come up with for why I didn't win today, in my first ever proper TT (I've done a few uphill and very short ones, but none that was longer than 10min). This is what happened: The weekend came up and I am down for a 3 hour ride. I've trained every day since Tuesday (see Strava), with Thursday a bit lighter (only 1 hour endurance on the turbo trainer due to rain), but I was slowly getting tired. I needed a motivation to keep going hard. In the absence of a road race nearby I went to do the next best thing, the 10-mile TT organized by Sorrento in Kilpeddar, only about an hour by bike from my place. On Friday evening I tried out Ryan's Merida TT bike to see if I could use it, but it's a bit too big and I felt a 15min spin on it was not long enough to get used to it, and the riding a total of about 3hours on an ill-fitting TT bike seemed not the best idea, so I decided to use my own road bike instead. Unfortunately Ryan also had his TT helmet with him in the Portaferry 3 day - only to find out that no TT equipment was allowed.

Anyhow, on an amazingly beautiful and summery warm Saturday morning (if Ireland was just always like this in the summer!) Cait and I made our way to Kilpeddar Village, where the TT was being held. Going towards Bray from Enniskerry you could barely believe you were in Ireland, with views of the glistening sea below, deep green forests and beautiful views. Summer is here! (at least for today).

Cadel Evans riding into the yellow jersey in today's individual TT of the TdF

The course was basically 7km southwards on the N11, turning via 2 roundabouts either side of the tunnel and returning northwards for the remaining 9km on the N11 back to Kilpeddar village. There was a record of 24min to be beaten, to be rewarded with a bonus of 150Euro sponsored by the Women's Commission for the person who breaks the previous record (24min flat), on top of the winner's prize money, but that was fairly far back in my mind, because I was pretty tired and this was just meant to be motivation to put in some hard training. But I had a good start and got myself into a good rhythm. My Garmin told me I was good on time for matching the record time (probably went out too hard). I could see my minute girl, in the distance. I was fine going into the first roundabout of the turning point, but unfortunately for me, a lorry had just pulled in in front of me from the next entry and I got stuck behind this lorry between the two roundabouts. I was happy when the lorry went straight at the 2nd roundabout and I could speed up again leaving it at the 3rd exit. I had lost some time, but my minute girl was still in my sight and I chased her, and I eventually caught her. I caught another few of the earlier started girls and when I looked again, I was STILL pretty much on time for matching the record. I left the N11 for the final km to the finish and went hard. I saw the people and thought I was done, easing off, when I realized that these were just spectators and that the finish line was another hundred meters or so in front, digging in deep again. When I looked at my Garmin, I knew it would come down to a matter of seconds if I had broken the previous record or not. I had not expected that. And the worst of it all was that I knew I had left some seconds on the road.

In the end my time was 24min and 1 second and 42 hundredth of a second. The winning time was 23 min, 59 sec and 78 hundredth of a second (with full TT gear), a difference of 1.54 seconds.......

....... between me ...... (Photo by Paddy Doran)

...... and the winner Sandra Fitzgerald (Photo by Paddy Doran).

That's less than 2 flippin' seconds between about 200 Euro and me..... Argh! What if.... (refer to excuses above). 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi. That's it.

But I learned my lesson. You should always give it your best, even if you don't expect to do well and even if you're tired. Or I could just buy myself some speed (TT bike, helmet, aero wheels, gloves).

Anyhow, my priority is next week where I'm off to the Olympic Test Event, competing against the World's best Olympic hopefuls. That is what I am focusing on, that is where I want to give it my best. Roll it on!

Oh, and mountain bikers can be good time trialists too (see Cadel Evans - he got himself into the yellow jersey in today's Tour de France individual TT!). Well done Cuddles, it's about time we're being taken seriously!

Full results on women's cycling.

For the geeky: for the 24min and 1 sec:

- Average Heartrate: 171pbm
- Average Power: 290Watts (way below my threshold of 305-310Watts)
- 2 sec over 24min is 0.14%

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Irish National Champs Race - Killruddery

For the first time since I race in the Elite category, I was going to be in the country when the Irish National Champs were on - all previous years I would have been in Germany on that day, racing in the German Champs (as you race in the national champs of your nationality), but the German champs were ran in June, which I missed due to a shoulder injury acquired at the pre-ride for the Offenburg World Cup the week before the German Nationals.

Photo by Vc Glendale

To be eligible for a National Champs title, you have to have had that nationality from the start of the year. I have received Irish citizenship only a few weeks ago, so although I am now Irish, I would not yet be eligible for the title this year. Nonetheless I was allowed to take part in the race as a non-contender. It would also make for an interesting show-down between Cait, who was last year's national champ and I. She's been nipping at my ankles for the last few weeks now and beaten me in a couple of club races and some of my Strava records, so I was excited to measure myself against her in a proper race situation.

Photo by Cieran Maunsell

I was happy I was allowed to take part, because the race was organized by Team WORC in one of my favourite race venues, Killruddery, which is private land, so it's off-limits to mtbers outside the event. The course was great, almost all of it twisty, windy singletrack, featuring a fun bombhole and the "tombstone" drop (although this was taken out of the course later on). After a short grassy start you entered never-ending tight singletrack, so on pre-ride day I made sure to learn the corners well. The tight, twisty singletrack is something that suits Cait, but there was very little climb in the course and the flat suits me. So no advantage either way.

Photo by Cieran Maunsell

On race day there was an awful wind and a few spits of rain before 5 Elite ladies and a Junior lined up at the start for a total of 4 laps. I must have missed the 30sec warning and was about to grab my bottle again for one last sip when we were told "Go! Go now!". Until I got going, Claire had sprinted off into the front, followed by Cait, Ciara and then me. I overtook Ciara before entering the singletrack and then stuck to Cait's wheel. The speed was comfortable and I was enjoying myself. On one of the short climb sections both Cait and I overtook Claire. A few times Cait managed to open a small gap, especially when I messed up on some of the technical rocky sections, but I made sure I didn't loose her out of my view too much.

Photo by Cieran Maunsell

In the second lap then I caught back up to her on the twisty singletrack section and was pondering where it would be a good idea to attack, deciding that probably on the fireroad to the tombstone forest or the short climb within the tombstone forest would be a good idea. But just as I was pondering that, Cait dropped her chain and had to stop to put it back on. I didn't hesitate and took my chances, overtook her and went full gas to open up a gap. Whenever I looked back, I could see Cait behind me, about the same distance as I had been behind her in the 1st lap. In the 3rd lap the gap increased, and I took the last two laps a little easier, keeping an eye out for Cait behind me, ready to speed up again if needs be, but she didn't catch back up.

So I won the race, but as I'm not eligible for the National Champs title this year, it went to Cait, who came in just a minute behind me. Next year! ;)

l-r: Ciara MacManus, Cait Elliott and Orla McClean (Photo by Cieran Maunsell)

Thanks to the officials allowing me to race, thanks to Team WORC to have put together such a nice challenging course, to Stew for his help on the day and to all my sponsors, particularly Cycleways, ZipVit and KCNC for their loyalty and ongoing support.

Full results available here.