It’s usually nice to do something slightly physical on New Years Day isn’t it? After the excesses of Christmas, it’s refreshing to ‘blow the cobwebs away’ and start the year on a positive.
I’ve wanted to get involved with a cycling club for a while now, and have lurked around the facebook pages of two local clubs to get a flavour of what goes on. It was here that I learned of a New Years Day time trial event, the starting point of which was within a mile or so of my home, on roads I know well.
It can be difficult to approach something new like this. All sorts of silly fears and anxieties can creep into your thinking – what if they’re a bit cliquey and not very friendly, what if I can’t keep up with people and end up looking like a sack of lard, what if I make a fool of myself?
Well, what if you spend your whole life staring at the TV or the computer screen instead?
I arrived in good time to register. It was raining, though mercifully warm for January; about 9°C. After chatting with a few people it became quite clear that – guess what – these were ordinary guys like me, who like to ride their bikes. They didn’t look like superhuman athletes who would leave me spluttering in a cloud of dust. Well not all of them, anyway.
One of the guys decided at the last minute to change a tube that he suspected was dodgy. I gave him a hand, and then had to sprint back up to the start line, as they’d started the riders off, one by one, separated by one minute intervals. I was number four on the list, and only got to the start with 6 seconds to spare. Then I was off, just like that.
Now, I’m not used to prolonged high intensity rides. I tend to ride at a comfortable pace. A pace which has, over the months, been increasing, nevertheless. In heart rate terms, it’s probable zone 2 and 3 stuff, occasionally extending into the higher zones on the hills I love so much.
As I pushed hard from the start line, I recalled asking one of the guys what sort of time they thought they’d be likely to do it in, to which he replied that he’d be happy to just get round without throwing up. The significance of this remark was just sinking in. I think part of the reason I love cycling so much is the mental aspect as well as the physical, and the TT places you right on the knife edge of going as fast as you can, whilst keeping it sustainable.
Near the top of the hill into Llandyrnog, a rider flew past me, and my heart sank, fearing he would be the first of many. Happily, this wasn’t the case and I even got to taste the smug satisfaction of overtaking another rider for myself.
I’ve never been terribly competitive. Never enjoyed team sports much in school, opting instead for outdoor pursuits like climbing, where arguably the challenge is against oneself more than any “opponent”. So I wasn’t particularly interested in the rank order of timings called out at the end. Instead, I’ve got a personal benchmark to beat next time, and that’s all I’m interested in.
In this respect, the TT is brilliant training. Physiologically, the “overload” effect is hugely beneficial in terms of increasing your max VO2. Regularly including this kind of high intensity training should surely lead to a positive feedback cycle of improvement. We shall see.
The old cliché “No pain, no gain” seemed particularly apt following the event, as I was in a great high energy mood all day. Incidentally, I did it in 29:something – a time which I’m already looking forward to beating next time.
As a first taste of not only a TT, but of being with like minded cycling enthusiasts, it was encouraging to get a sense of the mutual support and cameraderie within the group, and I hope to become more involved as the year progresses. Particular thanks must go to those who make these things possible. All the planning and preparation, and administration and timekeeping on the day.
And to those who made a newbie feel welcome.
Marvellous. Thank you.
Rhyl CC’s (new) website is here.