Goodbye Winter, Hello Summer

One of the worst things about living in the DC area (apart from the region’s newly discovered penchant for wrath-of-God blizzards) is that it frequently skips a season altogether.  One moment it is cool during the day with regional frost warnings at night. . .and then suddenly it is August.

And, of course, the weather chooses to do this when you’re scheduled to run your first ever stand-alone 5K one day and then the second Team Z time trial at its new location in Prince William Forest the next day.

The 5K was a shitty race but a great event.  It was a smaller local race to benefit the Science Focus school in Arlington and so the real focus of the day was the many kids and their parents who were running together.  It was inspiring and a little intimidating to face up to some of these kids, especially at the start!  Fortunately most of them have no idea about pacing, so they just run their little hearts out until they explode, then they walk until they can sprint again.  But most of them came home looking pretty happy.  Except for the one kid who came home last with his mother: he steadfastly refused to break a walk and sobbed the whole way down the finishing chute.

Of course, that was pretty much how I felt at the end as well.  The day was suddenly hot and humid (in the 70s when we started) and it was on a stretch of the Custis trail which is so hilly that it totally sucks when you are trying to do a zone 2 training run on it.  Trying to run it at 5K pace was torture.  Spent the first few minutes after the race clinging to a chain link fence trying not to hurl.

So I wasn’t at all sure what time trial day would bring.  Lack of acclimation to heat can really do a number on your system and today wasn’t shaping up to be a great day on a number of fronts.  Picked up a teammate, Eddie, and we made it down in good time.  The new pre-registration system worked out well, the fact that we had a permit this time meant that no one was going to jail at the end of it (always a good thing on a bike ride) and even though the group was large (70 or so riders) pretty much everyone was set to go on time.

On the other side of the ledger. . .my Garmin continued to pitch a hissy fit.  Yesterday it stopped picking up satellites and today was no different.  I’ve got a cadence and bike sensor on my bike, but I discovered too late in the ride that if it is still searching for a satellite signal and things there’s a chance that it will be able to use GPS, it won’t calculate distance based on the wheel sensor. . .even though it will register speed.  Stupid technology.  Then, as we were getting ready to ride I discovered that one of my aerobar armrests was cracked.  The crack seemed like a surface one, but that side was clearly more flexy than the other.  After leaning all my weight on it and slamming the front of the bike up and down a couple of times without catastrophic results I chose to ride with it.

And then there was the weather.  Hot (in the mid 70s), humid (mid 80%) all added up to a real-feel temperature in the mid-80s by 8 in the morning.

So the stage didn’t exactly seem set for a good result.  But a bad day biking beats a good day doing just about anything else, so everyone seemed in good spirits as we set off for the ride start.  And then we were off, at 15s intervals on our 21.6 mile odyssey.  The fact that the Garmin wasn’t going to give me bupkiss in the way of distance for this ride really didn’t matter (except for my data-junkie self).  I knew how long the loops were, knew roughly how much I had left at any point.  HR was likewise irrelevant.  In fact, because I knew it would be elevated because of the heat I really didn’t want to know.  So I cleared that data from my display and just went with overall time, lap time, and cadence (as a reminder to myself to keep it high).

And yeah, it was a bit of a sufferfest.  But then it is supposed to be.  And according to the Garmin (which, remember, is malfunctioning, so all this is provisional until the official results are posted), I did the thing in 1:04:44.

Which would be close to 3 minutes off my previous time.

WTF?  I mean, I suck in the heat.  At anything.  Could this be possible?  I’m inclined to put it down to a combination of mechanical and user error so I’ll keep you posted.

But some things were different this time around.  Last time I was riding on old tires.  The Michelin Pro Race 3s have held up surprisingly well to everyday riding but they were definitely worn down, particularly the rear, for the last TT.  Now Mabel has a new set of feet with only the dinky Rumpass mileage on them.  I also rode without any kind of water bottle in order to save some weight.  Perhaps a little risky on a day like this, and I’d maybe reconsider it if the day was any warmer, but I didn’t feel that for a little over an hour that my suffering was going to be materially lessened by having liquid on hand.  I just made sure I had plenty of fluids for afterward (Endurox and a full water bottle at the finish, and another full bottle back at the car).  Lastly, I was riding with my new TT helmet(Rudy Project Wingspan, made financially possible without a second mortgage through the generous sponsor discount afforded one of my friends, Mike), where you can stopper up all the vents for a bit of extra slickness.  Indeed, when you do that, the sucker doesn’t vent.  At all.  I would come to the bottom of the really steep downhill section, start the climb, and there would be this waterfall of sweat.  I was, however, streaming sweat all over my bike more or less constantly after the first loop.  At first I was worrying about my glasses salting up to the point I wouldn’t be able to see.  However, the cascade of sweat seemed to keep washing the old stuff off.  Again, I might play around with this on future TTs and see how much difference the vent cover actually makes.  I certainly wouldn’t be doing anything longer than a sprint distance with it on, and next week for Kinetic I’ll be opening up the entire helmet.

So, if the numbers are to be believed (and I’m still sceptical), not a bad day at the office.  But there are still a couple of things I would do differently next time. 

  • I was so worried about all my shit breaking at the start that I didn’t pay as much attention to nutrition as I should.  Next time, I would hydrate more (especially under these conditions), and take a pre-ride gel and some electrolytes.  I didn’t feel any serious cramping or bonking issues today, but it couldn’t hurt and might have helped with a certain sluggishness on the first lap.
  • I meant to grab a banana to have at the end to help with recovery.  I find the Endurox and banana combination seems to work well for me.  Ice cold V8 is even better, but good luck keeping that cold on a day like today!
  • Average cadence was 94, which I was pretty happy with, but I’ve been working on trying to push it a little higher, especially for these speed events. 
  • By the time we do the next one I’ll probably be sporting a compact crank, so that will be a whole different ball game.  I don’t use my top gears a whole lot on, even on this TT, so it will be interesting to see what effect the compact has on my top-end speed.  It should, however, help with the high cadence issue.
  • I’m also left wondering about the effect of the 5K.  I thought that it would take a bit out of me for this, but maybe that short sharp effort yesterday helped for today in some way?

So, all-in-all, much to think about.

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