If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few months, you’ll recall that I took a stab at a bi-weekly time trial run in my neighborhood. That was back in May, and at the time, I figured I wouldn’t bother with it again until September, when I would run it to see if I improved at all during the summer.
Holy cow! It’s September! Not only that, but only two TTs remain until they shut it down until next spring. So if I was going to gauge my performance (or lack thereof), I’d better step up now.
It just so happened that tonight was one of the two remaining TTs. My work schedule allows me to take off earlier on Tuesday than the rest of the week, so I got home, changed into riding clothes, and headed out.
Not without some trepidation, however. Our temperatures may not be topping 100 anymore, but it was still 96 when I headed over to the staging area. The wind had picked up during the day, and was blowing from the east southeast at nine, gusting to 22 mph, according to one of the local TV news channels. I didn’t know if I could battle the wind enough to improve on my time from May.
A quick recap for those who may be new to the blog: The time trial is 8.12 miles, along the Mopac extension in southwest Austin. There are a few hills, but only one that I consider a challenge. Of greater concern is the fact that the TT starts at 6 p.m., the height of rush hour, when the traffic along this stretch of road is comparatively heavy.
When I ran it in May, my time for the 8.12 miles was 24:34, for an average speed of 19.5 mph. So my goal for tonight was to beat that mark, and if possible, get below 24:30.
Right after I checked in, a cyclist rode up to me with a big smile and an extended hand. Evan is a Bike Noob reader, and since I was wearing my Bike Forums 50+ jersey, he recognized me from past pictures I’ve run here. This was Evan’s first time trial, and we talked about the route and procedures. I looked over his bike — a Surly Long Haul Trucker with wide Schwalbe Marathon tires and bar-end shifters. Evan was dressed in a t-shirt, baggy shorts, and touring shoes. These are the guys you have to watch out for. I’ve been passed too often by them when I’m riding along at what I think is a good pace.
I took a warm-up lap on the Veloway, where I nearly hit a deer that burst out of the bushes and ran at me, then went out to the course. Joe from our club, who leads the A group rides on Sunday, headed out with me. He’s my age, but much faster, so I figured if I could just keep him in my sights, I’d be okay.
We went through the starting timer and headed south, into a wind from the southeast. Although I could feel the resistance, I could also tell I was making good time. Once we turned west and had the wind at our backs, we could make good time up the only real hill on the course. The eastbound leg has a good downhill, but we were into the wind here, and I could only get up to 27 mph. I knew I had to pick up the pace on the last northbound leg.
I pushed over the series of easy hills, and could see Joe all the way. When I got to the finish line, I waited until I heard the timing beeps, then clicked my stopwatch. I did it! Unofficial time 24:10 — beating my old mark by 24 seconds! Average speed: 20.16 mph (I may be old, but I’m still slow).
But it’ll stay unofficial. We learned late this evening that an electronic glitch at the finish line prevented any times from being recorded. Hmph. Well, at least I’ve got my stopwatch. It looks like I’ll have to do this all over again in two weeks.