IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Team Time Trial

Today was my first ever TEAM time trial. Not that I've done many time trials before (3, to be exact), but I've always done them alone. The art of a team time trial includes peeling off smoothly and drafting...2 people working together for the benefit of both. The clock only stops when both people have crossed the finish line, so it does you no good to leave your partner dragging behind.

I headed up to Garden Prairie, otherwise known as middle-of-nowhere in IL, with Brett Petersen and Sally, fellow Salt Creek Triathlon Club members. I learned a few things in talking with Brett on the way up to the race. First, if you list a team you are racing for, you must wear that jersey. If you race as "unattached" or no club listed, you must wear a jersey with no writing on it. Additionally, you must have sleeves. Therefore, the tri club uniform tops were no good...we had to wear shirts underneath. I guess it's a safety issue, your shoulders need to be covered. Therefore, even the top (which has no sleeves) with arm warmers is considered "illegal." This wasn't really an issue for was chilly anyway, so Sally and I had decided to wear thin, long-sleeved under armor shirts underneath our jerseys.

We arrived in Garden Prairie with plenty of time. We met other club members, Tom, Chris and Miguel there. It was a beautiful day, sunny, seemed like very little wind, but it was a bit chilly. I actually wondered if I should keep the long pants on and pull on arm warmers over my thin under armor!

We quickly pulled the bikes down off the car and prepared to warm up. I don't really know the protocol for warming up for a bike race. I mean, in triathlon, I typically use the swim as the warm up. But a 40K bike race is so short, you need to warm up before the race. But how long? How fast? Guess I could use a little education on that sort of thing.

For Sally, this was her first time trial ever. Sally and I planned to practice riding together at last week's century (or should I say 75 mile) ride, but the courses split up too early and we had no time to practice. We rode together once during the past week and it seemed to go smoothly. We planned on taking 1 minute pulls and when one of us got tired, we'd just shorten the pull for the tired teammate. Sounds great in theory!

We rode around and I realized that, once again, it was pretty windy out! Fellow Apache, Lisa, told me to stop thinking of it as being windy. She said I should figure there will ALWAYS be wind and on the day you get to ride with no wind, consider it a miracle. Interestingly put. Sally and I roll up to the starting line. We are surrounded by teams of men. Men who looked FAST. Majority of them had disc wheels and aero helmets.

Same team of officials at the start line as the last time trial I did. We chatted with them and they commented on the nice paint job on Sally's bike. There was literally no stress or tension as we awaited our start. 5-4-3-2-1 and we were off! As planned, Sally immediately moved to the front. She started hammering and our speed climbed up to 24 mph! I struggled to get on her back wheel and I thought to myself, "Holy cow, this is going to be a fast race!" and I wondered if I was going to be able to stay with her. It's amazing how fast that 1 minute goes by when you're taking advantage of the draft. I pulled in front and my speed dropped to about 22 mph. Then I heard Sally yell, "I'm back!" which meant I had dropped her. In other words, if you are not 6 inches or closer to the wheel in front of you, you are no longer getting the advantage of the draft. And this is the whole point of the team time trial, so I eased up to let Sally catch back on to my wheel.

The wind was strong and it was a nice break when I was able to draft behind Sally. For the first quarter of the race, I'd say we struggled to make smooth transitions, but as we rode along, our communication improved and we learned to read each other better to anticipate what the other rider was doing. The course was flat for the most part, but there were several sections of road with rather large pot holes. As long as you were paying attention, though, they were not difficult to avoid.

As we turned to go out to the "loop", we were passed by an ABD (Athletes By Design) team. They were riding really far apart and the guy trailing looked at me, shook his head and said "I can't catch his wheel!" It was then that I told Sally "There is no way I want us to look like THAT!" That simply defeats the whole purpose of a team time trial. Besides, as I said earlier, it's not an average of your two times, the clock only stops when your 2nd man crosses the line. So why drop your teammate? Just doesn't make sense.

Sally and I cruised along, much slower than I think we both anticipated, but the wind was also stronger than we thought and at times the gusts would threaten to take control of my front wheel. I wondered if my jerking the bike back in line would throw Sally off. I know from riding with other people, you don't want to make any unpredictable, sudden moves. Everything should be smooth and subtle. I didn't hear her complain (then again, the wind was loud!). Slowly but surely, we made our way to the turnaround, where I got confused by the guy telling me "TURN HERE." He was pointing in front of him, but when I asked if I had to go behind him, he said yes. Huh? Confusing. But, the turnaround meant we'd have a little wind at our backs!

As one of my pulls was ending and I was letting Sally slide to the front, I noticed her breathing was pretty heavy. However, she was riding stronger now than she was in the beginning of the race! I told her to take shorter pulls, catch her breath! Now was no time for either of us to blow up. As we continued riding along, we got better at reading each other's signals and we seemed to be making smooth progress toward the finish.

As I saw the grainery ahead, I remember the guy at the beginning of the race tell us to crank it up when we saw this grainery because the finish was near. So I yelled to Sally, "Let's Hammer!" And with that, we picked up our speed maybe 2-3 mph. However, as quickly as we sped up, Brett and Tom passed us with ease. I knew they started about 15 minutes behind us and one of my goals was to not let them catch us. Darn - we were so close! So we pumped our legs even harder. Even though we were only doing about 20 mph when we crossed the line, I felt like we were flying!

This was way more fun than an individual time trial! You get to take a little break in the draft, and you can draw off the energy of your teammate. Though I would have liked to have gone faster, I'd still say this was more fun than any of the other time trials I have done. Can't wait to do another one.

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