Sunday, 30 October 2011

The flying Kiwi

The Women's 10 TT series trophy - originally the Vale of Leven
Clarion CC's Ladies Championship trophy from 1950.
Last weekend I was very excited to see the All Blacks lift the Web Ellis Trophy, but I was equally excited to lift the West Lothian Clarion Women’s time trial champion trophy.

It all began last winter when a few of the girls from West Lothian Clarion were discussing plans for the coming year. We got onto the topic of our clubs’ weekly time trial series.  None of us were particularly interested in time trailing but we got into the “I’ll do it if you will” kind of agreement.  I’m not sure if anyone else even remembers that discussion but I decided to uphold my end of the bargain.

The first week I, erm, needed to get my haircut, which I could of course only do a Thursday night.  I couldn’t find a suitable excuse for the next week so spent Thursday carbo loading and getting myself just a little bit nervous about pitting myself against the clock over 10 miles.  Short and fast is not really my forte.  Riding along flat, not particularly scenic roads is most definitely not my forte.  My love of cycling is hilly, scenic back country roads.  So I took in these types of roads to ride to the start of the TT.  Of course when I turned up I was surprised to see that a lot of people had driven to the start.  Oh dear, I thought, this does look serious. No matter, I paid my £1 entry fee and got my race number from the back of the organisers car.

Next came the pre-ride phaff.  Because I had ridden over I had the full works on my bike  - drink bottle, pump, saddle bag with tools and inner tubes.  So I starting fussing about to do with all this until someone pointed out that it is only a club TT.  Ok, stop fussing woman and just get on with it. 

Rolling up to the start I was pretty nervous. As most first timers are, I was mostly nervous about posting up a ridiculously slow time. My goal was to get under 30 minutes.   So all I had to do was average 20 miles per hour for 30 minutes.  How hard could that be?  1 minute to go the person in front has gone and I roll up to the line.  30 seconds do go I clip in while the pusher off holds on to me.  20 seconds getting butterflies thinking I’m not going to fall off, I’m not going to fall off (this comes from the ridiculous fear of falling off when the pusher off lets go).  10 seconds, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,4,3,2,1 – GOl!  I’m out like a racehorse out of the gate riding as fast as I can, watching the speed on my computer.  I’m doing around 20 to 22 mph and feeling strong.  I hardly notice the traffic around me and just focus on keeping as smooth as possible and watching out for obstacles. I try to get as aerodynamic as possible but it difficult to hold this position on the drops.  10 minutes in and someone goes flying past me – my minute man.  13 minutes and I’m at the turn. Wow! I’m going to get under 30 minutes.  I can do this in 26 minutes. Wrong!  Now the pain starts as the course rises up over a motorway bridge and the road drags.  I don’t want to change down to my middle cog and my legs are screaming as I fight the incline.  From here it is really hard and I fight the urge to ease off.   My sportive experience is telling me to slow down as I am used to pacing myself.  I am also paying the price for going off too fast at the start.  As this stage I am yelling to myself to dig deep and keep pushing. 

The road continues to drag and another rider passes me.  Surely it’s got to end soon.  I get to a junction and finally the road seems to flatten.  I see a high visibility jacket.  The finish!  OMG and I’m under 30 minutes.  OH NO! !!! It’s just a man trimming hedges and not the finish line at all.  Where’s the finish????  Another few hundred metres and there’s the sight for sore eyes.  I feel sick and completely spent and roll back to the layby to compose myself. 

We stand around and have a chat waiting for everyone to finish.  The officials walk back from the finish to read out the results.  I am first woman and my time is read out as 29:57.  I can’t believe it!  I crawl home back over the Bathgate hills, realising why people drive to the start.  I am so spent that I have nothing left to get home.  When I finally slump in the door, the first thing I do is to tweet my time.  But then the next morning I find out that my time was actually 30:57.  So that means only one thing – I have unfinished business and start obsessing about how I can better my time.

Over the course of the summer my times gradually improve and I finally get under the 30 minutes on week 8.  My goal over the summer also changed to trying to win the women’s series, which I did. It was not an easy ride either as I had some strong competition so I had to ride as many nights as I could, as fast as I could.  Some of those nights were pretty grim too. 

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed the series.  Not only is it strangely enjoyable pushing yourself over 10 miles, there is a great camaraderie amongst the riders.   Now, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday night.

Full results can be found here;

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