As the newest and least experienced member of the Sri Chinmoy CT, I thought it was time I put pen to paper about my first season of cycling. My background is in marathon running and fell running, and these remain my primary sporting focus, but I was determined to train sufficiently to complete at least one competitive cycling event this summer and in the event I managed to complete a couple. It was Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of Self-Transcendence that inspired me to get into sport in general, and running in particular, about 12 years ago. I was drawn to try cycling simply because I wanted to try something new - there's something quite magical about doing any sport for the first time, and I've enjoyed road cycling so much this year that I've resolved to take up a new sport every few years to keep things fresh. Not sure what's next on the list - possibly cyclo-cross or rock climbing!
Anyway, back to the subject of cycling time trials, this is such a 'meditative' sport that it suits me down to the ground. The countdown to the start is a great opportunity to calm the mind and get focussed, and while riding there's a strong sense of being out on your own, just you and the bike and the road. This simplicity, or minimalism, or whatever you want to call it, is for me the great attraction of time trials - just getting out there to transcend your own limits regardless of what the other riders may or may not be achieving. My first cycling race was the Port Talbot Wheelers 10 mile TT in late July at Resolven in the Vale of Neath. My training had consisted of two sessions per week for about two to three months prior to the event - these were on my 'rest days' from running, so they couldn't be too draining. I was going out for two 30-40 minute training rides, one hard and one easier, each week. In view of this modest training mileage I had pretty modest goals for the time trial: 1. to complete 10 miles in under half an hour and 2. not to come last.
I realised on arrival (as 7th reserve in an event accomodating 120 riders) that I was a bit outclassed in terms of the machine I was riding - still, it's a bad worker who blames their tools as they say, and my second-hand ali-framed Trek 1000 was certainly adequate for the task despite not looking as impressive as the array of carbon fibre technology on display elsewhere in the car park. Luckily, there were enough no-shows among the 120 registered riders to ensure I got a ride - seventh in the field at 6.07 pm. The course began with a short bendy stint out of the industrial estate then I was soon heading down a sliproad on to a flattish dual carriageway. Head down,thighs protesting from the unfamiliar effort (so different from running), eyes on the road. The turnaround involves two roundabouts and I lost some time here as I am not super confident yet at tackling these at speed, especially with unpredictable cars around, but basically the course is pretty rapid. I eventually came in with a time of 25.52 which I thought was quite reasonable for me - I also managed not to be the last in my category so I was well pleased. The other contestants were all smiles after finishing as we warmed down on the lanes and generally enjoyed the "glad it's over" feeling that comes after any intense sporting effort. Fabulous home made cakes, sarnies and tea were available in profusion back at the start to aid recovery. This was a superbly organised event, as a novice like myself was able to turn up without much of a clue and have no problem with the route etc. Friendly bunch of riders too.
Next race was the 10 mile TT at Weston on the Green near Bicester where I joined club captain Richard P on a 4-lap circuit on an airfield. Great course, but everyone said it was a slow one - not sure why, as you never need to use your brakes on the traffic free loop. Still, with only 48 hours elapsed since the Salisbury 20 mile trail race I'd recently completed, the legs just weren't having it. I gave it everything - by the end I was really dying - but still I came in close to last (not counting vets & ladies) with 26.41 - this despite the addition of tri bars since my last outing. Very disappointing, but not down to lack of effort - just down to not having recovered from the previous event. Next year's target - sub 25! Oh and by the way, Rich won the event and is now the proud holder of the Hardcore Trophy :)