Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Elkhart Time Trial: a Family's Race Against the Clock

I fell in love with time trialing about 8 years ago.  I had no idea of what to expect.  Being a triathlete I was in a state of ignorance of what it meant to "race against a clock".  In road cycling there is a class of race called a time trial.  It is essentially a single rider, released in measured intervals, ride a set distance, and try to beat the other rider's time without knowledge of it.  I have won a managed towin a  state title in this event and have won this particular series once before, and have been top three for about the past 4 years.

At the start, Jerome in the background
Our local bike community holds a monthly series called the Elkhart Time Trials, hosted by Zealous Racing Team. Once a month anywhere from 40 - 80 riders line up to race 7.5(ish) miles on the flattest, straightest road, in central Iowa.  The course truly has it's own personality.  The first event is held in April and then every month till August.  Each month the course is the same but the biggest change is weather.  We can have winds that literally blow the riders off the road, heat that will destroy even the most hydrated, rain, and not to mention the seasonal crops surrounding the road that affects both wind and rider. Points are accrued in each race with 20 points going to first, 19 for second, and  so on.  Each month is tallied and by the end of the series the rider with the most points wins in their respective class. 

Rider's head south to a traffic cone sitting in the middle of a desolate road roughly 3.6 miles from the start, round the turn, and scream back to the finish.  The course is level with a total of 50 feet of gain. The pavement is nice, and traffic volume is very low, as the race course is open to traffic. If the winds are brutal, which they usually are, each rider secretly wishes for the tractor to pull out and lead the way home.  Of course drafting is illegal, and any outside help is also frowned upon.

Well the April race has come and gone. Though this was a special event for our family. This was the first time that all four of our family members raced. My wife Kerrie (who has won the women's class in prior years), my oldest Connor, and now my youngest Cooper has become an official time trialist.  I entered the event knowing I had to hurry my finish to get to ride with Cooper at his start.  It is accepted that experienced riders ride alongside or near new junior riders to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

The weather for the night was a bit unusual in that it was warm!  It was mid 70's with a steady 20mph wind from the south, which was slowly shifting to SE. This was absolutely my dream conditions.  I love to hammer a hard headwind and reap the benefit of a tailwind home.  Overall time record for this race is under 15 minutes, that is an average of 30 mph. For myself I have a PR of 16:01 a bit over 27 mph.  My first race of the series has generally been the slowest so this left me at the start line wondering how I would fare.

We have liftoff
I lined up first, which I never do because I love to have "carrots" down the road.  The timer gave the countdown and off I went. The wind was noticeable, so I kept low and poured as much into the pedals as I could.  I made the turn smoothly, got out of the saddle and put the hammer down.  I was roughly at 24 mph avg at the turn, and my speedometer did not drop below 30 mph after the turn.  The ride remained uneventful, and being first off the line I had clear road ahead.  I crossed the line in 16:44 averaging 26.9 mph. 

I had no real time to recover as I had to get back to the line for Cooper.  He was nervous but steady.  His main concern was whether Jerome could hold him ok for the start.  Which we all found quite humorous.  His count down came and went, Jerome released him, and off he went.  He wasn't much for chatting and he was holding a steady 12 mph in what was now a SE headwind blowing still at 20.  For any normal 8 year old they may have stopped and said forget it. But Cooper assured me he was fine and continued to push his pace.  About a half mile from the turn you crest a hill and see the mirage that is the turn.  This was Cooper's defining moment, he said he was hurting a bit but, pressed to the turn never dipping below 11mph.  After the turn he had a huge smile. He quickly accelerated and was near or at 20 mph for the trip back.

He pushed and pedaled to the line calling out his number at the finish like he has watched all of us do for years. He had done it.  He earned the finish in a time of 31:58, averaging 14 mph.  He was satisfied and happy, but once he got in the Jeep he was quick to fall asleep.  As for Kerrie she won the night for women overall, an Connor won the junior night.  After seeing the results, I found that I won the night overall as well.

All smiles, first race in the bag
 This was a great start for our family and it was a blast to be a part of.  All smiles and happy legs.  We  look forward to the upcoming races and hope to defend our respective titles.

Data File: Loop 1 is my race (note I always start it a bit before the timer says go, and don't stop it immediately after the line)  Loop 4 is Cooper's ride

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