Assume the (aero) position
Having managed to PB on a halfway house TT position last week (see previous post), this week I got to ride the Giant Trinity with its new Drag2Zero / Raceware Components cockpit fully set-up.
That meant new D2Z arm pads (the deeper outer sides make it easier to relax into them), a pair of angled risers (to maximize the contact patch between elbow/forearm and the pads) and then a pair of carbon tri bars with a 20-degree bend.
Thanks to roadworks on the scheduled 17-mile hilly course, we were back on the flat H10/3 course again. My fourth run on that particular course this year. I tried to kid myself that I wouldn't pay too much attention to the time this week, what with it being the first run on the new set-up. But of course that wasn't really true. In my heart, I wanted a PB.
The weather was playing ball, with a light breeze out of the South (meaning there would be neither a headwind or a tailwind on the way out or back).
After a warm up (the first time I'd actually ridden the bike since picking it up from Martyn Harris at Raceware!), it was time to line up ready for the start (thankfully no exploding inner tube this week!).
My turn. I lined up, ready to go, the legendary 87-year old Dave Jones keeping me steady on the bike. Five, four, three, two, one... nail it! Except as I left the layby and joined the main road, the chain slipped from the big ring at the front to the small one! It took me a second to realise why I was spinning out and I reached over to the left Di2 changer to rectify the situation.
In the famous words of Corporal Jones (I guess only Brits of a certain age will get the Dad's Army reference): "Don't panic! Don't panic!".
Soon enough, I was back in the big ring at the front and I got down into the aero tuck, trying to ensure I didn't go so hard that I blew up before the first mile was done.
I tried to get my head as far out of the wind as possible, trusting my now intimate knowledge of the road to know when I could afford to ride in a more head-down stance (still seeing 20m or so down the road) or when I needed to 'meerkat' to avoid potholes or beware of traffic hazards.
The position felt good and by about mile four, I had caught my minute man. The speed wasn't spectacular, but it was solid and I could tell I wasn't getting much assistance or resistance from the wind, which should mean more of the same on the way home.
Round the roundabout in Hungerford and back towards Newbury. I hadn't even checked the time. I knew I was pushing about as hard as I dare, so if the time was rubbish there wasn't much I was going to do about it!
About mile eight, I could see the blinking taillight of Martyn Harris, who had gone off two minutes ahead of me. That gave me a little kick. I really wanted to catch Martyn!
But the gap was closing very slowly. Martyn wasn't hanging around and like the carrot on the end of the pole, he just about kept out of reach all the way to the finish line.
I crossed the line in 21:24 (official, my Garmin was a few seconds faster), a new PB and just under 30 seconds faster than last week. Job done.
The new position seems to be working just fine. Looking at the photos, I can see some areas for improvement - but now I've seen them, I can be mindful to keep my position more in check. I reckon there's a few more seconds to be had through the aero position alone, let alone what I can do with an extra 5, 10, 15, 20 watts.
On the downside, today I finally had a long-overdue sports massage and the masseur confirmed my rising fears: my ankles are shot. I've been suffering from ankle soreness and stiffness lately, suspecting the early signs perhaps of arthritis. This now seems likely, as the masseur confirmed that my ankles feel very 'crunchy' and they seem to be devoid of the usual amount of fluid that they would expect to be in and around the joint. Time to see a specialist.
And if they confirm the masseur's hypothesis, this could be the start of the end for triathlon. Maybe another year more if I'm lucky. I guess I'll see what the doctors have to say...
It's a good job I like cycling so much. Just a little daunting to realise how much I'm going to have to up my game if I have to race without a swim before the bike and a run after!