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Race Report – Sandy Hook Time Trial 2019

I have been planning to race more cycling time trials when I had a chance, and I was finally able to make it to the New Jersey Time Trial Cup’s opening event on March 30.

Location and Course

This race took place at Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. The course for the time trial is 7 miles of very flat roads. The elevation change is negligible, and the race follows a straight-forward out-and-back route.

The turn-around is wide and easy to navigate. I heard that some cyclists weren’t sure exactly where to turn, but it seemed clear to me.

There are several categories of entry to choose from for these races. They vary by type of bike, age, and category (how fast you are). Since I don’t own a TT bike, I entered the non-TT bike category. If you haven’t earned a higher category, then you’re a Cat 5 cyclist (this was me).

Weather Conditions

I am always cold, so one of the more off-putting aspects of an early season race is the prospect of chilly morning temperatures. However, one reason why I chose to enter this event was that the forecast didn’t seem too bad.

I had seen the wind forecast, but hadn’t given much thought to that. The sun was up and the temperature at the start was 52. As I checked in, it was clear that the southerly wind would be a huge factor in my race.

The road conditions were great with smooth pavement for the entire course. The road was not closed to cars, so riders had to still remain alert to passing traffic.

Check-In and Warm-Up

We found the parking lot easily and I made my way to the check-in table which was near the start. The process was simple – I just gave my name and they handed me my bib.

The event had waived the US Cycling license one-day fee for anyone who was a US Triathlon member which was a nice way to encourage triathletes to try out a time trial.

I returned to the car and started to get ready, assembling my gear and getting my bike on the trainer. I didn’t have a specific plan for my warm-up, but kept it to some easy pedaling followed by a series of progressively harder intervals.

I was definitely cold, so I kept my long-sleeved jersey on. My husband helped to pin my bib to my back, and I headed to the start.

Everyone who is racing is given a specific start time. It is the athlete’s responsibility to be at the start at the right time. Time trials are different in that a designated person holds your bike up so that you can be clipped in with both feet for a faster start. I had practiced this before my first TT 2 years ago and felt like I’d remember how to manage it.

While I waited in line, one of the other cyclists pointed out that my bib wasn’t oriented correctly. She re-pinned it for me, but it would have been helpful if that information had been more clearly available ahead of time.

My Race

Soon enough, my race had started! I felt like I had chosen an appropriate gear and I accelerated and built some speed.

I tried to keep my heart rate under control at the outset because I didn’t want to go out too hard. My plan was to divide the race into 4 parts. I would aim for steady effort in the first quarter, build to a stronger effort in the second and third parts, and then leave it all out there as I pushed hard to the finish in the last quarter.

I was able to keep my heart rate below 180, but also realized that I was moving at 22-23 mph due to a crazy tailwind. I think I ripped through the first mile in 3 minutes. This was a blast, but it meant that I was going to face that same wind head-on for the second half.

As I neared the turn-around, I started to see some of the earlier cyclists as they headed opposite me, toward the finish. I could tell from their expressions that they were no longer thrilled by the wind.

I made the turn and the wind wasn’t too bad to start with. However this part of the course was more sheltered than what lay ahead. My speed dropped significantly though, and my heart rate crept up.

I felt like I was making a steady effort, but as the course turned slightly, this brought the wind directly into my face. The sheltering brush grew more sparse. My speed fell further.

The last mile was grueling. I watched the distance on my computer tick away. I pushed harder than before and my heart rate soared.

Finally, I could see the finish. I gulped more air, kept my legs moving, and rolled across.

I shifted to my easiest gear and rolled back to the parking lot. I bundled myself back up in layers, stowed my bike, and headed home.

The full results for the event can be found here.

I finished in 24:46.6 which was close to my estimate of 25 minutes. Even though that put me at the bottom of my group, I felt like I raced as hard as I could and I’m happy with my day. I would like to do more TT events if/when my schedule allows it.

See more of my race reports here.

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