Masters Nationals Time Trial | Race Recap
Words Pauline Allen
How a 49 year old mother of 3 teenagers ended up clipped in, up on a steep ramp under a tent, being held upright by some stranger in 94 degree heat at 2:30 pm in Augusta, Georgia ready to suffer to the max against whoever showed up at Masters Time Trial Nationals is a long story, but there I was. In my black skinsuit. Already sweating, heart already flying.
I had inadvertently gotten myself completely out of triathlon and into cycling in September of 2017 when I accidentally jumped into my first Thursday night Wheelmen “spirited” ride on my 4th time ever on a road bike, and first time ever riding with a big group. Fast forward a few months of me being lucky enough to be surrounded by amazingly inspirational, encouraging people, like Steve Auchterlonie, Jessica Brooks, Finn Taylor, Jennie Horton and my awesome Wheelmen Sunday peeps and that’s where I landed. Right there up on that start ramp.
I was up against 7 other women in my division. 2 of them Cat 1’s, 3 of them Cat 2’s, and 2 Cat 3’s, then me a Cat 5. USAC had managed to “rank” me as 3rd, as some of the women had no TT results. That put me starting off in 5th position. They start the lowest ranked first, then exactly every 60 seconds the next ranked woman goes. I knew the 2 starting behind me had ridden fast in Nats 2017, getting top 2 in their divisions, one winning the 40-45, the other getting 2nd in 45-50. I didn’t research the rest.
The course (Fort Gordon Base Augusta) was much more hilly than we had been led to believe via the USAC website. It had stated 500 feet elevation change in 18 miles when in actuality it was over 1000. The surface was very rough, bumpy, cracked, with loose gravel at times. We had to go out 4.5ish miles, with 5-6 fairly good sized spunky hills, turn left on a downhill (35ish degrees), continue on out on a much more bumpy road, over another 5-6 spunky hills to the turnaround barrel, then attempt to come back just as strong as we went out (in theory). Time trialing is different. It is a race against others but you don’t always see the others. Somehow or another I had it in my head that I would hope to get top three. Don’t ask me why a mother of three teenagers just a year into cycling had that in her head, but I did.
I had set myself an average watts goal of about 215 (OK I will be honest it was 212 because those 3w matter). This would be just over 4 watts per kilogram. In theory and after much practice that was a solid tested bet. Originally my range was between 205 and 220 on a flatter course. We had envisioned the course to be similar to 71B, but after realizing the course was much hillier I modified my range from 190s-low 230’s. Knowing I would need lower watts on the downhills and a little more on the steeper uphills. Hoping to mostly see 205/220.
So you know how that goes. I tried really hard to be smooth with the power, and stick to my numbers. I passed two women, one at about 2 miles in, which meant I had gained one minute on her within 2 miles. I passed the second woman around 5 miles in, and then shortly after the turn around I had my greedy little optimistic eye on a third woman.
It was just after the turn around that I noticed the two woman who had started after me had their greedy little eyes on ME! The one closest to me had gained on me and I estimated was less than 20 seconds behind. I might have cursed in my head a bit. Optimism bubble remained intact.
Kept my numbers up and went ahead and passed my third woman which would have put only one woman on the course out in front of me, but two women who started behind me were gaining. I knew all this as I was suffering along holding close to my FTP on the hilly course in a black long sleeve skin suit in 95° heat …. on a bumpy road in Georgia.
The thing about time trialing is, you do not know until you are done how many seconds ahead or behind you are. All you know is if they pass you, they have gained and if they pass you, you know you either let them, or you try to pass them back and pull ahead of that one minute.
So that’s what happened. I, Pauline Allen, was passed.
I dropped back a bit because you are not allowed to draft. I hadn’t even researched how far back was legal so I receeded about six bike lengths as that is what is legal in triathlon. There were judges everywhere at this point, I think because the three of us were so close together. Two motorcyclists pretty much followed us back and forth for about 2 miles. It gave me a break, we were being watched so I kept my distance which dropped my watts to the 190’s/180’s, and I was OK with that. It was a nice mental break. The official zoomed off so I called myself a wuss, reminded myself I was a fighter not a quitter, put my head down pushed closer to 230w then passed that woman right back again. That showed her.
Well that showed her for about 60 seconds when she decided to pass me again and float on off ahead of me. By this point I was taking the left turn which would leave only 4ish miles to go. It was also about this time that I noticed my legs were feeling like jelly. Beyond burning. Go figure. I convinced myself it was OK to see the power in the 180’s 190s because surely on the coming uphill’s I could push back into the 220s. I watched her, willing her to get closer to me, my head in a painful haze fighting for concentration. I was still dreaming of passing her back when I felt a presence right behind me. I probably cussed again I’ll be honest. I, Pauline Allen, admit that for the second damn time out on the Master Nationals TT course was passed (insert expletive).
Unfortunately, I also have to admit I was actually passed going up a hill. Don’t these people know that hills are my strength? Well, apparently not. Because she passed my little Cat 5 ass.
I could barely keep my bike straight. I knew the finish was only 1.5-2 miles out and I knew that those women had gained one and two minutes on me. I wanted to give up. My heart rate was at its max. My head felt hot my legs were gone, the damn worst hill was right in front of me.
I forced my little skinny Irish legs to push the power up to the 220s but they would just get there for a fraction of a second and I would lose it. In my head I was going to pass that woman back. In my head the finish line remained off in the hopeful distance but in reality I was starting to come over the top of that last long hard hill on wobbly wheels, and both of those women we’re still ahead of me. The damn finish drew nearer, and with my head creaked to the side, my shoulders contorted, my face an ugly grimace I “sprinted” through the finishing arch. I heard them announce my name and a bunch of gibberish that barely reached my ears. They had put a long narrow shoot after the finishing arch and I was focused on not crashing into it. I don’t know how I kept straight up but I did.
I finished fourth. It turns out one other women who started ahead of me had ridden faster than any of the three of us who started in the back. It turns out that she’s the ex World and US record holder for 60 minutes on the velodrome. Wow.
What an amazing experience to race against the top in the country. I am super proud to have represented my Experience Fayetteville Team well. I am so grateful for all the support I have gotten from Steve Auchterlonie at Cycling Performance Lab, The Bike Route for fiddling with my old bike and making it fast. Also for the Fayetteville Wheelmen and Columbus House Brewery and all the people who have helped encourage me as I take on this crazy journey of trying to be better.
Distance: 30K/18.75 miles
Speed: 23.0 mph
Watts: AP 191 NP 196
Elevation Gain: 1060 feet
Words Jennie Horton
Go big or go home…right?!?
Well in only my first few months of bike racing, I made the trip with my good friend Pauline to Masters Nationals in Augusta, GA to race the time trial. As a newbie Cat 5, I would be racing against mostly Cat 1’s-3’s. What the heck was I thinking? A bit of peer pressure may have been involved, too.
With my triathlon background, I was used to riding a time trial bike, and really enjoyed the training getting ready for this event. Especially since I wouldn’t have to run off the bike. The best part of getting prepared for the race was our little training group. Steve Auchterlonie would organize a weekly training session. It’s more fun to suffer together.
When I registered for the race, I was a bit disheartened in that on paper, I was the slowest racer. Not really knowing what to expect, I was just hoping I could somehow not finish last. So there was my goal…go as hard as I could and not finish last.
We arrived in Augusta Wednesday afternoon and immediately went out to check and pre-ride the course. It was a good thing because it was nothing like what it seemed on paper. Lots of hills and really rough pavement. Since it was an out and back course, we got to see those hills twice which made up the first and last 6-7k of the course. Since hills are my weakness I knew I would need to save some energy and reserve it for that finish.
Race day…95 degree Georgia heat was the weather on tap. Since I was the slowest predicted finisher, I got to be everyone’s rabbit. We went off in 30 second intervals. The first person to pass me was right after the 7k mark. Within a couple of more minutes I was passed by the second gal. However, I was able to keep myself attached to them within legal distance. By the turnaround at 15, two other really strong girls came around me. Those two would be out of sight fast but I was actually starting to make ground on the first two that had passed me. Over the next 2-3k we would change places a couple of times. But as we approached the last 7-8k with the hills, I knew I had to make my move. It’s what I had been holding on to a bit of reserve for. I put my head down and just started pedaling as hard as I could. Not even paying attention to heart rate or power. If I was going to move up in my placing, I was going to have to put some time into them. I passed them both rather quickly from the start of my push. And for the last 5k I rode as hard as I could. Not letting up. The last kilometer was so hard up hill and all out. When I crossed the line, I was 3rd. Then the waiting game started. When it was all said and done, I wound up placing 4th and on the podium! I couldn’t believe it. Me, a Cat 5 being on the podium at Nationals.
I’m thankful for our team Experience Fayetteville and the chance to represent our city on the national level. And to our sponsors Airways Freight, Breast Treatment Associates, Columbus House Brewery and All Sports Productions for all your support. And a special shout out to Steve Auchterlonie of Cycling Performance Lab for all his help and guidance.
Distance: 30k/18.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 1050 ft
Avg Speed: 21.8 mph
Avg Power: 185