Five, four, three, two, one - GO! The 2018 Gila TT began, I pushed off, and a few out of the saddle pedals later I was down in the aero position holding myself back while adrenaline shot through my body.
When I crossed the line 37 minutes later the moto that had been following me came up to my side and said “Nice ride dude! I think you put at least 90 seconds into the guy closest to you.” It turns out I had put 5 minutes into him, finished in 3rd place, and beaten my best Gila TT time by 2 minutes.
As I stood on the windswept shoulder of Tyrone I could only ask myself where this came from? My buddies would say it’s just my new TT bike. But the first thing that came to mind was a conversation a few months earlier when the leaves were a different color.
It started at a coffee shop with Nate in the Fall. We wrote down some goals and one of them was making a jump in my TT performance. We put it on paper, I agreed to it, and the commitment was sealed.
It’s one thing to commit to something, it’s another to do it. That commitment meant actionable things that were unpleasant, like, for example, riding my TT bike. It’s not the most fun bike to ride - you’re cramped, you’re always looking barely a few feet ahead of you, and sometimes it even meant riding the damn thing indoors on the trainer as well, which was pure misery to me. But the ‘TT project’ pressed forward week by week which laid the foundation for a better performance. One session a week doesn’t feel like much, but after an offseason that adds up to 20+ hours of time on the TT bike.
Another crucial element to the TT breakthrough was strength/mobility work. If you’re an athlete of Catalyst Coaching you’ve seen the above workout (and probably been tempted to ignore it). I’ve seen it so many times I don’t even have to watch it anymore to do the routine. In short, it’s 10 minutes of mobility/yoga that feels subjectively like a 5 hour ride. It hits you in all the places cyclists neglect, and, if done consistently, actually really, really helps. In the past I was notorious for my inflexibility. I revelled in my violin string hamstrings and immovable IT bands. It turns out that being that inflexible is terrible for developing power and staying aerodynamic on the TT bike. It took months, and I’m by no means ‘arrived’, but the painful, consistent regime of incremental tissue change gave me a greater range of movement and comfort that made riding the TT bike actually fun.
Since I committed to improving my TT, I decided I wasn’t going to continue on the frankenstein rig I’d ridden in the past. For starters, it didn’t actually fit me, which, combined with my prior inflexibility, mean that I couldn’t put down the power I was capable of or get aero - not a winning formula. After getting a bike that was my size I also swallowed my pride, stopped pretending to be a fit specialist because I read a few forum posts, and got a good bike fit. I was skeptical how much it would help, but within a few pedal strokes of riding the bike outside it felt so much better I nearly fell off of it.
Back to the Tour of the Gila TT. I was in the midst of attempting the JMSR and Gila stage race double (which hadn’t been going that well) and facing my first race on the TT bike on which I’d never done well. My mental state should have been garbage. However, I decided the day before the TT to put aside my negative thoughts and treat every day like a new opportunity. Warming up I threw on some tunes that spiked my heart rate and showed up to the line ready to taste blood. Your best isn’t going to happen if you show up the line already quit.
While the breakthrough felt like magic, I have to admit I didn’t just swing my leg over the bike and pull the performance out of nowhere. I committed to improving by spending offseason time on the bike, I increased my mobility, I got my bike and fit right, and raced with a positive mindset. It’s a beautiful thing to feel the lagging outcomes of your commitment come to fruition.