By Mark Edwards
Way back in September '03 I did my first Swanton TT. I think my time was 33:39. At that point I reviewed the historical results for all riders and decided to set myself a lifetime "stretch" goal of breaking 30 minutes. In my ignorance it seemed possible.
By September '05 my PB was 31:40, I was very satisfied with my progress. That’s about when things ground to a crawl. In the following two years I'd only improve by 14 seconds to 31:26. My "stretch" goal was fading; I was finding myself coming to grips with the reality that breaking 30 minutes wasn't something I'd ever do.
In June '08 I broke through essentially 33 months of PB stagnation with a 21 second improvement to 31:05. While this was very motivating, nearly 3 years to gain roughly a half a minute meant that at this rate it would take over 6 years to reach 30 minutes. Never mind the law of diminishing returns. As hard as I felt I'd already been training, combined with Father Time conspiring against me, I had little confidence that I'd reach 30 minutes.
Then, last July, after seemingly endless intervals with the Team, a new bike, and apparently good conditions, I shattered my last PB by 41 seconds! With my PB now residing at 30:24, 30 minutes suddenly was coming back into focus.
Since last July I've kept that 30 minute barrier in the back of my mind. All those days I struggled to show up for the B-40 intervals… I'd just remind myself of the value of learning to go fast over rolling terrain and, how improvements on B-40 would really help me on Swanton road. Without setting a firm date, I knew I wanted to go for a new record sometime early in the '09 season.
The early time change meant that the Swanton TT series would again start in March. I'd be ready in April, but my form was good, so I wasn't ruling March out. On Thursday morning March 12th the weatherman said he expected "light" 5 to 10 knot winds in the afternoon. In my mind a 10 knot headwind is far from "light", but for Swanton Rd, 10 knots could easily be considered light.
Between my wanting to avoid the trainer, my present good form, and forecast “light” winds… I decided to roll out to Swanton Rd. My only reservation was the 6 x 6 workout at UCSC I’d done the previous evening. We had a big group with several very strong riders. The chase had motivated me to my 2nd best night ever. The downside was the residual soreness and localized fatigue I was feeling 24 hours later.
Dressed and ready to go, Margie, Geoff, and I started our warm-up rolling up Swanton road. We held a blistering 13 mph into the “light” headwind. Geoff and I exchanged a disheartened glance; this was far from ideal conditions for a PB.
We lined up and started at 1 minute intervals, I was the 5th or 6th rider off. I had finagled myself into following Geoff, I knew he would set a fast pace which would keep me pushing hard early. Without my power meter I was concerned I’d blow up fighting the headwind. I balanced on the edge as close as I could, several times I feared I’d dug too deep as my quads and lungs groaned under the strain. Luckily, I was able to recover and arrived at the bottom of the climb feeling reasonably good.
By this time I had pulled back all the riders ahead of me except for Geoff. Each time I’d seen someone ahead I’d hoped it was him. I knew he’d set a fast time, if I could possibly catch him that would mean I’d set a fast time minus one minute. As I neared the turnaround Geoff came by me, near enough to energize my chase effort.
As Geoff hammered the return, I kept him in my sights. My lower position on the bike was starting to pay off. The extra air Geoff had been pushing was taking a toll. I was finally able to catch and come around him. In that instant I went from predator to pray. Now, instead of trying to catch him, I was running scared he’d catch me.
My legs were screaming, I ignored them, I attacked the final two climbs out of the saddle. I kept the pressure on as best I could. On the flats and descents I just tried not to back off. The tailwind felt great on the final stretch, but I was clearly fading, my breathing had elevated to gasping, I was on my edge.
Woooosh, I called out number “9” as I crossed the line. Immediately sitting up, my breathing now graduated to panic gulps. I coasted, my vision blurred from the effort, until I’d regained enough control to turn around and slowly pedal back to the start.
Hey David! What was my time?