My third race of 2017 was the USAC Masters National Time Trial Championship, held north of Augusta, GA, on Thursday, June 1, on a 12.24 mile (19.7 kilometers) rolling hill out-and-back course. This was the first time that this race was held at this location and it will be returning in 2018.
The weather was hot and humid: temperature at my start time of 12:52:30 was 84 degrees (felt like 85%), humidity was 48 percent, and a slight wind from the north-northwest at 5 mph. Radiant temperature, according to my GPS bike computer, reached 105 degrees. This heat made any warmup, other than light spinning, counterproductive. I drank as much of a extreme temperature hydration solution as I could before heading to the start line. But, anyone wearing a dark colored skin suit, like I did, suffered from the heat.
I started 15th, out of 22 competitors, in my age group. The seeding was based on national ranking. I smoothly accelerated away down the ramp from the start house and powered across the top of a dam, which was a mile in length, before starting onto the rolling hill portion of the course. I had ridden the course the previous morning, but not in the midday heat. By the time I came off the dam, I discovered that I had no power in my legs. I was quickly passed by several higher ranked rivals in the first couple of miles. I duplicated my tactics at the Argyle Time Trial several weeks earlier by attacking the uphill portion of each hill and recovering on the downhills. Unlike Argyle, I had solved my saddle irritation problem before this race, but was still forced to sit up on the downhills due to neck and shoulder pain when lifting my head to see the road surface ahead.
Not surprisingly, my official time, 0:33:26.35 (22.00 mph), was only good enough for 21st place. I missed a podium finish by over five minutes. The winning time was 0:28:10.11 (26.07 mph). All five podium finishers were within 10 seconds of the winner. In fact, the time gap between the first and 10th finisher was less than 60 seconds.
Race replay: USAC Masters National Time Trial Championship
While I was disappointed with my result. I actually increased my average heart rate and power output for the second race in a row. However, according to friends at the race, I looked “terribly flushed” after finishing, one of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. They doused my head with water as I was walking to my car. I consumed a recovery drink and several bananas immediately afterwards, and sought shade near the start/finish line. I felt better about 30 minutes later.
This may well be my last race of the season. The following morning, after I returned home from Augusta, I spoke to my doctor about my neck and shoulder pain. He said that it was time for spinal reconstruction surgery to correct my slowly worsening shoulder slouch, caused by anklyosing spondilitis (a type of arthritis in which there is long term inflammation of the joints of the spine). This condition has prevented me from lifting/turning my head without pain in my neck and from achieving a truly competitive aerodynamic position on my time trial bike. This was as much a factor in my poor performance at Nationals as the effects of heat exhaustion.
I will post an update after I consult with the surgeon, who specializes in spinal reconstruction surgery for athletes. But, for the moment, if I compete in any more time trials this season, they will only be flat courses.
Two interesting side notes about this race. First, all of the competitors’ bike frames were scanned for hidden motors before being allowed to enter the start house. And, second, each age group’s podium finishers, plus one random member of the field, were scheduled for post-race drug testing. No one from my age group, or any of the older age groups, were included in the post-race drug testing.