This week I completed my first Time Trial at Hillingdon - 10 miles of riding as hard as you can.
It's not just the event itself that makes a Club TT so endearing. It's the raw moments that happen before and after that make you feel part of something much bigger than your usual routine.
From riding 15 miles in the rain to the start line with no spare clothes to pacing when you have no idea what your pace is, there's a lot to be learnt in just one evening.
MY FIRST TIME:
The fear and nerves will never go away:
If the thought of a TT is daunting, join the rest of the queue. I had butterflies all day. After turning up and seeing the shared nerves on everyone's face, I realised that this is the emotion that brings people back for more, not the reason to stay away.
The journey should be part of the adventure, not an obstacle:
Amateur sport, in its charming form, is unglamorous. We had to cycle 15 miles in the pissing down rain, across rush hour London, to arrive at the location. Don’t see that as an obstacle, see it as part of the journey. It was an after work adventure during a time when you're usually on the commute autopilot.
Plan your first with someone experienced. I didn’t have to worry about 90% of the logistics because Gem had it covered. You will chat the nerves out before the race as well as talking enthusiastically when you're both on the post-event buzz. Our ride home consisted of talking through every bend and every mile, generating a wonderful shared energy.
Base success on effort not outcome:
If you compare yourself to others, you won’t enjoy the race. Measure your #winning on the effort you put in and there’s no way you can fail.
There’s three parts to the event. The ride to the start. The race. The ride home. We learnt the layering lesson the hard way, turning up soaked with no spare socks in sight. Always pack a hoody/gilet for the ride home too. Not only will you look pro, but it will be a welcomed comfort layer now the fitted lycra has done its job.
Listen to advice:
Gem sent me a 'top tips for your first 10' link. Mr Boardman told many truths. Predominantly the advice to take your first few laps at a relatively comfortable speed. When you don’t yet have a pace, you’re not only physically unsure of your limits but you aren't prepared for the mind games and strategy that TT’s require. Manage your self doubt (and tired legs) by knowing you have something left in the tank for the last two laps.
Fuel for the return leg:
An inevitability of taking part in sport during the week is you’re often home late. I put my shoes next to the fire, sat in my lycra and ate my dinner at 10.30pm like there was no 0600 alarm tomorrow (there was). I’d suggest having something to 'fill the gap' on the way home. As well as the nutriotnal advice you can read elsewhere, it's a simple and familiar moment to enjoy after being in the unknown for the past few hours. I opted for a Pip&Nut almond butter sachet. Because I’m addicted to that nut butter life.
Say thank you to the organisers:
To the lady selling biscuits and coffee in polystyrene cups and the men handing out the timing chips, thank you. These people give up their evenings so we can improve our cycling and feel better about ourselves. Let them know how grateful you are.
Most of us grow up and choose to stay in our ever-appealing comfort zone. Viewing risk and nerves as a negative and avoiding the feeling of fear. But life isn’t for hiding away after the work day is over. Cycling home last night felt indulgently fulfilling. We’d not only achieved something but we were part of something.
I’m not buying an aero helmet (yet) but I have signed up for my next TT. And the one after that. Because just 24 hours later, I'm already craving those 10 miles of focus and simplicity that have reminded me:
PEDAL HARD. SLEEP EASY.