Getting Outside my Comfort Zone: Thursday Night Time Trial

I believe that we often learn the most from experiences that push us to the edge of our comfort zone.

A parallel from the world of fitness is that your body grows stronger in response to stimulus that takes you to the edge of your capacity.  Last week, I sought out an experience that took me out of my comfort zone and will hopefully make me a stronger cyclist.  I finally did a Real Deal / D'Ornellas Thursday Night Time Trial.

Coach Roger had recommended them as a test of strength, pacing and willpower.  These weekly races take place in Markham during the summer and bring out a solid group of competitors.  Cyclists set out, one-by-one a minute after each other, to complete a 15 km loop, full on as fast as they can, without drafting.  You get to know the limits of your stamina and strength because unlike duathlons, there isn't a run before or afterward, so the goal is to use all your energy and not have anything left.

In other words, they're pretty tough.  Just the thought makes me a little nervous.

And that's what drew me to them.

When I arrived on Thursday, I was slightly frazzled from the rush hour drive up the DVD/404, but soon calmed after finding familiar faces, fellow Ignition Fitness athletes Kim Osborne and Hector Rodriguez, as well as Tara Postnikoff of HEAL Nutrition.

Athletes were seeded in order from slowest to fastest, based on estimated completion time.  I was aiming for an average of 40 km/hour (reasonable given my race results and what I imagined a time trial course would look like), which equated to 23 minutes.  To my dismay, that meant I would be seeded as the third-fastest racer.  In conversation with the two guys behind me, I invited them to feel free to pass me.  (Spoiler: they both did within 3 km.)

As I took off, I quickly realized that the headwind and hills would be a challenge.  I had imagined the race course would be fast and flat, like Toronto Island!  Regardless, I tucked in and focused on the effort, bringing up the rear as the now last cyclist.

In the end, I finished around the 15 km in about 23:58, or 37.5 km/hr average, feeling good about the work I’d put in and the new experience under my belt.

I wanted to learn from the time trial experience and I did.  For example, when a cyclist passed me, I saw that he appeared to be riding two gears lighter than me and pedalling at a higher cadence.  So perhaps I was grinding too hard when I could have been spinning.

In another example, in conversation with Roger the following day, we found that my average power output for the duration was well above my last FTP, which should have translated into more speed.  That mystery has me wondering if my position needs to be adjusted or if there’s something mechanical happening with my bike.  That lesson is a little more complicated to unpack.

We can grow so much from the experiences that challenge us.

Many thanks to the team at Real Deal for the well run event and to the other cyclists who offered such a warm welcome.  I hope to squeeze in one more TT before they finish for the season.

Next up, this weekend I return to the Montreal Esprit Triathlon, where I’ll be competing and putting these lessons – and the accumulation of the season’s training - to the test against some of Quebec’s best duathletes.

Happy racing!


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