Katie has quite the collection of State Championship vests! Now she’s got the title for TT too!
I was in the middle of prerace preparation for the Colorado State TT Championship and I was walking back to my car to warm up when I heard a male racer say to his buddy, “Everyone gets lucky at some point.” He was referring to his win at Deer Trail the week prior. I was reminded that it was just the week before that I pulled myself out of the Deer Trail Road Race due to illness. I’m not a quitter so it was a tough decision. I thought I felt fine the morning of the State Road Race Championship, but after one strong attack I started coughing, I was having trouble breathing and my legs were heavy. Brittany Jones and Melissa Langdon were out there and I did not want to leave them, but I realized that I was no use to them anyway. I had to decide, drop out or get sicker. My head was like, “Suck it up!” but my body was like, “You’re done.” There is a time and a place to push oneself on the bike but this was not the time, nor the place. So, I quit. I was frustrated, but what I didn’t know at the time was that maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I took a few days off after that race before I started training again with the State TT Championship in mind.
For the most part, in a time trial you have no idea how the rest of your competition is performing and you don’t know until the end how you match up. It is the race of truth, a race against the clock and a battle within yourself to see how much pain you can withstand for the duration. I like to tell people, it hurts from the very first pedal stroke. It’s as much a mental exercise as a physical one. I placed second for the SW4 in the 2013 State TT Championship but I had upgraded since then. The SW3 lineup for 2014 was stacked; every single one of them was strong. In fact, the majority of the start list had been faster than me all season long, so I had no expectations going into this race.
The winner of the SW3 TT I thought for sure was going to be either Barb Lotze or Nina Donohue – these women are machines and they were performing with times that would rival the Pro 1/2s. They are amazing time trialists and I have a lot of respect for both of them. I have never defeated Nina in a TT and the last time I defeated Barb in a TT was one year ago, at last year’s State TT Championship, where I bested her by only 4 seconds. I hadn’t won against her since. I was fortunate enough to get the final start time for the SW3, 30 seconds behind Barb.
I was surprisingly relaxed at the start line. Barb and I wished each other luck and off we went. As we rounded the second turn and I could tell that Barb was already getting away from me. Then it happened. We were about 4-5 miles in to this 24-mile race and my gears locked up. I couldn’t pedal. “No, no, no, no!” I yelled out loud. I frantically started shifting trying to free the chain and it fell off. I could pedal again but I had dropped the chain. Trying to stay calm, after spinning for a few seconds I somehow was able to pedal it back on. The bike was fine but my ride was not. Barb was catching the rider ahead of her and I was essentially dropped.
I passed the rider who went off 1 minute ahead of me after the first lollipop. After the second turn around we were hit with a massive headwind going all the way back home for 10 miles. The return to the finish was supposed to be slightly down sloped but it didn’t feel like it. I was probably a minute behind Barb at the final turn around – I could barely see her. I felt defeated but I tried to stay focused through all the pain. I certainly wasn’t going to give up.
I don’t have any data on my tt bike, no garmin, no power meter, no cadence, no gradient information, and no speed. All I had to gauge my performance was my heart rate monitor and perceived exertion. As an indoor cycling instructor, I’m used to monitoring my efforts in this way. Lucky for me, most cycling classes are an hour long – nearly the exact time it would take me to complete this race. So I was quite comfortable hammering for an hour. I knew all that spin instructing would pay off at some point! I fought with myself during the majority of the race to stay focused on my heart rate and cadence. I was trying to push the biggest gear I could as fast as I could and I also wanted to keep my heart rate around threshold until the end where I’d push it into overdrive.
Coming into the final two miles I was feeling stronger and I was surprisingly gaining significant ground. There were a few curves ahead before the final drag into the finish. I don’t know who I was talking to but I said out loud, “Give me the legs.” I stayed aero around those curves and dropped into a bigger gear. We passed the 1k marker and I thought to myself, we are running out of real estate, I have to start my push early can’t wait until 200m. Barb was now within striking distance and I gave it everything I had. I watched her cross the finish line and started counting down from 30, which was our start gap; if I could get to that line before I reached zero I might have a shot at the podium, but the win wasn’t even on my radar.
After the race I met up with Melissa Westergard and we headed over to the results area together. I saw my coach, Sue Lloyd. I gave her a hug and asked if she’d won. Of course she did. She broke the news to me that I had also won my category. I did not believe her. I was in shock. There was no way. I had to go see for myself. Indeed, I’d won by 6 seconds. The spread between first second and third was 13 seconds, so it was very close. We were very clearly equally matched, but I guess my sprint was just enough to give me the edge that day. It was an unexpected win, but some days you just get lucky.