I should have listened to Elaine and Dave

posted Aug 25, 2009, 5:35 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Sep 12, 2011, 8:10 AM ]
Timberman 70.3 Bike

Okay--I'll be the first to agree with my wife that I occasionally am resistant to change.  For most the of the years that I've been time trialing, I've used a single front chainring; I figure, since I never shift into the little ring, why bother with one.  I've never encountered a race where I really needed to go to small gears, and I've been having good results with the 60t that I've been using this season.

The day before we left for Timberman, Elaine told me that I might want to put a small chainring on my bike, as the 70.3 race had a reputation of being hilly.  I didn't take her seriously--which never has worked out well in the past--and left the 60t on the bike.  Before the 70.3 race started on Sunday, I asked Dave (who was the relay swimmer) about what the course was like after its first seven hilly miles.  I recall saying that it couldn't be all that bad, as I was able to get over the first couple of hills the day before during the sprint without much of a problem.  Dave's response was cautionary: "Oh, Don, there are two terrible hills."  This caused me pause, as I normally climb like a rock; but then Dave reassured me by saying, "It is what it is."

I should have listened to Elaine and Dave.

I started the race with a small gear of 60x19, got over the the first two hills fairly conservatively, and passed lots and lots of people.  Thinking that I was over the worst of it, I hit Marsh Hill.  Dave was wrong--the hill was beyond terrible, and I was seriously over-geared.  My speed dropped precipitously and for the first time in almost thirty years I seriously wondered whether I would have to get off of the bike.  As I ground over my enormous gear, all sorts of people blew by me--a 280 woman on a hybrid, a guy pushing his bike with a rack loaded with six water bottles and a box of gels, a teenager dragging his lawnmower across a yard.  I had a lot of time to consider my situation and realized that this was one of the most absurd things that I've ever attempted. 

I got over the hill and ended up with a reasonable ride, albeit 15 minutes or so slower than I intended.  Here's some interesting statistics collected during the race:

Minimum Gear: 60x19

Maximum Gear: 60x11

Maximum Cadence: 137 RPM

Minimum Cadence: 19 RPM

Maximum Speed: 62.7 (on the return down Marsh Hill)

Minimum Speed: 2.7 (Marsh Hill on the return)

Average speed on the flat highway to turnaround: 30.8 MPH (this was about 14 miles or so)

Average speed on the flat highway from turnaround 29.7

Lesson learned: will bring a 56,44 chainring combo next year!

The Culprit Identified: A Fibrelyte 60t Chainring