What is it?
If you don’t know about them, the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships (WTTC) are held every November in Borrego Springs, a quiet Southern California resort community. The riders set out to complete many miles as possible in 6, 12 or 24 hours and determine who is the fastest in the world, to set personal records, and to spend time with friends in the bicycle racing community.
The course is flat and fast, featuring a main loop of 18 miles with 347’ of elevation change and a finishing loop of 4.8 miles with 63’ of elevation change.
Like last year, it’s not November and I’m not in California – so covid must still be an issue. Once again the event is being hosted virtually FulGaz albeit with a slight format change, as riders will be taking on a 3hr or a 6hr version.
The race plan
In a twist to the famous Jurassic Park line, I find that “Life, uh, gets in the way”…
So, the original plan to ride the vWTTC 6hr changed to the 3hr so I could pick my kids up. It wasn’t really a huge issue as this ride was just another chance to test and practice my pacing and fuelling strategy ahead of RAAM later this year.
So to the plan, well it was pretty simple;
- to ride at ‘Base Pace’ or around 2.3w/kg,
- be consistent with my power and ideally not stop (bladder willing)
- to get in between 60-90g carbohydrates per hour
(See my kit and fuel choices in Learning, at the end of the blog)
I didn’t set out with a goal in mind for it, in terms of placing or mileage, however I had in my mind that 50miles was certainly an achievable target to aim for.
Borrego Springs virtually loaded via the FulGaz platform and I was ready to go from the comfort of my garage.
The 3hr race
I set out with my planned watts being turned through the pedals but sadly that didn’t last more than a few minutes, I was quickly increasing this in order to stay close to the main group of other riders. On the right of the screen in FulGaz you’ve got a leaderboard, which shows your position and the time gap between you and the riders around you. While this is nice, it certainly didn’t help me sticking to my plan to ride base miles – sadly, I’m just too competitive not to want to close gaps and push up.
Despite being over the target effort, I felt comfortable for 2hrs, I’d started fuelling early and was continuing to do so. The garage was warming up and I was sweating well without the fan on (a deliberate choice). However, I was starting to feel the effort and the dehydration, with the beginnings of cramp in my calves. By 2 and a half hours I was chewing the stem and focusing on just hanging on, fending off cramp and the growing need to wee.
Although my power dropped off slightly in that 3rd hour, I dug in, pushed it back up towards the end to make sure I finished strong and didn’t lose my place.
I finished the 3hr race in 5th, having ridden 63.4miles or just over 100km.
Overall, my lap times and power were pretty consistent over the course of the 3hrs. I’d completed 3 and a half laps of the 18mile course, averaging 2.8w/kg for the race (around 30w above my planned base pace – essentially riding Zones 2 & 3 instead of high Zone 1 / 2).
All in all a far better effort than I had intended or expected, but of course this is no where near a reflection of Race Across America. It is however, a good benchmark for my fitness and mental strength for the start of my RAAM year.
I think it’s really important to reflect and learn from everything we do, particularly where we have big goals we want to acheive. So while this may have only be a 3hr event, there is always something to learn and improve on.
Preloading & Cramp;
- Preloading – When we talk about training and events we often focus on the what and how of fuelling during the exercise. However it’s also massively important to ensure you are properly hydrated before you start, particularly before long, hot or hard sessions and events.
- After taking on the Hydration training course from Precision Hydration & TrainingPeaks last year, I learnt about ‘preloading’ and it’s benefits.
- Basically it’s about taking on fluids with electrolytes before you even start sweating. There are huge performance benefits from starting hydrated, so it is important to get it right.
- Normally I always preload before my events – this time I didn’t for a number of reasons, largely because I was away from home until a few hours before the race.
- I took the online sweat test last year and as a result have a really good starting point from which to build my hydration strategy, knowing how much to preload and consume during my training and events. So, I need to refocus and get this right for future.
This article on TrainingPeaks from Andy Blow, founder of Precision Hydration, is a great intro to the topic – https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/how-to-make-sure-you-start-your-race-hydrated/
I took on around 270g of carbohydrates which is decent, at the top of end of the ‘rule of thumb’, through a mix of liquid and solid food.
During the long endurance rides by IBS plays a big part in how I fuel and as such, I’ve tried to find ways to get more liquid fuel in to my training and events as these create far less of a GI issue for me. My go to fuels are;
KMC ISO Mix, which is an isotonic drink powder you mix in to 500ml of water. It’s gluten free, which for me is a massive help to reduce the potential for GI issues. It delivers around 34g of carbohydrates and electrolytes so mixed with solid food this is a really easy way to fuel and hydrate. I drank one 500ml serving per hour.
If I don’t make my own, I’ll eat the KMC Superfood bar as well. This is a mix of oats, honey, seeds and dried fruit so has a lot of good endurance fuel in it. It delivers a decent 40g of carbohydrate – so combined with a bottle it’s a decent way to fuel shorter rides like this.
Recently I’ve been trying out premixed nutritional shakes, like Ensure, as a way to get more nutrition and calories inside me when I’m struggling to eat. Shakes like Ensure are aimed at being a meal replacement / supplement for people who may be at risk of malnourishment. I’ve found these to be a good addition to my armoury, particularly when indoors, although not something you can easily pre-pack when your riding self-supported.
The key over the coming months now is just to keep doing this, keep practicing and training my gut to handle the marathon of eating I’ll need to complete as part of RAAM.
- Being so close to RAAM now, much like fuelling, I need to be making decisions on what kit I’ll be taking and wearing. I recently spent some time with the team at dhb discussing this and my one must have was the dhb Aeron Ultra Bib Shorts – they are my go to and soemthing that time and time again proves their worth. The pad size and thickness is generous, lending itself well to ultra distances, and the general weight and feel of the material is second to none in this field.
- Paired with a little chamois cream from VeloSkin and I know I’ll be riding in relative comfort all day long, literally.