Since I have never competed in a cycling race (outside of triathlon), I was excited for the Lake Nockamixon 20K Time Trial, which was on an out-and-back course over rolling terrain. In terms of performance, I figured I could ride between 275 and 285 watts, or 108-110% of my estimated FTP. I thought this might be good for around 30 minutes on the 20K course.
There wasn’t much fanfare in this time trial. Each rider received a time, showed up at the start a few minutes prior, and set out on the course in 30-second increments at the specified time (mine was 8:44:30). When the time came, I took off and was immediately grateful for my power meter because I realized I had no idea how to pace myself. With the adrenaline of the start, I was pushing 330-350 watts right away and, knowing these numbers were unsustainable, coached myself into a more manageable pace around 300.
I had my Garmin set up to give feedback every 2K so that I could mentally parse the effort into 10% segments. When I came through the first segment in just under 3 minutes with average power just north of 300 watts, I knew I was where I needed to be. The second segment was largely uphill, and with my eye on my power I diligently kept my watts under 320, holding back the natural inclination to push hard going up.
After the first big hill, I settled into a steady rhythm with my power and cadence. It took concentrated effort to hold power on the descents, and at times 270 watts was all I could muster in my 52-11. After the turnaround, I knew I could maintain through to the end. In the last 2K, I gave what I had left to finish strong.
The end result was an average power of 298 watts (~4.6 W/kg) and a time of 29:36 (~25 mph) for 1st place in Category 5 (cycling newbs). I was thrilled to have knocked my power target out of the park in a very evenly paced effort.
As I continue to work on increasing my power, I know I need to work on my position (this is obvious from scrolling through the race photos–I have one of the most upright positions of the participants). I had a cursory fit when I bought my bike, but the wrench who set me up knew it was my first TT bike and set me up in a very non-aggressive position–very comfortable, but decidedly un-aero. ~300 watts should get me more than the velocity it did, even on a hilly course like Nockamixon. Now, where to find $300 for a professional fit.