I had, one might say, no good reason to think
That I could keep pushing so close to the brink
Of maximum effort... I crested the rise,
Then coasted a moment, relaxing my thighs.
I took three deep breaths, making sure I exhaled,
As basic restraint and good logic prevailed.

I stood on the pedals and stretched, breathing deep.
The grade wasn't long and it sure wasn't steep,
But it was enough for a much-needed break
To think and assess how much more I could take.
'How hard am I working? Can I hold this pace?'
The grade leveled off; I got back in the chase.

Ahead loomed the tradeoff for that downward slope,
A short curving climb where I thought (dared to hope?)
I might hold my speed in the two-digit range.
I started to pedal and made the gear change.
But then came a moment of self-doubt and fear:
'Is this trip required? What am I doing here?'

I'm not the world's toughest competitor, true,
But maybe that same kind of feeling hits you,
Somewhere in the middle of some local race –
'Should I have prepped better?' I felt out of place.
But muscles kept working; my body was trained.
That wasn't the first time my brain had complained.

I've learned to refocus, to shut out the noise,
To find in my psyche those gimmicks and toys
That work to suppress all that stuff that distracts...
I tightened my mind and I plugged all the cracks.
When racing I try to remember to block
Superfluous thoughts – it's just me and the clock.

A time trial's straightforward; it's distance slash speed.
To lower your times, there's just one thing you need:
Ride FAST – just as fast as you can for ten miles,
Relying on muscles, but also your wiles.
It's you and the speedo, the course, your machine,
The wind and the weather; stay focused, stay keen.

Once you're at the post, and the countdown's begun,
The object is clear; going fast is Job One.
A time trial is basic, the goal's very clear.
The strategy's simple: what cadence, what gear...
How hard can you push for how long? That's the trick,
Determining whether you're slow, bonked or quick.

I'd made a good start, and got into the groove,
Relaxing a bit, but I made that bike move,
Though not quite as fast as it seemed I could go –
I'd held back, restrained, for that first mile or so.
One MPH slower than I might have gone
Would keep me from tiring a bit later on.

This course was a little more hilly than most;
I'd climbed quite a ways to this grade from the post.
That slope – on a curve – is a serious hump.
I stood on the pedals and worked hard to pump,
For maximum speed, though I quite clearly knew
That I might regret it before this was through.

I backed off my effort atop the short rise.
It marked milepost five, where a couple of guys
Stood noting my time and directing the turn.
I braked, flipped a U and soon left them astern.
My speed built up fast as I raced down the hill;
My time was okay, but there's FIVE more miles still...

Five miles to the finish, a long way to go –
I gulped down some water, then dropped my head low
To minimize drag, go as fast as I can.
To make up the time lost in climbing, the plan
Was being as sleek as I could down each grade
Where time lost in climbing would now be repaid.

The first of two hills that I faced coming back
Was barely a threat to my frontal attack.
I kept up my cadence by pedaling hard,
Ten seconds or so, then I had my reward:
My speed dropped just 3 MPH at the top;
I made that up fast as I soared down the drop.

The course leveled out and was flat for two miles.
I felt like an android with buttons and dials;
I punched in the cadence and found the right gear,
My feet briskly spinning, the end getting near.
But first there was one little problem – hill two –
An overpass, steep, but I knew what to do.

Still seated, I shifted until it was time
To stand on the pedals, attacking that climb.
I crested the bridge and dropped back on the seat,
Upshifting and spinning; that downhill was neat.
One last blast of speed, just a brief fleeting thrill;
The slope tapered off at the base of the hill.

The grade was much shallower then for the rest...
I raced for the finish line – maybe, I guessed,
Five eighths of a mile, ninety seconds at speed.
I felt like I had the reserves that I'd need;
I started to sprint as the pylons came near.
Just hang it all out, cranking hard in high gear.

A total commitment, no balancing acts,
No brain power needed, just speed to the max!
A wild burst of power, one last chance to RACE!
The seconds I gained here might pick up a place
In final results, but I doubted they would.
It's mostly tradition, and well... it felt good.

I punched both my speedo and watch at the line;
My time was okay. Well, in fact, it was fine,
The best I had done on this course in three tries,
Which made me feel good, but was not a surprise.
One part of my brain had kept track of my pace,
A separate monitor, tracking the race.

I'd trained pretty hard and conditions were great;
Would I get a trophy? I'd just have to wait
Till ev'ryone finished and numbers were crunched.
I drank lots of water, my shoulders unhunched.
I sat up, unwinding, but pedaled a while.
I rode past the finish line, maybe a mile.

I turned and, just cruising, rode back to my van.
I got off the bike and according to plan,
I stood with the crowd as the times were announced:
The winners and much slower folks who got trounced.
Somewhere in the middle, they called out my name.
I grinned, got my ribbon... then homeward I came.

No, Sports Illustrated did not do a spread.
No local newspaper or radio said
One word of the time trial; did anyone care?
I did, like the other competitors there.
We'd raced, not for glory or honor or fame,
But just for the challenge, the thrill of the game.

We'd raced for ourselves, for some feeling inside
That drove us to dare at the risk of our pride,
To prove to ourselves what we really could do,
Just average guys and a few women, too.
We rode for the race, not some hot yuppy trend,
That time trial meant something – TO US, in the end.

POW Index

Last updated Dec 7 2006