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SINCE 1971

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I am a bullet

May 31, 2017

A Personal Account of the Texas State Time Trial Championship
by Carl Eugene Stroud

Thinking, yes: I am thinking. This is the beginning. “Don’t think about that. It won’t help you get through this.” An hour is a long time to do anything. An hour is a long time to focus. It’s a long time to do anything. The discipline necessary to focus on an effort that long. I can’t even think about how long it took me before I could simply do an hour long time trial. Like even complete it. I would have died. Quit before the end. Just completing an hour long TT is a thing in itself, still today. It’s an ordeal, an experience. I expect to be changed by it, every time.
I need to remember the plan, not forget my priorities. I don’t mind “gear shopping” a little in the beginning because I know that an hour is a long way. I return to Stars and Watercarriers, in my head: always the biggest possible gear that can be turned almost effortlessly. Man, machine; energy. That noise while Ritter is riding that time trial. I used to try to get it into my head. Not anymore. Now, I’m a bullet.
I can figure out the gear if I can remember to be patient. “I’ll spin on the way back,” I assure myself, as I continue at 95rpm. It feels like a slog.
I know I’m thinking, and that’s troubling. An hour is a long time. And I need to stay focused. Something that can happen during an hour long time trial is that you forget to focus. You can think too much. “Stay focused,” I think to myself.
I am a bullet. I have tried being a bullet lately. Well, I tried it once. Another time I tried being an arrow. I think that bullet worked better than arrow. Doing a time trial as an arrow can make you too susceptible to the wind. You could get blown all over the place once you leave the bow. A bullet has a little bit more inertia to it. And as a bullet, I have had a lot of success being aero. At least, I mean, that I felt aero the one time that I thought about being a bullet in a TT, instead of being an arrow, which was, admittedly, only about 3 weeks ago. The one and only time.
I am a bullet – the same thought again. “This is good,” I think. “This is what I’m supposed to be thinking about.” This is good; I am a bullet.
A sign reads 5km. I told a guy at the start line that there were signs marking the last few hundred meters. I hope they are there because I don’t want to be wrong about that too. What if he was depending on me? I already feel like I was wrong when I told him: I don’t know if there are any distance markers out on course…”I think there are markers for like the last few hundred meters or something. I don’t know about the rest of the course.” Apparently, there are markers on the rest of the course. I feel bad. I hope there are markers in the last few hundred meters. I don’t know if I need them for me or for him, the guy who asked me before the start. But I know that I want them there.
Five kilometers, and I’ve been going for how long? That’s how fast? That means how much longer? How manageable is that? And that sign was how long ago? I mean, it’s been how long since I passed it. I will need to correct for accuracy which means repairing my figures for elapsed time while deriving my conclusions. An hour is a long time.
A sign says 10km. I am excited by the markers because of the arithmetic possibilities afforded me by them. It was, in my opinion, very thoughtful of the organizers to include them on course. 10km, that’s two fifths of the way to the turn-around. That’s forty percent. How much of the whole race is that? Wait, no. The race is twenty-five miles. It’s twenty k to the turn-around. That means that sign was half way to the turn-around. Half way to the half way point. That’s how much 'til the end? And how long have I been going? I also feel guilty for not knowing about the markers. This is too much thinking. I am a bullet. Bullets don’t think. But I also noticed that there was a sign on the other side of the road, facing the riders coming back. “It couldn’t have said 10km. Could it?” I ask myself. Because the finish line was at least a few hundred kilometers closer than the start line. But there was a sign for each way. They can’t both say 10km because one of them would have to be wrong. Which one? And this matters because if there are signs at the end for five hundred meters or two hundred meters to go, will they be off by the same amount? I mean I’m estimating five-hundred-meter’s difference between the start line and the finish. This too much thinking. I need to focus. I am supposed to be thinking about being a bullet. I need to remember to think about that. I shouldn’t indulge in all of this math. I hope I can make it for the last three quarters (seventy-five percent) minus the part that I’ve ridden since I passed that sign. A couple of minutes ago. How fast am I going? So that’s how far in about two minutes? Well, maybe three minutes now, at least by the time I finish the calculation. An hour is a long time to do anything. And this is too much thinking. I am a bullet. I am a bullet. 

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