April 23, 2015 – How much effort do you put into really trying to figure yourself out? Do you ever wonder why you do the things you do? Being self aware is powerful. Knowing what you want and what makes you happy takes some people a lifetime to figure out. Some never figure it out. I’m still working on it. I’m writing this report wondering out loud why I needed to attempt the hour record last on April 10.
The whole idea came about very quickly. I got a phone call from my friend Andrew Iler just over a month ago and he said, “What do you think about going for the hour?” We had both been inspired by watching Jens Voigt break set the new standard of 51.110 in September 2014. At 43 years of age Voigt decided to go out on top and was the first rider to attempt the hour after the UCI rule change. He took the risk before any of the heavy hitters would and showed his legion of fans once again what he is made of. It took a lot of guts to put himself out there like that and it was beyond inspiring. I hadn’t even thought about doing an hour attempt before this.
Following Voigt and prior to Andrew’s call, there were four more world record attempts with Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC setting the new benchmark at 52.491 on Feb 8th. I had watched all the record attempts and was as excited about the hour as anyone. Before I had a chance to even think about it I told Andrew, “Yes let’s do it”. Hearing his laughter on the other end of the phone made me happy. I explained that if he and my girlfriend Jessica [Puddifant] did all the hard work to put it together that I would be willing to do all the hard work on the bike. And believe me…it was hard work putting it together and there were some serious costs involved.
This is where Howard Chang came in. Howard was an essential part of the #edshour team. Howard came on board to help with sponsorship and I now had three teammates to attack this with. We decided on a rough date and figured I had just over a month to prepare. This is when the phone rang and it was national team sprint coach Erin Hartwell explaining he could send me down to race in Trinidad for 10 days. The organizer would look after all of the expenses and I would get in some solid training – I would get to race back-to-back weekends with a crit during the week.
This wasn’t hour record stuff but it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. We quickly booked the flight to fly out on the 11th of March. This is when I made plans with Andrew and Jesscia to go to the track and attempt the hour before I left as my first practice run. It was on Wednesday March 4th around 9:30pm during a Morning Glory C.C training session that I attempted the hour for the first time – without any practice. We picked a pace that we thought would be reasonable and we guessed at the gearing. It was very loose. I really just wanted to get an idea of what I was in for on the big day. I wanted to see if I could beat the 49.4 mark Eddy Merckx set in 1972. That meant 18.2 second laps for an hour. I was relaxed and calm and said no matter what happens I’m finishing the hour tonight.
Andrew yelled out each and every lap time and Jessica held the lap counter and the iPad up for me to see the time. It went pretty well but near the end I faded and with nothing on the line I didn’t dig as deep as I could over the last 10 minutes. I finished feeling pretty good. I thought I left a lot out there. Andrew and Jessica explained I had done 194 laps and covered 48.5km in the hour. The few MGCC club members in attendance congratulated me and were quickly sworn to secrecy. We asked them not spread the word that I had already practiced the hour. We wanted to leave some suspense for the big day. 48.5km was pretty good news. Not the 49.4 km I was shooting for but the pacing wasn’t far off and we decided we got the gear right on the first try. The only thing I really needed to change was the saddle as I was in serious agony by the 30-min mark and felt like I was sitting on razor blades the entire second half of the ride. We packed up and I went home very happy.
I was excited about my trip to Trinidad and was happy for the opportunity to take on this effort without any specific training towards the hour. Trinidad was an amazing experience and I had some serious legs for 10 days. I was enjoying the heat, the food and being very competitive. I came home with some amazing memories, a killer tan and a sweet trophy for best international rider. I also came home with an airport cold and Montezuma’s revenge. The free cleanse was welcome at first as I felt light and lean but then it turned a bit worse. I was home but too sick to really train. Not what I needed 17 days before the big day. I got in some light riding but was feeling weak and depleted.
I did a late night track session a few days later and tried the 49.4km (18.2 per lap pace). It hurt way more than before. I was struggling right from the start and had trouble holding 18.2 and never got into a rhythm. I suffered, got it done and hoped the second 20mins would be better. The second 20 min effort felt harder than my best 10-minute pace and I didn’t finish the full 20 mins. The confidence I had after the hour attempt only two weeks earlier was gone. I was now second-guessing the pacing, wondering about the gearing and scratching my head wondering how the hell I did that only two weeks ago. I got a few more training sessions in on the track alone trying some new saddles but none of them were spectacular and I knew that I had to adjust the pacing.
As the big day approached I kept joking with people saying “what have I done?” and “I guess I really have to do this”. I thought about what it would feel like to set a new age group world record. I also thought about what it would feel like to fail in front of my friends and family. That’s when I was really thinking about why are you doing this?
I got to the track early and enjoyed seeing the familiar faces getting ready to compete at the Ontario provincial championships. I kept to myself and set up a place to warm up away from everyone. I spoke to a few people but for the most part just wanted to stay calm, cool and relaxed. I felt strong in the warm up and was mentally prepared to hurt like never before. Once again I said to myself no matter what happens out there I’m finishing the entire hour. I wanted to be slow to start and then build after the 5-minute mark. My idea was to get to mid-to-low 18-second laps and then slowly reach a state of flow.
If I was fast I would go with it, if I was behind I bit I was going to go with it. The timer counted down and I was off. The first lap was easy. I’m used to team pursuit starts now. Even with what I felt was relaxed I was going way too fast. My second lap was even worse. I came around at 16.5. Way too fast and a full two seconds faster than where I wanted to be five minutes from that point.
Every time I came around I got the lap time and signal from Andrew to slow things down. It just didn’t feel like I was going that fast. I backed things off and still came around at 17.9 and then 18 flat. I slowed again and the lap was 18 flat again. I was blown away. My mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening. It was way too easy and I was riding lap after lap feeling comfortable and in control. It must be the new custom Champion System skin suit I thought. It was the first time I had it on… or the temperature. It was cool the other times I had trained and now the heat was up. Perhaps it was the new saddle and changed position.
My mind was telling me everything needed to be changed. My schedule was wrong and sub 18 seconds was possible… that maybe I could hold 18 seconds for the entire hour and maybe 50km was a possibility today with the crowd and the energy. I told myself “this is happening!” I rode the first 10 mins under 18.1 and was averaging 49.640. It felt great and I loved what I was seeing on the big screen. A minute later I was doing 18.2 like I was supposed to and then one minute later at the 12-minute mark it was 18.3 then is was 18.4. At the 20-minute mark it was 18.6 and I was in some serious pain. This is where it all went bad. For the next 10 minutes I struggled to keep things below 19 seconds and even had a few 19-second laps.
In the attempt before Trinidad I didn’t have one 19-second lap the entire ride. This was killing me. I was doing the math and knew it was all bad. It was like driving a rundown car with your pedal to the metal and the engine is screaming but the car is completely gutless. There was nothing I could do. At the 30-minute mark I was averaging 48.7 and with every passing lap I watched as the average slip away little by little. It was complete torture and I still had 30 mins to go. Now I was doing 19.2 and 19.3 second laps. A full second behind every time I went around. At the 37-min mark I could that I was about to drop below the age-group world record pace with 23 more agonizing minutes yet to go. Still in the back of my mind I thought there was a chance and I fought to get a few faster laps in. I came around hoping to hear I was back in the high 18-second range but no.
I put in a bit more effort through the corners hoping to hear I got things back under control… but no still 19.3. I fought lap after lap trying to squeeze out a little more but it started to get worse. I now couldn’t feel my feet. Both feet were tingling and going to sleep. I stood out of the corner and could feel them a little for a few seconds. I have never had his happen before. I got a bit of momentum from standing and tried to keep it but it quickly went back to the awful grind. I would stand and get into the 18’s for one lap and then two laps later was back close to 20 seconds. I stood half a dozen times or more during those last 10 minutes. I don’t know what it looked like but I was in a really bad place. It was everything I had to put the force down on the pedals and get out of the saddle.
My breathing was out of control and my heart had been close to max for the last 40 mins. The sound of the count down and the gun going off to signal the end was one of the best things I have ever heard. I rolled around the track and all the noise from the crowd brought out the emotions in me. It felt really good to be finished and I mean really good. I was proud of my effort and very quickly told everyone it was the hardest thing I have ever done on a bike. Knowing I fell short of my goal hurt. It was hard to hide. I was happy but also disappointed. I couldn’t have put any more physical and mental effort into that 1-hour bike ride. That is something I will be proud of forever. Problem is….. I’m left knowing I can go faster and farther and I will be attempting the hour record again one day.
So why did I do this. I thought about how Jens Voigt inspired me and how it might be possible to inspire others. I did this because I might not be able to tomorrow, next week or next year. Life is unpredictable. I have dealt with some unpredictable stuff this year and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down or changing any time soon. I really just wanted to have some fun. I like challenges, I like doing things my own way sometimes and breaking the rules a bit. I didn’t want to attack this like a scientist. I didn’t want to be a lab rat. I didn’t want to ruin the experience. I wanted to test myself without making it a job and taking the fun away.
Did I lose some time out there because of it. I certainly did. Did I go as fast as I can possibly go? I certainly did not. Did I have one of my best experiences of my career and maybe one of the best days of my life? Damn right I did and that is the message here. This is what I was trying to accomplish. Live life to the fullest, learn about myself and what makes me happy with the hope to inspire others to do the same. Life is for living, it is for dreaming, making mistakes and for me in particular learning the hard way. I found real satisfaction in this particular discipline. I don’t think it is for everyone but I do hope some of you go out and find your own hour record to attempt.
Thanks for reading.
Check out our interview with Veal after he set the Hour Record here.
Read our coverage of Veal’s Hour Record-setting day here.