Yesterday was another momentous day for me. I finished a Road Race. All the way to to finish line. The finish line and beyond in fact as I did a totally unnecessary final lap. The Dunfermline Cycling Club Women’s Road Race, to be specific.
When I entered the race I was under no illusions about winning or being placed. I simply wanted to reach the finish line. However, I think I did have visions of me racing in a group. Perhaps a small group somewhere near the back. After all, bunch riding is what road racing is all about, isn’t it?
In fact, I effectively rode a 35 mile time trial. I got dropped on the first lap (out of 6) and although I could see two other riders ahead of me for most of the race, I just could not get back up to them.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not particularly complaining about this. It was a great chance to push myself and my attempts at racing are all about learning the ropes. I am overjoyed to have simply finished.
However, I can’t help feeling that the race might of been slightly easier if I had been able to sit one someone’s wheel for at least some of the time. In particular, some of the six times on the long uphill drag, into an ever increasing headwind. I definitely need to work on my confidence in a bunch (and my climbing) if I want to get better at this racing business!
It’s a strange place to be, out on your own during a road race, for two reasons:
It is very difficult to stay focused. I wrote a fair bit of this blog post in my head as I raced. This would probably suggest that I was not concentrating quite as much as I should have been. It could also suggest that I was trying to distract myself from the fact that my legs were really, really hurting. Once I realised that I was not going to be able to catch the two riders ahead of me, there was little incentive to keep trying quite so hard. After all, I was only aiming to finish. Instead, I tried to motivate myself by aiming not to get lapped. I failed in this aim. To be fair, I was lapped right near the finish so I was close(ish).
- You haven’t a clue what is going on. As I was dropped by the bunch fairly early on (actually, very early on), the race kind of went ahead without me. I hadn’t a clue if everyone stayed together or split into bunches or decided to stop for tea. I was reasonably sure that I was at the back of the race (again). But I had no way to confirm this. I kept looking behind but didn’t see any other riders. It did occur to me that, if there were riders behind me then it might make sense to slow down and let them catch me, then work together. But what if I did that and it turned out that I really was at the back? The fear of looking rather daft kept me from trying this out. As it turns out, I wasn’t quite at the back, but I didn’t find that out until well after the race.
One of the great things about the day was how friendly everyone was. In particular, I have to thank Lauren who I was chatting to after the race. She told me that she had found herself on her own in races a fair bit last season. This was hugely reassuring to me. Not least because she won the junior race. There may be hope for me yet!
I am aware that preparing for a race can be as important as training for it. I have to admit that my preparation for yesterday’s race was not the best.
In light of my numerous mistakes, here is my guide to what not to do before a race:
Fail to ride your bike at all, for two full weeks. I definitely took tapering too far. After Crit on the Campus, it took about four days for me to stop coughing – my poor lungs felt like they had been grated! Once I had finally recovered, I headed off to Lanzarote. This is somewhere I have loved cycling in the past. But this was a different kind of holiday. This was a family holiday with a 3 year old and a 5 year old. We had a fantastic time building sandcastles and attempting to understand the rules of swimming pool tig according to a 5 year old (basically, the rules boil down to he wins at all times and is allowed to create new rules if there is any chance he might lose). I did not get on a bike at all though. By the time we got home, there was only one day until the race.
- Eat crisps and ice cream, drink beer and gain weight. See number one. Well, I was on holiday…
- Have a young child who refuses to get dressed on the morning of the race (and indeed, any other morning when there might be something which we need to be on time for).
- Have another young child who announces that their tummy hurts and proceeds to throw up on you, just as you arrive at the venue.
- Cut it fine for getting to the sign on in time. See numbers three and four.
- Forget to check your tyre pressure or bring a track pump.
- Use a sports drink which you have never used before. Although I actually got away with this one but it could have been messy.
- Notice on the start line that all the other riders are carrying only one water bottle, but decide to carry two anyway. Because I’m not carrying enough extra weight anyway…
Despite my numerous mistakes and failings, I am nothing if not enthusiastic. As I have said before, my motto in life would appear to be:
‘If a thing is worth doing, it is worth going completely overboard with!’
So, next up, the Hart’s Cyclery Spring Crits. If there are any other women reading this and thinking of racing, please join me and give it a go. You won’t make any more mistakes than I do!