I have been thinking about my aims for 2018. It’s not that I am particularly into New Years Resolutions, but I do like to have an aim or two for the year, and New Year seems as good a time as any to think about them.
I have already thought about my aims for the year as far as diet goes.
Now I feel I need a sporting aim.
For the past two years, my aim has been to get back into time trialling. I have not achieved this yet. In 2016 I was all set for it, and then I put my back out and lost 3 months of training. By the time my back was better, all my focus had gone. I have a number of reasons / excuses for the failure to meet my aim in 2017:
- I did not set the aim in the New Year. I made it in the autumn before. I then started focused training on the turbo around the start of November. I carried this on until February. By this time I was super fit…and really fed up with focused training. My motivation waned because it was way too early in the year to race and I just couldn’t be bothered to keep that kind of effort up without something concrete (races) to show for it. I peaked too soon.
- I realised how little time I was going to get actually on the bike compared to how long it was going to take to get to time trials and back. I reckoned that by the time I sorted out my bike and kit, piled it all into the car, drove to the time trial, warmed up and raced, then drove home again and sorted the bike and kit out again, this was going to be over two hours faffing plus under an hour on the bike. It didn’t sound quite as appealing as just walking out of my door and going for a three hour ride.
- I started training as a cycle coach and this took up an awful lot of my time and energy.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great year of cycling without racing. But that niggly feeling of wanting to do more is back.
So, onward to 2018.
The Scottish Cycling events calendar was published just before Christmas. I was flicking through it the other day and a though began to form. I want to do something new….
So, my sporting aim / cycling New Year’s resolution for 2018 is….
I am going to have a go at criterium (crit) racing and a road race or two.
Actually, this is not something totally new for me. I did have a go at a crit, a road race and an APR back in 2010. None of these went terribly well.
Criterium (crit) races involve several laps around a closed circuit. No traffic, which is brilliant. They are not as long as most road races, also brilliant (for me). They are also pretty good for spectators because of the several laps thing.
I have done one crit race in the past. At the time, I was extremely well trained….as a time triallist. My bunch riding skills weren’t as good as they could have been. It was also a windy evening. There was a tight corner in the course where I just wasn’t confident enough to stick close to the rider in front’s wheel. This meant that I lost the benefit of slipstreaming around and out of the corner. Not a huge problem because I was a time triallist. I got dropped around the corner but then effectively time trialled my way back to the bunch. The trouble was that I was time trialling into a headwind. And because of the nature of crit racing, I had to do it lap after lap after lap. I was fit, but I wasn’t that fit. I dropped out exhausted before the race finished.
Road races usually involve longer distances than crits. They generally have a ‘rolling road closure’ where a lead car and a tail car mark the closed side of the road.
I have also done one road race in the past. It also didn’t go that well. Yet again I was a dnf (did not finish). In my wisdom, I had done a 10 mile time trial the day before. There are some riders who are well trained enough to get away with this, I was not. I also place some of the blame (excuse) on the weather (again). It was pouring with rain and the thing about race bikes is that they do not have mudguards. It is bad enough getting soaked in filthy road water by your own bike. Riding in a bunch race in the rain means getting soaked by everyone’s filthy road water.
An APR is an Australian Pursuit Race. This is a handicapped road race. Riders set off in small groups with the slower riders in the first group and the faster riders in the last group.
Again, I have done one. Again I was a dnf. When you sign up for an APR you tell the organisers your fastest times in previous races and they use this information to group riders. At this point I had some fairly fast time trial times, so I was put in group three, the second fastest. The trouble was that time trials and road races are very different. As a time triallist, I was very good at getting up to a certain speed / pain level and holding that for 10, 25 or (very occasionally) 50 miles. This kind of riding doesn’t happen all that often in road races. Road races are more skilled. There are a lot more changes in tempo and good group riding skills are again important. Time trials also tend to be fairly flat. I was a fast time triallist but not a fast road racer. The group set off at a fierce pace in a chaingang. I lasted about 4 miles until the first hill at which point I flew off the back of the bunch, a retching mess. This left me out on my own. I then managed to take a wrong turn (never take a turn if it isn’t marked or marshalled, even if you are following a group of riders – they are probably just out for a club run) and sloped off back to my car a little shame faced.
Altogether, not the most illustrious racing past.
Why Try Again Now?
Womens’ amateur racing (in Scotland at least) has moved on a massive amount since my ‘year of the dnf’. There are far more women racing now and this includes those who are racing regularly and racing to win, and those who are giving it a go for the first time. I think this is wonderful and to be supported.
The best way to support womens’ racing is to enter the races. Organisers can only put on races for women if a decent number of women enter. If more women enter, this progress can continue. If women do not enter, we risk going back to women having to join the mens’ races. This may be fine for those who are experienced and confident, it may even be what they would rather do, but it does not encourage more women to start racing. Mens’ races can be big fields with an aggressive mindset.
I am always encouraging club mates to have a go at racing, both as a club mate and as a coach. Yet I do not do it myself. This is somewhat hypocritical.
It has been difficult over the past few years when my children were small. But they are getting bigger now. They could even come along, especially to crit races, and watch.
Last year I thought about doing my local crit race but used the excuse that I didn’t have a decent bike. This really was just an excuse. I was never going to win the race if I did enter it, so what did it matter if I was on an old aluminium bike rather than a swanky carbon one? This year, I do not have that excuse anyway.
My other reason is that I am now a qualified Level 2 Cycle Coach. I feel confident in coaching at many levels but I feel that my lack of road racing (as opposed to sportives or time trialling) experience limits my coaching ability. I would really like to work on this.
I also think that my timing is better this year I have only just started to get going on the turbo so I am (hopefully) not going to burn out by February.
What’s To Stop Me?
There are three things which I think could stop me from having a go at racing in 2018:
- Time. With children, and a husband who also has sporting aims, it can be hard to find the time. However, I firmly believe that you have to make time, it will not magically appear.
- Fitness. I have a reasonable base level of fitness from my normal riding and from the cargo bike although I do out get out for long rides more than once a month. I also have no ‘high level’ fitness. However, most of the races I am thinking about are in April and May which is plenty of time to get a training plan together and underway. I am not a time trial specialist any more so I can train to be whatever I am aiming for.
- Fear. This is actually probably the most likely thing to stop me. It is easy to sit here now and decide to race. It is easy to look at the race calendar and decide which races to do. It is terrifying to sit on my bike on a start line in a race I have never done before. I remember feeling the same when I started time trialling, and yet I grew to love time trialling and I did pretty well.
Fear is the reason why I am posting this. I’m thinking that once I have posted it, I have to stick to it or justify (find excuses) why not. I am hoping that this thought will help me to overcome the fear and do it anyway.
I should also explain that, for this year, I have one aim in racing: to finish the race. Hopefully 2018 will be the year when I lay to rest ‘the year of the dnf’. Who knows, maybe by the end of the year I will be able to say “I am a road racer”.