This was a road race sponsored by the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association http://www.abraracing.com/. They sponsor road, TT, mountain, and cyclocross. Mostly in Western PA. Alot of Pittsburgh riders.
Here is how it went down – and it is kind of funny because I didn’t know what the hell was going on. The parking and registration was at a little park located on the loop (which btw, was totally rural – not even any lines). As I am driving down into the area, I am thinking that if the route comes back up this way, I am screwed – this route did and I was.
So I register and get my bike ready, gear on, use the port-a-let. Now, I have read a lot about the importance of warm-up so I decided I better have a good warm up. I don’t know why, but I decided to ride the hill on my warm up instead of going the other direction on the circuit. Big mistake, by the time I get to the top of the hill, my heart rate is 172 and I am thinking, what the hell am I doing. This climb was 2 miles total, but it wasn’t all up hill. There were some long stretches that were pretty steep and then the final 300 yards or so were 17-20% from what a friend of mine told me. He has been racing for a while and told me at the end that it was one of the toughest courses he has ever raced on. Anyway, I head back down the hill to the shelter area where everyone was assembling.
Well, after my brilliant warmup and everyone is lined up the official informs us that we will “parade” 4.5 miles around the 5 mile circuit (.5 miles the other way if you are keeping score) so that we can get a look at the course and see the hill.
So basically, I had climbed the monster hill twice before the race even started. We get lined up at the start and my friend tells me that I need to stay with the group at least up the hill the first lap…I am thinking, yeah, right. I had just climbed that thing twice and I wasn’t too sure of what I had left in the climbing legs. Anyway, we start and I get myself tucked into the group on the right hand side. We are moving along pretty good and then we come up to a shart right hand turn which I didn’t realize was there and didn’t really see coming. The riders in front of me slow down to take the turn, I hit the brakes and fishtail around the turn, almost go down, and the group rides off into the sunset. There was one other rider dropped at that time and he dropped me eventually.
I was lapped by some of the Cat 1-3 guys twice and by many of the folks in my Cat 4/5/Women/Juniors group once. The policy was in effect that all finish on the same lap so I ended up doing only 4 laps. I made it up the hill the first two race laps and walked the bike up a short section of the steep climb the last two laps. Here is what I learned:
- I am 5’9″ and weighed 225 on race day – that doesn’t work.
- I need to work on my skills – getting dropped on that first turn was totally tactical and not knowing the course.
- Bike racing is serious stuff – not like the local 5K.
Positives that I took out of the Race:
- I didn’t quit: It was humiliating to be honest. I was totally out of my league and on the 3rd and 4th race laps, I wanted to turn my bike around, ride back down the climb to the parking lot and go home. I mean, I seriously wanted to do this. But I kept going – so that shows how dumb I am :)
- I am now super-motivated to lose weight. I now have a really compelling reason to get down to a healthy weight.
- I am now motivated to train hard – I now know that if I want to race a bicycle, I have to train my a** off.
I am taking a long term approach to this. I just competed on one of the toughest courses I will all year. I plan to race at least 5 more times this year and if I keep working at it, I will get to the point where I can stay with the group. I did have a good time somehow and I am actually looking forward to racing again. I just need to keep moving forward in small steps.
All in all, it was way more difficult than what I expected and I am way less ready than what I expected. Other than that, I had a great time.