About a month ago an ex-neighbour and good friend challenged me to race in the (then) upcoming Criterium. The Tacoma Twilight is a lap race around 6 city blocks in downtown Tacoma. I thought “why not,” so I started training, figuring it out along the way. This Saturday I raced in the Category 4/5 Mens race and it was my first ever race. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t, but I quickly saw some big areas of weakness in my riding and HUGE holes in my training and preparations.
Fitness wise, I could have finished the race. I wasn’t out of breath and I wasn’t huffing and puffing. My big weakness was just strength. After 10 minutes I didn’t feel like my legs had much left to give. I couldn’t keep up speed and I was continually losing ground. I managed to pair up with another straggler name Markus and we worked together for about a lap, but neither of us had much left and I could no longer see the peloton down the end of each stretch. We were pulled off right after that. I lasted 14 minutes of a 30 minute race.
I had warmed up by riding along the waterfront for about 20 minutes or so. Starting waaaay too early, I was “warmed up” and still had an hour to kill. I should have brought my (noisy) trainer down with me and warmed up all the way to the beginning of the race, but it wasn’t until I was track-side that I noticed others doing the same.
Standing among the other starters I felt very small. Here are all these obviously serious racers on their Carbon rides and team uniforms and I’m there standing over my 20 year old steel bike with a shirt from a mountain-bike race in 1992, my $30 shorts, and my $2 garage-sale helmet. I just tried to ignore all that and just bloody race. Suddenly we were racing and I couldn’t get my damned cleat in the peddle (I’ll need to practice that). Initially I was thinking “I can handle this, this speed isn’t too bad” but other racers kept on pulling away from me. I don’t think I was tracking with the pace and before I knew it I was no longer in the main group and riding in the tail. I would gain in the corners, but lose out on the straights.
I was disappointed to be pulled out. I wouldn’t have minded a last-place finish, I just wanted to finish the blasted race. Training-wise I realised I need push myself much harder and work on leg-strengthening exercises. Afterwards it wasn’t my legs that were sore (they didn’t have time to get sore), it was my neck and back from pushing myself to keep up.
In 3 week’s time there’s a 34 mile race in Eatonville, WA. I’m going to try that and see how I fair. For training, I’m just going to try to get on the bike more often and push myself harder. Today I spent over 2 hours on the bike and it felt great!