30 January 2012

Thoughts and impressions from the first race

The first cut is the deepest, according to the venerable Ms. Crow, and the cut(s) from yesterday are still fresh as well. Without rehashing too much, at my first ever cycling road race yesterday I learned several things about myself, road racing, and cycling in general.

Always give yourself more time than you think you need. I had plenty of time once I got to the site, that is until I got to the time I needed to put my bike in the trainer and found out that my trainer doesn't want to work with a rear wheel on a quick-release (why, I don't know. I'll have to try to figure that out!). So I had to, at the last minute, try to get in a few minutes of warm-up on the road. That meant that my warmup was less than ideal, and a LOT shorter than I wanted, which in turn resulted in a less-than-ideal start. In turn, that meant that I forgot to take my pre-race fuel, though I had gotten a really good breakfast in so I don't think that hurt much, if at all. So, I had more than enough time to do everything as long as everything went properly. It didn't, and I didn't have enough time to switch gears.

When possible, pre-ride the race route. I mean, I already know this, and I would have slow-ridden the course last week if I'd had prior knowledge of exactly where it would be. I'll explain that a bit below, and it has other ramifications as well.

I need to seriously improve my training efforts if I'm to compete at the level I'd like. I know my training regimen is light compared to a lot of the guys I'm competing against, but now I see how glaring the difference is.

Though training on knobby tires on the road is a pretty good way to build up strength and stamina, it also helps to own and occasionally ride a road bike. I had to rent a bike for the race, which is fine as far as it goes, but having my own road bike for that race would have made a little bit of a difference. In fact, if Providence allows I would prefer to have and train most of the time on my own road bike and use my mountain bike for occasional hard efforts on the road, plus (gasp!) off-road biking.

Now, about the knowledge problem. The flyer for the race, as posted to the USA Cycling website, described that the race would be held at a particular place, and would be run along a particular road. It did not describe what direction the race would be run in, nor exactly where the start and finish lines would be. The organization that put on the race has done this same road race for at least four years now, and races in earlier years were in a different location along a different road. This organization has also had significant problems the last few weeks with keeping their website online, and had not updated the site in several months prior, which means that the "current events" race flyer for this particular race was for last year. There was a significant lack of information available prior to the race and I'm disappointed in this organization for that. A different organization which sponsors a three-day stage race here in town, which isn't until March, has already produced a full Race Bible for this year's race, including complete map and turn-by-turn directions for each stage. They've also kept their website updated. Logic would say "well, don't use the organization that sponsored this race in the future" ... except that they've previously done very well, it seems, and have been doing this for several years. I don't know if there's been some kind of political stuff going on, or if perhaps their organization crew is recently new, or if the fact that this year's event was earlier than in years past made it difficult for them to get organized like they would have liked. I suppose time will tell, but I'm going to be very careful in dealing with them in the future.

All in all, I learned some valuable lessons, gained some critical insights into myself and this sport, and will do much better from here out. Allez! Allez! Allez!

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