I did it. I signed up and competed. My performance wasn’t horrible, just the start was. I began my eighteen miles of racing, already several minutes behind. This race coincided with the classic European race, The Paris-Roubaix, and it was deigned to mimic some of the terrain. We don’t have cobble stones. We have some dirt roads and rolling terrain. So, 53% of it was dirt roads where some washboard portions couldn’t be avoided.
Why did I start behind? I wasn’t dropped. I believe the starter let everyone go a minute early but honestly, I should have been to the line ten minutes prior. I was not. I was getting my numbers pinned on for the first time ever in my life in a parking area nowhere near where we could hear the announcing for groups and other things going on. I had no idea I was getting late. Besides, I ate up enough time trying to use a porta-john in full cycling gear. Everyone else has that problem too and the line gets a bit long when everyone had coffee that morning.
So, the race?
18 miles, nearly 17mph average and a heart rate for the whole distance of 170…average. It hurt. Here’s how much it hurt.
I recorded ZERO time at anything below 150 beats per minute. I spent 41% of the time at Tempo between 150-168 and 59% of the time between 168-187. For four seconds i was over 187. That absolute peak of 192 was seen on the first paved section where I knew I could perhaps make up some distance. It made no difference. they were all drafting along anyway probably cruising as fast as I was at full power due to their aero advantage.
But that was a solo effort too. If there was a pack of us that I was in, I wouldn’t have worked so hard. Looking at the times in the end, The gap between myself and the others was easily inside how late I started and working a draft, definitely is worth time over that distance.
I was mid to back third of the pack pace and fitness of a Category-5, over-40 group. (old beginners)
Now, this doesn’t mean everyone is new and slow. It just means everyone is new to racing. There were plenty of seriously fast guys who just never raced before in this group. The winner averaged 24mph for those eighteen miles over half dirt roads. Finishing fifteen minutes faster than I did. Cat.5 is where we learn to race. Competing with people equal to your fitness comes later in cat.4 and the better you do the more you move up until you can’t get points anymore and never improve to the next cat. level. Category two guys are near professionals. Most serious competitors with normal jobs settle in around category 3 and sometimes two if they have the time to train enough.
Time to train. This was April 11th and I had lost five weeks, pretty much all of February, of training. That’s a whole segment of power work lost. Intervals of VO2 max and threshold work would perfectly have fit in there. Those two things will build that bigger gas tank, to be a faster cruise missile for longer range and perhaps have some kind of sprint power in there to make a move if anything for position. I did not have that. I lost the chance. I just crushed my own way to the end and felt pretty bad driving home in the end for it being 9:30am. I ate a banana on the drive home.
Racing sucks when combinations of being a first timer intersect with an event not really thinking about what the first timer has to learn on the spot for an 8:30am start.