I've always been really into biking, and I can normally keep up with most of the people I ride with... but I've never raced. Something about the steep race entry fee's and the intimidation of the racing sceen always scared me off. So I don't know why I got a whim to sign up for this short-track mountain bike race last week...
First of all, A mountain bike race? I'm a road weenie! Also, this race doesn't cater to any of my strengths (namely, long straight climbs). Still, I had a vision that maybe I'd be some sort of racing prodigy and finish first (In the Men's C category)
So I show up. I know i'm in trouble when i register and they ask me what team I'm on. Team? Oh, that's why everyone else's jerseys match their helmet... I test ride the track a few times and it's time for me to race. I remember my friend Brian's race advise: "Start at the front, and go out like a banshee."
The bell rings and I do just that. My legs burn and my heart pounds and after 30 seconds I know i've gone out too hard. Guys begin passing me. The only person I passed the rest of the race was some kid who strayed onto the course, and a guy that crashed on a turn. I give it my all to try to stay up with whoever passed me last, but usually it's to no avail; by the time I see the sign "one lap to go" I'm grateful. That was the most painful 20 mins I can remember in a long time. I pound out one more lap and finish, somewhat anticlimactically: I'm in the back of the pack, and the race orginzers are already trying to line up the Men's B racers.
bottom line: It was a BLAST! A great workout in a short amount of time and i felt my cornering skills improving with every lap. The environment wasn't intimidating: people were stoked it was my first race and wished me luck on future races. I'm going to keep doing this, and maybe i'll get better! Even if I don't place higher all summer, I think it will help my riding all around. A few lessons I learned for next time (aka this week):
- Check your Equipment: My cleats are old, and I came unclipped twice while trying to power through climbs. You don't want that on a race. I can also see how funky shifting or throwing your chain would be detrimental to your momentum.
- Bring extra water: I was thirsty the whole race and didn't bring a bottle to save weight. I ate so much dust the first lap, I regretted this immediately.
- Eat a banana: I cramped up during the 2nd to last lap (Maybe from not drinking enough), but a little pre race snack/energy boost would have been great.
- Warm Up: I test road the course, but didn't really get my heart rate up and going for a while. Then i cooled down as i watched the wave before me. Going in with a resting heart rate to an immediatly high heart rate probally didn't help me. Warm up and get your heartrate high, then don't let yourself cool down too much before your wave starts.
- Go out hard, but not too hard! Know your limits, this is probably why people train with heart rate monitors. If you go out too hard, you'll regret it. Then again, if you're too conservative in the beginning, you'll be jockeying for position the whole race.