This year has brought almost as many changes in my cycling as it has in my reading — this is the year I began racing, right about the time I began blogging, in fact, which, I suppose is what inspired the name of this blog, even though I write about reading much more than riding. I’m already gearing up to train for this coming season, which makes it a good time to look back to last year’s season, I suppose. My racing results were mixed, but I’m happy I began racing and pleased at the progress I made.
My very first race I stayed with the pack about 5 minutes and then I dropped off the back as they were going just way too fast. I remember my heartrate was up above 180 and I felt like I was going to get sick. I’m not sure I ever felt so bad on a bike before. But it really does take a while to get used to riding that hard — I often got dropped in races after that, but it happened later and later in the race until finally I was able to stay with the pack until the very end. Well, in some races, that is.
I learned a lot about what kind of rider I am — at least for now, I’m much better at criteriums, the shorter, more intense races where you do laps of a mile or less over and over, than I am at road races. In the road races I did, I’d get left behind on the hills pretty quickly. One thing I need to work on this year is becoming a better hill climber. I do think the endurance road races require takes a while to build up, so I’m hoping I’ll improve at these, but I think I might be built more like a sprinter than an endurance rider or hill climber. I tend to put on big muscles that can generate some power — and I’m most definitely not the skinny type that can fly up the hills seemingly effortlessly.
I learned a lot about riding in a pack too. I’ve talked to a number of women this fall who are interested in racing but who talk about being afraid of riding with a large group of people, and it is a little scary. There’s nothing like riding at 25 or 30 miles an hour in a group of 30 or 40 or 50 people packed closely together. But you do get used to it; it just takes a little practice. I still need to build up some confidence in my ability to do it, and I need to work on things like riding around corners fast, but I’ve learned that these are things I can work on.
The hardest thing about racing, I think, is showing up the first time. I do sympathize with those women I talk to who are interested in trying it but still fearful and uncertain. That’s exactly how I felt last year. But once you get the courage up to give it a try, you realize that you can do it and there are things you can work on to get better and it’s not as impossibly hard as it once seemed.
So this fall and winter I’ve been trying to take my training more seriously than I have in the past. I still wonder about myself if I’m not the type who enjoys the training part more than the racing. Last summer I started to feel burnt out with racing, but I was still interested in going out to ride on my own. But I think since it was my first season, feeling burnt out is understandable, especially since I spent so much time riding with people who were noticeably stronger than me. I got tired of working so hard to keep up with a pack of people who could leave me behind easily if they really wanted to. I’m very curious to see what happens to me next year, how much I change, or don’t change, how much better I get.