I did something today I’ve never done before — I rode in two races. I see other people doing this all the time, but usually I feel so beat-up after just one race that I can’t contemplate doing another. But my racing buddy said last week that doing two races would be a good challenge, and I thought, well, if she’s up for it, then why can’t I be too? Unfortunately she couldn’t race today, but I thought I’d give it a try on my own.
The first race is the women’s race, and it went well, although not quite as well as last week — I stayed with the pack the entire time, but didn’t get a top-20 finish. They only list the top 20 finishers, so I don’t know how I placed. Most of the pack stayed together the entire time, so the finish was a pack sprint, and I’m not terribly good at those, not having much of a sprint, and not liking to fight my way to the front of the pack. I’m just not aggressive enough to be a really good criterium racer. But still, it was a good race, and I worked hard, but not so hard I was in serious pain.
The second race was right after the first, with maybe a 20-minute break. It was a master’s race, which means in this case it’s for men 40 and older, but women are allowed to ride in these races and they can race ten years older than their real age, so my 35 years qualified me to ride. You might think that a race for older people would be easier, but that’s not true at all. In bike racing, years of race experience make you a much stronger rider — many people gain more from years of experience than they lose from getting older. Plus, people from any category can ride in the master’s races, so you’ll find category 1 riders (near pro) as well as category 4. Master’s riders are fast, and they know what they’re doing.
My initial plan was to ride 20-30 minutes, just to get a little extra workout and a few more miles. I rode 20 minutes and thought okay, I’m doing all right, no reason I can’t ride 30; once I reached 30 minutes I realized that the race was only going to last maybe 15 minutes more, so I thought, why not finish? It sounds so much better to say I finished than I rode for 2/3 of the race. So I hung on until the end.
I spent much of that race in a fog — I was watching what was happening, to stay safe and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid, but I got in this zone where I wasn’t really thinking about anything, where I was just hanging on, not even feeling any pain or much fatigue, just hanging on and watching the laps fly by. It’s an odd feeling. I expected to struggle, and instead I just settled in and rode.
Interestingly, while the master’s race was significantly faster than the women’s — 25 mph vs. 22 mph — it didn’t feel harder. What happens is that the bigger pack in the master’s race makes going faster a lot easier — there are more people to draft on, and I have more protection from the wind and more momentum going up the hill.
The 53 miles comes from the two races plus all the miles I rode warming up and cooling down. 37 of those miles were from the races. There’s a good reason I’m feeling so exhausted right now! But it’s a good kind of exhaustion.
Update: Here’s Hobgoblin’s account — we rode the master’s race together.