Today I raced in my first road race, Mason Lake. Mason Lake is a training race series, meaning winning doesn’t count for anything as far as the WSBA is concerned. It’s more like the Chilly Hilly of racing – the first race of the year to figure out what you’re doing, how in shape you are (or aren’t), and so on. I’ve been doing training rides with the team on a sporadic basis, but I’ve been keeping up lifting and trying to ride to / from work a few times a week (22 miles each way). However, I haven’t been doing much long rides for a few weeks as I was in Pittsburgh. My plan was to just stay in the pack for the 36 miles and finish, and perhaps help one of my teammates push out a win. From some of the guys who had done one of the earlier races, I heard the pace was around 18-20 miles on average, so not too bad at all. While the skies were gray, no rain, and relatively warm, so looked like a great day for a race.
Mason Lake is a bit under two hours from Seattle, near Shelton on the peninsula. The race started at 9:30 AM, so I left about 6 AM in order to get there with some time to warm up and get my head together. I arrived about 7:30 AM, got my kit on, and started to mentally prepare. Many (most?) of the people there had brought their trainers and were warming up in the parking lot. About 20 minutes prior to the start, I hopped on the bike and went up and about a nearby hill. I didn’t want to burn too much energy too soon — just get the glycogen burning a bit.
The first lap of three was fine, as everyone was figuring out the course and the field. Everyone had plenty of gas. There were four other Winos there with me, and we were hanging a bit in the back letting the field tow us around. Around lap two, people started feeling things, and by the end of lap two I was really starting to feel it. I, Andy, and Geoff, were in the very back at this point. Andy and I were feeling it. About mile 4 into the 12-mile loop, I started to just run out of gas. Worse, I had thought I only had 2 miles left instead of 6, as I misread my odometer. So I let myself hang back, looking to catch up to the peleton on the downhills. Bad idea — at some point, I just couldn’t get back and there wasn’t a downhill, and I ended up getting dropped. I was still going 18-20 MPH, but the peleton had picked up the pace to 23-25 MPH, and there was just no way I could get back. So, I grinned and bore it, and finished up the remaining miles by my lonesome. But hey, it’s a training race —- I’m just here to see how out of shape I am!
I looked at the HRM readings just to compare it with a club ride around the lake, which is a reasonably speedy lap around the lake. Here’s the heart rate comparison:
My heart rate was about 10 beats per minute higher. I also discovered an all new maximum heart rate — 191! Hmmm… my old STP number returns. For the most part, this was also due to an increase in speed, as shown:
Now, I know it doesn’t look like much of a difference in speed, but notice the dark blue spikes up and the many light blue spikes down. A club ride has stops or slowdowns, as they’re riding on the road — stop signs, red lights, and the occasional bathroom break. This allows the rider to rest and recover. A race, on the other hand, doesn’t have any breaks, and worse, has the occasional surge or sprint. Plus, again it’s a few miles faster — which is what pushes that heart rate up 10 beats.
Initially, my cadence looked the same:
However, what this doesn’t show is that for most of the race, I was in my big chain ring, while on club rides I’m usually in my smaller ring. So that’s an average of 80-90 rotations per minute, but on the big ring. Oof!
So, what did I learn? Well, I need to put more work into this if I’m going to finish races. I thought my endurance would be fine for a 36 mile race with other Cat 5s (rookies). Most road races are 40-50 miles, closer to 50, and it’s a combined Cat 4/5 field, meaning the Cat 4 racers are there to pick up the pace. Time to lift, and time to ride more!
However, that being said — this was still a blast. I went faster than I ever have on the bike, and I hit a higher heart rate than I ever have. I was racing, and even though I wasn’t a contender for first place, and even though first place didn’t matter, I was still there. This felt good.
Incidentally, Geoff, who was hanging with us at the back, made a great move towards the end when the field spread out. He was able to jet up the left side and get to the head of the peleton, and managed to take first in the sprint. Like Dave who upgraded from 5 to 4 two weeks ago after he won, looks like Geoff will upgrade to Cat 4 as well. Oh, and Dave got 4th in the Cat 4s, being part of an 8-man breakaway that was over 2 minutes ahead of the peleton. Great job, especially as Dave was the only UBC racer there!
Update: some pics showing the suffering from Amara Boursaw of Wheels in Focus:
Update 2: A MotionBased link of one of the other Cat 5 riders at Mason Lake #3: http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/activity/2263661