racing is tough.
to provide a complete and total spoiler to the nail-biting suspense i'm sure you're barely enduring: i finished the race last weekend.
i was dead last.
there are a few things that need explaining.
i'll start first with some excuses/justifications for my placing. i raced in the U17/Elite Men 4 start, which is essentially a smackdown of old men who've never raced before by young whippersnappers with lots of energy and more to prove. they have more time to train. they don't have kids. they probably don't do their homework (neither do i). they spent the winter on the rollers they got for christmas. they're simply a lot faster. and then these other old men in my category - they've raced before. i have no idea why they are in category 4, for slow asses like myself who've never raced before, but they were there, and they owned it. jerks. finally, at least 4 people in my category DNF'd, and four more were DNS. that means, had those quitters not backed out and kept on going, i'd have been somewhere in the lineup that wasn't last. maybe i would have been 4 places ahead of last. maybe. either way, all those other old guys got dropped, flatted, or just plain quit. in refusing to quit, i took up the last place position, and held it for 5 painful laps.
it was a beautiful day to get dropped.
the course was 70% 'gravel' road and 30% paved and about 98% windy. it was gorgeous. and sunny. and well-marshaled. and fun. i had a blast. i got dropped somewhere toward the end of the first lap, because i forgot that i would never be able to catch back on, and i forgot that without the draft factor of the pack, i'd die in my own time trial against the wind. nevertheless, i took it a little too easy during one acceleration, lost the wheel in front of me, and 'got put into difficulty', started 'going backwards now', and no amount of 'digging deep into the suitcase of courage' could save me.
i was alone.
for about 25 miles, i rode steadily, enjoying the hammering of my legs and the whir of wheels on all surfaces, enjoying my saddle, enjoying the sunshine and the complete lack of mechanical issues from the bike. nothing other than my muscles hurt. the saddle sore i so worried about beforehand never made mention of itself. i didn't cough too much. it was just a great day for a hard pace, and i should have tried to hold on a little longer. i did have one satisfying moment though, carving through an S-turn at the beginning of the gravel section, i accelerated out of the turn and dropped the only other guy still riding lap 3 or 4 with me. he was in last place. then i dropped him. and it seems he gave up or flatted after that. so i was in last place. it really was a beautiful day.
i learned things at the race.
i learned that all those excuses/justifications that you tell yourself before the race to get yourself signed up, they will dissolve and turn into the opposite of themselves as soon as the timer goes off. the only purpose they serve is to make you feel okay enough about your prospects to sign up and then actually toe the start line. 'it's april; no one's in shape'. (this is a fantasy. it's april and everyone's been training for this flat, belgian style race all winter on their dorky cylceops trainers, and they're more than ready to kick ass riding outside.) elite men 4 is a category for old guys who've never raced before and won't have too much to prove; i'll probably be a little younger and maybe a little faster. (yeah right. yeah RIGHT. this category is just as bad as the masters category - these guys train all the time, eat well, work hard, and are dedicated to doing this one sport really, really well. they know more about riding than i do because they do it instead of watching or fantasizing or writing about it.) i have good handling skills, so gravel sections might be a bonus for someone like me. (gravel is the least of anyone's worries in a flat race like this - pedaling hard will get anyone through it, and it's not hard to handle a road bike on wide sweeping curves and well-packed dirt.) it's my first race; results don't matter. (true, until you have to go find a marshal and tell him that you are not DNF like he thought when he marked you down, and you proudly take up the last place spot on the results list, a full lap behind first place (got passed in the finishing straight, right before i turned around for one more lap, and he bolted for the line).)
racing is great. one thing calmed me down the night before - i realized that no matter how i do in this racing thing, it will likely just make me faster for my rides with friends and family, and in a race i'm anonymous, so there's really no pressure. learn. train. ride faster. try to last longer before getting dropped next time. and always enjoy it.
upon finishing in absolute last place, i had the distinct and conflicting desires to never race again, and to race again as soon as possible. i think i'll stick with the latter.