Today I did the Hamburg Road Race (near Buafflo, NY) with two women, Carrie and Marina, that I bike with on Wednesdays. Hamburg is near Buafflo so it was quite a drive for 1 day. Earlier in the week I was thinking to myself "why am I going to drive 3 hours for a bike race when I'm not in racing shape at all??" but, other people were going that I knew, and the more I practice racing the better I'll get.
Marina picked me up around 6:45 and we drove to Hamburg. The three of us had pre-registered and there was some confusion about if we were in the right categories. Bike racing has categories (cat), with 1 being the most competitive and 4 or 5 being the least competitive/most beginner. Previously there have only been cats 1-4 for women, so I raced in cat 4 last year. This year I got my cycling license and just signed up for the most beginner division, later realizing that was 5 (which didn't exist last year). I guess this year USA cycling added this new cat 5 to women's racing to hopefully get more beginners and encourage people to start racing. As you race you earn points, and when you earn enough points you move up to the next category. The jump from a cat 4 to cat 3 was a big change, so I guess now having a cat 5 should give people more chance to practice and race being moving up with the real serious people.
So, anyways, I was registered for the cat 5 women's race and so was Carrie. Marina was in the cat 4. The course was 14 miles long and different cats did either 1, 2, 3 or 4 loops of it. The women's cat 4 and 5 was 2 loops, so about 28 miles total. I've never been to this area and looked at the course on strava but really wasn't familiar with it. The first 7 miles had mostly climbing and the last 7 were almost all downhill or flat.
Once we arrived we changed, made sure our bikes were ready, and rode around the parking lot a little waiting for our heat to start at 11:20. In hindsight, I should have warmed up more -- a few easy slow laps around the parking lot was definitely not sufficient.
The cat 4 women, cat 5 women, and juniors all started together. I'd estimate there were maybe 30 people total. Carrie, Marina and I were in the back of the group which was a bad place to be -- it's really easy to get left behind. The whistle blew and the group took off FAST. Carrie and Marina were able to sneak around me but I got caught behind a few people and in a matter of seconds I was too far away from the main group. I got stuck behind some of the juniors (kids 10-16 years old, but pretty serious riders) who were kind of all over the road and I had a hard time getting around. I tried catching up to the main group but it was already too late. I looked at my computer and I was only about 2 minutes into the race and my quads were on fire and heart rate super high. Well, that was not the start I was hoping for.
I knew I had to regain composure so I allowed myself to ease up a little and get into a good groove. Maybe I'd run into some people on the climbs.
I didn't. I never caught back up to the main group. In fact I never rode with anyone else the entire time. No one! Not one draft! (this is pretty unusual for a bike race - drafting is common/encouraged/needed to do well). There were many points in the race where I literally could not see any other cyclists, behind me or in front of me. Was I even on the course?!
I accepted that this was going to be just a hard solo ride for me, a good workout, rather than a race. It was really windy (probably 15+mph) and hot and there were points on the flat parts where I felt like I was trying to pedal hard and just barely moving. I got passed a few times by groups of men who were on their 2nd or 3rd lap of the race but otherwise didn't see many others.
Not much else to report about the ride since no one was around. I was confident that Carrie and Marina did well because they both are really strong on our group rides. I finished and Carrie and Marina were waiting for me -- turns out they finished 20 minutes before me!! That's a big difference!! Carrie ended up winning 1st in the women's cat 5 and Marina got 5th in the women's cat 4. I think my placing in the cat 5 was 5th or 6th. I had an average speed of 16.6mph, which is my fastest ride this year. I still had a good time even though I got dropped immediately. After the awards we had a nice lunch at a cafe in town. It was a long day. I am tired.
I need to start going on more group rides so I can get faster! I've definitely been in an athletic slump the last few months. Gaining weight, not a lot of energy, slow on rides. I've been running a lot more than I ever have and you'd think that would help things, but...it's not. I've got to change something. Maybe this is just what turning 30 does to you.