A Beginner’s First Race Report
“When is the best time for my first race?” – When you feel you are ready
“When would I feel ready?” – Ummmmmm……
I’ve had numerous discussions with myself about this. I admire people who race and I dreamt of having a go one day. However, having a long history of getting dropped in various group rides, the fear of failure always stopped me.
‘I’m too slow. I will get dropped. I will lose. Isn’t racing to win? What do I race for?’
The answer came to me when I realised something more than a group ride was needed to see my progress. Something that would give me a bigger sense of urgency… Racing was perfect for that.
So there, 18 September 2016, Pinjarra Classic Women’s B Grade, 69km undulating road race course – That was the very first bike race. I participated in Women B as there weren’t enough competitors for Women C/D. Given that, it was predicted I would not compete with the front of the pack. It didn’t matter.
About 200 riders gathered at the race venue in Pinjarra. The weather was crisp chilly but it wasn’t too bad thanks to a bit of sunshine. At the start line, each grade was sent with a time gap. My grade, Women B, started after Men C and before Men D. The pack rolled out together taking turns. The fast pace felt like it was the hardest group ride I had ever done. When the first breakaway happened at the hill, I was out of breath. The climb continued quite a while, and the gap between the group and me slowly increased, and there, I was left alone, just like some of those fast group rides…. How sad. I looked around and there was another girl, so we worked together looking after each other quite a while. It was like a Team Time Trial with a fast rotation until we were absorbed into another group, and then an Individual Time Trial into the headwind until the finish.
1km sign – Started to increase pace. 200m sign – Started sprinting off the saddle.
Despite the long solo ITT, I was in high spirit and felt really excited to finish soon. I saw my other half Elar standing near the finish line, and completed the race with a full smile on my face.
‘Aaahhhhh… finished’. It was such an emotional moment.
The result: It was faster counting backwards. No surprise.
My aim was to experience and learn from the first race. I was able to complete the race without crashing into someone or getting knocked over by someone or getting disqualified. Plus, my previous best record during the recon ride has been beaten and a new threshold has been set!
1. Warm up. Warm up. Warm up! The pace is fast from the beginning. Get ready for a quick take off. This didn’t go well as planned because of my upset stomach.
2. Stay with the group! Easy to say, but bloody hard! If you can do this from start to finish, you are already halfway to winning the race I think. The rest is tactics, skills, etc.
3. Sprint after every corner! Really helps staying with the group. Keep your line and be mindful of others around you.
4. Make an alliance! Okay, you may get dropped. Work with others around you. It helps them, helps you, and keeps everyone’s spirit high.
5. Plenty of water! My muscles didn’t respond well from a certain point and I suspect it was due to lack of water. My water ran out way too early, so as an emergency measure, I kept a candy in my mouth to prevent it from getting dry.
6. Avoid oily food too much the day before! I had bananas with Nutella and peanut butter the night before and all night my stomach was growling. Next morning, I had an upset stomach and was in pain wasting the pre-race time that should’ve been used for a good warm-up. Never thought this would happen to me, but it did.
7. Wear the kit you are comfortable with! You may want to wear the new fancy kit you recently bought. Don’t, unless you have full tested it. I experienced severe chaffing from my new kit and it wasn’t fun.
Thinking of your first race? Just sign up and do it. There is no perfect timing and you are only getting older.