My first race of the season was today and it didn’t suck! Yay!
Actually, I did the best I’ve ever done for the first race of the season, which is to say that I finished with the pack. My usual experience is that I’ll fall behind the pack around half way through the first race (which means my race is over, since there’s no way to catch up when I’m out there by myself and can’t draft on anyone), and then steadily improve with each race so that I can finish a race eventually. Last year, my best year so far, I managed to finish the second race of the season. So I’m happy to have improved.
I got 17th place out of maybe 35 women or so, which puts me right in the middle of the pack. What happened, though, is that the pack basically split in two somewhere in the middle of the race, and I managed to stay with the front group, which eventually lapped the group that fell behind (the course is about .8 of a mile, so a faster group can lap a slower one sooner or later). When it came to the final sprint, I was at the back of the fast group, but placed in the middle overall because of all the lapped riders.
And, just to clarify, I’m particularly pleased about this result because I’m riding in a women’s open field, which means that there are championship racers out there and people who have a whole long history of winning races, as well as women who are new to the sport. Women’s open fields are hard because you never know who you’re going to race against. In men’s races, you generally race against people of roughly your ability, but there aren’t enough women to justify multiple racing categories, so we all get lumped together.
I’m also pleased because just a month or so ago I thought I wouldn’t race at all because I wouldn’t be ready. Silly me. What I’ve learned, besides the fact that experience helps, is that I don’t need tons and tons of miles before I’m ready to race. I didn’t do a whole lot of riding in December and January, which I thought would hurt me. But I did fine by starting training right at the end of January, riding solidly through February, and adding in a few sprint workouts in the few weeks before the first race. That’s good to know, especially when I’m faced with tough winters that don’t allow me to do a lot of outside riding.