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First race...scared sh@#less...(21 posts)

First race...scared sh@#less...JBurton
Jun 18, 2002 8:02 PM
This weekend!! Any advice for a first ever road race? How long should I warm up and how soon before? What kind of pace should I expect from a Cat 5, 30 mile, flat 5 mile loop? How long before the race should I plan for my breakfast to make a hasty exit in the wrong direction?

Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated and would ease my mind considerably. I have been planning to race toward the end of this season, but this race came up so I decided yesterday to do it. No time like the present, right?
re: First race...scared sh@#less...I Love Shimano
Jun 18, 2002 8:10 PM
Hi! I did my first race last Sunday. All I can say is ride safely and have lots of fun. Don't try to push the envelope too much. I tried taking corners faster than I usually could, and almost crashed badly during the 2 lap of the race. Take it easy. You will elarn a lot during your first race. I did. Goodluck!
A few thoughts from another newbieDMoore
Jun 18, 2002 8:19 PM
I started racing last summer, so I'm still pretty new at this. Here's my take on it.

Breakfast. It's only a 30 mile race, a little over an hour, so eat a light breakfast a couple of hours before your race start. Personally, I'd eat a bagel 2 hours before race time, and maybe pop a packet of GU on my way to the start line. You don't need any more than that. If you eat more, or closer to the start time, you'll still have undigested food in your stomach during the race, and you don't want that. Trust me!

Plan on arriving at least 1 hour before race time. Since it's your first race and you'll be feeling stressed anyway, give yourself 1 1/2 hours. Preregister if possible, to save time. If you have a license already, REMEMBER TO BRING IT!!! You'll still need to sign in, show your license, and get your number. If you don't have a license already, you'll have to buy a one-day license. When you get your number, ask which side of the jersey to put your number on - sometimes it's the right, sometimes it's the left. Ask.

Have someone help you pin on the number. Bend over in a tuck position, and be sure the number is RIGHT SIDE UP when you're bent over. Amazing how many people get that little detail wrong. Use at least four safety pins, one at each corner. Lots of people use more pins, to keep the # from flapping.

For a 30 mile race, I'd want to warm up for at least 10 miles, or 45 mins. on a trainer if you have one to bring with you. Start off really easy, just spinning, but work yourself up to the point that you're breathing hard and sweating before you stop. Ideally, you'd go straight from warmup to start line, but in reality it's not that easy. You need time for a quick run to the portapotty, toss your spare tire bag, pump, whatever into your car, or put away the trainer, and go race.

In your first race, your goal (and I'm dead serious about this) is survival. Try to just sit in with the pack, and basically do whatever the pack does. Riding at the back is deadly, as the "accordian" at every corner will eventually wear you out. Don't get caught riding in front, either. Your fellow racers don't know you, and they'll be perfectly happy to leave you out there, working for them, until you die. Unless the turns are slow and tight and you absolutely can't avoid it - don't brake in the corners. Try to ride as consistent a line as possible, particularly in the corners. In fact, don't do anything sudden or unpredictable, or you'll be sure to hear about from your fellow riders.

If you finish with the pack, and nobody yelled at you during the race, you've done quite well. Towards the end, if you're still feeling strong, start moving up in the field so you're in a position to go for at the finish. Most of these races will end in a sprint, although of course there is the occasional race where a break goes away and stays away. If you can get in with a break, good for you!

Don't expect too much for your first race. I'd ridden for years, and had trained with lots of racers including some Cat 2's. I thought I'd do fine in my class (Masters 50+). I was astonished at how fast those old guys were! Riding fast, even with other people, just isn't the same as racing with the constant accelerations and jumps. On the other hand - who knows? You might just go out there and kick some butt. But whatever you do --

HAVE FUN and RIDE SAFE.
A Bagel and a Gu?Mr Good
Jun 18, 2002 10:24 PM
DMoore's response is excellent. I would add that not everyone responds to the same food, or needs the same amount, the same # of hours before a race. True, for a 30-miler you don't need a lot of food, but I would eat more than a bagel and a GU! That's just what I need, maybe not what you need. Since you're concerned with keeping your food down, be sure to eat a meal A FEW HOURS before the race, then just a LITTLE something, maybe a bar or a Gu before the race.

Unlike DMoore I'd probably eat 3 or 3 1/2 hours before start time: a big bowl of oatmeal with banana, yogurt, maybe toast with jam (lots of carbs). If I still feel hungry an hour before maybe I'll have half a clif bar, then I suck down two Clif shots (or Gu's) 5 min before start. Even though I've never thrown up in a race, I find that eating less than 3 hours before start time leaves me feeling bloated and heavy.

Everything else DMoore says is right on the money--expect your first race to be a learning experience--don't worry about beating the other guys, concentrate on working with the group in the flow of things--be predictable and hold your line through the turns (that means when the whole pack is taking the same curve through the turn, don't swing wide or cut in toward the inside)--don't brake in the turn!--you should expect to learn and have fun. Racing has a steep learning curve, and it's not uncommon to work hard then get dropped by the pack in your first race. There's no indignity in this, it's just part of the process of learning where you are, and what you have to do to get better.
no spare tube, pump, co2, etc.?JS Haiku Shop
Jun 19, 2002 5:52 AM
for a 30 miler? even if it IS a 5 mile loop, who wants to walk ~3 miles pushing the bike? or, does the "chase" vehicle pick you up? how does this work?
no spare tube, pump, co2, etc.?wonderdog
Jun 19, 2002 7:33 AM

Good point! If the organizers are being fair to all catagories, they should have a cat 5 wheel truck. If you have them, place your spare wheels in this truck with a piece of paper tucked in the spokes. Write your number on this paper. If you flat, the wheel truck guys (who are behind you) will jump out and change your wheel out for you. Don't panic during this time, and pace yourself back up to the field.

If there is no wheel truck, better carry a tube and mini-pump. Like JS said, walking 3 miles in cycling shoes will not be fun.

I don't know if this has been said or not, but I wouldn't overlap wheels. Cat 5's tend to ride all over the place. If you've overlapped wheels, you're greatly increasing your chances for road rash.

Good luck and have fun!

dont think carrying pumps is legal anyway nmishmael
Jun 19, 2002 7:50 AM
pumps are legal in USCF races..nmclimbo
Jun 19, 2002 8:14 AM
nm
as i don't have a spare set of campy-compat wheels,...JS Haiku Shop
Jun 19, 2002 9:23 AM
...i'll just be content to carry a spare, co2 inflator, cartridges, and a tire tool (aha! another chance to sing the praises of crank brothers' speed lever!) in a small seatpack. i'll assume my lightning-quick 5 minute flat change will leave me riding back to the parking lot instead of pacing back up to the pack. oh, well...

but, be assured i'll remove my kickstand, wheel and frame reflectors, compass/bell, skull valve covers, blinkie lights, and bike license plate with my name on it BEFORE lining up at the upcoming cat 4/5 race. guess this means i'll also have to leave my fully-loaded camelbak "transalp" at home, too. [sigh] think it's ok to wear the full festina kit? just kidding.

btw, one of the guys in our fast weeknight (club) ride actually showed up with TWO frame pumps on his bike. guess it was all that extra weight holding him back...
on the subject of overlapping wheels...EpicX
Jun 19, 2002 10:29 AM
i don't know where i picked up this paceline/drafting tip, but it has made me a much smoother/more predictable group rider:
When you need to scrub off a little speed, keep pedaling normally while lightly feathering the brake(s). This makes the use of your brake realllly subtle and lets you shave off a tiny bit of speed w/out freaking out people behind you. It's not always feasable to sit up, move into the wind etc. in a large pack. In a group of Cat 5's I'd rather not move off my line or overlap wheels more than necessary.
Good Advice!BigLeadOutGuy
Jun 19, 2002 3:24 AM
There is some good advice given here...I am not going to add anything cause just about all the bases were covered. Just wanted to say good luck...ride hard and have fun. If you get dropped off the back, dont sweat it...it happens to everyone, just keep riding and make sure you finish.
good luck!!
re: First raceTig
Jun 19, 2002 6:29 AM
I agree with Mr. Good on eating a little more, and much earlier. If the race is early, like 8 AM, don't worry about the food as much unless your body is used to getting up early and eating early.

A solid warm-up is a must. Each person is different. Just don't tire yourself out too much. Get the heart rate up and make a few short jumps. Try wadding up your paper number and then flatten it out before pinning it to your jersey to keep it from flapping around.

Be prepared for a variety of paces from slow to nasty-fast. The up and down pace is what wipes out most new racers who don't train with a fast group. If you are just barely hanging on when it gets fast and think you can't stay another minute, don't give up. The odds are the pace is about to slow down soon anyway. When it is slow, don't get bored and try to take off. Instead, work your way back towards the front. Get a drink. Recover. Your goal is to not get dropped. Getting caught at the back makes that hard to accomplish. If you are behind another rider at the back and they let a gap form, YOU have to use precious strength to catch back up. If you want to avoid crashes, stay toward the front of the field. This will be an on-going job since the "current" of riders will all be doing the same. Also don't let yourself get caught on the windward side of the field during a strong crosswind.

Don't let yourself stay in the front pulling either. Do not try to prove anything. In order to learn more, you need to stay in the race as long as possible. There is no shame in sucking wheel in a race!

If you find yourself still in the race near the finish line, keep an eye on everyone. People get nervous and can cause crashes. Someone might get stupid and jump too early. Since you are new, let the actions of the majority tell you what to respond to. The people that will win a cat 5 race will do so in the last few hundred meters. When they jump, stay on their wheel. A few riders back is best. If someone in front of you starts to slow, pass them immediately and with power, but check over your shoulder to see if it is clear to avoid a crash with another passing rider. Study the finish before the race. Remember the wind direction. A headwind at the line means you should wait later to pull around the rider in front. A tail wind lets you go earlier. Do NOT give up when you see a few riders ahead that obviously will win. Give it everything you have until a few feet past the line and you'll be surprised how many people you will pass!

Most of all, have fun and try to stay relaxed, yet focused. If you feel tense your bike handling will suffer and you'll get tired quicker.
Thanks all...JBurton
Jun 19, 2002 7:19 AM
Man, I have never been this nervous before a sporting event. I'm waking up in cold sweats every night!

Hopefully I will accomplish the goal to not get dropped. That is all I planned on doing anyway, as I don't feel my fitness is there quite yet. Since it is a flat course, I am assuming it might be faster than a usual Cat 5 race, whatever that means. That is just speculation and slower would be a nice surprise!

Thanks again.
wear gloves, tighten helmet, practice crashing, good luck nmishmael
Jun 19, 2002 7:26 AM
Nervousness is relative... go jump out of a plane!DMoore
Jun 19, 2002 10:22 AM
I'm a newcomer as a bike racer, but a long-term skydiver with close to 1000 jumps. Try making a couple of skydives -that will give you a sense of perspective. For the first several jumps you'll find out what scary dreams and cold sweats are all about!
AHA! your advice, please, DMoore...JS Haiku Shop
Jun 19, 2002 10:39 AM
JS Haiku Shop "first-time (tandem) skydive: anyone done this?" 6/19/02 11:37am
DMoore have you.....bikesforpeace
Jun 19, 2002 1:18 PM
DMoore have you read Smart Cycling by Arnie Baker?
What you wrote earlier was good info but I swear it sounded familer. Anyway good luck at the races this weekend everyone.
DMoore have you.....DMoore
Jun 19, 2002 2:59 PM
No - I'm totally unfamiliar with that book. I just used a combination of common sense and experience. If the book agrees with me -- what a great author!
Skydiving also provides great confidenceTig
Jun 19, 2002 2:45 PM
Good advice to wuffo's! (DMoore will know what that means)
As you get better and better with each jump, your self confidence rises quickly. After skydiving, racing bikes is relatively easy in a psychological sense. My skydiving drive faded when I started riding and racing, but that was a bunch of years ago.
a little more adviceDuane Gran
Jun 19, 2002 9:01 AM
I'm going to assume that you have done some group rides at a fairly good clip. This is a necessary skill builder for being comfortable in a race. For the most part a cat5 race is just a fast group ride. When I started (which wasn't that long ago) this line of thinking helped me to keep my nerves in order.

If the turns make you a little nervous, take them on the inside. Should there be any crashes they will dish outward, so it is to your benefit being on the inside of the turn. Feel free to move about the pack, but you may feel more comfortable riding either at the far left or far right. This removes one person from your side and gives you an obvious escape route if there is a crash.

As you approach a turn the peleton will shift to the left side of the road in order to approach the inner corner of the road without going into the oncoming lane. This creates a wide gap on the right side and some smart asses decide to move forward in the pack. Don't do this. It makes things dicey once the group swings inward and there are more bodies occupying the corner. This is a classic dumb move that forces riders into the oncoming lane or to hit their brakes in the turn.

Don't stress too much about crashes. Avoid them, but don't fear them. They most just scrape some skin and rarely cause real harm. If you crash, jump up, grab your bottles, give your wheels a quick hand spin (to check for wheel trueness and rubbing brakes) and chase back onto the group.
re: First race...scared sh@#less...BradJackson
Jun 19, 2002 9:01 AM
Let us know how it goes, J.
-Brad