Lets do the excuses first: no racing for nearly a year; long recovery from major shoulder surgery; moved to a ski resort where winter riding doesn’t exist; less training time due to new job; long car journey from Switzerland; tired from sleeping in strange places and lastly stomach cramps on the day.
Phew, now we can get real. Being in the UK for the week (to get married of all things) meant I had a Sunday afternoon free, and of course the next logical step was to see if a) there was a race on and b) I could fit my bike in the car for the trans-European journey. With both criteria met it was the Surrey League race at Ewhurst (although actually on the Walliswood circuit due to roadworks) that seemed the best fit, with unfinished business having finished second last year.
So much like my race, I’ll keep it short. The goal was to avoid sitting in, race aggressively and be under no pressure at all, so from lap one I tried to attack a few times (and was at least once pulled back by a team-mate, although to be fair I had only met him a few minutes earlier). One move looked promising, with race-tweeting buddy Rob Enslin and two others, but after a couple of turns my lungs felt like they were inside-out and my guts were screaming in agony, so I dropped back to the bunch, and as it accelerated off the next bend something inside clicked and the pedaling went soft, letting the following cars overtake.
I tweeted earlier that I’ve never pulled out of a race (other than puncturing) but there was a handicap back in 2007 where I went off like a bat out of hell and quit with lower back pain, so it’s not unprecedented. When I see people’s advice about starting racing I’m always slightly wary of the advice that you should expect to be dropped in your first race, then hang on and be proud of finishing in the bunch. This progression is alien to me having never had a problem when I started racing, yet today’s experience has humbled me a little and I can now understand that perspective, although the old adage remains: “proper planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance”.
Tom Southam, whom I have raced against a few times in the Totnes-Vire and Surrey League 5-day back in 2008 sums up my current state of mind very eloquently in this excellent piece of writing for the Rapha website. This quote in particular wraps today’s race report up:
“recovery is so slow and the increments so small, that it is easy to miss a bit, skip a session for a brew ride or forget about it completely. But then you race, and you know exactly what you have and haven’t been doing.”
One thing is for sure in endurance sport: training is not like money, you can’t put it in a bank and save it. At the end of the day, there really is no faking it.