3 firsts in one day, and not all good ones!

riverton race 1Today I managed three firsts.

  1. I entered and took part in a cycling road race
  2. I got a puncture during a race for the first time ever
  3. l recorded a DNF for the first time ever!

I quietly entered this race because, quite frankly, I was terrified! My cycling friends have been trying to get me to join them on weekend rides and races for weeks now, and I definitely feel like a jack of all trades in cycling world.

The last time I felt so scared I think was the first time I ever entered a triathlon. I had no idea what to expect from a road race, I didn’t know the course and quite honestly I really thought there was a good chance that I was going to be last! It’s been a very long time since that result has been a reality.

I told the race organiser in no uncertain terms that I wanted to be in the first group (D grade and the slowest). I asked for that last week and I didn’t get it, so I was pleased that I did this week. There was a lady called Mary in this group, (who is also a triathlete and is off to London very soon for the World champs) another newbie, and a few other people including Helen, who was organising the group.

As we set off, the drill was a roll through, but the opposite of what I was used to: instead of peeling off and dropping back, the drill was to follow through and cycle forward to the front of the group. When we set off I felt great, but after doing this for around 30 minutes, I very quickly realised that there was no way I could keep this up at this pace for two hours.

The group very soon fractured into two. I knew that I wouldn’t finish at all if I didn’t slow down a bit. Also in the back of my mind was the fact that I heard the race organiser announce that Shirlene, a friend of mine who is VERY good, (and eventually female race winner) was in the group only 8 minutes behind.

Helen came back to join me, Mary and the other girl who was a newbie. We worked together in a chain gang in what I would call the more traditional way, peel off and drop to the back. This was going well for quite a while and we could still see the other half of the group up ahead with the course car for a good few miles.

They began to talk about awful hill up ahead. I struggled to know what they meant, as so far the UK to Kim translations have not always been accurate. It turned out the awful hill was short and not that awful. After a short flat rest it was downhill, then a left turn and, it seems, back to the same point, and off we went to do the loop again.

At this point I decided to attempt to take on solid nutrition too (I had already drunk one of my two bottles) and it was at this point that my legs decided they wanted a half way point break, and I lost the group. I could see the, just up ahead, and I knew that it would be better for me in the long run (this race was only half way done) if I could catch them. But my legs were simply not playing ball. Helen saw this, and slowed down to come get me. She let me draft off her for a while, while we worked to catch back up to the other two.

I knew by this stage (90 mins in and a lot further than I have cycled in one go for a good few months) that I was close to spent, and just hanging in there. I could JUST keep up with Helen. She gave me a shot of something terribly sweet, telling me it was carb shot that would kick in very soon. We took a left, and shortly up the road was the final rise before the last 15km downhill (mostly) to the finish line. At the foot of the rise, the dreaded inevitable happened: I felt the rims hit the ground.. Yep, a flat.

I shouted to the group to tell them, two carried on but Helen stopped. I had the tyre off the rim and the tube changed in a matter of minutes but the new tube would not go up. Helen tried, I tried, another lovely girl who stopped also tried. I felt sick, dizzy, tired, cross. I felt like throwing the bike and all its parts across the road in disgust. All I could say was sorry, to Helen, for holding her up.

She saw my frustration and told me maybe I should call my OH. She cycled on. A course car arrived right at that moment swept me and all my pieces up and took me off to the finish line.

My first ever DNF. I have never registered a DNF. I have always finished a race. Even the world champs race, 2012, running on a knee that needed surgery, I still finished, just.

What on earth did I want to do this for?

  • I learned a great bunch of skills in bunch riding.
  • I worked harder than I would have on a solo ride
  • I learned that road racing isn’t as bad as I thought
  • It affirmed in me the realisation that cyclists are a great, friendly welcoming bunch who look after each other. Quite a different breed from triathletes.
  • I am going to have to do another race next week so I can achieve the original goal: start and finish the race!
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