I went into this 40 mile road race with high hopes. The course was rolling and had an uphill finish, both things which suit me. In the end I fell well short of my expectations. This was hard for me to stomach, but I also got a lot of lessons out of it.
Intro: A 40 mile road race just outside of Des Moines, IA. This was my second-to-last race of the season, and I had been working on upping my mileage. Thus a 40 mile race seemed comparatively easy.
Course/Conditions: The course was a 13.5 mile loop, repeated 3 times. It was mostly rolling hills, and was just challenging enough to help narrow down a group. We got rained on through most of the race, but never exceptionally hard. This was only my second time racing in the rain, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it really wasn’t that bad. I made sure to keep a positive attitude about it, in the hopes of being a leg up on the people who hated rain.
Field: The Men’s Cat 4 field had 19 starters. I only knew three or four of the other racers. They were certainly strong, but I wasn’t going into the race marking anyone.
Strategy: Ultimately, my overly-relaxed mindset was the death of me. I went into the race banking on an uphill sprint finish. I think I was so focused on this because that’s how I won my last race. I half-heartedly told myself to watch out for breakaways, but I wasn’t fully committed to it because I was afraid of losing my legs before the sprint.
Racing: We took the first lap pretty calm, as this was the time that it was raining hardest. I didn’t have any chance to pre-ride the course, so it was nice to get an idea of what I could expect before the racing really turned on.
About halfway through the second lap three people crashed going into the third corner (roughly the halfway point of the course). Immediately a couple people attacked, and I made sure to stick with them. But I was simply too relaxed after catching on, and spent the time chatting with another rider rather than watching the action. What happened was that someone from the dominant team (with 6 riders that day) went off the front, and I had no clue. A few minutes later someone went off the front again, and then one more a couple minutes later. I continued to sit back, because I thought the dominant team had no one up the road, and thus expected them to chase it down. It wasn’t until the last lap that I learned that indeed they did have someone up the road. I felt terrible, and was really disappointed in myself.
If I’m being completely honest with myself, there was one more opportunity for me to make something of the race. At the end of the second lap someone from the dominant team attacked. I didn’t go with him because I had the wrong mindset. I can forgive myself for missing the first person going up the road, but in thinking back about this race, this moment is the one that really wears on me. On the upside, it was a real lesson learned. Not only did I suffer in my placing because of my inactivity, but I also will have the memory of the bitter disappointment in myself.
The last lap was uneventful, and I ended up sprinting with my group. I got roughly 8th or 9th, far out of what I had hoped for.
What I Learned:
- Mindset matters. In crits I am much better about having an aggressive mindset, but in road races it’s hard to get myself to be aggressive for several hours. Rather than chatting away, I need to train myself to stay more focused.
- Go with your gut feeling. It certainly felt like the dominant team was purposely slowing everyone down after a couple people went off the front. I thought that the didn’t have anyone up there, so I just sat in. But I need to trust the signs around me more.
Analysis: I left this race feeling extremely disappointed in myself. After a couple of days I finally was able to change my mindset from one of dejection, to seeing the value in my poor performance. I’ve got one more road race this season, and having this defeat in my mind will help me come in with the right mindset. I truly believe that this race experience will help me greatly in the future.