Have you ever had a love/hate relationship with a race? The type of race that you really don’t enjoy, but you sign up every year anyway? The type where you hurt so much during the ride that you wonder why you ever made the choice to do it? The type where once you get off the bike your legs cramp up so bad that you can’t walk, and you swear that you’ll never sign up again?
That is how I feel about the Barry Roubaix. It is a local gravel road bike race. You can choose either the 22, 36, 62, or 100 mile race. I have done the 36 miler 4 times now, once with my fat tired bike. That course has 2700 feet of elevation gain. I have several friends that do this race, and I have a good time at the Founder’s after race celebration, but during the race?.....meh
I am training for a half-ironman distance race this fall. That means that for the past few months I have been doing lots of Zone 2 training on my bike, trying to build endurance. I have purposely NOT done hill workouts, because I didn’t want to jeopardize my overall training. The Roubaix is not my “A” race, so I didn’t want to train specifically for it.
That being said, about 6 weeks ago I took my fat tired bike out onto the course to ride it. It was a nice day, and I had a good time, but I realized that I wasn’t in shape to power up all of those hills. I came home and told my wife that I wasn’t going to sign up for the race this year.
But then I thought to myself, “Your fat tired bike weighs about 20 pounds heavier than your mountain bike. It shouldn’t be too bad if you do the race on your mountain bike. And just think, you’ll be in Mexico most of the week and won’t be riding at all. You should be all rested for a bike ride. AND….you don’t have to race it! You can just plan on it being your long ride for the week.”
(Am I the only one who has these conversations in my head?)
I got home from Mexico at 2am Friday, slept a few hours, then worked outside around the house all day. The only amount of prep I did for the race was put the bike carrier on my car and mount the bike. Well, I guess I did switch pedals and make sure that the chain was still on, but that was about it. I just wasn’t feeling it.
I got up Saturday morning expecting to finally be excited about race day, but I just wasn’t. I got the rest of my gear around and headed to the course reminding myself that this is just a 36 mile training ride. The weather was about 45 degrees and overcast. Perfect weather for riding.
When my wave went off I FINALLY got some enthusiasm! Adrenalin kicked in and I was ready to go, but it was short lived….
Although I started out in the middle of my wave, within a half mile I was dead last. I was going as fast as I could, but there wasn’t any hope of keeping up with those guys. Talk about a slap to the ego! So I again reminded myself that this was just a training ride and settled in to a comfortable rhythm. Soon, the next wave overtook me….then the next…and the next.
“Am I really that out of shape”, I asked myself.
Then I looked down and realized that my rear derailleur wasn’t moving all the way to the smallest sprockets! I was only using about half of my cassette. No wonder I was spinning out but not catching anyone!
“Why didn’t you check this all out yesterday”, I thought to myself. And then, “When was the last time I rode this bike?”
Answer: 3 years ago at this very race
Lesson: Even if you don’t really want to ride, always make sure all of your gear works properly. It can make a mediocre day better.
So for the rest of the race I had the gears I needed to go up the hills, but couldn’t gain any momentum going downhill. It was very hard for me to have so many people pass me when I knew that I could be doing better. It was a mental exercise as much as a physical one.
When I crossed the finish line my dad was there to greet me. He said I looked great, and reminded me of the first year when I literally stepped off the bike, fell onto the ground, and couldn’t get up because I hurt so much!
My hips and glutes were beginning to cramp badly, so we walked back to my car to loosen up and put everything away.
Then my wife and I headed to the celebration party.
I had conquered the obstacles.
And I will probably sign up again next year.
(But next year I will train for it!)