First Race at Crystal Palace

Phew.  Just back from my first proper race.

My plan for racing is not to take it too seriously but to add a bit of edge to my fitness, replace a turbo session or two and to have fun.

Doubtless the first two criteria were met and, now I’ve recovered, I think the third was too.

Anyway, I left work 13 minutes early (the specificity can be explained by my work colleagues who, when the boot was on the other foot, were very keen on precise timekeeping), quickly cycled home, got changed, jumped in the car and headed off to Crystal Palace.  I wanted to leave plenty of time to make sure that I can find out where I was meant to park,  sign in, leave my stuff, etc.  For some reason I was a little nervous about the whole endeavour so I wanted to leave little to chance and to minimise unnecessary stress.

Arriving in plenty of time I queued for eternity to swap my newly minted racing license for my numbers which would be pinned to my jersey.  The organisation was a complete shambles; I’m afraid no matter how generously people give their time it does not grant them blanket immunity from criticism of the embarrassing levels of incompetence on display.

It was a beautiful spring evening and I got a chance to chill for a few minutes before DaveC turned up.  It was great to see a familiar face and we had a chat and Dave straightened out my crudely pinned race numbers.  It was very kind of Dave to come along and provide some moral support and also to take pictures!

We waited for the kids race to finish (which was brilliant – reminiscent of seeing kids skiing in a way) before getting a chance to do a couple of warm-up laps.

Soon enough it was time to line up for the race.  There were a good few riders!

And off we went.  Clip, clip – cleats engaged and we were away. 

The course consists of a long straight, a hairpin then a couple of sharp-ish bends, a hill then back to the start.

Despite being warned, I wasn’t quite prepared for the pace.  My heart rate rarely dropped below 170bpm and peaked at 184bpm – my max is 186bpm.  And I’m an old man!

It was hard work for sure, but I wasn’t getting dropped which was good news.  Though I did find it a bit tricky to get used to the rhythm of the race which seemed distinctly uneven.  There appeared to be a good deal of extra effort put in after every tight bend.  I’m not sure why as I can’t see that this is an efficient method of maximising the use of the scarce resource of available energy.

Furthermore I was continually being passed when I thought I was following the rider in front at a sensible distance and speed.  Anyway, more experience for next time.

The laps wore on and I started to feel a bit fatigued.  Fortunately the pace backed off a little.  I was showing good form I felt and on the climb usually managing to make up a couple of places without too much trouble.  I even managed to sneak up into the top 5 for a bit.

At some point the race got split.  I’m not sure entirely what happened but when we were caught by the 1st/2nd cats (who started a minute before us) there was a bit of confusion and the group got split up and I’m pretty sure I lost out and missed a bunch of riders that ‘got away’.

However, I must have been up towards the front of the pack overall and was in pretty good shape compared to those around me; generally losing out on the technical sections of the course and making up ground on the climb.

Interestingly I had no idea how long the race was going to go on for.  At 30 minutes I thought that if I was only half-way there I was going to be in trouble.  At 39 minutes the race was stopped which was part-disappointing and part-relief. 

For the last 3 or 4 laps I started to suffer with a bit of cramp which was frustrating but I was able to ride through it.

Dave managed one last snap of me looking  composed :-)

And that was that really.  I’ve no idea where I finished or how well I did.  When getting my license back I was again to experience unbearable administrative uselessness.

Overall though  I felt surprisingly confident in the bunch and, I think, with a couple more rides like this to boost my ‘top end fitness’, I should be able to put in some reasonable showings.  We’ll see.  I’m hoping to make a regular thing of the ride.

A massive thanks to Dave again, for coming along and providing support and for taking some great pictures.

Click for more pictures and ride stats.

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