8 Take-aways from my first bike race

Last weekend I competed in a bike race. While I ride my bike to work and enjoy getting out for longer weekend rides this isn’t something I’ve done a lot of.

But it won’t be my last.

Bob, Greg and I before the L'alpe de Grand Blanc bike race.

Bob, Greg and I before the L’alpe de Grand Blanc bike race.

A friend, GD, registered us a few weeks ago for this race. I do remember while preparing for the conference that he was planning to do this. Part of me subconsciously acknowledged this. And part of me buried the prospect deep below everything else that needed to get done for the conference.

Then on Wednesday last week came the call. ‘You need to pick up your race packet on Saturday. The race starts Sunday at 9 am.’

Ok I thought. Game on. Let’s do this.

At this point where was no point for distractions. No concerns about which workouts to still do. How much of a taper I could use. Or anything else relevant to prepping for a race.

Instead all I needed to do was make sure my bike and gear were ready to go and to get a good night’s sleep.

Here’s how it went and how I did. Plus a few things I might do differently next time.

Sleep

When I say that I wanted to get a good night’s sleep the night before what I mean is that I got good sleep for a few nights before the sleep. I knew I was going to be picked up at 745 am on race day. So to factor in enough time for fuel and hydration I wanted to comfortable getting up for 6 am. No problem there.

Training

Whenever you enter a race you want to feel you were able to bring your best on that day. Part of this involves doing all the work needed to prepare for competition. Did I get in enough volume? Did I do enough speed work? Did I do some hill training? What about intervals? Are there any technical aspects of riding that could be improved?

At this point with a few days until race day I wasn’t too concerned about what I could do related to the above areas of training. Instead my focus was on making sure I had optimal recover, that I wasn’t carrying tension in my body that might lead to energy leaks. For example, on the Friday before the race I did a full body aerobic circuit to generate blood flow through all the body. Blood flow and circulation are key for healing and recovery. While I didn’t have a lot I needed to recover from I wanted to make sure this low intensity exercise would be enough to keep everything loose and induce optimal sleep.

Fuel

Many people put in the hours in the saddle riding, get adequate quality sleep and invest in a quality bike. They then wake up on race day and have a couple of eggs, a slice of avocado and a glass of orange juice. When they bonk during the race they wonder why?

If you want to push intensity you need to fuel your body with carbohydrates. For me that was pancakes and a cup of blueberries. I also had a few glasses of water and a water bottle of Vitargo.

Oh yeah before the race the guys from Chainline Cycle had a waffle stand. They called me skinny and said I needed to eat some waffles before the race. So of course I did.

But skinny? C’mon man! Since when does the 140 lbs guy that can’t press his bodyweight call the 185 lbs guy skinny?

Fluid Balance

In the section above I wrote about getting up at 6 am for a 9 am race. And you might have been thinking ‘that’s kind of early?’. Not really. And my thought process was that I wanted to be hydrated early enough that I would go to the bathroom before the race. It kind of sucks to not starting hydrating early enough before a race. And then once the race is going you feel the urge to pull over and fertilize some Okanagan orchard.

Hydration

During the race there were 3 aid stations set up at 8 Mile Ranch, at the Big White road turn off and again at Gem Lake. I should mention the volunteers here were awesome. It’s great to ride by and grab a bottle on the fly.

Rather than chug back this bottle of water I would pour this over my head, on my neck and down my back. Not only was the cold water incredibly refreshing I didn’t want to go to water. I won’t get into it here but when you are exercising intensely, especially in 32 C weather, for almost 3 hours, drinking water can further dehydrate you.

Instead of drinking the water at the aid stations I was sipping on a couple of Vitargo that I brought with me. I brought 2 bottles and drank a third before the race started. Combined with the pancakes and waffles I wasn’t lacking for fuel.

Elements

As I mentioned, Sunday was a hot day. I wonder if the race organizers would consider an earlier start for future years? Either way I remembered sun screen. For my face, neck and ears. Totally missed my arms and legs. So I’ve got a nice farmer’s tan going. Or as the hockey players call it a ‘golfer’s tan’.

The other thing about that day was the flies. From about the Big White turn off and up there were flies tracking us as we rode. If it wasn’t annoying enough to have them buzzing around you, every now and again one of them would take a little bite off your elbow or whatever stationary exposed flesh was available to them.

Efficiency

I’m a big fan of efficiency. I love finding ways to do the same task with either less effort or in less time. So on this ride I was trying to stay low as much as I could. Not just on the descents but the flats and sometimes on the hills. When I would feel a headwind in my face I would just remind myself how much harder it would be in a less efficient position.

And besides staying low or aerodynamic probably the easiest way to stay efficient would be draft off another rider. Somebody can probably correct me on this but I’ve heard drafting can help you save as much as 30% in a bike race. I thought I had a good group lined up to settle in behind and get pulled through the hills. Then at the Joe Rich fire hall I dropped my chain and lost enough time to this group that I ended up going it alone.

The other thing I noticed related to my efficiency was I could feel my right hip and trap/shoulder talking to me. No pain or anything like that. Instead I had pins and needles in my right hand and some minor tightness in my right hip. This might be something to address for the next race so I know I can stay in an efficient position for an extended period.

Next time

So what would I do differently? Well the first thing would be more training. And I would try and track my training with at minimum a heart rate monitor and possibly a power metre as well. I would also look to find a pack to ride with sooner and then see if we can work together to lessen the load. And with dropping the chain I’m sure this was more operator than equipment error. So more time in the saddle should help prevent future stops for this. Lastly, I want to shoot for an improvement on my time to a sub 2:30.

Chris

 

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