Sunday I raced in the Berkeley Hills Road Race, my first cycling road race. The crits I did in January were fantastic and alot of fun but I'm not the most graceful individual so 4 tight turns on a course with 50 other riders isn't the most comfortable position for me to be in. I was really excited to test my legs in a road race and was enthusiastic about it all week. The big difference between the road race and my tri two weekends ago, I wasn't nervous, I wasn't anxious; I was just psyched to have the opportunity to have some fun.
The contrast could not have been more apparent between the two events than in their respective days before. For the Half Iron I made sure to have pancakes by 10am, and dinner by 6:30 pm. Dinner was quinoa and buffalo for the half iron; for the road race; a big a** Taqueria Cancun Burrito. Yes that had my blood sugars sky rocket to 345 the night before the race (never said it was a smart decision) but it showed that I knew life didn't have to be "perfect," to have fun in a cycling race. I left Katie and her visiting friends around 9:45 pm after our huge burritos and a day of drinking some wine (yes I also had some wine the day before a race!) to get into bed for my 6am wake up.
Unlike a triathlon I didn't have to pack for 3 sports; fill up 100 water bottles with my nutrition or get to the transition area at the crack of dawn to have time to prepare. I simply got to the race site about 20 minutes before the Cat 5s were to start, signed in and hung out - pretty sweet!
Cycling feels like a huge grass roots movement; there wasn't a huge speaker blasting music, race numbers are pinned on with safety pins and while everyone has a sweet bike they aren't displayed as art pieces they are a piece of athletic equipment. Although unlike triathlon where I'm pretty close to the same height as most of the athletes I was a midget once again compared to the other cyclists - these dudes are tall! After taking 10 minutes to figure out which way my race # was supposed to be pinned on I was off to find a bathroom and get to the race start.
Race instructions were given, then the race started; just like that. No diving into frigid water, no getting punched in the face, just a clip and a pedal. I was a bit nervous right at the start and it took me a bit longer to clip in, I"m pretty sure it looked like this was the first time I had ever been on a bike.
The start of the race was pretty cool we followed a car out of the state park so I felt very much like a legit cyclist. Once we made it to the main road the car turned left, we turned right and were off!
For the first 5 miles or so I hopped to the front and tried to push the pace. I'm not yet well versed in the strategy of road cycling and some people had given me advice to just jump to the front and see what happened. I figured I could find another rider willing to push the pace with me and thin out the herd. In all about 50 riders started as Cat 5s, I think we had that down to about 30 riders by the time the "real" race started.
After the first fast 5 miles we were into Berkeley's 3 bears, bringing back memories from Lake Placid. I didn't really know the course so got caught totally out of position heading up the first Bear. As people were shifting into easier gears I had a water bottle in my mouth and was taking a breather. Within the first few hundred feet of the climb I had been gaped by the lead group; any chance for a top 3 finish was out the window.
Never one to give up I punched it trying to catch as many riders as I could. This course, NOT EASY! I think there was something like 1700 feet of climbing, most of it bunched together. After 1/2 of a lap where I pretty much rode solo to catch other riders I finally caught a few guys cranking away. This is where I learned the true beauty of cycling.
As I passed this group of riders, one of them hopped on my wheel. The idea in cycling is to do as little work as possible while still going fast. Drafting requires 1/3 the effort of actually riding as the rider in front cuts the air for you. The rider from Team Moustache and I took turns pulling for 30 seconds each, we were quickly catching other riders and having a blast doing it. Awesome learning experience and one that will have me much better poised for my next race.
In all I didn't finish first and I didn't finish last; I finished my first road race and couldn't be happier. Was an incredibly fun experience; can't wait to test my legs again on June 18th down in Santa Cruz.