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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Completed my first race last weekend. To say I did poorly would be an understatment. A little background first. The race was a 44 mile Cat 5 race in HIllsboro, Illinois. It is by all accounts a very difficult and particularly hilly race. It was 41 degrees and the winds were 17-19 mph. I am 55 years old and have been riding seriously for about 5 years. Over the last few months I have solicited advice from this board on a few occasions about what to expect and some specific advice. I can say that everything was very helpfull, but it didn't help me much. When I saw the majority of other races were 20 years younger than me I chose to start at the back. I was concerned about a 90 degree turn about 100 yards into the race and didn't want to go down or cause anyone else to go down. I had no idea (even though I was warned on this board) how fast the group would start. It took a great deal of energy to catch the group after this start and just when I did, about 2 miles in, we hit a long, long reasonably steep hill. I never caught them again. I was able to hang on with a few others who got dropped and one other guy and I worked together to get through it, but I had no idea how exhausting it would be. I actually came away very frustrated and not sure it I wanted to try it again. But now after a few days I realize I learned a great deal about the process and that I have a lot of work to do. I am going to try it again, but I think my next race will be in mid summer when I am more in bike condition and on a flatter course. Thanks for all your advice over the past few months. Now I just need to learn how to use it. Mick
 

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megmarc said:
Completed my first race last weekend. To say I did poorly would be an understatment. A little background first. The race was a 44 mile Cat 5 race in HIllsboro, Illinois. It is by all accounts a very difficult and particularly hilly race. It was 41 degrees and the winds were 17-19 mph.
Mick -- I was at that race, too, and yes it is a difficult course - especially this year with the cold and wind. You may be interested to know that the 1st edition of this race (2002) was also my 1st ever bicycle race.

megmarc said:
When I saw the majority of other races were 20 years younger than me I chose to start at the back.
Bingo, there's your mistake! Always try to start as near the front as possible. If you can't - get up there as soon as possible. Obviously you saw what can (and usually does) happen when you start at the back. Even the strongest riders will have difficulty repeatedly bridging across gaps. A tough course like Hillsboro makes this even more important, and a tough course with wind like Hillsboro this year makes it imperative! In any race, mission one for me is getting into one of the top 10 slots - assuming you've got the fitness it's relatively easy to stay there (easier than bridging gaps and yo-yo's off the back, at least) and is the only place from which any further strategy can be implemented.

What's next for you - Apple Pie RR?

p.s. - you're not that much older than me! :D
 

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Congrats! Taking the plunge is not easy.

If you are going to get up towards Chicagoland, PM me and we can get together at one of the ABR races. Racing 50-59 is a whole lot better than racing those testosterone-crazed youngsters - not a lot slower, but much more civil. Groups of 10 - 40 with riders that know they don't bounce well any more.

http://www.ambikerace.com/2006/calendar_06.htm

TF
 

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Hey Turbo - I love those ABR races! My first experience was the ABR Masters Championships last August (TT on Saturday and RR on Sunday) - well run, good fields, great time. I'll be there again this year in the 40+, but next year I'll move to 50+

Regarding the OP, I would add that Master's racing is not at all slower, certainly compared to Cat5 racing. I'd place it at, just above, or considerably above Cat4 - depending on the venue.
 

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megmarc, it sounds like you picked a pretty tough race for your first. My first race was a completely flat circuit race, barely 25 miles worth of laps, and it was tough enough for me to hang with the crowd. I'm half your age. Don't be discouraged.
 

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megmarc said:
I actually came away very frustrated and not sure it I wanted to try it again. But now after a few days I realize I learned a great deal about the process and that I have a lot of work to do. I am going to try it again, but I think my next race will be in mid summer when I am more in bike condition and on a flatter course.
Are you doing group rides in the meantime? There's a learning curve to road racing... when I first started I would think I was just killing everyone, and then in the last couple of miles I'd be dropped (too much time in the wind for me whilst everyone else was conserving energy). Getting fit is part of the equation, no doubt, but the strategery of road racing is another component, and it takes time to train too. Be sure to do some fast group rides where you'll get some "race simulation" experience. There's a reason that even seasoned racers do group rides when they can't race... tactics develop on the fly, and it takes lots of practice to stay sharp...

Oh and good on ya for getting out there. Just remember that most guys your age wouldn't go close to suffering that much for that long. Just being there is a victory (though being "in the race" is a lot more fun!).
 

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BugMan said:
Hey Turbo - I love those ABR races! My first experience was the ABR Masters Championships last August (TT on Saturday and RR on Sunday) - well run, good fields, great time. I'll be there again this year in the 40+, but next year I'll move to 50+

Regarding the OP, I would add that Master's racing is not at all slower, certainly compared to Cat5 racing. I'd place it at, just above, or considerably above Cat4 - depending on the venue.
"...but next year I'll move to 50+" Be gentle :) TF
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Appreciate the encouragement

Bugman- yes I think I will do the Apple Pie race in Marine. It sounds like it is a bit flatter and is listed as a bit shorter, so it will probably be a good 2nd test. I may end up with the same result, but at least this time I feel more prepared. In spite of getting my butt kicked last weekend I feel like I learned a lot just being there.

Turbo T-thanks for the invite. From what I have read, and others have said, the Masters groups are pretty intense themselves, but I would judge they are probably a little less likely to crash and burn. Hopefully I can join your group some time soon. I thank you again for the invitation Happened to check your profile. You are 3 DAYS older than me. I love your quote. That's how I felt on Saturday.

Ben- I was discouraged, but I think it was because I thought I was better than that. I realize now I have a lot of work to do, including better condition and better racing skills. Some can come from training, but mostly I think I just need to keep trying. Thanks for the encouragment.

Shawn- yes I have done group rides but not a lot of them. I remember that in my previous requests for info on what to expect everyone suggested group rides. At the time I did not understand the importance. I can tell you I sure do now. It is clear that I had no idea of what to really expect and I have learned that best way is to try another race and participate in group rides. The Mack team has a group that rides in my area twice a week. So far I have not participated with them for scheduling reasons, but I can see now that if I want to get better I better change my schedule. And yes when it was all said and done I did feel I accomlished something by just being there. My guess is 90% of those there were from one team or another. I felt a bit intimidated at first, but I asked a few questions and EVERYONE as very helpfull, so I felt much better at the start. Then they went out and kicked my butt.

thanks again to all.
 

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megmarc said:
Turbo T-thanks for the invite. From what I have read, and others have said, the Masters groups are pretty intense themselves, but I would judge they are probably a little less likely to crash and burn. Hopefully I can join your group some time soon. I thank you again for the invitation Happened to check your profile. You are 3 DAYS older than me. I love your quote. That's how I felt on Saturday.
That quote is from a race in your back yard - either Loami or Athens. Went down to Springfield for both one weekend a couple of years ago. - TF
 

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I second the "don't be discouraged"

I'm nearing your age too. I was a Cat 2 20 years ago and then I got a real job, married, kid ..... Anyway, started racing again after 15 years away. I was in decent shape when I started again but, even with my experience, I got dropped frequently in hard 35 plus races. I've gradually worked my way back to my old level. The key for me was that I knew that I was decent rider years ago and I had confidence that I'd be back to that level if I kept at it. I've improved maybe 5% each year during my now 5th year of the comeback. It might make sense to find a weekly training race on an easy, flat circuit wherein you can work on your pack riding skills and just have the satisfaction of finishing. Don't be a hero at first - just practice drafting smoothly and not letting gaps open. Good luck. PS - get upgraded out of Cat 5 asap so that you can ride masters races. I think you'll find that many regional reps will let you do it, especially if you state your case that you just want to race masters races. You might also seek out time trial events to work on your steady power.
 

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25% of riders who get crushed in their first race, just cry and go home, never to be seen again. Don't be one of those little people. Try to get into the best shape that you can, while trying to learn from your race mistakes.
 

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megmarc: Let me add to the "don't be discouraged comment." I was in the same race in Hillsboro, along with two friends who were both first timers. I last raced over 25 years ago, and I wasn't any good then, but even that old experience helped some. I was surprised at the fast start-I don't recall road races starting so fast. This was more like a crit start. Because it was so cold I stayed in the car until a few minutes before the start and also started in the back row. I realized by the first corner that that was a mistake; however, I was at least not freezing. My 2 friends never caught the lead group, but both finished and enjoyed the experience. I killed myself over about 4 or 5 miles, and was able to get back to the front group and stay with them to the end. I personnally liked the course, as I am accustomed to rolling hills and rough roads. My issue is what Category to race. I am a few years older than you [you must have been one of those young guys!], but there are very few over 60 classes. I don't think I can ride with the Masters, many of whom are 2's and 3's, so I decided to try the Cat 5. Don't know your location, but there are road races coming up in Iowa City [4-29], Burlington, Iowa [May 26], and Peoria [July 1]. Keep trying, and enjoy each event.
 

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Welcome to racing! I sometimes read and hear about people who are in their thirty's asking if its too late to start. I am glad you took the plunge. Its tough at the beginning, and like others said dont be discouraged. Why wait till mid summer? Try it again and again. You will be rewarded. People have a lot of good opinions and tips about everything, but you have to figure out what works for you. I still have no clue about things even after 3 seasons of racing.
 

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the cold temps..

megmarc said:
Completed my first race last weekend. To say I did poorly would be an understatment. A little background first. The race was a 44 mile Cat 5 race in HIllsboro, Illinois. It is by all accounts a very difficult and particularly hilly race. It was 41 degrees and the winds were 17-19 mph. I am 55 years old and have been riding seriously for about 5 years. Over the last few months I have solicited advice from this board on a few occasions about what to expect and some specific advice. I can say that everything was very helpfull, but it didn't help me much. When I saw the majority of other races were 20 years younger than me I chose to start at the back. I was concerned about a 90 degree turn about 100 yards into the race and didn't want to go down or cause anyone else to go down. I had no idea (even though I was warned on this board) how fast the group would start. It took a great deal of energy to catch the group after this start and just when I did, about 2 miles in, we hit a long, long reasonably steep hill. I never caught them again. I was able to hang on with a few others who got dropped and one other guy and I worked together to get through it, but I had no idea how exhausting it would be. I actually came away very frustrated and not sure it I wanted to try it again. But now after a few days I realize I learned a great deal about the process and that I have a lot of work to do. I am going to try it again, but I think my next race will be in mid summer when I am more in bike condition and on a flatter course. Thanks for all your advice over the past few months. Now I just need to learn how to use it. Mick

didn't help at all, I can tell from a few thousand miles away. you can stay with a peloton at the back, but if it accelerates quickly and you're not watching you'll just get popped off the back, lose the draft, and you're instantly on a training ride. keep riding, the temps will get warmer and will be easier to keep positioned with a little more fitness. make sure your weekly rides though are strenuous, not coasters. push yourself even when you're alone. my first race a few years back was 22 miles...so you might have chose a long race inadvertently. I think my 3rd was 44mi. and the group was hitting speeds upwards of 40mph on the flats. if you're in the group, that's not a problem in the draft if you're on it in a big gear, but you have to constantly be adjusting speed, position, comfort level. you don't even have to pedal 1/4 of the time on flats. If I guess right, your stomach or lungs gave out first? the stomach is a hard thing to control..you've got nerve, digestion, hydration all coming into play. lungs just take work to improve.
dont' get discouraged, but find races/distances that suit you at first...you'll find more success until its comfortable. TT's are good...no stress with other riders and you still get a good sense for pursuit or chase...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
thanks again to all

Thanks again to all for the encouragement. I do plan to continue and have already identified a couple of races in the area in the near future. It's encouraging to hear that others have struggled in the beginning as well. I really overestimated by ability. I thought I would eventually get dropped but not in the first three miles. After reading a number of posts it's clear that I need to improve my conditioning a bit. I've started by increasing the lengths of my rides. I'm used to doing about 20 miles a night but increased that to 25 and then on weekends picking that up at least one day. Thanks again to all

Ridewt- the Masters idea sounded good to me also. However in this race it was 66 miles which given the conditions I dont think I could have completed. I have also heard that most of the masters in our area are actually faster that the Cat 5 groups. There is a race in our area in early May where I think it is 30 miles for the Masters. I think I could handle that, but not the 66.

Mr. G- I dont plan on going home. I will be back. I failed to mention that even though I did lousy, it was fun and I did learn.

Overhill- I probably rode with your two friends at one point or another. There were about 5 of us at one time or another that got dropped. I worked off an on with all of them, but in the end I think I was one of the last to finish. I am glad to hear you thought it started fast as well. I had no idea it would be that FAST. I was shocked and then just never caught up. My fault for not being prepared and for not being in the shape to catch them.

MD 80- thanks. Looks like I will be doing a race in early May, with another in mid June and at least one more in July.

Bahueh-yes it was the lungs. By the time I caught the group we hit a big hill and I was done. My legs and stomach were ok the entire time. My wind just disappeared on me. Looking back 44 miles was too long for me given the condtions. We have a race coming up with is on much more flat ground and is 25 or 30 miles. Much better suited for me. I have ridden enough in groups to feel comfortable at speed, but 30 mph is more what I have seen. Not sure I can ride at 40 at the flat even in a group. There is a TT coming up in July in the St Louis area. Race information is not out yet, but that does sound interesting.

Thanks again to all
 

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megmarc said:
Ridewt- the Masters idea sounded good to me also. However in this race it was 66 miles which given the conditions I dont think I could have completed. I have also heard that most of the masters in our area are actually faster that the Cat 5 groups. There is a race in our area in early May where I think it is 30 miles for the Masters. I think I could handle that, but not the 66.
Megmarc, take my word for it - Masters would not be a good idea for the Apple Pie race! Believe me, I know a lot of the Masters around here, and they are fast! Many of them can turn in a sub-hour 40-k time trial, rivaling even the strongest Cat4s around here. Masters racing in St. Louis is at least as fast as Cat4, often faster, because there is a narrower spread of ability level. Apple Pie is offering a separate Cat 5 race that is only 25 miles - right at your longest rides right now - instead of the 38 miles that the Cat4s and the two Masters categories (40+ and 50+) are doing. Don't let the shorter distance fool you, even tho it is flatter it is usually very windy - guys will get spit out left and right in those crosswinds!

More and more races around here seem to be offering Cat5 races, where before they were often combined with the Cat4. I think separating the Cat5 provides a great opportunity for guys like you to get into racing and learn what you need to do to improve. When I first started I did pretty well in the Cat5 races but got shelled in the Cat4/5. When I stopped getting shelled in Cat4 I would still get shelled in the Masters. I can handle them now, but I can't imagine trying to race with these guys w/ only one road race under my belt. Masters races may be different in other parts of the country, I don't know. The other nice thing now about the separate Cat5 races is the newly implemented 50 rider limit, which keeps things from getting too crazy. All my first-year races had field sizes around 100!

You also mentioned the TT in July - that would be either the IL State TT in Marine on 7/15 or the MO State TT the following weekend in Jefferson City. Both are classic 40-k in length, with the MO course being a flat out-and-back and the IL course being a loop over rolling terrain. Even for people who don't consider themselves TT specialists, I think it's a great thing to do, if for no other reason, to get a benchmark for yourself so you can track your annual progress. Being a strong time trialist doesn't doesn't always translate to being a good racer, but usually it does. It certainly can't hurt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
thanks bugman

Thanks for the info. I've pretty much made up my mind that I need to be in Cat 5. I know of few of the Masters in the Central Illinois area and they are "machines" that I know I could not hang with in a race. I think I just need to stick with Cat 5, take my lumps, and improve from race to race. I was referring to the Marine TT. I emailed the organizer and he thought he would have race info up very shortly. I like the idea as it will still provide me with a major test against better riders, but will also give me the opportunity to not worry too much about taking down another racer.
 

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Heh, good to know I wasn't the only one that got killed in their first race. I have a collegiate race in Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend. I'm gonna go down and try to hold on in that one. I didn't finish the last race because of cold and bad leg cramps, but I'm finishing this one, even if I'm in last place.
 
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