Since I enjoy all those other first race reports, I thought I would share my story here as well...
Sugar Cycles and NW Cycling Club in Houston has a weekly Wednesday night crit series running May 2-30. It runs on a flat 0.8 mile loop. The 4/5, Juniors and Women all ride together, with the 4/5 group and women going 45 minutes and the juniors going 30 minutes. I literally just got a license last week and went to this crit with my 30-day "you can race" printout from USA Cycling.
I have put in about 2K miles thus far this year. Hard to do more with young kids and a demanding job...I figured I was in decent shape, and hoped I could hang with the pack. I consistently can average 21mph on solo 60 mile rides and had done the MS150 from Houston to Austin a few weeks ago averaging 22.5 mph over the 160 miles (granted, with a tailwind).
There were some hard lessons to be learned - more on this in a bit.
Get there early, sign in and throw down a gel about 20 minutes before the race. I head out to the loop and start doing some warm up. Legs feel ok (must have been the pre-race adrenaline). I had done a easy 10 mile ride when I woke up earlier in the day just to get the legs awake for the race. It looks like a little more than half the loop will be into a 15 or so mph headwind. I make a mental note to myself to stay attached to the group as best I can with this wind or I will be dead. I get in about 5 miles of warm-up, head to the line a bit late, and end up in the back. Bad sign.
Roll call....ready, set, go. I clip in and the group heads from 20 to 25 to 28-30 in a matter of what seems like seconds (though in reality was probably a bit longer). I figure no big deal, I can hang with this pace for a few laps. The pack looks pretty cohesive. One lap in and I'm more or less where I started...near the back. I'm really starting to feel the burn but hang on up until the 3rd lap. The pace is relentless. The peloton is completely strung out. We're still at the same pace. Headwinds make no difference. I want to puke. I start to find myself falling off the back with a few other riders (most of the women, and the weaker 4/5's (like me)). A few more laps in, most of the women fall off and I start finding myself struggling to hang onto the tail end of the 4/5's. I drop off the wheel of the guys I was with. Bad news. I look around and I am in no man's land all by myself. I struggle to recover and find a pace. It hurts like hell, but I keep going. I solo for about 3 laps and find myself bridging up to the weaker 4/5's and one woman. I finally catch them and get to rest and draft. After a couple more laps like this we lose a few more riders in our group. I hang with this group and we work together taking turns pulling on the front for a number of laps.
About 35 minutes in, the first rider laps us...he must have won by a sizable margin because it took another lap and a half (I think) for the rest of the fast riders to catch and lap us. I hang with the larger group for about a lap and then drop back in with the few, the proud, the weak. The lap counter ticks down. One lap to go and I am with 3 other riders who have been lapped and one other that has dropped off. I have no idea where the rest of the riders are who dropped off earlier. I'm on the front. It's a race not to finish DFL (of those who remain). One of the riders behind me goes. I hop onto his wheel. The third rider who was with us does not follow. I get my speed up to 32 and ride with the other rider across the line at least knowing I am not last.
I probably ended up somewhere either 3rd or 4th to last place out of 20? riders.
Here are the lessons I have learned...
1) I need to increase my ability to get to and stay at anaerobic levels for longer times.
2) I need to do a lot more interval training (see number 1) (truth be told, I just started intervals last week when I finally decided to race)
3) I need to start closer to the front of the pack
4) I need to hang onto the wheel(s) in front of me no matter how much it hurts
5) I need to work on right hand cornering. Much of my morning rides where I have started practicing fast corners are left hand corners...time to switch directions
6) I need to do more crits!
7) I need a time machine to go back about 15 years so I can start doing this when younger
Final stats (rounded since I do not have my computer in front of me, and includes recovery), I have no fancy powertap:
23 mph ave.
about 16 miles total...
Just dropped the bike off at the shop, and hit the computer to check:
More like 19.5 miles total
A humbling experience and I look forward to many more races. Thanks for reading.