I dropped out of my first race today, it had to happen some time or later, and I'm glad it happened tonight.
The funny thing is, I was talking to a local ex-pro who was talking about the first time he dropped out of a race. He was leading a left turn only crit, lots of big names were in the race, including Steve Bauer (sp?). When he got caught by the group, he made a right turn and sat down and put his head between his legs and just thought about it. He was tired from living out of a van for 6 months and that was the only reason. He also told me that he quit the following 12 races after that.
The lesson of this story was to tell me that no matter what happens, you can't let racing get to your head. You have good days where you feel like a pro, and there are the rest of them (usually the day after) where you just want to quit everything and regain a normal life.
So yeah; I dropped out of my first race today, a training criterium. I pulled way too much and lost too much ground. The course got worse than ever today since one road is getting re-paved tomorrow, they lifted the transitions in the turns so each one had to be bunny-hopped.
I just wasn't feeling hot today, I trained like a beast yesterday, but today was Hell.
All in all, I think I've learned more today about the mental aspect of any and all racing than I have in my entire life of watching and racing motorsports and cycles.
I hope this helps someone else who is thinking of quitting, because after all I've sacrificed for this life, I can't quit now.
There's no feeling worse than when you're redlining, and the pack is still pulling away from you doing only 1 mph or so more than you, yet you can't catch back on. Two weeks ago I watched them pull slowly away from me for about 5 km, it was like slow some hideous slow motion torture scene.
I pulled to the side of the road and sat down, it was hideous.
However, it gave my mental strength a big boost, so when it happened again last week, I still watched them cycle away, but just kept slogging away passing other dropped riders to hold on for 28th of 100.
You learn something new every time you race, even on the bad days.
I knew I had raced way too hard, but mostly way too much last year when I started quitting races while sitting in the top ten, but knowing I couldn't win. I had never, ever quit like that before and then it started to become a regular thing. I just got tired of hurting, being on the bike stopped being fun and started being a chore. It was a great lesson about taking time off, for the brain as much a s the body.
Yes, you will seem puny on your return but this too shall pass. The result of chucking the bike in a corner for a month in the middle of the season (gasp!) was my best TT numbers ever on Sunday, and a string of podium finishes.
If you're quitting races, think long and hard about why, and take appropriate action.