So - not technically my first race, but my first one back sine I stopped racing 25 years ago!
Started too fast, got dropped on the first hill, had a nice (mostly) solo training ride after that.
Got to the park plenty early so I would have a chance to warm up well, since a) it was frikkin' cold, and b) I'd been told the 5s would go out pretty fast from the start. Found the registration table, picked up my number, and decided I would wear my wind vest so I pinned the number on it. Went out to the road to do a warmup, felt pretty good (although it was frikkin' cold!) Partway through my warmup lap I discovered that the zipper on my wind vest was jammed. There are stretches of the course where there's a bit of wind, and I think about getting my sunglasses out of the car but it's still pretty dark, and I don't have clear lenses so they're going to have to go into my jersey pocket until the sun comes up, but I have my wind vest on so it's going to be hard to get them out mid-race, especially with gloves and numb fingers, so I decide not to get them.
I finish my warmup just in time to go to the line. Standing on the line (getting colder and colder as the P123, 3/4, and Masters' fields go off before us) I start fiddling with the zipper, trying to unjam it. As the field two before us goes off, the whole zipper comes apart in my (freezing cold) hands - now I'm on the line with my wind vest flapping around open, number pinned to it. I manage to get the number unpinned and off the vest, and ask the guy next to me to help me pin it on - no way I am taking off my jersey to do it (did I mention it's frikkin' cold?) He's having trouble since he has heavy gloves on, but eventually one of the race volunteers comes over and gets it pinned for me.
So now we're about to start, I'm standing on the line feeling kind of rattled, and my nice warmup is a distant memory. I can't feel my thumbs. I try to get myself calmed down and remember my plan - sit in the pack nice and easy, remember what it's like to be in a bike race, no heroics, just sit in. The whistle goes, we roll out, and the two guys next to me take off like it's a town-line sprint. So naturally I follow them, thinking that the rest of the pack is lining up behind and we'll get some sort of pace-line going pretty quick. I glance back and we have a 10 or 15 second gap. We start scorching up the hill, and I can feel things happening to my legs and lungs that just aren't good - I look down at my HRM and I'm way way over my threshold - this is less than 30 seconds into the race from a cold start. Predictably, most of the rest of the pack passes me by the top of the hill, and I am so blown that I can't even muster up a jump to get on the tail. A few other guys are getting shelled off the back, and I keep hoping that a few of us can get together and form a little grupetto and at least avoid getting lapped or something. Eventually I hook up with a couple of other guys and try to form some semblance of a group, but we can't seem to get any cooperation going - one guy is just too strong on the flats and keeps powering away, while I'm just trying to keep from seeing dark spots. He doesn't seem to get that if we work together we can go faster - and the truth is, he seems to be able to go faster than I can except for going up the hill. We ride together (as in, the same general stretch of road) for a couple of laps, but eventually on the back stretch with the headwind, I just can't stay on his wheel any longer, and he and another guy who has been riding with us roll off into the distance.
I think about bailing, but dammit this is my first race, I'm at least gonna finish! So I put my head down and grind out a few more laps totally solo. Just as I'm finishing my 5th lap, the leaders of the 5s field come blazing up from behind for the finishing sprint, I hear the unmistakeable sound of contact and watch a nice crash develop about 20 yards in front of me. Amazing, I'm not even in the pack and I manage to get caught behind a crash! Luckily for me the pile-up stays small, and I am able to slow a little and get around it to the outside (I didn't see the aftermath, it looked to me like two or three guys went down but I don't think anyone was seriously hurt - I asked around afterward but nobody seemed to think it was a big deal.) I haul my aching legs (which oddly seem to have gained about 10 lbs. each since the start) up the hill and around the course one more time, and manage to finish just as another field, maybe the 3/4s, goes flying by on the line. I was on the outside, so I figure there's a good chance the judges didn't even record my number. I think about finding one of them just to make sure, then I figure, what's the point? I didn't place, I know I finished, I know I need to work on my sustained power - what more do I care about? So I put on some warmer clothes, waited around to watch an old friend finish in the middle of the P123 field, and then went home.
Thanks, that is all.