Specificity - when I made my goals list I didn't know what I could or couldn't do, I just knew that on group rides I was okay hanging on when the Cat 2 would put the hurt down. Since he was a perpetual state RR favorite I figured I could be like that.
I'm okay making relatively large efforts followed by a recovery. It works great on crit courses with a short steep hill. I can go really hard on the hill, recover on the easier sections, repeat. This is why I do well at Bethel - I coast or soft pedal about 30 seconds a lap, zero watts. If I'm fit I can do 80+ efforts (80+ laps - enough to finish both the 3-4 and P123 races and I've even placed in the money in the P123 race). If I'm not I've gotten shelled in 2-3 laps. More fitness = quicker recovery. At that point you can try racing using that knowledge - surge, recover, surge, recover. If it's a flat crit you may be able to make only one effort every two corners or something, maybe one every lap. This means you need to figure out a tactic so that you aren't going into effort deficit. At Bethel the hill is about 20 seconds effort, about a 120 second lap (so about 100 seconds of less work). If I can recover in 95 seconds then I'm golden - I'm sort of recovered when I hit the hill again. If it takes me 105 seconds to recover I'm going into an effort deficit every lap and I'll get shelled. If I recover in 30 seconds then I'm super fresh for the hill next lap - that's ideal, to be way ahead of the curve.
Bikes - any "race" bike will do well in virtually any race. Depending on size you should aim for a 73 deg HT angle, 43mm rake. This gives you an agile bike that's stable enough to 55+ mph but will still dive into turns. Shorter stays will make the bike more responsive - 40.5 cm is about right for most sizes. I spec'ed out a 39 cm chainstay and it's much more responsive - my bike feels like it has a 95 cm wheelbase when in fact it's closer to 102 cm.
Powermeters - I'd stay away from unproven or new PMs. I have two wired SRMs - they take some maintenance, I need to replace the wiring harness every year, but they're pretty solid otherwise. If you get one with interchangeable crank arms (I know the Cannondale SI is one, I know the "SRM" SRM is another, not sure of others) you can get extra crankarms and try different lengths. The SI is BB30 only (and arms are a bit pricey), the SRM one is usually Campy taper or Shimano Octalink (and arms are under $200 full retail).
The thing about my goals is that at the end of the day, at least for now is that I finish the race with the main bunch. I can't really start thinking about attacking or making any moves to win a race before I can even make it there. There is one race which I did decent in last year. My first race, so I was in good shape from my winter months. And the first 12km lap I felt like I was on a Sunday ride in the pack, it was incredibly easy, then someone put the hammer down after a corner just starting the second lap, I was at the back of the pack and could not get on a good wheel and after about 3-5 min of dangling on the back I was gone. I rode with another elite rider for the next 2 laps before I flatted on a gravel section and had to abandon. With the more knowledge I have now, I feel that I would be able to do well (for me) at that race. The only problem is that it is in March. Peaking for that race means lots of indoor training and a whole year of worse form.
As for the timing my efforts/recovery, I've thought about it before, but when I'm in a race, it seems that even during the flatter, easier sections that I still lack recovery because it seems that I'm working hard all the time just to stay with the pack. Hence why I get dropped in 20min, that's the longest I can keep up the constant hard effort. It's hard to judge really where I need improvement because racing in Canada here for Juniors in age based not ability. So I'm basically a cat 5 racing in a P123 race. That's why I get mad when people say you need more experience racing so just go race more, well I'm not actually racing when I get spit out the back all the time.
Thanks or the bike info too, I'm not very good at all the technical/mechanical stuff. I'm tying to learn it all though. It helps know what you're saying here, I can now actually know what difference a 1cm shorter chain stay, of 1 degree angle HT does. I'm going to look at this bikes and PM's more in detail and see what my dad wants to do, after all, he has the last say in what I buy! :)
Dude, forget about turning Pro. First, as you point out, you're putting too much pressure on yourself. Just race, have fun, learn.
Second, in all candor, there's virtually no chance you'll ever race as a pro. The vast majority of racers never will. And the people that do have a legitimate chance of being sucessful pro's identify themselves very early by showing an ability to ride away from other lower category amateurs. If after a season of hard training, and half a season of racing you are consistently getting dropped, even by first time racers, the odds are extremely high that riding as a pro is an unrealistic expectation.
It's possible I'm wrong, and you'll be a late bloomer. If you start getting results, and moving up, you can worry about that then. For now, forget about turning pro, focus on doing the best you can now, and have fun.
^ you don't even have to give it up. Just stop focusing on it. Set more immediate, reachable goals, and the rest will take care of itself.
The fact that you haven't gotten off to as fast a start as you'd hoped doesn't mean you can't be successful as a bike racer, and have fun at it. Where you end up will be determined down the road.
Enjoy the here and now.
I think a lot of it has to do with my dad as well though. I was just gaining a bit of confidence this past week but then when my dad talks to me about the race he just talks about everything that makes me nervous and tells me things like "you have to keep up this race". Then all of the bad thoughts come rushing back to me. I'm not the sort of person that likes to talk about a race at all before the whistle even blows. The less I think about it, the more confidence I can gain but that never works my way. Couple that with getting dropped all the time, it's just so hard to go into a race positively. I'm just going to work like hell next year, plan everything out, hopefully have a better bike, maybe a PM, nutrition plan and just do things right! I've never had to work to be good at sports in my life, but that's all catching up to me now. I'll never know for sure what went wrong this year but I can hopefully change next year.
It's not like the racing season is over. There's three months of cyclocross coming up; sometimes guys who aren't quite as good at road excel at 'cross. Besides, racing 'cross will help improve your fitness for road next year.
Ya I'm probably better at other parts of cycling. Cross looks like a ton of fun, and I like the no dropping thing they have, it just gets spread out so quickly it's like everyone's racing their own race. I might try track as well, went on it for the first time last year and it was really fun.