Wow. Its been around 14 months since the big accident when my shoulder was broken, and I've been back on the bike for about 3 months. It feels so good to be racing again...
I rolled up this afternoon for race 3 of the HPRW Twilight Criterium series, held at Albert Bishop Park in Nundah. This has always been a favourite series of mine - there is something awesome about mid-week racing after work.
I was obviously very nervous about how I'd go. The main reason to race was as a bit of a benchmarking exercise - how was I going, and how much further do I have to go? Well, I have the answers to that now - I'm going well, but I still have a long way to go!!
I signed on at the registration desk at 4:30pm, and rolled around the track for 20-ish minutes doing an easy warm-up. I pulled off to the grassy verge for a while to watch some of my fellow racers - about 30 altogether in my grade (C Grade, of course!).
Race time came along very quickly, and I nervously gathered with the others for the start. This race was to be a points race - 2 points for the first rider across the line every lap, and then 5-4-3-2-1 points for the first 5 riders on the final lap. The commissaire told us it would be a roughly 25min race - and away we went!
The pace was on quickly - I was gasping for air after the first lap, desperately willing my legs and heart to find some sort of rhythm... A quick glance at my bike computer showed us flying along at 45km/h along the home straight!
Fortunately, I managed to settle myself down. I was working very hard, but not red-lining (yet!). I wondered briefly if I'd be able to keep it up for the whole race, or if I'd crack - but pushed the thoughts aside and focused on turning my legs over and finding a good position sheltered in the middle of the pack.
12min 30sec into the race, and I was still there. I had made it to halfway, so that was my first goal achieved!
At around the 18min mark, I had my one 'scare'. I didn't notice the front of the pack start to string out as they lifted the pace. Sudden;y, I realised I was being overtaken by lots of riders around me! I ried to loft the pace, but my legs suddenly felt sluggish... Glancing over my shoulder, I realised there was no-one behind me - I was coming last! I had to lift and hold that wheel in front of me.
I buried myself holding onto the back of the racing pack. I kept telling myself that the leaders would ease up soon, and I'd get a chance to recover... Fortunately, after half-a-lap, they did just that. I rolled further up the pack, breathing heavily, and feeling great that I had managed to hold on.
My legs got a bit crampy at around 22min. I felt some twinges, and wondered if this was my sign that they were about to blow... Again, timing was on my side. The pace eased slightly, giving me a chance to get a slight recovery.
Soon, I was starting to pray for the 'final lap bell' to be rung. We raced past the start/finish line at 25:30 - and the bell still wasn't rung! "Come on!" I thought - I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up...!!
To my relief, the bell went on the next lap. I was ecstatic - I had made it. I pushed hard to make sure I didn't lapse right at the end, and crossed the finish in the middle of the pack. I gave a little fist-pump as I finished - mission accomplished!!
Final stats for the race were 29min 30sec duration, with an average speed of 39.4km/h. Pretty pacy for my first race back!
I am totally stoked with the result. Even though I was at my limit a few times, I managed to finish the race with the pack and not get dropped. Its given me a massive confidence boost, and I'm looking forward to laying down some good mileage over the next month and tackling the next Twilight Criterium in mid-January 2012. Although I might squeeze in one more race for 2011 before then.....