The story of this year's Santiago race isn't much of a story. I was never in the hunt for a podium spot, and only ever slid backward in the pack. About two minutes in, I realized I had no idea whether I was in last place or not, and decided just to ride my own race. And that's what I did for the next couple of hours. (Official finish time: 1:40:50.1.)
Just looking at the race itself, I did not have a good day. But comparing against where I was a year ago, I had a great day.
Evidence of Progress
Over the last year, I went from going to my local bike shop for nearly everything, to replacing bearings in my rear hub, replacing my entire drive train, and mounting tubeless tires. (It's a little thing, but still takes a little skill to get done without wasting a half-dozen CO2 cannisters).
Two days after the hardest ride I've done this year, I feel fine. No lingering soreness, no "Dear God what have I done?" fatigue or anything like that. Feels like just another ride. I warmed up relatively well (15 min. of easy pedaling on Great Egret trail with a couple of jumps), and immediately after the race I spun for another 15 min. or so, then walked a little, then ate a banana, a PRO bar, and finished a liter of coconut water. Once I got home, I drank several liters of liquids of various types, following my old rule: Keep drinking until you pee twice.
This is the big one. Saturday's course included a stretch that until about four months ago, I was afraid to ride. I worked up to it, and now love that little stair-step section at the top of Chutes.
That's a huge step forward for me.
So you put all that together, and Saturday's race demonstrated pretty significant growth as a rider.
Lessons from the Race
As always, I'm trying to learn what I can from every race. Here's what I'm taking away from this one.
The Start is Critical
I arrived on the start line at the last minute, and decided to be polite. I lined up at the back of my category. I got stuck behind traffic heading into the first bit of singletrack, and ended up at the back of the pack, riding through a dust storm (total white-out at one point) up Willow/Egret.
And there was no reason for any of that. The race data shows I could have matched the leaders' pace from the start to the dam. I would have avoided a lot of wasted energy braking and accellerating on the singletrack, and sucking down dust on the fire road.
I'm starting to get my head around the fact that even if my goals are modest, a solid start is key to having a good day.
I'm Too Fat
Browsing through the race day photos, there's a clear difference between me and the mid-pack Sport riders. They are noticeably leaner than I am. Normally, I wouldn't care. But that's reinforced by the race data.
I can only imagine what I'd be able to do if I were riding more consistently, and not carrying around a gallon of ice cream and two batches of cookies everywhere I go.
It's time to face the fact that the single best thing I can do for my cycling (and probably my health in general) is to drop 10-15 lbs.
The Race Cannot Be Your Hardest Ride
The biggest problem with my race was simply that I wasn't in shape for it. It was by far the toughest ride I've done in the last 6 months or so.
Never again will I go into a race this short (15 miles, 2500 ft. of climbing) without having done similar rides many times in training.