Motivation after abandoning mid-race

cojones Posts: 131
edited June 2013 in Amateur race

I'm in my first year of Paracycling competition. I've done a couple of 4th Cats to get experience, where I was the only para rider and got lapped, rode on my own, but still got a feel for it.

I have done two races where para riders and able bodied rode together. Managed to cling on to the bunch for longer, but ultimately got dropped and rode either on my own or with other para riders.

Given the weather, all races have involved a tough headwind at some point round the circuit, which I would have been shielded from to an extent had I been able to maintain contact with the bunch.

In the last race on Sunday, after three laps of really fighting, I was dropped again and as soon as I hit the 15-30 mph headwind it was too much and I caved mentally, coasting round to the finish and abandoning.

I'm aware that I need a lot more experience to stay with the bunch and to get up to the front to stay there and I'm aware that it probably won't happen this year.

Anticipating those that will reply saying, 'you're not good enough, give up' or similar (and ignoring their less than helpful replies), I'm wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences and what they did to keep the motivation and desire to continue. Any advice or guidance is very much appreciated.




  • saprkzz
    saprkzz Posts: 592
    Hi Matt,

    How do you approach the race, do you sit in the main bunch or do you try and get to the front. Is it just the pace that you cant keep up with and you just blow?

    I found the 4th Cats fast, but was manageable to keep with the bunch but nearly ruined it on lap 3 by "having a go" and I was shelled out the back in a matter of seconds, it took me 3 laps to get back on and a further 5 laps to recover.. I will never do that again!

    There is so many factors why you may be finding it hard, as we don't know what training you do or type of riding etc...
    Even to be a 4th cat I found you needed a certain level of fitness.
  • Omar Little
    Omar Little Posts: 2,010
    It is hard to give advice without knowing how much training you've done. At the most basic level are you a member of a club and do you go out on a chaingang / paceline with other riders who race?
  • maryka
    maryka Posts: 748
    Which part catches you out? The overall speed or the surges?

    If the latter, I wonder if you could request "dispensation" to race with women, with the understanding that you're there to gain experience riding in the bunch, not to try and win it. The surges in women's racing at the 2/3/4th cat level are much less pronounced, the overall speeds are a bit slower too of course but not drastically so in an all-cats women's race.

    I wouldn't advocate continuing to race and get dropped over and over, if bunch riding/surges is your weakness then you're hardly going to improve on that riding around solo once you're dropped. Better off finding a training group at your level that can be a bit more forgiving if you get gapped (so you can get back on again) and save your race entry fee for a few months down the road when you've improved.
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131

    Thanks for the responses.

    I try to get in the main part of the bunch at the start. I am conscious of the old adage ' if you are not moving up you are going backwards' so try to move up but then find that I'm not confident getting onto someone's wheel by nipping in front of someone else (something I hope experience will bring). In one race I managed to stay in the middle of the bunch and it was easy just rolling round with them, then all of a sudden 4-5 moved up past me and I was at the back.

    The general speed is fine. It is the surges that are difficult, especially as I'm not moving up as much as those behind me so I find myself at the back, where the concertina effect after each bend is the killer.

    I'm in the greatest shape of my 3 year cycling life, trim and strong due to 3 spinning classes and gym work over the winter, long weekly rides and turbo sessions. I am a member of a social riding club not a 'proper' club. I have thought that I will have to join a proper club to get chaingang experience if I want to compete next year, and was viewing this year as a taster. I'd just like to complete the next 3 races of this year's series and not give up!
  • TakeTurns
    TakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    I'd say get more race specific training into your regime. You need to train as though you're racing. Replicate the things which happen in the races. Things such as; short intervals at high intensity with low recovery time, also incorporating several hard efforts into your long distance rides.

    I wouldn't necessarily say that losing a couple places on a corner should make you feel as though you're slipping away from the race. You need to work on your technique around the corners so that you aren't wasting energy. Brake as little as possible. My technique is to not brake at all, freewheel slightly before the corner till there's a slight gap with the person in front, stay confident as the bunch slows and you get really close to the wheel and then carry that momentum through as they start to accelerate.

    I'd forget the "if you are not moving up you are going backwards". Usually in race, people are far too excited in the first half and will usually burn themselves trying to hold position or move up (in the lower cats IME). There isn't much point unless you're going for the win and want to keep track of breakaways (if there are any which can hold). Save that energy and use it in the last 10mins to punch your way to the front. In most courses, they'll be a point which the race will slightly slow down, if you know these, then use it as an opportunity to make up a few places or your final 10min attack.
  • maryka
    maryka Posts: 748
    Do you use a powermeter OP? Would be interested in your numbers across the durations, e.g., 5 secs, 15 secs, 30 secs, 1 min, 5 min, 20 min.

    I actually think it's really hard to replicate road racing situations in solo training. The surging/recovery just doesn't happen the same way, especially if it's the short sharp surges (corners, etc.) that are killing you. That's why you need to find a fast training group that will do some "spirited" rides sprinting for signs and such that will also be forgiving enough to let you get back on if you get gapped.
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    maryka wrote:
    Do you use a powermeter OP?

    I do! What do you want me to send you?
  • maryka
    maryka Posts: 748
    cojones wrote:
    maryka wrote:
    Do you use a powermeter OP?

    I do! What do you want me to send you?

    Just post your profile here -- your peak power ever for 5, 15 and 30 secs. And 1, 5 and 20 min. Absolute watts is fine, also add your weight.
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780

    As others have said, the trick is to do some really specific training, because just being generally in good shape on the bike isn't the same as race fitness. If you've got a good base (it sounds like you have), then it doesn't take long to induce a peak of race fitness (4-5 weeks, maybe) by going on a training diet of higher intensity intervals (e.g. Level 5, something like 3x (3x3min, 2 min rest), Level 6, 2x (4x2min, 1 min rest, full sprint to start and hold as much as possible through the 2min interval)). This gets you to a place where your body becomes used to dealing with short-burst, high intensity efforts and, particularly, the recovery from them (e.g. the ability to do it all again and hit the same power levels even though you've got lactate in your legs!).

    Other than that, cornering is another thing to look at, it's amazing the difference good cornering technique can make because you can carry speed through the bends where you'd otherwise be having to burn a match to hang on.

    Stick with it, but it sounds like you need to up your training game! (And I was in your position a couple of years ago, the penny dropped for me when I finally worked out what I needed to do training wise to be competitive).
  • Tom Butcher
    Tom Butcher Posts: 3,830
    Join a racing club now or at least go out on the local chain gangs and training rides - you'll probably find out more rides exist than you know about. No point in waiting - spin classes and turbo sessions have their place but having other riders around you is surely more of a motivation for most and should help your bunch skills to some extent.

    As far as surges in pace go - that's what tends to catch anyone out so it may not be that it is a weakness just that the hardest parts of a race are when the weakest are shelled out. However as noted above you can minimise the accelerations by good positioning in the bunch, good cornering and anticipation. Finally lots of people take a season or more to adapt on road racing so as long as you aren't getting shelled on lap one you aren't far off being good enough to finish in the bunch - which if you can hold a good position puts you in contention in he sprint.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • Seem to remember you mentioned racing at Ludgershall in a previous thread... are you based in the South West? If so, open sessions at Castle Combe have just started for the summer on Tuesday evenings. Could be a good way of getting some group riding/chaingang experience and more race-focussed training?

    A wise man told me to hold your own in a race it's 50% head, 50% legs. My experience is very limited - I'm in my first season too and only managed to get three races in before falling and breaking my collarbone last month (commuting, annoyingly) - but so far that's definitely rung true. Of these the easiest was the first where I was making a conscious effort to stay near the front. The hardest was my last, the Castle Combe Easter Classic, where I was too easily intimidated by the huge field size and found myself almost being spat out of the back purely by not being assertive enough and not constantly concentrating on my positioning. You definitely work harder at the back of the bunch!

    The point made about saving your race entry is valid but if I were you I wouldn't give up just yet. Racecraft is just as important as training I feel and the only way to gain this is through experience. :)
  • hammerite
    hammerite Posts: 3,408
    edited May 2013
    The advice above is all good and worthwhile training/practising specifically for them.

    If you can try some other races. I don't know anything about the series you are doing, but if it's at the same circuit it could just be that it doesn't match your strengths.

    There are some circuits I've raced at that however strong I am I always get dropped, MK Bowl is one, when the race is using the outer circuit (outside the bowl itself). I'm just too much of a wimp to take some of the bends with a dodgy surface in a bunch at full speed. This is something I know I need to work on.

    But longer road races on the open road and crits on other circuits I can pretty much hold my own, if things have gone very well I've occasionally been in the mix at the end too.

    Try out some other places/races and get the feel for what your strengths and weaknesses are. Race courses that play to your strengths while training to improve on any weaknesses (which may involve turning up and racing the circuits you've been struggling on).
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131 training ride sorted...this Saturday with Performance Cycles.

    Liam - yes, I am between Swindon and Oxford. I'll look at the CC races and Performance Cycles also do a Tuesday chaingang. I agree with the 50/50 split. My head isn't where it needs to be yet, I'm getting there but it's quite unstable - loving it when I'm in the bunch - hating it when I'm spat out! Again, I'm sure it'll come with experience.

    I've been told that the first 3-5 laps are the fastest and ironically the most I've managed to hang on for is 5 laps, so I've got a feeling there's not far to go before I can hold on past the fast start.

    huuregeil - I'll look into the training plan. Hopefully riding with PC will get me more advice in this respect.

    maryka - I'll dig out some stats for you (thank you btw)!!
  • danlikesbikes
    danlikesbikes Posts: 3,898
    Keep at it & it will get easier honest.

    Think most people will admit that their first races were not easy not matter how fit they were & quite a few will admit to being out the back on more than one occasion.

    You are right that if you cant stay in for 5 laps then your not that far & with your new training should help you.

    Can only add a +1 to the interval training as its often the changes in speed and surges that occur are the real leg killers. As per @saprkzz example if you can get back in great (& well done on doing it) but if you can avoid it in the first place you are saving your energy doubly.
    Pain hurts much less if its topped off with beating your mates to top of a climb.
  • alan_sherman
    alan_sherman Posts: 1,157
    Sounds like pretty normal beginner racing really. Certainly when I started as a lad the aim was to to able to finish a race! So head up, you're no different to other racers! It is usually the surges that spit people out the back so try getting better at coping with them, so keep entering races til you stick with it but try and do some interval training until you are nearly sick with the effort.

    Oh - is the race hilly? Doing a flat Castle Combe type thing may be easier to stay with the bunch.

    Does the paralympic angle have an affect? The one legged guy that used to Race at Eastway seemed to ride well and finish the races, but he must have had a different technique to me for powering up the short climb out the saddle to keep in the race.
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    The races are all over so the circuits are different. Hillingdon was the hilliest (pun intended), yet that was more of a gentle rise.

    The para thing does have an effect, I am unable to point my toes/stand on my toes so I can't put power through the pedals as much as able bodied riders. Some of that is made up for by pulling up and over on the stroke but my heels are constantly pointing at the ground all the way round the stroke. My average/comfortable cadence is 85-90rpm. My FTP has been calculated as 250 and my 60-90 minute rides taking in quite hilly terrain average out at around 200w.
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    FWIW you're not the only person who has ever dropped out of a race. I'm betting that pretty much everyone who has ever raced has dropped out at one time or another.
    There are days when you just don't have it and it's not the end of the world.
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    I went out for a first proper club training right today and wow what a ride!

    It was much faster, more like a race, the pace was high, there was lots of surging to stay in touch, my heart rate was up for almost the whole 30 odd miles. I averaged over 18 miles per hour and the terrain wasn't flat! At times we were going at 30 miles an hour on the flat. I loved it!

    I'm looking forward to next week already. Thanks for all your advice.
  • Herbsman
    Herbsman Posts: 2,029
    Do you enjoy racing?
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    too early to say, after only 3 races, one of which I pulled out of.
  • Herbsman
    Herbsman Posts: 2,029
    Do more club rides and treat races as an extension of them. It's really important to enjoy racing as that's where the motivation comes from.
  • How many kms have you trained so far om 2013? How many in 2012? Just to get an idea. I do about 8000 kms a year and am a decent cat 3 (i.e. I get points 50% of races and the odd top 3 but that's it).

    Cycling really gets easier after you've done it for 2-3 years continuously b/c I think it takes time for your body to adjust. Every summer your fitness hits a new high b/c every winter you don't dip down so much b/c of your summer fitness. In short it's cumulative. Keep at it and play the long game. Once it starts getting "easier" you'll enjoy it a lot more.

    As people have said everyone has pulled out of a race before esp early in their careers so you're not doing anything wrong beyong finding it tough. Which it is.
    The titifers have sung their song.

    Now it's time for sleep.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 40,441
    Some very good advice above. As someone who has raced on and off for over 20 years and still gets regularly dropped I would add the following:-

    1. Battling on your own into a really strong headwind is horrible. Try again and if you get dropped maybe take it slightly easier and let the bunch lap you. In my experience it is often easier to settle into the bunch second time round as you've warmed up more and the race may well have settled down - the first few laps are often the hardest until the last couple.
    2. The 50% head 50% legs thing is fairly true, as a younger rider head was always my problem but now it's the legs! However there's a third much overlooked factor - technique. Are you confident in your cornering ability, braking, holding a wheel? You can save a lot of energy by taking a corner smoothly and not losing the wheel in front. Practice hard on these as well as working on fitness.

    I haven't seen any mention of what your disability (and don't want to pry, sound rude or condescending!) but if it is significant then it is going to make racing as a newcomer among non-disabled cyclists that much harder and it isn't easy for anyone new to the sport. When I joined this forum there was a para cyclist who was struggling to keep with the bunch on local circuit races. That person was Colin (Pokerface) and inside a couple of years he was a World Champion. I'd say stick at it as long as you are enjoying it, work on your weaknesses and be patient. I know you hear people on here winning in their first few races but plenty more battle on for a season or more before getting that elusive bunch finish - I know, I was one of them!
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    @ slam that stem - I've done just under 700km so far in 2013. I've done just short of 7000 in two years on the bike so not a huge amount but the previous two years I wasn't training for anything. I really intend to keep at it, I think I'll re-evaluate my objective for this year (after I met my first one of gaining my first race points), to finishing the season wanting to return to racing next year.

    By that time I'll have a bit more experience, both of races and fast club training rides, hopefully with some coaching thrown in to improve technique and riding in the bunch.

    @ Pross - I have an L5-S1 spinal cord injury which means that I have 10% sensation in my lower legs/feet and no working nerve supply to my calf muscles. I cannot press my toes down on the pedal (I cannot stand on tip toes), so when I pedal all the force comes from my upper legs and my heels remain 'pointing' to the ground on all parts of the pedal revolution.

    My aim is definitely to "stick at it as long as you are enjoying it", I just need to avoid that bl00min' headwind on my own thing first...

    Thanks for the ongoing advice.
  • Tom Butcher
    Tom Butcher Posts: 3,830
    700k is a very light mileage to be racing off - that's probably the first thing to look at.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • maryka
    maryka Posts: 748
    Still going to post your power stats, OP? I still suspect you might struggle at the short sprinty durations due to your disability though with added threshold fitness (quality riding and more miles) that should affect you less and less.
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    @maryka - Yes, not got round to digging out the figures, can't seem to find out how to get them from Strava or garmin are some from a fitness test in January. Since then I have upped my training and improved my diet so I fully expect improved figures.

    Height cm 188.5
    Waist cm 95
    Powerbreathe LOAD VOLUME TEST
    40 5.2 154
    Body Fat % 17
    Anti Oxidant Status 29000
    Thoracic Curve 50
    Lumbar Curve 30
    Forward Head Carriage 6.3
    Your Heart Rate Zones
    Max HR from test 186
    Threshold Heart Rate= 173
    From To
    Zone 1 Active recovery 0 121
    Zone2 Endurance 123 147
    Zone 3 Tempo 149 167
    Zone 4 Threshold 167 186
    Zone 5 Vo2 Max 186 not known

    Your Power Zones
    Threshold Power Watts = 250
    From To
    Zone 1 Active recovery 0 138
    Zone2 Endurance 139 188
    Zone 3 Tempo 189 225
    Zone 4 Threshold 226 263
    Zone 5 Vo2 Max 264 300
    Zone 6 Anaerobic Capacity 301 not known

    Males VO2 MAX SCORE
    MAX MINUTE POWER Weight age VO2max (mL/min) VO2max (mL/kg/min)
    295 81.2 39 3726 46
    Power to Weight Ratio Watts/Kg MMP 3.633
    Power to Weight Ratio Watts/KG Threshold 3.079
  • maryka
    maryka Posts: 748
    At a quick glance, 3w/kg+ should be enough for a 3/4 race around here. Miles in your legs (endurance) is another matter though. As your threshold is not far off mine, I'd really need to see your top 5 sec, 30 sec, 1 min to tell you if you're struggling due to the surges and short-term power or not (as I know what my own experience is in a men's race having a crap 5-30 sec power profile!)

    If you've got Strava premium, it will pull out your best at any duration -- give it a try, I think you get to try Premium free for a bit? Also you should be using WKO or Golden Cheetah for your power analysis, not crappy Garmin Connect!
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    maryka wrote:
    At a quick glance, 3w/kg+ should be enough for a 3/4 race around here. Miles in your legs (endurance) is another matter though. As your threshold is not far off mine, I'd really need to see your top 5 sec, 30 sec, 1 min to tell you if you're struggling due to the surges and short-term power or not (as I know what my own experience is in a men's race having a crap 5-30 sec power profile!)

    If you've got Strava premium, it will pull out your best at any duration -- give it a try, I think you get to try Premium free for a bit? Also you should be using WKO or Golden Cheetah for your power analysis, not crappy Garmin Connect!

    Thanks Mary, I am a Strava Premium member, I just need to find the right place for the info...I'll check out wko/golden cheetah too...
  • cojones
    cojones Posts: 131
    maryka wrote:
    I'd really need to see your top 5 sec, 30 sec, 1 min

    5 sec = 970w
    30 sec = 521w
    1 min = 381w
    5 min = 297w