One of the interesting aspects of bike racing is that you can be a bit of an impostor and stay in a race that is beyond your capability. All because of drafting. Or as some might say: “wheel sucking”.
In what other sports can a weekend athlete “race” against the current national amateur champion, and make it look like an actual race?
In any bike race I would enter, there’s little chance that the race would start and I would immediately be left behind the leaders. Later in the race, yes. But not from the start. The race might start blisteringly fast but just following wheels and staying out of the wind would keep me from getting dropped.
So it’s been a humbling experience to enter running races and watch the fast guys (and girls) pull away right from the gun.
And even after doing two races so far this year, and knowing all this, there is still the bike racer’s instinct to stay up with the front group. So when we all lined up at the OhioOutside.com Trail Series #2, and the starter’s gun (well, it was a horn) went off, I went out fast. You can do this in a bike race, because you’re going to have a chance to recover at some point (before blowing up).
But when running, you can’t coast down a hill. You can’t soft-pedal. You can’t just sit in the draft of the guy in front of you. You can only slow down to a walk and watch everyone in front of you go away.
OK, well I didn’t have to walk, but about halfway through the race I started to hit the wall from having gone out too fast. I could tell when I started to get that tingly feeling in my arms and the side-stitch that was getting worse. The same feeling when you realize you’ve gone out too fast in a time trial and have to go into damage-control mode.
It actually helped when my teammate, Tris, passed me with about 1 mile or so to go and provided some motivation and a target for pacing. Had it been someone else I probably would have been discouraged. Then I could hear the labored breathing of another guy 10-15 seconds behind me. And thought: if he is still moving while breathing like that, I’ve GOT to be able to move faster than this.