The first effort is the hardest

Here’s the scene: first race of the year after a hard, snowy winter. The course (Malabar) is a cruel way to start the season — rolling to hilly, with a cross-headwind on the toughest section.

I don’t care how much I’ve ridden over the winter, or how many intervals I’ve done, it still doesn’t prepare me for the shock of the first hard race-level effort.

It usually comes early. Someone decides that yes, they are ready to start, and they put in the first attack. And then I remember that feeling of legs expanding with lactic acid and stomach getting queasy. And I think that my preparation has been woefully inadequate, that there’s no way I can keep that level up for the rest of the race, and man, it’s going to be a long season.

But then I remind myself that the first effort feels like this every year, that everyone else feels like crap too, and that it always passes.

And as the race goes on each effort is a little more tolerable though it never feels good.

At the beginning of the season it’s always tempting to say “I’m not ready to race yet”, and to want to put in a few more weeks of training before coming to the line. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I never feel ready for the first one, no matter how much I’ve done, and that I just have to get that nauseating feeling of the first effort out of the way. Then the racing season can begin.

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