I signed up for the Berkeley Hills Road Race.
This is probably my favorite road race course. It's a classic: climbs long enough that they aren't completely dominated by anaerobic effort, fast wide-open descents, nice views, proximity to home with easy return via public transit, and most importantly my team, Roaring Mouse, sponsors it.
So I signed up for clean-up crew and registed for the race. I hadn't done a road race (just hillclimbs) for a few years. The last road race I did was in fact Berkeley Hills. I races the cat 3 race that year, again unsure of my fitness. The year before I'd been more sure of my fitness and gone off the front from the start. It hadn't been intentional: I'd just followed the lead car up the opening climb and there I was off the front. So I decided to go with it and see what happened. What happened was 1.5 laps later I was caught, chewed up, and spit out the back.
So the next year I decided to play it cool. And to my shock it worked: I survived the first lap, and on the second lap I survived Mama Bear and the feed-zone chaos of Papa Bear. At the top of Papa, though, a rider in front of me looked back to see if he could see his teammate. This caused him to overlap wheels with a rider in front of him, he went down, and I went into him. I bruised my rib, twisted my handlebars out of alignment, and my race was over. Indeed my season was basically over as I never recovered the fitness I had there until the Low-Key Hillclimbs in the fall.
I don't even remember what year that was: 2010? 2009? (answer: 2009) Anyway, it was a long time ago. Older isn't better in this instance, but I won't be riding the elite 3's this time, I'll be riding with the old guys. But the old guys are still fast guys and I am not confident.
Recovery has gone as well as expected from Devil Mountain Double. Each day my strength and energy increases. On Sunday, a week after DMD, I tested my legs on the Bears and I liked what I saw on my power meter. I'm not going to win the race but that's not my goal. My goal is top 20. But that's just a number: the real goal is to hang in the pack, ride a smart race, and not do anything stupid.
But how will I react to 3 laps of the Bears (only two of Baby Bear, though)? In theory, Sunday showed me I have the power to hang with the pack the first, likely fastest, time up the hills. In theory, I showed at Devil Mountain Double my endurance is excellent. But theory is one thing, execution is another. So many things can go wrong in a road race. My tendency to focus on the bad and not the good has been a personal deterrent in racing more. I'm addicted to the rush of pushing myself to my limits, and so have never completely lost my urge to do them, but I too readily get discouraged when things don't work out as I would hope.
The goal for Sunday: be prepared. Bring 3 water bottles to take the pressure off the chaos which is the feed zone. Bring a 4th bottle to drink before the start. Bring gels and down them regularly: two per lap. Add electrolyte to my bottles so I stay on top of those. And for this race go back to Bont shoes and Speedplays since I don't want to deal with the pressure point problem from my Specialized shoes, or the clip-in problem for the Shimano pedals.
Racing is about attention to detail, about anticipating potential problems and neutralizing them before they have time to occur. My bike will be ready and, in theory, so will I. But the only thing of which I'm sure is events on the road won't be predictable. But that's a big reason people do these things. Postscript: It's interesting going back and reading my pre-race report from this race in 2009. I was completely unconfident in myself. Yet I was able to hang in there fine... until I crashed. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I'm going to test my recovery from DMD with an extra-scenic bike commute... 94 miles over Mount Hamilton. Then I have 3 days to recover from that. It'll be interesting.