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Return to racing, 25 years later....

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Return to racing, 25 years later....

Old 04-08-11, 08:11 AM
  #1  
shrinkboy
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Return to racing, 25 years later....

Looking for feedback of any kind-- in those bygone days of the mid 80s, i was a USCF Cat 3 racer until a really bad crash caused me to rethink what the hell i was doing with young children, a newly launched practice (i'm a psychotherapist), and etc. it reframed my passion for racing to the extent that i just couldn't connect in the same way, and eventually left the sport to become a master's swimmer coached by an olympian from the 70s (Jerry Heidenreich, Munich 72, for any who know about that stuff)

much more time efficient, and safer. i stayed with it from 89 to april of last year, when burnout hit so hard i knew i would have stay away. got on a bike, and kept telling myself 'this isn't about racing'-- tried to go the C & V route, but all along, i kept riding longer, faster, harder, losing weight, doing hill repeats, going to the track and etc, and the next thing you know, january 22 this year, i did my first race in 20 odd years- a 56 mile road race as a Cat 5- and did OK, but split off from the front group by a crash that happened in front of me forcing an off road excursion ....

since then, i've raced 8 or 9 times this year, only once or twice in a successful way, and by that i mean remaining in contact with the lead bunch...other times, i've been dropped heinously....most recent was last night in a C group crit. last week, in the same crit series, i stayed in with the bunch and finished in the sprint, but not placing. i was satisfied with that, elated even, and it felt like the days of old. i will add that my racing age is 60, and most if not all of those riders are 1/2 my age.

but this getting dropped as last night is getting a little too familiar. i put in 3 or 4 hard laps in the front 5, then had a sinking spell and while trying to get my **** together, watched at least 12-15 riders go by before i could get back in, at the back, only to get rubber banded off and by myself after another 1 or 2 laps.

bike racing is really, really hard, and i was prepared to get hammered after 21 years of being a freestyle sprinter in the water, but this getting dropped thing is getting old.

my thoughts are to just keep showing up at as many events as i can, be patient, know that this first season is all about getting back in the game, and let go of any expectations for results. i will add, should it not be obvious, that i am intensely competitive and take poor showings badly...and yes, i know, you'd think a shrink would know how to handle this stuff, right? well, shrinks are human too...

anybody, anything?
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Old 04-08-11, 08:23 AM
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Race masters. I took 15 years off, and others have taken more than that and been competitive in 3s and/or masters.

Go to the Racing Forum and read up on some of the training methods to get you back in shape.
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Old 04-08-11, 09:16 AM
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I shouldn't be reading this stuff. I've been away from racing for 16 years and still think about it when I ride.

I...can't...catch...this...bug...again...

Masters racing is usually safer, smoother, and more conservative. The downside is that they are usually faster when it matters. At least that's what I remember hearing about it in the old days...
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Old 04-08-11, 09:19 AM
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Get a coach and a power meter if you haven't already.

FWIW, I've raced on and off, with some significant gaps in between. Last year at 51, I upgraded to a 3.
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Old 04-08-11, 09:51 AM
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i've been in a couple master's races, and holy crap!! most 50+ american men are useless bags of fat and heart trouble, but these are not them. most of the guys around here (north texas) are 1, 2, 3's who've been racing the whole time i was competing in sub 25 second, 1 minute, 2 minute (albeit painful as hell) swim races. there is NO relief there. i cannot believe the depth of the field in 'master's' races.

power tap and coach sounds like a good idea, but i am still climbing over the $ignificant $$ obstacle$ of being properly outfitted with the basics. i.e. a 21rst century race bike and race wheels.

my thoughts on this are that i'm doing well to be out there mixing it up with the kids--and shouldn't get too impatient. i'm 8 races into my return, and something tells me its a little too early to start looking for results other than finishing on two wheels, and occasionally being there at the bunch sprint, as in last week. i also think that mental lapses are causing me to lose position in the field-- there's two sides to racing- one is race knowledge and strategy, the other is the physical ability to stand the pace. i'm kind of in a crash course on both sides.
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Old 04-08-11, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by shrinkboy View Post
i also think that mental lapses are causing me to lose position in the field-- there's two sides to racing- one is race knowledge and strategy, the other is the physical ability to stand the pace. i'm kind of in a crash course on both sides.
But if you were a 3 before, you should be able to do very well in most Cat 5 races because you have the knowledge and strategy side, even when your fitness is a bit off.
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Old 04-08-11, 10:02 AM
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last week, i felt like i knew what i was doing; last night, just hit a big flat spot after the big effort of the first 3 or 4 laps, and i'm watching all these guys go by. let me tell ya, 25 years is a long time- and i feel like i am starting totally over at the beginning. in general, at a cognitive level i know what needs to happen, but deploying that in a race at 25 mph with a bunch of hard charging young animals all around is something else entirely...

and thanks for your comments, merlin...
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Old 04-08-11, 10:04 AM
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calling shovelhd
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Old 04-08-11, 10:06 AM
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The $$ required aren't too bad if your main concern is function. Good used or NOS equipment can be had for reasonable prices. At 49, I can win cat 3 races on my old CAAD8 with basic wheels.
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Old 04-08-11, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Grumpy McTrumpy View Post
calling shovelhd
No kidding. Took me 3-4 years to get where he got in 6 months.
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Old 04-08-11, 10:11 AM
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Keep up the patience, it will come around. Just treat this season like I am: Basically, try something new every race. Maybe attack from the gun, until you get dropped, just to see how long you can last while attacking. Or do your best to do absolutely nothing in a race, and try to get a decent sprint in the end with the pack. Or try to race smart and get in a breakaway. Or anything you want! Just have fun, and don't worry about results.

Keep that training up, and get as much experience as you can from this year, and getting back into racing. Do a serious hardcore base in the off season, and start next year with a huge base, and get working on those intervals once the season starts. It takes about 2-3 years for the racing ability to get back to where it could be. Next year and from then on will be your years to shine.
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Old 04-08-11, 10:13 AM
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Read this:

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ut-recipe-book
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Old 04-08-11, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Grumpy McTrumpy View Post
calling shovelhd
That was my thought as well.
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Old 04-08-11, 10:27 AM
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quien es 'shovelhd'?
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Old 04-08-11, 01:54 PM
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shovelhd raced for the first time in 26 years in March. he's mixing it up in the M45s and last week was around for the P123 finish. he's a member here on BF.

OP - you're smart. Figure out why you're getting dropped. Hills? You not "schleck-like" in build? You were a 3, meaning you placed top 3 in 3 or top 6 in 6, which is how upgrading worked around then. How did you place, like what races, what terrain, what kinds of fields.

I know my strengths and weaknesses, and although I haven't taken 25 years off, I did gain 50+ pounds in a couple years. It took some self discovery and learning new things to get back to where I was.
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Old 04-08-11, 02:39 PM
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egad, shovelhd. good show. no, i'm definitely not a Schleck- 6'2" 193, but nevertheless a good climber for my size cause i work the crap out of the climbs, as best as can be done here in Dallas Tx. this time a year ago, i was a 223 pound free style sprinter, my best race being a 50 free- less than 25 seconds of all out-ness; you don't even breathe in those things.

back in the day, my best races were big, open crits, road races and especially time trials. last week's crit, where i actually stayed in the race and even contributed to the overall rhythm and finished in the bunch, was a one mile loop with two 180 degree turns. lots of space to just hump the pace up without having to change directions. in races where i get dropped, its usually happening in after the first ten minutes or so, i have a flat spot or sinking spell where the pace really hits and i'm in oxygen debt, big time. then people start going around, and i am unable to respond-- what i can't quite get is whether this is a physical or mental lapse. didn't experience it last week, i did big time last night. when i finally get it together to work hard again, i'm on the back and getting rubber banded to exhaustion.
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Old 04-08-11, 06:10 PM
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Sorry, I don't speak Spanish. I don't read the 41 much anymore, either. A friend pointed me over here. It's long. You have been warned.

Encouragement first, story later. You have all of the ingredients for a successful comeback. You have competed at a reasonably high level in this stupid sport and have also done well in another. You have been injured, burned out, and quit. You know your limits, you know what it takes, and you seem to have the desire to do it again. So look deep inside and decide if you want to do the work to get back there. You will also have to invest in some new equipment and gear. That in itself can be a great motivator. Get kitted up. Set realistic expectations. Get in as much base mileage as you can this year, and commit to a good structured training plan in the offseason. If you haven't already, get hooked up with a club that has a number of elite level riders that you can work with. You can try quite a bit of what you need to discover on group rides, with nothing at stake except your pride. Most of all, listen to your body. You will need more rest than you did back then. Be very wary of burnout, and don't sweat not completing intervals, or taking days off your plan if things aren't going well. The worst thing you can let yourself do is to burn out and quit again. If you find that it's not for you, that's different. That choice should come from a happy place.

Now, the story. About nine months ago I popped in here an asked the very same question, just worded it a little differently as I hadn't raced again. I was a Cat2 rider back in the eighties. I rode on teams with riders who would become national champions a few years later, in P/1/2 fields where there were very very few, if any, Cat1's. It was all Pros and Cat2's. I became a good, not great, regional level rider, winning my share of podiums. I had a bad accident at a training crit where a backmarker cut across my path in a full tilt sprint, sent me head first onto my leather helmet, knocked me out cold for 20 minutes, during which time I had full body seizures. I was cleared to race again by the ER and a cat scan machine, but I had trouble in subsequent years with fatigue, heat stroke, and short term memory loss. I finally had had enough of the two-a-days and racing against the kids and year-rounders only to struggle to finish in the field. Sound familiar? So I quit. Cold turkey. Didn't ride the bike for decades.

Fast forward to two years ago. I was what you said you abhor, a fat middle aged man with heart problems. My cholesterol was 235. I'm 5'10" and my weight was 173lb. My doctor misdiagnosed me during a routine physical as having a heart attack. I wasn't, but that ride in the back of the ambulance scared the crap out of me, as my father died of congestive heart failure. I spent some time with a nutritionist, changed my diet, joined a gym, and started a nice workout regimen. I dropped 10 pounds fairly quickly over the course of about a year, but my knees and hips started to bother me. It got to the point that the pain was 24/7. The next step involved taking my last remaining bike down (I had sold all the sponsor's bikes decades ago) off the hooks and surveying the damage. It didn't take long to realize that vintage equipment is adequate for racing but modern equipment has its advantages. I parted out the vintage bike, bought a brand new modern bike, and started riding. It was humbling at first. It's no fun being the last guy up the hills when you're used to leading. But I kept riding, as much as possible, for as long as possible, with the goal of losing weight, getting into shape without excessive pain, and maybe, just maybe, getting back into racing. I joined a local club and starting doing group rides with them and with another shop. Slowly, very slowly, the base started to come back, and I wasn't the last one up the hill anymore. I started commuting in the fall as well to maximize riding time. By the end of last year, I knew I wanted to race again, but I wanted to try for reinstatement instead of going through the Cat5 shuffle. I called USAC. They suggested that I obtain a license as a Cat5 and request an upgrade as soon as I had my license in hand. I wrote the regional upgrade coordinator a nice email with my racing resume, my notable teammates, and a few key finishes, requesting an upgrade to Cat3. She got back to me within 24 hours, request approved.

Now I had to spend the offseason getting into Cat3 shape or risk getting dropped. I bought a used trainer, powermeter, and the Training and Racing with Power book. I put myself on a 16 week FTP improvement plan. It was very hard work, but between the plan, meter, and encouragement from some newly made friends, I dug deep and sweated it out. I got my weight down to 138-140lbs. I set realistic expectations for myself. I know it will take several years to get my legs back to where I can be competitive in all forms of racing (see my sig). I still feel that way today. There are holes in my power profile that can be easily exploited, but I believe time and hard work will take care of that. But that didn't mean I wasn't ready to try racing again.

I entered my first comeback race on March 6th in Bethel, CT, in the Masters 45+ field. My racing age is 54. My goal was to stay in the field and not get dropped. I wound up finishing 12th on a brutally cold and wet day. That one race gave me the confidence to race again. I knew I could hold my own in a Masters field. Since then I've done eight races total, with a high finish of 3rd (lapped the field) and the rest no worse than in the field. Three of those races were 1/2/3 or P/1/2/3. I'll do the Masters race first for results and the second race for training and honing skills with the best. I'll probably do 2-3 races a month for the rest of this season, but I'm not going to burn out. My family will always take precedence. I'm not interested in upgrading, either. If it happens, it happens. I just want to enjoy it. Masters racing in New England is very tough. That's what makes it so rewarding, especially since most of the top riders are much younger than me. I will always be able to hang my hat on that. Nobody can take that away from me. Yet for as much as I enjoy racing, I enjoy riding with groups even more. It's not all about winning all the time. When I line up, it is. When I roll off with the group on a nice sunny day, it isn't. There is a balance now that didn't exist then. I think this is what helps me do well at both. Setting realistic expectations, knowing when not to push too hard, and making sure to enjoy every moment on the bike.

Good luck to you. Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat.

Then.

In the maroon and white MBRC kit. Next to me is Cat1 Tony Chastain. Tony won the Stowe Road Race every year I was in it. I could give him some trouble in the crits.



Off the front in what I believe to be Haverhill, MA, but I'm not 100% positive. If so, I went with the Czarnecki brothers, Matt and Mark, and finished fifth.



Now.

Last weekend at Bethel, blue and white kit. My best finish there, 9th M45+. Marking the race leader Carl Reglar. He is a diesel. Crazy winds.



Same race. Trying to get the leader to go. Failed.


Last edited by shovelhd; 04-08-11 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 04-09-11, 01:47 AM
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very cool, shovelhd. much appreciated. will pm you...
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Old 04-09-11, 06:08 AM
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shovelhd...nice post...thanks for sharing...
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Old 04-09-11, 07:36 AM
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Hi, long time lurker here. I know the OP. He's actually got a pretty
good bike and wheels. When I've done sunday morning rides with him
he's very strong, always one of the first up the hills. Most of the guys
are in there 20's and early 30's and can't hang with him.

Maybe you just had an off day buddy, I'll cheer harder next thursday.
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Old 04-09-11, 05:42 PM
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Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.
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Old 04-09-11, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by orcanova View Post
shovelhd...nice post...thanks for sharing...
+1

Damn. He's modest both online and in real. He made it seem like he decided to dust off a bike recently. Okay he did, but it was more than that.

thanks shovelhd.

cdr
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Old 04-09-11, 08:52 PM
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great photos and story.
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Old 04-10-11, 06:05 AM
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falconproject-- bless you, my son. and thanks again to all posters, and particularly shovelhd, for your varied and encouraging responses. will update soon, much racing still to come...
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Old 04-10-11, 07:39 AM
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Thank you all for your kind words.

Shrinkboy, you can do this, and do well. Set realistic expectations, train hard, and above all, enjoy yourself.
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