Race The Lake, or not.

Looking at my weekly activities, you can’t really call me lazy. I spend roughly ten hours per week on the bike, and throw in the occasional run (the legacy of a former triathlete…). Add in the relatively regular strength and yoga session and I have a pretty busy, active week.

However, I am pretty hedonistic in my training and usually prefer erratic group rides over intervals. And yet, something about Race the Lake, an 88 mile race around Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, instilled some sort of training discipline on me. After an illuminatingly crushing weekend of long miles and climbing in Blue Mounds, WI, in July, I realized I needed to step up my training game and put in some more serious, targeted training before race day. And August 26th would come quickly!

The baseline:

I had spent most of the year either doing relatively hard but relatively short group rides, racing crits, or grinding up mountain sides in Colorado or Washington State. Not the ideal prep for an 88 mile race! Shortly after I realized I had to start logging long miles, I came to face the ugly reality of saddle sores, which kept me off the bike for a few days. Never ever ha I experienced this kind of discomfort on a bike before, and in addition to the excruciating pain, I didn’t want to jeopardize my race start. So, while taking time off is hard, it gave me some motivation to start thinking about fueling this race, getting back on the bike more consciously and to face my least favorite thing – long threshold intervals.

Training adjustments:

I did my first ever 3 x 20 minute interval ride and it was hard! My legs were not used to this kind of workout, but I managed to finish it as strongly as the traffic patterns of Chicagoland allowed for. Since I did not want to give up on  weeknight group rides, I set goals for each of them: coast less, work more, ride smarter and more aggressively, and keep my average power consistently higher during those rides. In general, I tried to add a few long rides prior to race week, and do a substantial amount of solo work during those. I wouldn’t say that my training was entirely dialed in to what Race the Lake would be, but I did work on some weaknesses and saw great improvements, both in watts and confidence.

Nutrition:

Oh the everlasting struggle! The evasive race weight fluctuating over me, I mostly tried to eat plenty of things that would make me feel good and energized. I have a tendency to eat whatever crosses my way when I’m in training mode, but I tried to approach this period with a little bit more foresight: lots of meal prep, fresh greens and fruit, enough carbs and fats to fuel my rides, and ample protein to recover. On the bike, I tried to eat consistently to avoid bonking or feeling sick from too much sugar – which isn’t easy to do, especially in the heat. Which brings me to the next aspect: hydration. I tend to overdrink in the summer, which I have had to pay for in earlier races. So I mad it a habit to drink every 15 minutes and switch between a drink mix with added sodium and water.

Race Day, or When nothing goes according to plan:

Having signed up for the pro wave, I figured it was going to be fast from the gun. I was decently confident that I was fit enough to hang in the pack. However, once the race started at 5:45am, the amount of wheels going all over the place, centerlines crossed and surges did affect me more than I wanted, and I found myself towards the back of the pack right away. This is not the greatest place to be, but I decided for mental comfort in the moment, which soon should prove to be a big mistake. As I got settled in behind a few racers, I completely and entirely missed the moment the pack broke apart. When I finally realized that the few riders in front of me had allowed a giant gap to be formed, the lead group was already out of sight. That was the moment I wanted to get off my bike and just be upset at myself. But I didn’t.  After around ten miles of pacelining with a group of around 10 riders, I had calmed my nerves and reassessed the situation. I figured that I needed to turn my frustrations into something productive so I could make the best of the worst. So with 30 miles to go, I decided that I needed to just go and race the rest of the race at my own speed. Luckily, one rider broke away with me and gave me a few minutes of recovery time every now and then. We settled into a nice rhythm and passed quite a few racers that had been spat off the back of the lead group. All of a sudden though, as we crested one of the final hills, several police cars and riders gathered at an intersection. I figured there must have been some sort of crash, but it turned out to be worse. The race got suspended and we all waited for quite some time. The race got suspended and we all waited for quite some time. Luckily, most of the crashed cyclists got away with minor bruises and were able to attend the post-race ceremony afterwards. While the race certainly didn’t go according to plan for most of us, it was definitely a good time to try something new and different. I will be back next year!

Learnings:

– Be assertive and pay attention to what your fellow racers do! Don’t miss breakaways because you’re looking at someones wheel or the sunrise etc

– Manage your emotions. There are few races that go according to plan, and some really don’t. I did well at not giving in to my frustrations. While this isn’t smart for an actual race, I was really excited that I turned my failed race into a hard workout and only found myself coasting at zero watts for only 18% of the entire ride

– Know your needs when it comes to hydration and nutrition. Especially in hot conditions, those can make or break your race. I was really happy that I consumed the right amount of liquids and calories to make it through the race without any signs of hangriness or cramps

JASMIN WELTER

Jasmin Welter is a dedicated commuter, and a competitive cyclist and triathlete, riding her mostly pink bikes around Chicagoland year-round. Jasmin is passionate about the power of bikes and is involved with several other initiatives to get more women on bikes.

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