My first bike race
Updated: Jan 14
If my calculations are correct, this article is going to come out on the 18th anniversary of my very first bike race (typing this sentence just made me feel really old). Which, I suppose, is my endurance birthday. In honor of this day, here is the tale of my first bike race.
While my first bike race was Calvin’s Challenge in late April many, many years ago, the story begins on December 19th of the year before. On December 19th, I received my very first real bicycle. It was a Specialized Allez Pro with the zebra stripe paint - a very beautiful bike that I saved up for working in the bike shop be previous summer.
I remember the date so well because on December 20th I had my ACL replaced in my left knee, which I had torn playing college football. Buying the bike was my way of finishing the football chapter of my life, and beginning the endurance sport chapter.
Now we jump to early April, about 4 weeks out from my first race. Between rehab for my ACL and the weather in Michigan/Ohio, I had not yet been able to actually ride my new bike until now. I took my bike out to Hines Drive (for all my metro Detroit cyclists), clipped in to my pedals for the first time while holding onto my car, took about a quarter of a pedal stroke, and fell over. So many thoughts ran through my head as I lay on the ground connected to my bike. What am I doing, I spent all this money and I can’t even ride this thing. Ultimately I got back up and rode for about 5 miles. It was only 5 miles because it was Detroit in early April and I did not know about shoe covers. So it goes.
Cut to the night before the race. I have an emotional breakdown in my hotel room because I tried to retape my bars even though I have never done it before, and it does not go well (I was even using real cork tape that is more difficult than standard tape, but I will say that because of the night I have become an elite handlebar taper). Sleep would have been nice that night, but did not happen.
One thing that I have yet to mention about Calvin’s Challenge is that it is a 12 hour race. Yes, I indeed choose a 12 hour as my first race ever. The fact I did my first full iron-distance triathlon on 2 weeks notice should make more sense to those who have heard that story. Anywho, the goal is to get as many miles as possible in 12 hours.
It is race morning, I get there at 6:00am to sign in and pick up my number. This is when I saw what is still the most odd bike “wreck” of my life. A person was riding a Zipp Tri bike, which was a boom style frame (no seat tube). The individual was just riding around the parking lot at the start/finish and rode off a curb they did not notice. So the person “falls” onto the seat the seat that then launches them into the air (because the boom works like a spring board), but because the person is clipped in they are pulled back down and crack the boom in half. It would have made a great viral video.
The race itself was pretty uneventful. I got chased by a goat on the first lap. There was also both a penny-farthing and unicycle entered in the race, that was interesting to see. Probably the most memorable part of the race was when I stopped after 100 miles and thought it might be a good idea to eat something, so I had a Clif Bar. I ended up taking third place, even though I stopped with about an hour left on the clock. I was dead, I had 1 Clif Bar and 2 bottles of water in 11 hours. These were the days before I even knew that an endurance coach was a thing. But, I was hooked. I enjoyed it.
After the race I went to a Long John Silver’s because it was the first place that I saw that had food. I ordered some food, sat down, took a few bites, then was woken up by the manager since I fell asleep at the table. Quite a day, and I had finals the following Monday.
If there is any take away from this story, I guess it would be do not be afraid to try new things. I jumped into the deep end in cycling (and triathlon, and Ju Jitsu), but not head first. I did the research and had some idea of what I was getting into. But in terms of training, best to do as I say, not as I did!