Wednesdays at Wakefield Park 2014 Race Series - Week 1

After entering my first ever race as a beginner last fall one of my New Year's resolutions was to try and enter more races in 2014.  In that first race last fall I'd entered in the beginner class and made the podium for my age category, however, I knew that if I wanted to improve I'd need to step up and push myself to the extra distance and competitive level of the sport class.

The Potomac Velo Club runs an annual 4 race series at Wakefield Park Annandale, VA.  With classes from Junior right through to Expert it has something for all skill levels and abilities, its a Cross-Country (XC) multi-lap course (that borders on being a super-sized short track).  It's fast and flowy, without any outrageous climbs or downhill sections.

The sport race was due to start at 6.55pm, I arrived around 6.15pm allowing myself time to get set up, and find my way around.  After registering, I hung around for a few minutes to watch riders from the 6.00pm race head off to start their final laps and then headed off down to the start line.

Just registered, looking fresh and ready to go
The thing that hit me hard as I made my way to the start line was the heat and humidity, I checked my cell phone and the temperature was showing almost 99 °F (37 °C), bearing in mind the hottest day on record in the UK is 101.3 °F (38.5 °C) this heat was uncharted territory for me.  Never the less I'd trained and knew that as long as I didn't go crazy I'd be able to complete 3 laps.

The start line was at the bottom of a short and steep gravel covered climb to allow the field to separate out, this was actually one of the harder parts of the race as halfway up the hill it was difficult to get traction whilst jostling for position.  I managed to make it to the top towards the back of the pack but definitely not last which I was pretty pleased about.  The course then runs along a gravel road before diving into the singletrack.  At this point everyone was pretty much set although the first few tight corners were a rather slow affair as the field had not had time to separate out fully.  I started to find my groove and despite smashing my pedal on a rock and coming unclipped, I managed to hold my position fairly well as the singletrack headed into the woods.  It was a this point I knew it would be a tough race for me as the humidity and lack of breeze hit hard.  I kept pushing on and knew that if I kept a brisk pace I'd be able to get through it.  As we came out of the woods the field had now spaced out and I was pretty much set in my spot for the rest of the race.

Crossing the line and heading out for lap 2
Each lap is approximately 3.3 miles long and the top finishers in the expert category lap at around 15 minutes, Strava shows my first lap as 19.10 so I still have a way to go.  The experts complete 4 laps of the race and shortly into my 3rd lap I started getting passed but most gave a clear signal they were coming by and were gone before I knew it.  Although no one likes getting lapped, seeing how fast the experts can ride and the endurance they have to do so gave me great insight into how I need to improve.

The sun starting to drop as I head out for lap 3
I was grateful of the fact that my jersey could unzip to just above my navel and let some air in as I started the 3rd lap however the relief was short lived as the humidity hit again as I dived back in to the woods.  I have to say the 3rd lap was a struggle but I made it round and got to the end in one piece.  I'll definitely be back next week but I'll certainly be hoping for cooler weather next time.  In terms of my finishing spot I'll post back with results once they are available online, however I saw a few drop out and believe there were one possibly two others behind me so I'm hoping I didn't come in last spot.  Either way I really enjoyed my first race in the Sport class against some clearly experienced racers and its given me the hunger to improve, train a little more and come back stronger for next time.


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