Mostly, bike racing is really pretty much like this article. But, for the spectators and at the not exactly US Pro Challenge level, it also is a lot of standing on the side of roads in the middle of nowhere. Specifically, here:
Steve went around in a big circle for 4.5 hours and he went in those circles faster than everyone but two people. This meant that I sat in the “feed zone” for 4.5 hours and handed him water bottles. By “feed zone,” the race organizers meant a patch of dirt on the side of a road where they can put a few crates of water bottles that were discarded at the last weekend’s race and then refilled. This is called “Neutral Water.” It was handed out to cyclists by a weathered 50-year-old man and a soon-to-be-weathered 15-year-old girl, both of whom chain-smoked the entire time.
I handed Steve his bottles. And, then I went for a run down the side of the road in between two of the laps — since it was taking them over an hour to do each 33-mile loops, what with the heat and the hills. I, however, didn’t quite think about the heat and the hills until I started running. At first, 20′ out easy was fine, then what was supposed to be 17′ tempo back turned into only 14′ + walk/shuffle. Which is basically almost the same thing.
The plan was to do marathon pace (7:00-7:10) on the way back. The first mile in 6:54 felt hard/ok. Then, I hit the kind of long rolling hills on an exposed hot road that don’t seem like a thing in a car, but are crippling when running. So, I made one of those deals that you make when a workout is going from good painful to if I pass out I hope someone will find me painful. I promised myself if I hit the second mile under 7:00, then I could stop. I hit 6:59 and started walking.
After I grabbed some water, I jogged the other direction for 10′ just to cooldown. But, then I turned around and realized I had just run downhill for 10′ in the sun.
The run back turned into a jog turned into a shuffle turned into a walk. The street sign I was aiming for up ahead kept moving farther away and, well, also it kept sort of moving. Sweat was dripping off my hair. The only reason I kept heading forward was because I was very worried I might not make it back to the feed zone before Steve did. I just barely made it and then poured some ice down my sports bra. By then, all the other wives and girlfriends and dads had left and it was just me and the chain smokers waiting.
They were 100% convinced I was insane. Though it’s also possible they didn’t even realize I had been sitting right next to them the whole time, because at one point the girl said, “Oh my god, that’s crazy, is there a running race going on too.”