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Life in the gutter


I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs the other day and the author mentioned riding “in the gutter“.  This is one term that I’ve bumped into from time to time but never fully understood, nor did I bother to look it up as I figured sooner or later I’d figure it out on my own.  Life has a funny way of doing that to me.  I’m normally a solo cyclist, so wind and drafting only have any meaning once every other Tuesday.

Last night I got to learn what, specifically, the “gutter” is – but not in a good way – I was stuck in it for about three miles – one at 21 mph, one at 22 and one at 26 before I finally tapped out on mile 15.  There are times when riding in the gutter is a good thing, but when you’re just into cycling and not using said gutter for strategy, in pretty much is how it sounds – sucky.

First of all, last night was the first really nice Tuesday night I’ve had free to ride with the group – partly sunny and 78 degrees at the start – now that’s how I like it.  Unfortunately it was also quite breezy as well.  My warmup started directly into the wind and it was quite a rough one…  We got started promptly at 6 and headed straight into it.  Pace at right around 20 mph, which was pretty intense for the puller, but for anyone tucked in the draft, it was all kinds of easy.  I was about fifth back from the leader and found myself at the front pretty quickly.  I pulled until my more experienced counterpart (we ride a double pace-line) signaled that we were falling back.  I, however, didn’t fall all the way back – I’ve got this fear that I’ll be dropped so I tend to fall in if a gap opens up rather than starting all the way at the back and working back up.  This has happened more than once – but to guard against this in the first few miles is a little on the silly side – it is what it is.   I continued this pattern through the tenth mile, taking 4 or 5 pulls at the front in that time…  On that last pull, I could really feel my energy dip.  That time I dropped all the way to the back before working to the front again.  I should have done that from the start.

Just before mile 13, we hit the cross/head wind.  An echelon formed quickly and I didn’t sense what was going on quickly enough.  Generally with as many riders as we had, I’d have thought a second echelon would form (there had to be 30-40 of us last night) and that would have put me in a great spot for a mile pull followed by a little break.  That’s not what happened.  The second line never formed – I stuck with the group, but with little protection from the wind.  I was in the gutter.  I hung on for three miles, but I gave it everything I had to do that and I never found a spot to get in line.  Once I was done, I was completely gassed and I just drifted off the back.

I ended up latching on with a tandem and a couple of other guys and we made some pretty decent time together, between 21 and 25 mph once we formed up (2:25 min-2:52 min) – it took a couple of slow miles to get everyone in line and the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable.  Though disappointed again…  Ah well, I gave it my best and I still had a great time (and enjoyed an absolute feast afterwards).  I had really hoped I’d be able to improve enough in the last four rides to keep up.  Part of this is my own fault, of course – I insist on riding every day and I’m certain it is counter productive to some degree, because my leg muscles are always under stress – so then the question becomes, do I want to ride every day or keep up with the strongest guys in the group?

I’m Jim and I’m a cycle-holic.  It’s been 11 hours since my last ride…and I’ve only got 10 hours till my next!

1 Comment

  1. beechcreekproject says:

    Like you I’d l want to ride every day. Sometimes I just go how my body feels and if my legs just feel ‘heavy’ then I’ll just rest a day. I’m just paranoid that if I skip a day I’m going backwards. I know it’s not the right way to approach it but it’s hard not to. I’m Nick and I’m a cycle-holic. Ride on friend.

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