I haven’t written about it in some time, but I am all about the social aspect of exercise. I’ve been a part of a small running club for almost a decade now and I just got into a cycling group several months ago, the Genesee Wanderers. My first ever ride with a group of cyclists was just four months ago on April 4th to be exact. I joined that group at the urging of the owner of the local bike shop that I consistently frequent, Matt. It’s been four months filled with a lot of “ups” and a few “downs”, but all of that is really paying enjoyable dividends lately. It’s taken all of that time to really get comfortable with the group and to start building some decent friendships with a lot of those folks. This isn’t to say I hadn’t made a friend up until recently, that’s not the case, but I am just beginning to be known as a regular fixture of “the group” to many of the regulars. Getting there did take some time, mainly because I’ve only been able to get out with the Wanderers every other Tuesday instead of every week. In my humble opinion it’s taken a while, sure, but I’ve gotten out of it what I’ve been able to put into it. My ability to ride with the group has been limited, and the results have reflected that.
That said, everything came to a bit of a “payoff” point yesterday. On finishing my century, I took a moment with my wife and kids, then said hello to Matt, and had my wife take a picture to add to what will be a collection sometime in the near future, before settling down to a hot dog lunch with the family. On the way to the table, Chuck came over to apologize for not waiting at the second rest stop because he’d been able to get on with the group that he was looking for. The apology, of course, wasn’t necessary – riding in the group for me has always been about my keeping up, not relying on someone (or the group) to wait for me – but it was a surprisingly nice gesture, and I let him know that and then told him that it was absolutely ok, that I had a fantastic ride with Phil and a few of the other guys. After the Misses and I sat down with the kids, Phil came in and I invited him to sup with us and we all talked about the ride and riding in general. During the small meal, several of the others that I’d ridden with came up and patted me on the back and thanked me for taking such long, hard pulls… One, Terry, sat down with us as well.
We laughed and told stories and tried to make plans to ride again, and just had a peach of an afternoon.
That ride, and the subsequent meal afterward, made for an incredible experience.
So, to navigate around what I’ve written, but haven’t said, social cycling is just as fun as social running, there is no doubt. It’s an incredible community to be a part of, but like all else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. It doesn’t matter how fast you are (though speed helps), it doesn’t matter how “pro” you are or look. It doesn’t matter how nice your bike is, or how new it is. What matters is you. If I was a jerk going in, I’d bet there’s at least one guy I’d fit in with but I sure wouldn’t get much out of it…
This wonderful community didn’t just open up to me overnight either – it took some time and effort – and just like my beloved Trek 5200, now it’ll take the proper maintenance.
The title of this post, making my own breaks, is a rather obvious double entendre and I’ll cover both meanings as they both apply to my century ride yesterday…
I’ll go with the good side of the meaning first. I had an interesting outlook going into the ride to begin with. The idea was to, first and foremost, have fun. Yesterday’s ride was not about time as was the Tour des Lacs [TdL] two weeks ago (even if I did finish with an overall mileage adjusted time of about a minute slower than the TdL). I also wanted to experiment with changing a few things around to see how they affected my overall performance. Up until yesterday, I had a pretty good winning formula for making sure I finished strong on rides longer than 80 miles. Unlike my two previous long distance rides I didn’t have a Gatororade Prime to start out with. I have no idea how that stuff works (nor do I really care), but it really gets me motivated and moving. I also didn’t have any bananas for two days leading up to the ride. The third major thing I did differently had to do with hydration. I drank as much as I could comfortably handle in the 24 hours before the ride. I’ve always been careful to stay hydrated, I just went a step or two better for the ride yesterday.
After packing up my truck, I was a little more than a touch nervous heading to the bike shop where the ride started. Typically I don’t believe in omens or touchy feely, “if you see [insert something interesting here], you’ll have good luck”, but I needed something yesterday to kind of easy my melon a little bit. Only a mile left to the shop, I saw what I needed to see, with the sun just breaking over the horizon to the east, a huge hawk sitting on a powerline looking for breakfast. My wife has always maintained that seeing a hawk is good luck – so that was good enough for me.
I had a little pre-ride jitters and that always translates to an active bladder for me, and combine that with all of the water/Gatorade I’d been drinking, I made three trips to the restroom before the start. I took off with Jeff and Dianne, along with Phil, Chuck and a few others who had plans of slowly winding it up until the fast group caught them so they could latch on. We averaged between 21 & 22 mph for the first fifteen miles when I was hit with the need to make a pit stop… I am not, and hope never to be, pro enough to go without stopping, so I was happy to see the first rest stop coming up. Unfortunately Chuck and I were the only two that stopped. Chuck mentioned that he had plans to wait for the fast group to show up so he could join them, which meant I was on my own – with 85 miles to go. This is not where I wanted to be, so I took care of business as quick as I could and commenced to hammering after the group I was with. I maintained that 21-22 mph pace on my own for another 15 miles and actually reeled the group in quite a bit. Coming up on the 30 mile mark they only had me by about a quarter of a mile. I was starting to tire out a little bit though. I decided that I was going to go for it and try to catch them, so I put my head down and started getting it on. 22 mph, 23… Then I looked up at and intersection and they were gone… And I never bothered to find out how the roads were marked… There were several “A’s” painted on the intersection in various colors, but I didn’t know which the century was… That’s when Chuck caught up – he’d decided to try to help me catch the tandem. Break number 1, though not of my making. I followed Chuck for a bit and we ended up lost. Fortunately I had my Endomondo going with the route loaded in, so all I had to do was zoom out to get a general idea of which way we had to go. Break number 2, and that one was of my making. We were back on route at mile 22. We hit another pit stop at mile 30 and lo and behold, I needed it again (note to self – don’t OVER hydrate). I ran past the porta-john for the woods because Matt and the fast group were just getting to their bikes after a very quick stop, so I figured if I could get on with them I could hang on for 30-40 miles and take the rest of the trip easy. Such was not the case. I had them in my sights for a few miles and actually tried to catch them for a few miles but they were slowly pulling away… And I was working way too hard already for what I had planned.
That’s when I caught Phil and another guy from the Tuesday night club ride. Phil was a sight for sore eyes. I’m generally a bit stronger than he is, but I know he generally rides at around 18-19 mph so after passing the two, I decided to wait up rather than continue on my own. We kept up an 18 mile pace until we hit the 55 mile rest stop – and lunch. Unlike at the TdL, I took the time to eat a decent lunch after topping off my bottles with Gatorade (yeah, they provided water and Gatorade!). It was a short stop, maybe 10-15 minutes, but the food (and the stretch) was needed. I felt like a hundred dollars after that stop. On leaving, we picked up a few more riders and had a nice little train going. I knew I was the fastest in our little group so I took long pulls up front, constantly checking my mirror to make sure I wasn’t dropping anyone (I did have to back off on more than one occasion). I took 3-mile long pulls while the other guys took a mile or two, and my pulls were always around 20 mph while the other guys averaged 18-19. We continued on this way for at least 18 miles before we got to the second meaning of the title of this post… I have a tough time backing off. Partly because I’m used to riding at a certain pace, but also because I don’t want to give anyone else the impression that I’m dogging it. Unfortunately, still being a noob, I have a tough time finding a balance. I continually checked my mirror, but Phil was filling it up so it looked like we were still together. We weren’t, it was just me and Phil. I asked him, once I realized I’d dropped three of our guys, if we should wait up but Phil suggested we keep going because we could regroup at the 74 mile rest stop, which is exactly what we did.
After that quick 5 minute stop (and finally, a calmed down bladder) we all took off for the home stretch, through Owosso. Owosso is the biggest town that we ran through on the journey and it was slow going… This was good and bad. I hate riding slow, hitting a stop sign (or light) every couple of blocks. The good side was that we ran up on a huge group and we all jumped on the train. We carried on that way at about 20 mph until we got to about the 82 mile – and my pull. With that big of a line up I didn’t want to be seen as dogging it so I hit it pretty hard for my mile, and I figured why not, I had about 24 cyclists to drop behind once I was done – it would probably be my only pull up front before we finished… My mile was at 23 and when I signaled that I’d be falling back, I checked my mirror to see only 4 riders behind me – I’d created another break,, and not only that, I didn’t have the protection I was planning on after the pull. I stayed on at that pace for another 8 miles (and two pulls) before I signaled that I’d be dropping off the back… I also tried something new – rather than simply pull over and drop off, which leave a gap that the riders behind have to bust their ass to fill, I led them up, passing the guy that was pulling so the other three wouldn’t have to work so hard. It was probably a needless gesture, but it seemed like a decent thing to do at the time.
After dropping off the back, I called my wife to let her know where I was and how long it would be before I finished so she could pick a decent spot to let the girls watch me come in and took it easy (18-19 mph) for the last few miles. I was really kicking myself for having dropped all of those other guys. I finished ahead of Phil and the others for a few minutes but it would have been neat (and a whole lot easier) to finish with a train of fellas.
Mrs. BDJ took some photos of the finish and subsequent high-fiving and glad handing… I’ll be sure to post them as soon as she gets them to me.