I went on a hill climbing expedition last Saturday in hopes of getting stronger and thereby faster for the effort. I obviously wouldn’t see actual results in a matter of days so there’s that, but I was expecting better results on Tuesday and I got one to an extent. As has been the case for some time, I get dropped on the same set of hills every Tuesday. Part of the problem was pointed out by Mrs. BDJ last night – I always end up pulling going up a certain hill, we hit a false flat and I’m too beat to latch back on as everyone peaks and coasts down the other side… So the wife says, “wouldn’t it be easier to be more towards the back?” DOH! Actually, the answer is a little more nuanced than that – most of the mediocre riders (myself included) get dropped on the same series of hills every week. If I’m too far back, I’ll get lost in a gap if I’m not careful or I blow up trying to bridge a gap going up a climb. Of course, if I’m up at the front, I blow up before I get to the top of the hill and can’t latch on.
Now, this is all relative and I’m really splitting hairs – if I get stronger and can ride faster with a lot of the stronger riders, I’ll be able to keep up regardless, BUT, for the time being it would be nice to keep on to the end and the trick to that is making it passed the set of hills that we get dropped on. I’ve got it on authority that once they get beyond those, they calm down a bit – and that makes sense now based on the ride last night…
We had a small group Tuesday night and we had quite a few of the stronger guys but I figured they’d take it easy with the size of the group. I was wrong. We started out deceptively easy at 19 mph but kicked that up to between 20 & 22 after the first mile. By the eighth mile we were up to 24 where we stayed for the next four miles and just before 12, we kicked it up to 25-27. I wasn’t exactly smiling, but I was holding on just fine – no worries. We hit the first series of hills on mile thirteen at 22 mph and climbing (they aren’t huge, but they sure ain’t tiny either), at the peak we were over 23. We then had a nice mile with just a touch of downhill to it and kept that from 27, climbing to 29. Still ok, which is a big improvement – a few weeks ago I’d have been off the back. We hit the second set of hills between miles 15 and 16 and maintained 20 mph over those… It was the third set that bit me. We hit them at 26 mph and I just blew up heading up the hill. I spent the next couple of miles catching up to one of the other guys who fell of the back and we picked up one more when we started working together and then the three of us picked up one more. The four of use ended up cruising back at 22-24 mph for the last seven miles. Our ride was 29 miles. We did it in 1:22. The fast group got back about a few minutes after we did and they went three more miles. They ended up somewhere near a 23 mph average.
Overall, with stop sign stops included we managed a 21 mph average (two other guys ended up with 21.5 & 21.6 with wheel magnet speedo’s). Without the stops, it was easily 22 or a little better. The point is, I’m absolutely getting better, faster and stronger. All of the work is paying off – especially the centuries and the hill quest from last Saturday (which I plan on repeating). Of course, being able to hang on for even most of the ride makes it a lot more fun.