Yesterday was an absolute roller coaster at work. I’ve got a ridiculously large job with an idiotic schedule that will be nearly impossible to meet, though we’re giving it hell. By the time I headed home I was fit to be tied with the newfound knowledge that I’ve become a veritable babysitter – and an expensive one at that.
I arrived home with minutes to pack up and head out the door. I kissed my awesome wife and my two daughters, donned my favorite USA cycling jersey and my $150 shorts (dammit, I still can’t believe I paid a hundred bucks for a pair of shorts…even at 33% off, that’s a lot of cheese, but they are worth it), got my glasses, helmet, shoes, tire pump and ran over to the meeting spot. I cut my warm up short – normally five – down to three miles. First, I didn’t want to have to rush, and second I just wanted to chill out on the warm up – sometimes Mike and I feed off each other and I end up working way too hard.
We started at 6:01. Conditions were utterly perfect. Sunny skies, 70 degrees, and a tiny breeze out of the west with gusts up to maybe 10 mph. The first mile was very easy at 19 mph to give the group time to form up. The second and third miles were slow as well (3:08 & 3:06).
Then all hell broke loose. 2:39, 2:46, 2:39, 2:40, 2:30, 2:21, 2:22, 2:23 (no kidding), 2:55 (climbs), 2:34, 2:31, 2:18 (fastest mile), 2:41, 2:38, 2:36, 3:05 (climbing), 2:56, 2:36, 2:36, 2:48 – and that’s where I dropped off for the first time. Folks, there were two things going on at that point. First, I got behind a guy in a baby blue Bianchi who was yo-yoing on purpose. He was pushing the Big Dog/12 gear (rather than cycling) with a cadence of about 50-60… He’d get on the wheel of the guy in front of him, then fade back five feet, then hammer back up, then fade back again… Absolutely ridiculous – I’d even dropped back at one point from the front of the pack just to get away from him. On top of that, the head of the pack was yo-yoing as well, trying to shake loose the stragglers in the back. We climbed what hills there were out there at a ridiculous pace – I never dropped out of the big ring.
I grew tired of the yo-yo at 23 miles, fell to the back and quietly slipped off. Unfortunately there was another fella who dropped a few seconds before I did who said there was an easy shortcut to get back ahead of the group then latch back on so I quickly changed my mind and decided to go with him. Sure enough the shortcut, which lopped maybe a half-mile off of the route, worked and we came out 500 yards in front of the main group. I latched back on for another four miles (2:36-2:48) – same yo-yo. At that point, I really did have enough. I slipped back again and latched off, on purpose, with only four miles to go. Even with the last four miles ridden easy, at an 18.5 mph pace I still turned in a personal best time of 1:30:30 for 32.2 miles, with an average of 21.6 mph (I was over 22.1 when I dropped). On one level I am a little bit bummed that I made the choice I did. A small part of me chastised the rest for not hardening up and finishing the last four. On the other hand, the rest of me is purely happy with what I did do (most miles I’d ever spent with the lead group by a long shot). Either way, the pace was absolutely furious.
So, even with the 1/2 mile cheat added back in I turned in a personal best on the route and that is awesome. The sheer number of miles between 24 and 26 mph were crazy, also leading to a personal best for 10 miles: (25:24). Simply awesome.
Now, I’d been worried that I was less fit this year, in terms of speed… My miles are down and my overall ‘easy’ pace was a little slower than last year (18.5 mph instead of 19 mph) – even my all-out efforts were a couple of tenths down until a few weeks ago. The last few club rides though, show that this isn’t necessarily the case. Part of the drop, I learned just a couple of days ago, is due to traffic. I went out for an easy ride and maintained an 18.5 mph pace (I know this by gear I was pushing) into the wind all the way to the halfway point. When I turned to loop back though, I only had an 18 average – Endo’s auto-pause. I expected this to go up a few tenths with the breeze at my back, but by the time I returned home I was up to 18.6 and I’d hardly worked to do it. In other words, I’m slower because of traffic, not because I can’t ride as fast as I did last year.
In the end, it’s all good news. Oh, and on finishing last night, the endorphins were absolutely kicking! I had a sense of peace and tranquility that I haven’t felt in weeks. It was beautiful and it will help me to get through the last half of the week – I needed it.
It’s all good baby.