Last night’s club ride was a bear. It was freakin’ hot, though for once the wind was reasonable in the single digits and out of the west. That wasn’t the tough part. My struggle for the evening was all about taking my vacation week off the bike.
While I didn’t feel like I’d lost any fitness, I did struggle a few times when I took the lead. Before I left, taking a two mile pull at 23 mph wasn’t that big of a deal. 22 for a mile was tough last night.
We rolled out promptly at 6 after a nice eight mile warmup, with the A group, and wound up the casualty of a gap after eleven miles. Four of us went all at once though so we formed up quick and reeled in my friends Mike and Diane on their tandem in short order. We picked up another solo rider a mile later and had us a nice little pace line.
24 miles in I started to cramp up. Just five miles left and I was hurting. I pushed all of the negativity and doubt from my melon. I countered each passing negative thought with a simple truism: You only get fast by going fast. So that’s what I did. I went fast.
The cramps in my quads were a slight nuisance but they subsided if I chose to spin rather than horse a harder gear, and if I pedaled in full circles it was bearable. Every time I tried to hammer a decent gear though, a calf or quad would seize up a little bit. Not enough I had to stop, but enough to be disconcerting.
We rolled up on the home stretch, three miles of downhill and pancake flat (after a short quarter-mile incline) and I was in the lead up the hill… meaning I got to rest after my turn up front… Sometimes you’re the lead out. Not last night.
I was three bikes back, a tandem and a horse of a guy in front of me, rounding the final corner. We were between 24&25 and I’d spent enough time up front to justify sitting back, letting everyone else sprint. Besides, cramping legs, yeah?!
I switch from the hoods to the drops and scooted my butt back a few millimeters on the saddle and took three breaths… not focusing on in but on the out. Most people think single-mindedly about breathing, getting air in. They rarely think about the other part of respiration that has everything to do with muscular performance: Getting CO2 out. Anyway, I waited for someone else to go, reaching my last point of launch with no one coming. I sprang out of my saddle, passing 32 mph, knowing I had more. A quick glance over my shoulders and I knew I didn’t need it. I had three bike lengths on the nearest guy. I sat down and cruised across the line, protesting leg muscles be damned.
My wife, having gotten formed up with two of my friends, after missing the discombooberated rollout at the start, fared well, completing the full warmup and 30 mile course just five or six minutes behind us…
Getting the legs back after a long week off isn’t easy or comforting on the mind… I’ve got a century coming up on Sunday. Woohoo!!!