I’d left work an hour early because I thought my wife had planned a surprise birthday party for me. I still had plans to ride, but I wanted to get home early and enjoy my day… only to find out she was taking the kids to the lake. She passed me on the way there, kids in the car. I was a little bummed but decided I’d be okay so I started prepping my stuff for the big club ride. It was going to be interesting, with a fair chance of thunderstorms, no wind, and 94° heat. I prepped and packed and headed out for the 5:10 pm warm-up. Do you really need to warm up when it’s better than 90?!
The first wave of storms skirted us but didn’t open up. The warm-up was sllllllooooowwwww. It needed to be. We got back to the parking lot after the 7-mile loop with something like a 15-mph average. People were filtering in and literally hiding behind cars to get some shade. The crowd was small though. We had eight people for the B Group, maybe. Probably twelve or fourteen for the A’s. And we had five C/D’s… so it was decided over my minor objection that the A’s and B’s would roll out together. The Watt King “promised” they’d play nice. I wasn’t about to hold my breath. I’d need all of it.
But they did. It was an easy start that ramped up over a couple of miles before we turned north and it got a little hectic. I took a couple of turns up front but as the pace quickened to better than 25-mph, I decided to hide for a bit. Twelve miles in, clouds were rolling in from the west and they were not looking good. The wind kicked up… and we were into it climbing a series of rollers at better than 20-mph. Every now and again I could feel a rain drop on my arm or leg… and then we turned, heading back east. The group surged up the first hill to better than 26-mph and I popped. Too hot, too fast, too up. Two others popped with me and we quickly formed our own line. I took the lead with the tailwind at 25-ish-mph. I was up front for a little less than a mile and one of the guys said he was having trouble catching his breath – his heart rate was pegged. Jonathan took it down to 23-mph and I slid back behind him to give Dave a little more time to rest. We caught David next and before you knew it, we had a decent four-man train. We took it easy up the last major hill before the regroup point. Dave asked if we could stop for a minute…
When we hit the bottom of the descent off the back of the hill we’d just climbed, there was a group of A/B riders, maybe five more, waiting for us. We gave Dave a minute to catch his breath but rolled out when thunder started rumbling behind us – and that was heading right for us. We had a tailwind or cross tailwind all the way home. Wind shifts never work like that! You always get a headwind in that lottery. Not that night.
We singled up and pounded the pedals for home, trying to outrun the building storm.
With 4-1/2 miles to go we were sitting on a 23.5-mph average. We were at 24.7-mph when I hollered up to the front, “If we just hold this pace, we’ve got a new B Group record”. Someone else shouted, “Then let’s pick it up!”
We went from 25-mph to 28… to 30… to 32. The average responded too, though we were fast enough I only gave the computer a glance one time then never looked again. We hammered home, driven by the desire to A) not get struck by lightning, and B) not to have to clean the bike! We were at 31-mph leading into the home stretch and I had a smile stretched across my face…. and rounding the corner, just before we were going to hit the sprint point, a motorist was slowly backing his car into a driveway completely blocking the road. The sprint finish was dissipated before the launch.
We crossed the line with anywhere from a 23.9-mph average to 24.4 depending on the device used. We decided on 24 even – an improvement of more than 0.7-mph over our best previous effort.
The parade mile back to the parking lot was hi-fives, laughs and stories about interesting parts of the ride. We pulled into the church parking lot and there was my wife and daughters singing “Happy Birthday”, handing out homemade chocolate chip cookies to everyone as they passed by.
We’d turned in our best time on that loop, 1:10:46 over better than 28 miles, on my 50th birthday.
Friends, it was as good as it gets.
My wife and eldest daughter headed to Wendy’s for their dinner, my youngest and I to Burger King. We took our dinner home and ate on the back porch, laughing and telling stories about playing my daughters favorite card game, “Exploding Kittens” (highly recommended btw). Then came the birthday cake – a homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing… my favorite.
I passed out in a sugar induced coma shortly thereafter. And slept like a baby. A happy birthday, indeed. And the best part is, I can’t wait to see what happens in the second half.