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TNIL; One for the Club Edition

Well, conditions weren’t perfect last night, but they were close when I pulled my Venge from the back of my Equinox and prepped for the warm-up. We’d had quite an unsettling couple of days as weather went but all of that had blown out, leaving mild, crisp (but not in the cold sense of “crisp”, in the clean sense), sunny skies with a decent breeze just cresting into the double digits (in mph). It was quite gorgeous, really. We had a wind from the dead-north which is favorable for the most part, except the long slog north at the last half of the main event…

Dave and I were the only two for the warm-up so we rolled out at an easy pace. I’d taken Monday off for bad weather and my legs protested a little bit as I shook them out. East and west were going to be easy enough but north was going to be ugly. We pulled into the parking lot with an 18.8-mph average for the warm-up and my legs had taken well to the shake-out.

When we arrived back at the parking lot, we had two new guys already and Matt had called earlier to let me know another would be there. Mark was prepping his bike and Clinton knew Allen who was also out for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half (!). I introduced myself to Mark and struck up a conversation to figure out where he belonged in the crew. 18-mph average pace solo, Specialized Roubaix… looked like the 105 edition with disc brakes and it looked to be a 2019 or better… judging by that I figured he could keep up with us if we took it easy. Clinton was definitely a B rider but with no pace-line experience. Larry was a B/soon to be A rider with an old Roubaix with Zipp wheels from maybe 2004 or 2005. Larry looked like a cyclist… he just needed some experience. I picked mark to hang out with because he looked like the freshest of the group. He was going to need some work to bring up to speed.

Mark and I rolled out for an easy warm-up lap around a nearby subdivision before heading back for the start…

We rolled out and I had an ugly feeling I’d made a mistake. Fred showed up and I’d fit him with Joe and Mike – Mike looked like C potential and Joe is a solid, long-time D rider. Fred was new but had a lot of want to and a brand new Salsa Warbird… but I figured Mark looked too fit to be in that group. He wouldn’t get close enough to get a draft, though. A mathematics professor, you could tell he was working the equations on the likelihood of a crash in his head and he didn’t like his odds. Still, he looked strong and had a lot of want to and was holding on to the group. I figured things would work out once we headed north into the headwind (which would slow the group down) and he took to drafting to get out of the wind.

The former happened. The latter didn’t. He was about two feet too far back to get any benefit but he didn’t have much quit in him, either.

Chucker working with Mark with a tailwind

We made it to the tailwind section together and that helped him out considerably. He was looking a lot better and Chuck was helping him as well so I went up to take a few pulls and help out. I had a nice conversation with Mark who hadn’t been out on a Tuesday in forever and took a few turns up front. Clinton and Larry were doing great, rotating through the group and taking their turns up front. The pace, to this point, was easy by our standards at about 20.5-mph, so Mark, Allen and Clinton and Larry were doing really excellently. The group was keeping it civil.

Unfortunately, about 18 miles into the ride, we hit the hills and Mark’s Achilles heel. He burned up and dropped off the back almost instantly. I’d been playing around up front with everyone else and didn’t notice he’d slipped off. As soon as I realized he was gone, I waved off and went back to scoop him up. Chuck was already back there with him. We tried to get Mark back to the group, and actually succeeded after a bit because everyone held up at the regroup point. Mark gave hanging with the group everything he had, but he was too blown up to hang. I told Chuck to head up with the group and sat up to ride the last eight with Mark. I promised him at the beginning I had his back, so I lived up to it.

We spent the rest of the trip back working on drafting and trying to help Mark to be comfortable riding with others. Before I knew it, we were heading down the main stretch to the parking lot.

Now, a note to the Genesee Wanderers… I’d like to help Mark get in with the C Group (I think the Ds are a little slow for him), so all you C Groupers out there, we can get new blood to show up but if you folks don’t ride so the new people can ride with others of their caliber, they won’t bother coming back. Please help us retain the new folks by showing up to ride.

TNCR: The Last Tuesday Night of 2019. The Night Ride

It was a gnarly evening. Strong winds, upwards of 20-mph gusts, and the temperature was unseasonably cold at just 39° (4 C). Still, I was at the church at 5 for the warm-up. I was the only one. I did my seven miles with a smile on my face – actually I was chuckling more than smiling for the first few miles, dead into the wind. 15-mph was fast. And cold.

The mile south, with a crosswind, was fairly simple, but I started to sweat a little bit. It wasn’t till I turned east that I really felt I might be overdressed. I was cruising at 21-mph and sweating. Rather than finish at that pace, I slowed down to stay cool. I decided not to shed a layer because it was going to be a lot colder when we finished the main ride.

My friends started showing up around a quarter to six. Chuck thought it might be too cold, but ended up sticking around. It was just Chuck and I for ten minutes and I figured we might be packing it up and heading home… then my friends started filtering in, one at a time.

We rolled out in the failing light at a few minutes after 6 – and it was nasty. We ended up with seven in our group and there was another with three or four, but they were going slower and shorter.

Thankfully, with headlights blazing, I could barely make out the speed reading on my Garmin. It wasn’t good – the wind was relentless. I was in the left, outer, pace-line and was pummeled by the crosswind as soon as we turned north. I prefer the outside lane on a westerly wind night because I’ll get hammered early and those on the right get it late.

It was dark within three miles.

We ended up, after eleven miles, in a single-file pace-line/echelon because the wind was just too brutal – and we were quite a bit faster single-file. Another couple of miles and we hit tailwind.

I was, without question, overdressed. I was sweating a lot more than would be recommended and it was quite a bit of effort keeping up with the group. Still, I’d rather be a little over-warm than cold.

Folks, I’m just going to say it; I struggled the whole damn ride. It was freaking ugly. But I did it, and it was all laughs and high-fives after. Well, it didn’t last long. It was so freakin’ cold, everyone packed there stuff and split… quick.

It was a nasty ride, but still better than a swift kick in the pants.

So there went the 2019 cycling season. It was an awesome one.

Now onto more important things: My month-long celebration should have started five days ago, but I forgot! 28 years, baby! WOOOO! Rick Flair!

Why I LOVE Being Fit; Reason 3,927

My buddy, Chuck texted me just before 2pm to let me know he’d be at my place to ride at 5. My legs were smoked after the weekend’s cycling and we’re going to have a big night tonight… Sunny, 75° (24 C) and single-digit wind speed…

My friends, without some wind to tamp down the spirit, $#!+’$ gonna get fast tonight.

So, after a veritable bunch of miles over the weekend, I let Chuck know that I’d be taking it easy to spin my legs out for the club ride. Chuck agreed, he was feeling pretty hit, too.  Fortunately, Chuck and I know something most recreational cyclists don’t know (or can’t fully grasp):  A day off just before a hard ride is worse than two hard days in a row.  The best thing for tired legs is an easy spin with a fairly high cadence.

We rolled out to what approached perfect conditions. 68° (20 C), barely a breeze, and impeccably sunny…. and unlike rides past, where one of us gets a little too fast, it was tame. We started out at 17-mph and didn’t get much faster than that. It was a “hands on the bar tops” night and it was nice.

We stopped at the bike shop for a minute to say hey to Phill, whose truck was in the lot, then took off again. In Chuck’s text, he’d mentioned that he wanted some bonus miles, something around 25 in lieu of the normal 17-1/2, because it was so nice out.  I obliged, and we added another 11 miles cruising around different neighborhoods.  Our average pace ended up at just over 16 mph and I never broke a sweat.  The ride was exquisite.  While I would never advocate training slow to get fast (other than a small nod to long, slow distance), as I always say, slow days have their place and that one was perfectly placed.

I woke up feeling fresh and ready for this evening’s festivities.  As Ricky Bobby once said, “Hang on, baby Jesus… this is gonna get bumpy”.

Understanding Pace Line Cycling; a few How To and Where to Be Tips for Cycling with an Advanced Group!

I had a very interesting scenario unfold last night at the club ride that was the impetus for this post.

An older woman who has been a cyclist for some time and is currently the stoker on my buddy, Brad’s tandem (and a good one at that), rode with us last night for the final club ride of the season.  With her years of experience and riding with Brad on the tandem, I expected that she’d fit right in.

My expectations were clearly too high.

She was all over the place.  Hanging out in the wind half the time, to the left side, to the right side… trying to horn in on someone else’s draft when she started tiring out…  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Now, it gets better because I ride a lot with Brad… she slid over next to me and started carrying on a conversation (we were in a single file pace line).  As she starts to tire out, she began crowding me out of my spot in the pace line.  Befuddled (and with plenty of gas in my tank), I opened up a gap and said there you are, if you want my spot so bad, take it.

I stayed away from her the rest of the time she was with us, which wasn’t very long the way she was riding….

Being me, I want everyone to fit into the group.  I want to be welcoming, as others were with me, and to be accommodating wherever possible.  That makes my pet peeve, having someone in the group who doesn’t understand how they fit into a group, a little difficult.  It’s a struggle, though I’m glad to have the problems I do.  Everyone should be so lucky.

In any event, before I get into this simple post, please allow me the dalliance of an explanation:  I am not talking about the old ladies’ no-drop 14 mph average ride here.  We’re talking about the big boy and girl “you’d better keep up or we’ll see you later” ride.

With that out of the way, something occurred to me before I was able to get upset about the way things were unfolding:  The woman in question was used to riding with the 15-16 mph average C group, where hanging out side-by-side is not a big deal.  With the 22 mph average B crew, especially when you’re jumping up a group, there’s simply no room for that – even I have to be careful to pick and choose when I want to ride up alongside someone for a chat.  Too long doing that and I’d drop too – which is exactly what happened to the subject of this post.  She was off the back within ten miles, and we didn’t wait for her (my wife went back and rode her to the parking lot, but even my wife noticed small issues, like she was often on the wrong side of the wind to get a good draft).

When I see people riding like this, I assume there are others, and unlike the government, I actually am here to help.  If you’re new to a group, try these simple suggestions (oh, and just because I call them suggestions, it doesn’t mean you should choose to be a punk and ignore them…  When you jump out of an airplane they “suggest” you pull the ripcord before you hit the ground.  Go ahead and try to cheat that one):

The first lesson of cycling club is:  Do as the others in cycling club do.  If you see a perfectly smooth line of cyclists executing a perfect pace line, don’t try to show everyone how awesome you are by riding next to someone else.  Get in the pace line and wait until there’s a break and others sit up.  You won’t look awesome as you’re fading off the back over the horizon, so don’t try to be cute.

The second lesson of cycling club is:  Don’t ever, if you’re in a double pace line, ride in the middle of the two lines.  The only exception is if there is an odd number of cyclists and you’re the last one in line.  As soon as the two at the front come back, either make a gap for them if you’re too weak to pull through or pick a side.  If you try to stay in the middle with cyclists behind you, you will hear about it and it won’t be pretty.  Expect lots of cussing and talk about the social status of your mother.  And know this; You deserve it.

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The third lesson of cycling club is:  The goal is to make it to the finish line with the group.  If you’re struggling to hang on, stay at the back and out of the way so the others can work.

The fourth lesson of cycling club is:  Be someone the others want to have around.  Be selfless as you can without getting yourself dropped.  Ride well and be considerate of those riding with you…. this is the best way to not only be invited back to ride with the group on the scheduled night, it’s the best way to get yourself invited to the weekend rides as well.

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The fifth lesson of cycling club is:  Don’t try to pull too long at the front when you do pull through.  If you’ve paid attention to the first four lessons, the group will want you to ride with them.  You do no good off the back and on your own.  We were all once where you are, just doing your best, struggling to hold on.  We know for a fact that your time up front will improve as the months roll on, so be smart about it…  Ten, twenty or thirty seconds up front is plenty for noobs.

These tips are all for advanced pace lines.  When you’re in the no-drop rides, they’re social events.  When you’re in the advanced rides, the socializing happens before and after – and between hyperventilating breaths while your out on the road, whilst (and at the same time) trying to keep from getting your tongue wrapped up in your spokes.  Don’t try to do too much, just your part will do nicely.

This has been a cycling public service announcement brought to you by Fit Recovery.

Results! Busting Through My Cycling Plateau…

This evening was the absolute perfect night for the club ride. Minimal wind (5mph), temps in the mid 70’s and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. A vast improvement over the rainy, cool start to the day… And only a few of the really fast guys showed up. The jerk TT bike guy stayed home (he’s so “pro” that he, and only he, can ride a time trial bike in a club ride – folks, he is an actual, real-life anus) and so did both Mikes.

Judging from the crowd, three tandems and a triple, I figured it would be a pretty easy ride. After the first mile at just 19 mph I was ready to sit back and enjoy the ride. The pace picked up but it rose slowly enough that I hardly noticed and with the whirring of the pedals and cassettes and the breeze from the speed I couldn’t hear my Endomondo chick counting off the miles. It was 25 miles (still with the main group) before I heard her. 25 miles in one hour nine minutes, two seconds… We were moving out pretty well.

One of the riders on the triple lost a water bottle so the stopped to grab it and from that point the group splintered. I stayed up with the front group for a few miles but eventually let them go so I could relax and keep it at an easy 20. I was starting to poop out and I’d pushed my legs hard enough (a lot harder than planned) after finally shaking out the soreness from the weekend. In fact, considering that, I can’t believe that I was able to ride as fast as I did.

I pulled into the parking lot, 32 miles in 1:30:14. The fastest I’ve ever ridden that route by eight minutes, at 21.4 mph.

I’ve written about this before, but it was such a big deal breaking out of my plateau, it’s gotta be reiterated… I was absolutely stuck before my trip to the mountains and my first really long ride. I could flirt with improvement, maybe an increase of a tenth of a mile per hour or two on an inconsistent basis, but I’m picking up speed now at a rate that was previously a wish.

These results began just after my 80 mile ride – I literally felt stronger. Then, with the daily rides on the mountain roads, the repeated climbing really added to those gains – and they were obvious in my first century. Now I’ve got a few recovery rides and one more hard effort before I head out for my next century on Sunday. I can’t wait. Not only for the ride, which should be a blast, but for the results that come afterwards.

Finally!