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One Last Crack at Fast on Tuesday Night

There are days that bode well for a fast ride on the bike, and there are those that don’t. Last night was one of the latter variety.

For the Tuesday Night Club Ride, the Tuesday before Halloween is a little tricky.  First, the week before, a huge group of the A and B riders head out to Johnny V’s Smokehouse after the ride to celebrate the season – for the A Group, that’s the end of the season.  For the B Group, we ride one more week and then after the time change we’ve got our annual night ride.  Sometimes a few from the A Group will join us, sometimes not.  Last night was windy with a fair chance of rain – it was cool, cloudy, windy and a bit nasty.  Only Mike and Diane, Chuck, Jonathan, and I showed up…

There was no warm-up last night.  It had been raining on the way over and I was still in the process of deciding whether or not I’d even ride when everyone pulled into the parking lot.  Well, misery loves company, and the spritzing rain stopped.  A check of the radar, a prayer, and I started getting ready.  Only one E Group guy and a C Group guy, other than us, showed up.  We invited the C Group guy to roll with us, but he shooed us on.  He said he knew the route and wouldn’t want to hold us up.  Just like that the five of us took off.

After our warm-up mile and a half, we turned north with a nice tailwind.  I took my computer off the Trek a while back so I had no clue of our speed, I just knew I was laying down some fair watts up front.  A stop at a busy intersection to let traffic clear and we were off again.  I expected we’d drop speed when we turned, heading west, but we only dropped 2-mph (looking at Strava after the fact).  I’d taken refuge behind the tandem, which is exactly where you want to be on a cold and windy evening – specifically for what was coming…

A sharp left turn and we were dead into the wind.  The farther north we’d gone, the wetter the pavement got, but it wasn’t bad enough (thank God) to throw a rooster tail.  As we headed southwest, though, it dried up again.  I knew we were hammering pretty hard, considering the brutal headwind, but I had no idea we were managing to keep it north of 20-mph.  Turns up front were much shorter and everyone came off the front fighting for breath.  We made it through the wind, though.

Even though we started early, with the cloud cover it was starting to get dark so I made a command decision to cut our 30 mile loop short, down to 24-ish.  A right, followed by a quick left and we were dead into the wind.  I took it up to 21-mph but faded fast.  I think I might have lasted a half-mile at best.  Jonathan took over next, and he’d been taking some long pulls up front, so I was thankful when he started bleeding speed.  The headwind was just brutal, even four bikes back, behind a tandem.

Next was a stretch on a busy highway with a fair shoulder for us to use, but I was a bit worried as we wouldn’t be able to echelon for the crosswind.  Amazingly, it wasn’t bad at all, and we held a fair 20 to 21-mph.  We took a left turn and it was time for tailwind again.  With the tailwind there was no time for celebrating as the speed shot up to 30-mph with the tandem up front.  As luck would have it, we had a short climb after that left and the tandem lagged a little so I sneaked around them and took the lead with the tailwind.  Coming down the hill, though, they came around me like I was standing still to take their rightful place up front.  There was a small gap to Jonathan and Chuck, so I filled it and took my place behind the tandem again.  Mike and Diane took the rest of the tailwind to the dreaded final miles heading west.

This was another nervous section of road.  We were headed dead west with a SE/SSE cross-headwind with no houses or trees for shelter from the wind, just dead-open plowed fields.  Thankfully, we only had the five of us on four bikes so there was plenty of room for the echelon.  I was up front, leaning my bike about 10° into the brutal wind.  It was whipping me so hard I actually started laughing.  I took a long stretch, a little more than a mile, but the open fields took a toll – I started out strong at 21-mph, but faded fast to settle in between 19 & 20.

Once I came off the front the pace evened out a little as we got some shelter in the form of houses and trees, and with some downhill we managed to keep a fair pace.

We came into the home stretch with a couple of miles to go and Mike and Diane took the lead.  The home stretch is slightly downhill most of the way to the City Limits sign so it tends to be really fast.  With the crosswind, we only lost a little.  The speed crept up, little by little, until we were at 27-mph heading into the final sprint of the season.  I signaled to Jonathan and Chuck that I wasn’t going to go for the sprint.

Every week, all season long, the tandem leads the group out for the single bikes to drop them in the last 30 seconds in the race to the sign.  I thought, for once, it would be cool for them to take the sprint.  We stayed in formation right through the sign, giving Mike and Diane their much deserved win.

From there, we sit up and spin back to the parking lot as darkness started to fall.  Thankfully we all had our rear blinkies burning.  We’d rolled over the line with a 20.6-mph average (33 km/h).  With the amount of wind we had, over the distance we covered, and the small group, I was supremely happy with our result.  I pulled into the parking lot with 20-mph on the nose (normally I shut Strava down after the sprint finish, but at the end of the season, with full gloves on, I figure why bother – we’re not setting any speed records anyway).

Helmet went in the car, shoes changed, cycling cap donned, bike in the back and I walked around to say good night and thank my friends for coming out for the ride – and just like that, everyone started to leave, the end of another great season.  I got in my car, shut the door, and it started pouring.  Out of nowhere, the rain came in buckets.  We missed it by two minutes, max.

I pulled out of the parking lot and a quarter-mile up the road, here comes that C Group guy beating it for the parking lot like his life depended on it.  Poor guy got soaked.  

It was a great last fast day of the 2018 season.  The wind made it impossible to get close to our normal average for the night, but we busted some butt for an exceptionally satisfying ride.  Dinner at the diner with my favorite old-timer (that E Group guy) was extra tasty last night.  As good as it gets.

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You ever have one of those rides, where it’s cold enough you’re dreading the first two miles?

We’ve had a gnarly stretch of weather. I wrote about the gnarliness just yesterday.

I woke up this morning to more cold, cloudy and crappy. For once, rain wasn’t in the forecast. After a tough day at work, I was really looking forward to a nap… but something unexpected happened, long about 2pm. A strange glowing white/yellow orb appeared from between the clouds… It… t’was… the sun.

Sweet Jesus Marimba!

I got home and readied my bike. Pumped up the tires, filled my water bottle… and did something stupid. I sat down on the couch for a few minutes. I almost called my buddy, Chuck to tell him to ride without me. Almost.

I took my glasses off, set them in my lap, rubbed my eyes, and yawned. Yep, yawned. And that’s precisely when I placed my glasses back on my face, stood up and went to the bedroom to suit up.

Properly kitted up, I looked out the window. A line of dark clouds had blocked the sunlight, making it look cold… and that’s what I hate.

I stood at the window, looking outside, resenting the first two miles it would take to warm up, before I even walked out the door. It would be just like last Tuesday… or Monday… or Wednesday, Friday. Saturday or Sunday. I’d shiver, start pedaling, hate the wind, and that first two miles would suck.

You know what I mean.

Maybe I should just ride the trainer?

But the sun is out, kinda. How many of these days are we going to get?!

Man. I hate that first two miles.”

So, out the door I went. I shivered a bit, took my cleat covers off, clipped my right foot in, started Strava, pocketed my phone and pushed off.

The first mile wasn’t bad – I felt surprisingly good, and the houses were blocking some of the wind. I turned west, for Chuck’s house and the wind was at my back. It wasn’t too bad. Maybe… And then Chuck came into view. I pulled a u-turn into the win,,,

“Oh, dammit.”

The sting of the headwind. Relentlessly, right in my face.

A half-mile later and Chuck and I were cruising down the road at speed, talking about current events.

Three miles later I was thinking about how lucky I was to be on the right side of the grass and on my bike. Two miles later, I didn’t even care about the headwind. Chuck was taking his turn up front.

We went for two bonus laps, we were having such a good time, each adding another 2-1/2 miles to our ride. Heading up a short hill at the start of the second bonus lap, I was laughing as I said to Chuck, “Two bonus laps? I feel like such a rebel!”

Ah, the little things.

The rest of the ride was crosswind or tailwind, so we put our heads down and motored, at times almost toughing 30-mph with a push from the wind.

There was no place I’d rather have been right then.

Chuck and I split ways as I turned into my driveway. I dismounted, pulled my phone and shut Strava down. I could feel the chill almost immediately, so I didn’t bother sitting around. I took it inside.

All was right in my world. I smiled to no one as I entered my ride data into Endomondo.

I still hate those first two miles. The next twenty-and-change were awesome, though… and I’d have missed them of I’d ridden on the trainer.

The Exact, Specific Reason I Train Like a Dope All Winter Long. Part 643

Straight off the trainer I rode 17-1/2 miles on Thursday, 35 Friday, 50 Saturday, and another 52 Sunday. Not a bad four-day tally this early in the season, especially after the never-ending winter. Monday seemed like a good day for a day off, or at the most, an short, easy active recovery ride….

There was a problem, though; it was 71° (21 C), sunny, with a light breeze. The first shorts and short sleeves day of 2018.

So, scratch the day off. No chance I’m polishing the leather couch with my butt when it’s 70° outside.  I called my buddy, Chuck and Jonathan had asked by text if I was riding at 5… We got lucky and moved everything up to 4pm as well – bonus miles.

We started with a mild tailwind. 22 mph was easy, 23 took some effort, but I’d promised Chuck we’d take it easy after the stretch of weekend miles. I kept it around 22 and we just rolled down the road.   It was wonderful to be outside minus the thermal layers!

I took the first two miles, then Chuck took a turn, then Jonathan. We kept a nice turnover going and every one took long turns up front. We were riding like a finely tuned machine.  Heading south we encountered our first bit of headwind. We did quite well with it, though. We managed two mile turns at 19-20 mph.  We stopped at a gas station at mile 14 because Jonathan’s rear derailleur needed to be indexed to get the clicking out of it…  I showed him how to do it in ten seconds, we took a drink and rolled.

For the next ten-ish miles we had one form or tailwind or another – mostly cross, but every once in a while we’d hit a stretch with a dead-on tailwind.  We rolled pretty fast through there, taking care to maximize the draft – there wasn’t much riding on the hoods, it was all drops and all go.

The final twelve were always going to be the toughest, we knew that going in.  In my neck of the woods, if we want to get to the quiet roads during the week, we have to go south and west…  When we’ve got a southeast wind (as we often do during springtime) that usually means the last bit of the ride is going to be mostly headwind.

Fortunately, Jonathan is a pastor of a local church and he isn’t able to get out in the morning on the weekends… so he had fresh legs.  I let him know right up front that we were going to ride him like a rented mule and we did.  And he stayed took us home like a champ.  Chuck and I would take a mile or two but Jonathan was taking 3 & 4 miles at a chunk, and at almost 22 mph at times.

And that’s where we come to the title of the post.  I rode outside four days in a row, now five, fresh off of the trainer and we were crushing out some really tough miles into that cross headwind with nowhere to hide, really.  Traffic on that stretch is notoriously bad so we kept it to the shoulder, often riding in a 1′ strip of asphalt, into a cross headwind, at 22 mph.  To say it was tough is an understatement, but I was fit enough to hang.

If I hadn’t trained like I do, without fail, without hesitation, and without waiver in intensity, there’s no way that ride goes off like it did.  Either I’m looking at the best day of the year from the couch in front of the TV or I’m riding alone because I got dropped (or we’re riding a lot slower as a group, there’s a fair chance Chuck and Jonathan would have waited up).  Instead, we got a great workout, in only bibs and jerseys, on a perfect day for a bike ride.  We ended up with 36-1/2 miles at a 19.1 mph average pace.

My friends, it doesn’t get any better than that.

69 km, 35 km/h Wind and a Sunburn…

Some days are just too perfect for work.  Sometimes, it’s so far between nice days you simply have to play hooky…

At times Thursday, heading out into the wind we were held to just 13 mph (20 km/h).  I know now we had gusts up to 40 mph (65 km/h) – I didn’t know this then… As the wind had its way with us, I just smiled and rode on, sitting up high to give my wife as much shelter as I could. It was brutal hard work, but I didn’t want to be anywhere else than right where I was…. playing hooky and riding with my two best friends, my wife and Mike.  I expected my phone to blow up and was shocked to check it and find I was wrong… twice.  It’s a rare day get away with playing hooky like that!

With that wind, however, came some glorious sunshine and our first warm day of the year.  We knew it was supposed to get above the knee warmer threshold of 65° but we didn’t know it would be better than that when we left.  We bucked the wind for what seemed like forever but, for once, we didn’t bother pushing all that hard into it.  We kept the pace tame and simply rolled with it.  It was surprisingly nice.  We stopped at 14 miles to shed clothes – I kept the arm warmers and leg warmers but folded up my vest and stowed it in my back pocket.  I was too warm.

Then we hit the cross tailwind and 20+ mph was easy.  It was awesome, at least for a few miles.

Six miles later, still eating wind, the gloves and arm warmers were shed. First bare arms since last October. The wind pushed us home, we were soft pedaling and going 23 mph (37 km/h. With a little effort, 27 (40 km/h).  We hit spots above 30 mph…

…and along with the ride home came a sunburn.  A mild one at that, it was long gone by Friday morning.  My Vitamin D deficiency fixed, I felt like a champ all day long.

43.3 miles. 2:28:12 for a 17.5 mph average. Not bad for that much wind.  A perfect day of hooky.  Perfect.

Tuesday Night Ride: Hangin’ with My Buds Edition

We finally had a reasonable evening for the Tuesday night club ride… 45° with a tough, but liveable west wind, and we had a decent group show. We’re a month late for the Tuesday night rides to start but let’s face it, filing a grievance with mother nature simply isn’t going to go very far.

We rolled for our 7-1/2 mile warm-up at 5:10 pm on the dot and enjoyed a fairly easy pace for the first four (all head and crosswind).  The last three and change got a little lively with the tailwind as we cruised back to the start at 23-24 mph.

As is often the case when it’s too gnarly for the whole group to show up (and 45° with s sustained 12-15mph wind is “too gnarly”), the A guys started us out and got us through the headwind.  Well, technically they got most of us through the headwind.  People were dropping like flies after a few miles.  Having had the rust knocked out of me last Thursday by three A guys, I wasn’t going anywhere.  After 15 miles, when we turned the corner for a tailwind, the A Group kicked it in the ass and they pulled away from Chuck, Chuck, James, Brad and me – the only five remaining B guys out of, say eight.

Brad and James had fallen off so the two Chucks soft pedaled for a minute while I went back for them.  It looked like Brad gave up and was waiting for someone else to catch him because James pulled away from him.  I dropped far enough back to grab James and we motored up to the Chucks.  We rolled, the four of us, at a goodly pace for almost eight miles before the group started getting split up.  First James fell off, then Chuck C.

That left Chuck B. and me… and we saw two Mikes up ahead and decided to try to reel them in.  I took a turn, then Chuck, then me again and we were making progress.  Unfortunately we were between 22 & 24 mph with the crosswind and around 27 with a tailwind to make up ground.  Chuck and I were both starting to run out of gas.

I almost had us to them, maybe 30 or 40 yards, but Chuck and I were spent and he didn’t have enough left to come around me to close the gap.  We faded back and the two Mikes pulled away.

Then I caught a second wind… from somewhere and we took up chase again.  Chuck would come around for just long enough to give me the break I needed and I’d pull around him when he started to fade again.  We managed a lively 26 mph and closed the gap.  We caught them with just two miles left and hung on for the ride.

Doc Mike pulled us home the rest of the way and just before the final City Limits sign he took it up to 28 mph to try and shake us.  Unfortunately for him, I’d had enough time to recharge just enough.  Last weekend he’d hung onto my wheel and sprinted around me at the last second to take a sign… as we soft-pedaled to cool down and let everyone else catch up he made a crack that he had a participation trophy in the car that I could have when we got back.  It was payback time.

With 20 seconds left and the sign in sight I launched a blistering sprint passing both Mikes at 32mph and I put the hammer down.  All my buddy Mike could do was grunt as I pulled away.  I took the first Tuesday night B Group Sprint of the season by six bike lengths, give or take.  When the two Mikes caught up I looked back at Doc Mike and said, “I guess you can hang onto that participation trophy for a bit”.  We both cracked up and enjoyed the last three-quarters of a mile back to the parking lot.

Cycling is great, indeed.  I love it.  Cycling with friends, the camaraderie and laughs, is something special.  If I was all alone I’d still ride, but having a gaggle of friends to share the experience with is, well, it’s hard for me to describe.  It’s good stuff, baby.

Here’s to the return of the Tuesday night ride!  Dilly, Dilly.