I had to re-learn a valuable lesson on New Years Day……..and it isn’t what you think, but it was Very Painful.
I went with friends to Athens, GA for the New Years eve, downtown festivities – Good times. New Years day consisted of road riding with the Winter Bike League ride. This was probably the first WBL ride I’ve done in many years. These rides are not for the weak of heart, nor weak leg individual. The only thing that is bigger than some of the names of folks that ride are the tales that are told about the rides!
“There were 60 or 70 diehards in attendance on Friday, but less on Saturday, all powerful pedal-people capable of Herculean feats of pedaling prowess. Even old-time Zealots Steve Carhart, Reggie Pineda, and Gentry Arnette were back from the dead.”
But don’t doubt that the rides are the real deal.
The New Years day ride was 64 miles, which equaled 72 from the house we are crashing at.
Let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling the best this morning from the New Years festivities, but I wasn’t feeling the worst out of all of us either, after all, I did actually get on the bike….
The peeps were up by 8, coffee & breakfast for those that could stomach it….. not me.
The warm-up to the ride didn’t seem to make things any better. The morning temperatures were hovering just above freezing, and we were late. We got to the start and I barely had the energy to sign-in and chat with some of the folks that I haven’t seen in too long. The Mighty ride leader got on with the announcements & the ride, wind, miles commenced. Everyone shuffled up the group as we headed out of town and I wanted nothing to do with it….. I was content to be able to keep the field in site…… I was feeling weak and had no extra energy to attempt to maintain a position with these top dogs Southeastern racing scene!
Slowly, but definitely most anyone that was indeed intent on keeping up with the pack passed the weak member ahead of them – ME. When I looked back, there were only a few stragglers behind me…..the guys that are on the back of most of the big rides around this area – chatting, laughing, not concerned about the group because they know they can turn on the gas at any time and catch up if and when they want.
As the miles ticked away I was tipping up a flask of gel and attempting to rehydrate from my water bottles, the stomach was at least starting to feel better & now willing to believe that what ever I was ingesting was now for the greater good, rather than the opposite of the previous evening. As I was now realizing that we were probably 20+ miles out, the ride itself was starting to take their toll on my legs, each on the brakes, on the gas! section was hurting more and more & I was having to dig more when coming out of the turns that we were going through. At least experience tells me that the accelerations and decelerations don’t have to adjusted immediately – like the old racing dog that I am, I know that I can carefully use the amount of efforts smoothly to close gaps & whenever possible look for other wheels to do the work. But still, I was unfortunately, sitting near the back, I getting the full ‘piano’ effect of the field. This made a tough day tougher!
And then came the hills……ah, the rolling hills around this area can not be fooled! They will slowly sap your energy & they are even more effective when multiplied by the cross wind along the flats leading into them. The hills will not be fooled – they will pinpoint your fitness based on the group around you. I fell off the pace on a climb only to sit on a wheel that closed the gap – that hurt. Always onward the pack marches, they don’t notice what happens behind them, they only move forward. We marched on wind beating everyone from the side, yet no one complains, they just get on with the job at their feet, marching to the pace being set by the front pace makers. Next climb and this one has bite! The front dogs haven’t changed their pace much & the steepness and distance is not to my liking….. I have to call up the team car.
“You ok?” to make the answer more obvious, I give them the wild crossed eyed look, which also implied what I thought of the hill. “K, we will pace you back” – Really? phew!!!! I make it up the climb & sit in behind the SUV, boosting my speed until we are catching up with some of the other riders that are falling off the pace. I pick up my head enough to realize that the the whole pack has slowed down to take a right turn. I come around the car, barely able to raise my hand in appreciation. I keep a high pace, whip through the turn, and finally onto the back of the field. Gaining once again the feeling of safety within the herd.
Onward we roll through the countryside, and all the time now, I’m looking for a chance for this wounded passenger to gain access into the upper ranks of the distinguished riders. Every chance to gain forward momentum is painful, more gel, more water. Slow, Fast…. next roller, Hangin’ On….. must move up.
The next climb that we come to is longer, but not as steep. I can make it I think, it’s more suited for me. As we get into the climb the front guys are steady – good for me, but I’m still digging deeper than I would like. I can feel the quads talking to me – next up, cramps – not yet, spin more, use the heart more and I have done what a couple others didn’t – make it to the top, with the group. As the terrain levels off, I’m taking several deep breathes in an attempt to gulp enough oxygen in hopes of flushing the lactic acid, and slow the heart rate. As we round the bend I see the next climb…. the group had a nearly simultaneous shift of gears, and this time I could not dig deeper.
The pace car comes up and I hear… “take a right & the store stop is 2 miles”, followed by the motor as they pass. Oh, thank goodness! A break. Stoppage, if only for a few minutes….
At the store stop, I chewed on my cliff bar, got a couple sips of some carbonated caramel colored, sugar – the last of the gel flask and topped off a bottle of water. I check on my buds, meet some new one’s and I hear the “let’s Go!”
As soon as I heard this I pulled off a sweet cycle-cross move of hopping back onto the bike, finding out which way the group is head and bolting str8 up to the front 20 riders! We ease through Commerce and as we head back onto the open road, I start to realize… my efforts are easier, the piano effect is much smoother – pedal, coast, repeat. I don’t have the need to kiss my stem every time we take a turn, to catch back up. Ahhh, this is the tempo that I had been hoping for – smooth. Just as I think it is going to be a smooth draft all the way back to Athens, we turn again & I hear the whistle blow – we have entered the attack zone & the strong men will no longer pull everyone along, it is each man for himself. I find the latern rouge & we set a steady pace back home, all the while telling tall tales of the feat of which we have just accomplished – riding yet another WBL.
Positioning in the pack made such an immense difference in my ride this day!! As long as you are a steady rider, it pays to have a good position in the pack. Pack positioning can keep you out of the wind, away from squirrels, and ahead of the piano!
I’m happy to say that Saturday’s WBL – although colder, was so much more of an enjoyable ride because I made sure that I got into a good position in the pack for the entire jaunt!