In my just-over-two-years of cycling, I’ve never really been on a group or club ride. I’ve done organized rides, rides with small groups of friends, rides with my wife and kids, and tons of solo rides. I finally caved and met up with James, Tyler and Martha at the local ride leaving out of Scott’s bike shop in downtown. I wasn’t sure what to expect and/or which group to head out with, so I sent out an email to the team and got varying responses. (Spoiler note: I may run off at the mouth here a bit, and there aren’t any pretty pictures to break up the rambling….so click with that warning in mind.)
I normally do my solo rides between 15-20 mph, and do anywhere from 20-40 miles on a regular basis, so when I heard that the medium group would average around 18 mph, and do a 15-20 mile loop, AND it might even be the loop I ride a couple times a week, I was in like Flynn. I met up with James first, then Martha, then Tyler, and they all naturally just assembled with the medium group, and we rolled out when they called the group without much discussion or fanfare. Despite being at the tailend of a nasty cold, not having had much sleep, and heading out in the first 80+ day, I was still feeling strong and optimistic for the ride.
For the first mile or two (I’m not really sure, I hadn’t put any computer on the Ira yet) we rolled through town at a slow pace. I worked on making myself aware of the other riders around, trying to keep up and keep a steady pace, and spent a little time chatting with Martha, who’d just been out with the medium group for the first time the week before. I knew we’d have to get up to pace at some point, and kind of hung towards the back of the group, even as the other teammates scooted forward. I knew Martha said she wanted to be where she wouldn’t lose the group, and I figured worst case scenario, I finish a 15-20 mile ride solo – I’ve done that plenty of times on my own.
Well, as it turns out, we weren’t heading in the direction of my normal route, which is north of town and north of Keizer, but instead, we were heading east. On the positive side, I’d never ridden out that way before, so it was great to see something new. On the negative side, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of climb, decents, road material, traffic, etc. Sure enough, before too long, we started climbing.
I’m sure we didn’t break any elevation gain records on Tuesday, but we climbed enough for me. My Keizer routes are mostly flat with just short climbs. Some are decent pitch, but I usually get up and over them, recover, and then back at it. Somewhere in the climbing I realized my cold was still in my chest, that the heat was starting to work on me, and that I just was not a very strong climber.
“Hills….,” I mumbled as Tyler rolled along next to me.
“You’ll learn to love them!” Tyler shot back. And I’m pretty sure I muttered something back about how I doubted that would ever be the case. Yet Tyler’s got that pep-talk way about him and somehow I believed that he might actually love the hills as much as a shiny new Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph. So I kept on cranking – watching the group fade off ahead and thinking that was probably the shortest group ride in the history of group rides, and I’d find my way home from here.
But James and Tyler switched off and hung back with me until we caught back up to the group. At one point we had to go into horse evading manuevers as a gal on a big horse dang near crossed the center line into the tail end of the group. And somewhere near the top of the climbing, I realized my right hand was cramping up. I’ve had poor circulation forever, and sometimes it will still just lock up, in funky positions, for no reason. Just for a second or two, but it happens.
At the top of climb someone was fixing a flat, and the group had paused before heading down a series of descents. I’m not a fan of bombing hills…I don’t have that many to bomb, and just haven’t done enough to be comfortable yet. Pair that up with the fact that my hand was cramping up a bit, and I decided to make sure I got to the back of the group as we started down what looked to be a decent little hill.
“Better hammer here, this is gonna get fast.” James coming up behind me with some marching orders.
“Here, I’ll push you.” And next thing I know, James is alongside of me trying to get me up to speed with the rest of the group.
“Whoa, don’t do that,” I hollared back to him. Instantly I had visions of not having a back brake because of my hand, and not knowing the hill down around the corner ahead, I just wasn’t ready for the bomb. I have no idea what speeds we were hitting, but eventually, I felt more relaxed following the group into some decents and not riding the brake. Again, I’m sure there were no land speed records, but I’m sure I was going faster than I’d been before.
Somewhere along the next few miles James and Tyler swapped out again, and Tyler said “whoa, I think we’re the caboose,” to which I replied, “I’m pretty sure we are.” Tyler pointed out we were doing 27 mph on the flat and said, “we’d better get moving.” Ha! So we cranked it up a bit and pulled the back end of the train into Aumsville as the group was just about to roll out.
At the stop, Tyler asks if I need my water topped off and I’m kind of embarrassed to say, “I still have half my bottle.” After trying to force feed the other half to me before we leave, we top off and head out again with the back of the group, James swapping back in for pretty much the rest of the ride. It’s not until I’m home later on, around 9:30 or so, that I realize I was indeed most likely dehydrated, or gettng there fast. I was dizzy and sick feeling and crashed until about midnight.
On the rest of the ride in, there was a small group of riders that were off the back of the pack by ourselves, and we cranked and cranked until we eventually caught up to the group at a light at Keubler, just on the edge of town. I know Tyler and James would have been in the heat of the pack had it not been for caring for the wounded in the back, so I appreciate their support on that first ride. As we flew down the last few roads heading into town, I was able to cling to the back of the pack, finally saw Martha again (who rode strong all night long) and we rolled back into the shop with the group, and I was actually pretty pleased with how it all went down. Easily the 30 fastest miles I’d done on a ride so far. And all without bonking, flatting, or crashing.
It was a good night. I’m sure I’ll get out again.
Oh yeah, then I put my bike down on the way home when some dude decided to change his mind about who had the right of way, and I had to stop to miss the other car coming the other way, and couldn’t unclip fast enough. Sucked. But I saved the bike. 🙂