Wednesday, May 30, 2007


We had another great weather day and on a holiday weekend, surprisingly enough. Here is the group, gathered at the trailhead, for an early morning ride. You can see it is still chilly enough for jackets.
There were 10 of us, and all of different abilities, so it was nice to have a mixed group. Some of the people are deceptively fast. I, as usual, brought up the rear most of the way.
We started out about 8:30 am, with the intention to ride what I was told would be 40 miles. I figured we were doing the trail, until someone mentioned they wanted to stop at a restaurant about half way, which meant going off the trail. I haven't ever ridden in this area off trail, but I knew there could be low traffic or it might be busy, you never knew. I was a little concerned, knowing of course I would be last all the time, so even if I was riding with a group, I would still be a sitting duck for any car not paying attention. Yes, that is going to worry me forever, most likely.
But I also knew it was time to get some serious training in, and this was the only way to do it. And believe what you hear: you can buy speed, and you will get faster (eventually) riding with faster people.
What do I mean about buying speed? From my own situation, upgrading to a lighter and better, and ultimately faster, bike, even though I was trailing behind, I figure my speed was still about 2 mph faster than with my old bike.
This route was a great training route, with long, flat stretches for getting up some speed, and long, gradual uphills, to get some gearing experience and build strength. And it was a beautiful day on a beautiful country road. But there was a lot of traffic, fast pickup truck traffic. I got annoyed with this before the accident, so now it is doubly annoying. I just can't figure out why these people have to go by at 80 mph, practically blowing you over when they pass, going way to the other side of the road, and potentially endangering anyone coming head on besides.
One of the guys stayed back with me for a while, until we came to our first stop to check the map. I discovered he had bought Don's old Trek bike from probably 4 bikes back, and was mentioning that the computer was off. It was when Don had it too! After our first brief break, probably 5 miles out to check the map, I immediately fell behind. This time, however, one of the other slower people lost his chain on an uphill and I passed by, but asked if he needed help. Nope, doing okay, just the chain. His wife stopped then and waited, and from that point on, until we got to our destination, they were behind me. I felt a lot better then.
The guys were pretty much staying mixed in with the ladies, and there were two women way up front, but once we reached 14 miles and headed to the restaurant with 9 miles to go, the guys took off, the two faster women took off, and that left 5 of us at varying speeds. I was working very hard to keep moderately close, but even averaging 16-17 mph, I couldn't even get close to the two other women in front of me. Like I said, they were deceptively fast. They seemed to ride with ease the same pace, or faster, that I was doing and working very hard to achieve. I wasn't out of breath or struggling, but I was working hard.
At this point on the route, the traffic gets heavier and heavier because it is a back road to Lake Michigan, so lots of people use it to avoid the highway traffic. Its a beautiful route along the bayou, but busy. There is a bike path eventually, but those of us who opted to use it soon pulled back into the road. The path was full of debris, ruts, holes, and sand and gravel everywhere, making it dangerous every time you hit a patch of it. And then there was this large group of bike riders--women and children--fully blocking the path at one point, almost causing me and another women to collide when they came to a complete stop in front of us.
We only had a short way to go yet to the restaurant, thankfully, because I was getting increasingly nervous with all the traffic and obstacles, and I was at least a mile behind the next closest person, since I slowed down so much on the path. I was glad when she stopped at a cross street, because from there I wouldn't have known how to maneuver through town. And then we came upon a Memorial Day parade, so we were forced to detour again.
Eventually, we reached the restaurant, only to find it closed down--permanently. It was a nice coffee shop, but apparently they couldn't compete with McDonalds and Arby's, right across the street. So we went to McDonalds and got a quick breakfast. It was so nice to sit out in the warm sunshine. By now, I had taken off my jacket and was very comfortable. One of the women showed me her makeshift arm warmers--men's tube socks that she cut the feet off. She has another pair she cut thumb holes in that she uses when it is colder. Very ingenious, and they only cost her $3!
At this point, the older guy who had fallen behind, decided he had had enough, so his wife was going to ride back to their truck and drive back and pick him up. She is a fast biker, so it wouldn't be that long of a wait. One of the women in our group, the woman I call the Stripper because she used to completely strip at triathlons until someone told her it was a no-no, looked at me and said, "Did I hear you say you wanted someone to ride back slow with you?" Uh, no, I never said I wanted to ride slow. I just said I know I am slower. She is so diplomatic, don't you think?!
It was apparent she was getting a feel for the return pace, and once Sue the woman picking up her husband decided to leave, Tamara, the Stripper, and another women decided to join her. They were all fast, again deceptively fast. All were super runners and had become uber triathletes, so I did give them credit for their abilities. Its just that two can be bitchy when it comes to comparing their abilities to others, and they don't hesitate to tell you just how good they are. (My question then was why do you come with this group if you don't think we're worthy of you??)
So off they went ahead of the group. We figured our halfway mileage to be about 23 miles, meaning 46 or more on the return, depending on whether we went back the same way. They probably left 10 minutes ahead of us, so the guys were going to try to chase them down. Another Sue said she was riding back slower, so I was hopeful I would have someone to pair up with. But like I keep saying, either Sue is deceptively fast, or I am hopelessly slow. I can't quite decide. Probably a little of both. But I have only had two other bike rides this season, and both were not more than 15 miles. And I've never been fast. (Let's see, how many more excuses can I come up with?)
Anyway, we headed back, directly into the wind. I had been riding entirely in my middle chain ring, and now with the wind I could see myself falling farther and farther behind. I decided I was going to have to make the attempt to gear up, forgetting a little how to switch chain rings with this bike. My first attempt put me in the granny gear, and there I was spinning away. When I attempted to get back to the big chain ring, something got jammed, and all of a sudden I was totally locked up! I immediately unclipped at least one foot, since I couldn't pedal at all, and I had this huge fear of falling, and fiddled with the gears until I got it cleared up. This, of course, caused me to fall yet further behind. It was time to get serious. I dug deep and pedaled as hard as I could, still making sure I was keeping as high of a cadence as I could manage, until I finally came up behind Sue. We rode together for a bit, and I commented on the wind. "I didn't really notice," she says. Deflated, I just pedaled on.
Its times like this when you gain confidence in your abilities and at the same time get humbled from the whole experience. Oh yeah, I caught up with her for a minute, but how long would it last?
We were coming to the fork in the road that would take us back to the road leading to the trailhead, and I was relieved to be getting off this busy roadway. The guys were waiting for us there, and funny guys that they are, as soon as they saw us, they said, "Okay, let's go." No rest for the weary! Unfortunately, this stop was right at the bottom of the biggest hill yet, so it was back down in the small gears to get up this thing.
At this point, we have to cross over the highway on an overpass, and then there are the on and off ramps we pass by. Right after this is our turn. Sue, not paying attention, turned right onto the off ramp until we all yelled at her to turn around! (I'm glad I'm not the only one who does stuff like this!)
We still had 14 miles to go after this, and suddenly all these hills appeared! One after the other. For some reason, I didn't remember them going out. I was still on a roll here, though, and was pushing hard, so I was able to get ahead of a couple of people, but two of the guys flew by us and were out of sight within minutes. Both are amazingly strong bikers, and neither of them have any special equipment! One of the guys has an OLD Trek 420, a big puffy seat, no computer, no aerobars, nothing special. So, maybe it isn't just about the bike?
At this point, I was counting down the miles. The wind was stronger, the hills were many, and the traffic was constant. At one point, a truck hauling pigs went by, crossing first from one side of the road to the other, swaying back and forth, hitting the gravel, clearly almost out of control. Scary, since two of the people were in the truck's path when this was happening. I really don't know how he avoided hitting someone.
I really wanted to be done by now. I was getting tired, it was very windy, and I just couldn't deal with the traffic problems any more. Thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten. I was counting down the miles. At this point again, I got a second wind, or maybe Sue was slowing down, because I found myself coming up behind her and then passing her for the first time. I held onto this lead for about 3 miles, and then she came buzzing past me on an uphill and I never caught up again. I knew we were almost done and had no more incentive to keep up.
My pace on the return trip was in the 13-14 mph range, due to the wind, hills, and fatigue. When we finally reached the trailhead, Sue had waited for me, even though we only had 2 more miles to go. She was tired and didn't mind stopping. I didn't particularly want to keep her pace, but did push myself enough to keep even with her. The last 1 1/2 miles of the trail are marked off, so we were doing the countdown together.
And finally, we were done. We checked our mileage and it was right at 46 miles. Average pace for me was only about 14.5. Time pedalling was about 3.5 hours. Good enough for a first attempt of the year.

1 comment:

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

I wish you lived close to me. I think we ride nearly the same pace and I don't like being left behind either.

You know what, I try REALLY HARD, and it frustrates me that I can't go faster, but I guess it takes time in the saddle???