Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Group Ride!

So today I decided I was going to do my first group ride.  And boy did I pick a lovely day for it.  Starting temp of about 45 that rose to 50 by the end of our ride.  And steady 20mph winds gusting to well above that.  It was chilly but I was dressed for it in tights, two longsleeve layers up top, ear warmer, gloves, and shoe covers as my toes get cold and go numb quickly.  Even by the end of the ride when it was 50 out I didn't feel overdressed.  Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of dressing for cycling.

I got to Providence Bicycle around 10 of 8 and was the first one there.  In the end the only people who showed up were Joe who leads the rides, me, and Ben.  Ben is a duathlete and a distance runner as well, and as it turns out clearly much stronger on the bike than myself.

So off the three of us went.  On the first slow climb away from Providence Bicycle I began to realize that this was going to be a challenging day.  It wasn't long before I was slowly falling off Ben's back wheel.  I was holding my own on the climb, but clearly I was not in the same league as these two guys.  Which is not a surprise considering I've only been on a real bike for all of about six weeks now.  About twenty minutes into the ride I started to realize today was going to be a challenging day of constantly trying to get back on Ben or Joe's wheel.  I sort of laughed to myself thinking about all the things I've read about group rides and how riding in a pack can make you go faster.  I'm sure it does.  But first you have to get into the pack and hang on!  So we quickly established a pattern of Joe and Ben waiting up for me from time to time.  Sometimes I was only 20'-40' behind them, and sometimes on the really really long climbs it was more like 100'.  On the downhills they would slow up a bit and let me catch back up, and occasionally I'd find them waiting on the side of the road with a foot down.  I tried one more time to offer to let them go but they seemed ok with waiting up.  I hope thats actually how they felt as I hate the thought of fouling up anybody's workout.

As we got more into the ride the hills started to really show up.  And they were constant.  One after the other after the other.  And then they got steeper.... and steeper.  I think the steepest of all of them had about 97 false endings as well.  You would go round a corner and there was another steep bit.  It was pretty intimidating but I just put my head down and stood up on the pedals and refused to give up.  By 3/4 of the way through the ride my legs were hammered.  Which thankfully was right around the time the hills turned into a mix of descents and small rolling hills and flats all the way back to the shop.  Which is good because my fun tank was full!  I don't know if I could have managed another series of serious hills like that.

In all my Garmin says we climbed about 1750 feet throughout the two hour ride.  I'm not sure whether or not Ben was trying to make me feel better and being a nice guy or he was being honest (I think it was the latter of those two) but he said he was really fighting the hills toward the end as well and that it was a pretty tough ride.  So that was good to hear.  The descents were pretty challenging too.  Windy roads that had lots of tree branches hanging over them so the road was covered in shadows making potholes and big bike swallowing cracks and fallen tree branches hard to spot.  So I erred on the side of caution a bit and rode the brakes a bit more than Joe who clearly knows these roads well and flew down them. 

So all in all how was my first Group ride?  It was certainly a good and humbling experience.  I think had the group been much larger I would not have been the slowest rider.  But in a pack of three riders with two being very experienced it was challenging to keep up.  I do think that doing them as a regular workout is a great idea as it will clearly push me to elevate my skills on the bike faster.  I was a little sad not to get to experience too much of the group ride sensation.  There were times when I felt like I was getting pulled along and one or two times where the guys let me ride in the middle but it was never long before I was getting passed and back to my slot in the rear.  I felt bad that I never led our little group and took a turn pulling.  But I'm just not up to the kind of speed and power these guys have in their legs....   YET.

So...   more group rides in the future, and more rides with other better cyclists are in order for me or I'm not going to push myself hard enough on my own.  And if anyone ever puts a triathlon on the worlds hilliest course I know I can make it through it!

Heres the link to the garmin data on our ride.  Look at the profile!  its NASTY!  I bookended the ride with a 2.4 mile ride to get to the shop, and a 3.5 mile cooldown ride on the way home for a total of 31.25 miles today.  Not too bad.  I wonder what the speed would have been without that nasty 20mph headwind.  Which when it became a crosswind was nuts.  That was an odd sensation when the crosswinds would gust and you had to fight your front wheel to stay on track.

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