I awoke this past Saturday to head out to what I thought was going to be a somewhat ordinary ride. A group of local cyclists ride from a nearby high school each Saturday. The ride is usually brisk. Sometimes I’m up to the challenge of keeping up. Mostly, I wind up regrouping at stops. I feel that I ride the normally flat-to-rolling 50 mile route a little better each time. Some in the group were preparing for an out of town ride in the mountains next weekend. Therefore, this Saturday ride was promoted as “LSD,” or long slow distance. That’s a ride I can do! They were planning to ride in Gloucester, VA. Expecting a relatively short ride, I opted to leave the extra bottles at home and I neglected to apply sunscreen. My gamble was that we’d be in the shade for this morning ride and that my 50-oz Camelbak would be enough to last me between rest stops. Things changed almost as soon as I arrived.
The first riders to arrive at the high school were known fast riders. When our unofficial ride leader arrived, I learned that the new plan was to ride 85 miles! Yikes! I immediately wished I had brought the water bottles… at least one of them. I was concerned about sunburn, too. Regardless, I wasn’t missing this ride if I could stay with the group. I have a goal to ride 5000 miles in 2013. I have over 1000 to go, meaning I need to average 75 miles per week to make it. Knowing there will be one or two wet/cold weeks in there, this was too good of an opportunity for mileage to pass. Other riders included Marci, Bill, Dave, Steve, Tom, Shawn, Lee, Jeff and Evelyn (Jeff and Evelyn rode a tandem).
The ride immediately took us over the George P. Coleman bridge. I had never ridden over that bridge before. I should have taken a better look around while I was up there. I didn’t bring my camera. So I didn’t even get a photo! 😦 Dave flatted on one of the expansion joints. That gave us an early break. He fixed the flat fairly quickly and joined us on the other side. We continued on at the brisk pace I had usually seen on these rides. I was riding well. But I wasn’t even thinking about the hills which were due in short order. We stopped at a convenience store at about 25 miles. I looked for sunscreen. All they had was SPF 4 which is probably no more effective than sweat or spit. I passed; but opted to get a small bottle of Gatorade. We continued.
Before too long, we were in more hills. It was no mystery to me that the group was holding back a tad as we did our climbs and as they waited for me to catch up. At one point, Tom passed me saying “a nice climb AND a headwind!” I saw a rider approaching from the rear and assumed he was going to pass. I’m accustomed to holding a line while climbing to allow others to pass unimpeded. Instead of passing, he put his hand on my back and gave me a push! I had done this to a friend on a ride once. I had no idea just how much of a relief it was. Later, I learned Lee was the one giving me a push. He got me to the top and we continued on. Tom, who had been good about looking out for me on previous rides, said we should break into two groups if the pace escalated again. We eventually spread out again as we approached West Point. We had two large bridges to cross. Naturally, I fell behind on each one and nearly caught the group on each descent. We stopped at a convenience store for a break. This was the halfway point, about 42 miles into the ride.
We continued into an area that’s frequently ridden by a popular Sunday group. That meant more hills. Thankfully, we didn’t ride the steeper sections of that route. But the rollers and my building fatigue were enough to keep me from maintaining the group pace. I fell behind on a long, gradual climb. Tom stayed with me. We regrouped and rode more hills. This time, Bill, Dave and a third rider opted to remain behind with me. I was just about ready to bail and take the most direct route back to the high school. However, it turned out the route I would have taken was the same as the route the group was riding. On I went! We were hoping the main group would stop at the last Wawa along the route. It appeared they did not. The “third rider” stopped for a bit to talk with a driver. Bill, Dave and I carried on without stopping. I stopped once along the way due to a cramp in my left quad. That particular cramp is an ongoing issue now. I took a drink and some Gu gel. I wanted to tell them to move on at their pace without me. But they were very good about sticking with me. I didn’t want their decision to stay with me to be a waste of their time by sending them off alone.
The last ten miles were a slow grind for me. My legs had had enough. I ran out of water about five miles from the end. I didn’t tell the others. They were nearly empty, too. We were close enough to the end that I knew I would make it. We opted to ride Crafford Rd so we could get out of the wind. We finally rolled into the high school parking lot and were met by a few riders who waited for our return. I was certainly beat! Still, it was a good ride with an excellent group of riders. The weather was perfect and traffic was minimal. As usual, riding in hills provided some motivation to lose a few pounds so I can keep up in the future. We’ll see how that goes!