Thanksgiving should be a time where I reflect upon all that has been good for the year. I guess in my now incessant complaining about the weather now must mean that at some previous time, the weather must have been good and for that I am grateful. If the weather was this cold year round, I’d move somewhere else. Somebody told me earlier today that I’m already, “Ba-hum-buggin.” He’s probably right. I hate cold weather…..at least for riding.
The 3 hours I got in on Thanksgiving put me at about 15hrs saddle time for the last week. I elected to take Friday off of the bike and get in some core work instead. After a few sit ups and a mere 90 seconds of planks, it was clear to me I was too tired to do anything. I quit there on the spot and put my feet up for the rest of the day.
Saturday in Chapel Hill, NC means group ride! There are many to choose from. The best group ride for racer types looking for a hammerfest is the infamous “P” ride. It was actually featured in bicycle magazine maybe a year or so ago. It’s about a 52 mile loop or so in its current form and covers a lot of territory both northwest and southwest of Chapel Hill. There are a number of good leg breaking little hills sprinkled throughout the ride, but especially in what would be the 3rd quarter of the ride. The ride is named after the Performance Bike shop it used to start in front of a couple of years ago. Since then, Performance closed that shop and the ride start location has changed to Wilson Park in Carrboro, NC (basically very close to downtown Chapel Hill), but the ride maintains the same title.
Some of us racers also head out for what we have deemed the “Pre-ride.” Many of us racers were looking for a way to add extra miles in before the P ride started so we eventually got organized and agreed on a 7:30 start time (also at Wilson Park in Carrboro) and we go for about 2 hours at a very steady (or i yell at you or just let you ride away) 18-20 mph. There’s enough time between the end of the “Pre” and the start of the “P” for a quick stop at any of the various coffee shops in town to scarf down some espresso and a scone. The P ride gets going at about 10:15.
This past Saturday, I had to miss the Pre-ride to bring my dog to the vet so for the first time this season (2011 race season preparation that is) I came to the P ride with fresh legs. I thought I’d still be feeling tired given how bad I felt Friday just doing sit-ups, so I resigned myself to sit in the back. That plan went to shit pretty much from the get go when we were rolling out of the parking lot and I realized I left my water bottles in the car. Well back to the car I went to fetch the bottles and by the time I got going again, I had to chase the group down. They don’t exactly drill it out of the parking lot, but nevertheless, I had some chasing to do. I hitched on the back about 4 or 5 minutes later.
The first 20 to 25 minutes of the ride are rather uneventful. Basically it’s a double rotating pace line with guys or girls taking 1 to 2 minute pulls at the front. On the way out of town, the ride swelled to maybe 30 riders as various people hopped on as we headed away from town. While heading out like this, I noticed that the wind was blowing fairly brisk from the west and on rides past like that, I recalled that group can get torn to bits only halfway into the course. In my mind, the ride really begins when you make a right onto Orange Grove Road and the road kicks up for about 1/4 mile at about a 5 percent grade. No one really lit up the hill this go around, but after the top, people finally got motivated and started throwing down a bit.
I was just following wheels and pulling through when it was my turn, but in very little time, there were only 5 or 6 guys that seemed willing to pull through on this stretch of Orange Grove Road. That could be attributed to the wind, but also to the fact that Orange Grove is mostly uphill for the 3 or so miles you’re on it. We then made an almost 180 degree right turn and began heading the other direction down Dodson’s Crossroads. Again, I was spending a lot of time near or on the front as people were now seeking shelter from the crosswind coming from our right side. We flew down Dodson’s to the first sprint line which I had no desire to contest. People tend to think of me as a sprinter sometimes, but when I’m working my tail off near the front, it’s the last thing I feel like doing. After the sprint, we head up a nasty little hill where the hammering then resumes up till the next sprint line. Again I did a lot of work leading into that sprint so when the train came by of people who had been hiding somewhere behind me the last few miles to sprint, I let em and just watched.
After the second sprint, we cross the busiest road in the whole ride and after that is supposed to be a neutral type feed zone where people aren’t supposed to attack. Well, Chapel Hill is visited by a lot of people from other towns who don’t know all of the nuances of the ride so often times we end up riding hard anyway right through the neutral zone and Saturday was no different. A fairly strong looking guy in a Metro Sports kit on a cross bike keeps trucking right on through the neutral zone and and takes a few guys with him. I drop back to the second group behind him trying to respect the norm of the ride and partly in my mind I’m still supposed to be hiding because I think I’m tired. After we rolled through the neutral part, a few of us ramped the pace back up and reeled in those 4 guys off the front. Soon after that, the ride drops down a hill and into a very exposed land area with big farms on either side. The wind has pushing everyone to the right and being first wheel or 5th wheel in line didn’t feel much different. After a minute or two of this everyone including the strong looking guy from Metro started showing signs of fatigue. It’s really evident when a guy takes a short pull on the front and then basically goes backward fast that you know he’s tired. I saw this a couple of times as I was coming up to my turn on the front, so when I got there I thought I would step on the gas a bit to make other peoples lives just a little bit harder. With out a real acceleration though, I ended up 10, then 20, then 40 meters off the front in no time. Gaps were forming all over the road behind me. It was just a moment later as I was stretching out my lead a little further that my Cat3 teammate Blaire, jumped from the group and bridged up to me. Blaire is new to Triangle Velo this year, but I know that he is a strong rider who doesn’t mind suffering. When he came up to me, I pulled for a bit for him to recover and then let him have a turn at the front allowing me a little reprieve.
I had not intended to be off the front of this ride, but as many of us know when it happens, curiosity and pride will get the better of us and we just have to see how long we can stay out there. We probably had 20 to 25 miles remaining in the ride so there was a long way to go with the hardest hills yet to come, so I wasn’t thinking it was going to be long.
Blaire and I worked well together. Because I have relatively short legs, I’m pretty low down and aerodynamic on a bicycle. For this reason I tried to pull as long as I could on anything downhill and flat. I let Blaire take care of a bunch of the uphills to allow me a little recovery. Interestingly, two people riding together in a crosswind in often times more efficient than a group riding in a cross wind as you get a more cooperative effort from just one other guy and get to find the sweetest spot in his draft. In a group, you end up doing a straight up paceline much of the time because most riders are too inexperienced to ride a proper echelon across a road in a cross wind. Result, Blaire and I put 2 to 3 minutes into a group of 7 or 8 guys by the end of the ride. It’s not because we were necessarily stronger, as I know there were some strong riders behind us, it’s just that we were devoted to going as fast as the two of us could go for about an hour, whereas in the group behind, cohesion was probably questionable and the aerodynamics of that group riding in a crosswind were probably not ideal.
My quads f-in killed after that ride. I spent so much time pushed forward on my saddle with my arms slammed down on my bars as if in TT bars that it was like I pushed a TT for an hour. It was nice to get a metric on my fitness compared to some other guys I know well. Blaire impressed me a lot as he’s only been riding about 6 hours per week. He’s on the road a lot for work, but still manages to get in enough time to get out and throw down on the weekend. Now that that’s out of my system, I should chill out for the next few weeks and get back to into base mileage mode and hitting the gym twice per week.
Ride started for me at 7:40 A.M. with about 28 degrees on thermometer. I had on almost all of my clothes. I don’t like riding in the cold very much. It turns out my sh** was completely drained on Saturday. I told the other guys I typically hook up with on Sunday that we had to go a little slower than usual and I was gonna be hiding basically the whole time. I was spent. I was happy the 3 hour ride was over with a nice average of 16.7 mph. Easy zone 2 stuff.
TODAY. Totally off from everything. This is my rest week, so decreased volume and intensity all week. After this week I will bury myself in base mileage till about the 22nd of December when I leave for Vermont where I won’t see a bike for 5 days or so.
Tomorrow I will hit the gym and do my squats, lunges, sit-ups, planks, and calf raises. I’ll also ride the trainer for about 60 mins easy tomorrow with high cadence in zone 2.