With the forecast for wet weather we decided to go ahead and ride as it looked like the snow wouldn't hit until late in the night. Luckily we were right and it turned out to be a really good night for riding. Seven of us turned out for the ride . . . Diane, Kathy, Berlie, Renee B., Jen, Amelia and myself. Obviously this was a diverse group fitness-wise as we had the expert level gals, the sport racer gals, the citizen racers and a couple of washed-up former mtn bike racers (you can guess who is who in that list).
All was going well in the ride until Kathy, Berlie and Diane announced that they were going for a shortened ride and the rest of us should go on without them to Paoli. I attempted to look non-chalant and hopefully I hid my look of utter horror at this pronouncement. This meant I was left with 3 racers who were ramping up for the season to start soon and two of them were expert racers and one had just done spring break in NC. YIKES! This was not going to be the ride I had planned when I said I would be the Tuesday night ride leader.
At this point all good sense left my head and instead of joining Kathy, Berlie and Diane I set off with Amelia, Renee B and Jen. Now it's not that I haven't ridden at all. Like many of you I was inspired by the March weather to start riding earlier than I do normally. However, I've been out on the bike for no more than 10 rides and most all of them were of the type where your heart rate is in the recovery zone and the ride is less than 1.5 hours. Given that I don't really race until October I like to ease slowly into the season.
However, due to an all to common lack of common sense I headed off to Paoli. I immediately decided to use the common roadie tactic of going to the front of the group to try and dictate the pace as much as possible. This is a good tactic to try and at least moderate the pace to a survival level and I felt that this produced fairly good results into Paoli. Unfortunately as anyone who has ever done a group ride to Paoli knows the trouble never really starts until you head back out of town.
This ride was no different. I'm not much of a hill climber so I knew the double hills on the way back to Madison would likely be a problem. I tried to stay on the front and keep the pace down. I even did the popular roadie aero tuck on the way down the first hill to keep good momentum for the second hill to conserve my limited energy. However, in the end my lack of climbing strength was my demise as I chased the other three desperately trying to keep from being so far off the back they thought I had gotten lost.
However, the fun did not end on the hills and when we rounded the turn into Verona's subdivisions the pace was cranked up. At this point Amelia and I both lost contact with Renee B and Jen. Of course, we weren't particularly surprised by this turn of events since we did see it coming. At this point we relied on our roadie backgrounds and began working together to limit the damage. I wouldn't say we were gaining ground but we stabilized the gap. I was sucking Amelia's wheel in total desperation at this point and with a stiff headwind there was no way I was going to let even a slim gap open up. We each took turns pulling (although I will admit that I sometimes wasn't too quick to pull through) and eventually the speedy expert racer gals slowed up for us.
Amelia and I then glued ourselves to their wheels in hope of making it back to Madison with them. It was all going fairly well on Whalen until we hit Seminole . . . another hot spot for lifting the pace and seeing who can hang on. Well, Amelia and I were hanging on tight but it wasn't easy as we had snot plastered all over our face as we cranked it up one more time headed back to town. The legs were screaming but once again common sense evaded me and I just buried myself to try and keep the wheel in front of me. Relief for me was the stop light at Seminole and PD giving us a red so that we had to stop and I could recover for a minute.
The downhill section after that was pure relief and then it's the annoying hill up Seminole and then the fast plunge into the arboretum. Luckily I ride that section a million times a year and so I know that by that time of night traffic is low and you can take the whole lane to fly down the hill and make the turn into the Arboretum.
We finally reached the Arb bridge but along the way we had a couple of surprise encounters with deer. Unfortunately right at the bridge one had the bad sense to run down the wrong side of the creek, then veer into traffic and almost get hit. Renee B. was determined to wrangle it back to where it was safer but herding deer is too much like herding cats.
So the first official FORCs road training ride for 2007 is in the books . . . hope to see more of you next week.