My training plan called for a 4-hour ride today (and a 1-hour swim). The local triathlon club does a long ride every weekend which ranges from 40 to 100 miles. We either do them on Saturday or Sunday, it will vary week to week. Currently, Ironman VR races are scheduled, so most of the A-Group athletes are crushing the VR races and the length of the ride is dependent on the race. A few of the members are even ranked in the top 3 in their age group worldwide.
I ride with the B-Group and five of us agreed to cover 50 miles today. Last week we did 40 miles, but the group was a lot larger which changes the dynamics of the ride in some meaningful ways. I prefer smaller groups most of the time. Large groups can be fun, but keeping everyone together can be difficult. Since the temperature is getting hot, we opted to get moving at 6:30 am. Getting up early enough to be “wheels down” that early is tough, but definitely worth the effort. The sun is up so we have light, but the temp is still moderate. Just as importantly, there is almost no traffic, so it’s a safer ride.
We are getting comfortable with each other
I created the route for the ride, so I lead most of the first half of the day. Based on last week’s ride, most people wanted fewer pit-stops and more road time, so I included 1 pit-stop at the 25-mile mark. On the way out, one of our normal streets was blocked off due to construction. Rather than find an alternate route, we chose to get off and walk through the dirt to resume the route on the other side of the blockade. Our cleats got filled with mud and were damn near impossible to clip-in. After we spend too much time cleaning the mud off the bottoms of our shoes, we got back into a groove. Unfortunately, Portia’s shoes were still a little to muddy and she was unable to un-clip when we came to a stop sign. All we heard was ….shit, shit, shit, boom. We looked back and she was lying on her side. Falling at stop signs is quite common, I do it about once every month or two. The shoes are designed to stay on the pedals unless the heel is twisted outward. That action has to be burned in and made automatic through practice. Sometimes, I will unclip my left foot, but when I come to a stop, I lose my balance and fall to the right.
Fortunately, she only had a minor scrape on her knee and no significant injuries. Her bike was undamaged. We gave her a few minutes to get oriented and then set off on some beautiful country roads. These are the moments when I feel alive. Just me and the road with clear skies, a breeze, and my goals for the day.
Riding with the same people week after week allows for a type of non-verbal communication to develop that makes the ride even more enjoyable. An intimacy between riders grows and binds us in a special way. We suffer together. We support and encourage one another…at all times.
At 25 miles we stopped for refreshments. One rider bought a gallon of cold water (this usually happens), others used the bathroom while one stayed outside and stretched their legs. These brief respites make a huge difference during endurance rides. Riders check-in on how they are feeling, gear can be adjusted, nutrition taken and the route adjusted if needed.
The ride back
We chose to double back and ride the route in reverse (mostly). We avoided the construction and had to do thee “rice fields” loop twice to ensure we would get 50 miles by the time we returned to the cars.
The mood was light. Everyone was soaking wet from sweating and pushing themselves just past their comfort level. On the way back, we alternated leaders too. I enjoyed riding in the back and in the middle because it’s less stressful when I’m not responsible for the pace. I also was able to snap some cool photos of the group.
We completed 52 miles in 3 hours, which was perfect.
Afterward, everyone enjoyed ice-cold beer, water, and some chit-chat as we cooled down, ready to take on the rest of the day.
As the data show, I kept a steady speed and avoided heart rate spikes. Maintaining a moderate and consistent heart rate is ideal. It also shows me that I’m not controlling my power well which will be a disadvantage if I’m unable to improve before the Ironman 70.3 Lubbock race.