Oh so happy!
I decided to try the 17-20 mph group ride with the PFBC after several weeks of riding the 14-17 mph social ride. My experience last week on the Clemmons bike shop ride was positive enough that I could accept being dropped from this ride if it happened and, if I wanted to improve, I need to ride with this group.
None-the-less I was nervous. This was a 56K ride on roads I've never ridden, in a new group. All day my stomach was in knots. My over active imagination racing through different scenarios and what I would do in each. Forcing myself to remember that it would be OK to be dropped and why. I didn't want to be dropped but I had my mental defenses ready.
It did not start well. The group rolled out @ 6pm sharp and I arrived about 3-4 minutes before 6 so I was still getting my shoes on, garmin on the bike etc. as they rolled. EEK! What if I never get back on? What if I arrive at the regroup spot just as they left and I didn't have time to recover from the hill I was worried about getting over?
Fortunately, two others came back to pick up something they had forgotten so I ended up having someone to pace my up to the group, which was a relief since I had no idea where I was going. We got back on before the river and the climb up the other side was surpisingly easy. I was expecting the pack to explode but I didn't even have to get out of the saddle. I kept good regular cadence in the big ring and was even able to slow up in places to avoid crossing the wheel in front of me.
The regroup was quick and I was still worried about getting dropped somewhere along the ride. I had looked at the profile and there were a few short steep sections and if faded back I might have been left behind. Maybe the easy speed to the regroup point was simply a warmup before really hammering it. So, I rode near the front. It was a group of about 40 riders of all ages, ranging from university students to a grandmother. The roads were flatter than the ones around home so as I got going I was able to relax a little. Confidence started to build that I could keep up and even had a second or two of thinking that this was not difficult enough. Maybe I should try the faster group. I did a few pulls, but each time I pulled off before I went into the red zone since I had no idea how far we were from home and wanted to have something in reserve.
As we headed back, we had to cross a bridge at 40K, but it had been closed and we could not even hike the bikes across. So we had to retrace our steps, back up the hill an add 5K to the ride with even more climbing. The light was starting to fade but we stepped up the pace and I still had no difficulty keeping up. the HR got up there a few times but it was always manageable and I never felt under pressure. I always felt there was room to shift down and spin faster or up and slower depending on whether it was the legs or heart that felt under strain.
We eventually returned to the original river crossing. I knew how to get back but from here but it was 10K of almost contstant uphill after already putting in 50K. Could I do it? The legs were beginning to feel the effort and some sections steeper than others. However, the folks doing the pulling did an awesome job of pace setting and there were even parts where those at the back were calling for the pace to pick up...and I was good with that.
By the end of the ride I was feeling tired but very happy. I never got dropped I climbed fine, I did 2 pulls, came in with the first group, got personal best speed, and longest ride this season (follow the link for stats and details on the funky cool new site I found for tracking rides).
Distance: 61.55 km
Speed: 30.61 kmh
Cadence: 87 rpm
AVG HR: 159 bpm
Weight: 201.2 lbs