The “Holding My Own” Rides

On 3/20, I decided I’d do my second middle-distance ride of the year.  Two days before I had done a 28 miler that was brutal: SUV tried to kill me, semi truck passed about 1-2 ft from me doing 50mph, and I had to fight a 15mph headwind that came literally out of nowhere and was with me for the 13 or so mile ride home. Oh, and a nasty looking pit bull chased me for about 1/2 a mile. Needless to say, not my most enjoyable ride ever.

So I was hoping for a nice ride on Sunday to make up for it. Weather said it’d be around 80, humidity around 50%, and wind around 12mph.  The week before I had done 41.5 miles, and I wanted to get in anywhere from 45-50. Boy was I wrong.

My buddy Tom went out riding as well that day and he did 25. His bike comp has a temp. guage on it, and he said that the path was reading at 102 (much of the bike path isn’t shaded at all). I traveled about 20 miles NNW, and the wind was blowing about 10-15mph from the SE.  When it was time to head back, it was blowing straight outta the South at 25mph.  Between the heat, humidity, and wind, I was wrecked by the time I got home after a little over 40 miles. Now, some of you might say “But you went through this last year, you should be used to it.” I think that no matter how used to it your body gets, your mind continues to say “You are one stupid [add descriptive/derogatory terms as necessary based on duration of the ride].”

That was Sunday. On Monday (3/21) I got an e-mail from Mike of Team Superior. Seems they were going to start up their Monday night rides from TCC (Tulsa Community College) to NSU (Northeastern State University). These run usually about 23 miles. I wasn’t planning on going given my 40 mile Tour de Stupid, but about a quarter to 6, Tom calls me to see if I was gonna go for the ride. Last year we’d head out from his house, and meet the rest of the team while they road towards us. All it took was Tom to call and ask if I was going to change my mind. I decided I’d just take it easy, hang back a bit.

On the way out, we rolled easy, until we were met by 16 other riders who came out. I kept telling myself to just kick back, sit in the pace line, etc., but no. Just couldn’t do it. I didn’t push hard, but I took a long pull at the front of the mid-pace pack, and after a stop light I pulled away from the main pack with a few other riders.

Now, just so it’s all in perspective, many of the riders out that day did 20-30 mile rides themselves on Sunday while I was out torturing myself. So I’m not saying they were fresh and rearing to go. But I remember when I had trouble simply catching my breath with these guys and hanging off the end of the pack. Yet on this day, I would power up hills just cause I felt the urge, and wasn’t out of breath or hurting. I came off the ride feeling great, like another 10 miles might have rounded off the ride nicely. I mean, it finally happened – I was holding my own with seasoned riders, and knew I had more in me.

A few of the Team Superior gang

Damn, it was a great feeling. But I wasn’t done. I had ridden the Monday ride with my new bike, the Defy. It might not be top-of-the-line, but it’s an amazing piece of technology. So I knew that some of my performance was a result of the bike. On Thursday, 3/24, there was another Team Superior ride, this time from TCC up to Turkey Mountain and back. I rode out from my house, but I didn’t take the Defy.

See, riding from my house to Turkey Mountain and back is about 32 miles, and with the team leaving at 6:15 from TCC, they’d meet me on the path at about 6:30. That puts my return time after 8PM, which means the sun will be down. The Defy doesn’t have any lights, so riding it at night wouldn’t be my smartest move (in fact, it’d be pretty friggin’ dumb; riding here on the street in the DAY can be dicey sometimes let alone at night). So, I was on the OCR.

The OCR is not only 10 years older, it’s 11 lbs. heavier, has just-above bottom-line components, and has always been slightly on the small side for me (leads to uncomfortable positioning and inefficient pedaling). But, I had ridden some 1,400+ miles on it last year, so I knew the ins and outs.

Sunset across the Arkansas River

I no longer had any technological advantages over anyone else in the group. And how did I fair? I felt like a whole different person – in a good way. I smashed climbs that would’ve left me buried me in the past. I accelerated with confidence, and held a nice cadence. And most of all, I managed to keep up and ride like I belonged. When we arrived at Turkey Mountain, I was good to go, even on my old reliable OCR.

To put that to the test, I noticed that I was running out of time to get back home before my wife had to go to her dance lesson. Saying farewell to the team, I booked it, hauling ass down the mountain and across the river, heading back home. I had 16 miles to cover, and I managed it in about 50 minutes, arriving only 10 minutes late. That’s a little better than a 19mph pace after having already ridden 16 miles, and on my old OCR.

And I FREELY admit – I was seriously hurting when I arrived. Ask my wife – I looked like any moment I was going to pass out. But about 15 minutes of deep breathing and chugging water and small snacks, I was starting to feel alive once more. Just the fact that I was able to do that on my OCR – removing the Defy as a factor – showed that I had improved. It wasn’t the technology, or the weather, or whatever else. The many nights on the trainer doing intervals, the weights and the core strengthening, the great advice from team mates… it’s all starting to pay off.

I’m now signed up for four events, with a total of 540 miles. I’ve got four weeks until my first century. Time to get the rubber on the road.