Challenging Yourself

The emails started flying back and forth Saturday night: “Anyone up for a B ride Sunday?” “Something like 35 miles?”

Several of us were up for it. The forecast called for cool, but not cold, weather, with little wind. By the time I turned in Saturday night, it looked like we had four committed riders. Since the As were doing an off-the-wall hills excursion, we were ready for a trip out to Creedmoor southeast of Austin.

I was the first of the B riders to show up at Starbucks, and was pleased to see that Jordan would be joining us. He just moved back to Austin after several years in Washington, DC. Jordan started the B rides in this club years ago, and gave them the moniker, “Killer Bs.” He was fresh off the Saturday club ride, which tends to be a fast one, and was looking forward to going at a B pace.

Then we got a surprise. Hugo showed up and said he would do the B ride. Hugo is a fast, fast A rider, but is recovering from knee surgery from two weeks ago. He wanted an easy paced ride to work his way back into A ride shape. His wife, Janis, joined us, letting everyone know that she’s slow on hills and we shouldn’t be expecting too much from her.

By the time we were all assembled, we had eight people in the B ride group. That’s high for us. I was excited to roll out of the parking lot onto the roads. Conditions were excellent: overcast, 50 degrees (10C), and not expected to change in the next few hours.

The first six miles are pretty easy. They’re mostly on flat or slightly downhill suburban streets. One exception is Davis Hill, a challenging — but not difficult — climb three miles from the start. Unusual for me, I led the ride all the way to a stoplight six miles into the ride. Jordan pulled up next to me.

“Man, the pace you’re setting is faster than the A ride yesterday,” he said.

“It’s been mostly downhill,” I replied. “I thought the pace was pretty moderate.”

“They spend more time warming up,” he noted.

It didn’t take long before I wasn’t in the lead anymore. Janis roared ahead on a long, gentle incline — and got so far ahead she missed a turn. No problem, since our routes converged a little farther on.

Now we were out in the country, hugging the side of a two-lane road to make way for the heavier-than-usual traffic. At an intersection, barricades partly blocked our way. They declared the road ahead to be closed, except to local traffic. We decided to press on. But Buddy, who had zoomed well ahead of us early in the ride, came back to us to say we would have to carry our bikes across a muddy stretch. We quickly backtracked to the intersection, and turned onto an alternate route.

That route — Bradshaw Road — has a lot more hills than the one we’d planned. Bigger hills, too. Next thing I knew, I was bringing up the rear, watching the others gain ground as they climbed. Janis, the poor climber, led the way.

For the last leg into Creedmoor, we were on the same farm-to-market road I took when I got separated from the group in October. Non-stop rolling hills, but I gained ground on the others. I was happy to see the convenience store where we stopped to regroup.

The store in Creedmoor.

Jordan made sure everyone got some Fig Newtons.

When bikers stop, they talk about bikes. Jerry D. shows Janis and Hugo some of the features of his beautiful steel DeRosa.

Heading back on a different set of roads, I tried to stay at or near the front so riders wouldn’t miss turns. We sailed over country roads, down a newly-repaved hill (smooth as glass, an easy 34 mph) and through a subdivision. Out in the country again, several others jumped ahead and soon put a gap between us and them. I pulled even with Buddy.

“For a B ride,” I said, “they’re really burning up the road.”

Then I took note of the riders at the front. Hugo and Janis, but also New York John, and Jerry D. Heck, all four of them are A riders. No wonder we were moving quickly. I was going between 19-21 on a road I normally cover at 15-17. It was exhilarating to me to catch them at the Interstate highway and take the lead again, once more to guide them through some unfamiliar twists and turns.

The high average speed was taking its toll. Buddy, who led early, was starting to cramp and fell back. Big Steve muscled his way up the remaining big hill, me on his wheel, mashing hard. Jordan seemed to be recovering well from yesterday’s ride, and managed to keep pace with the four As the rest of the way back.

Once we were all at Starbucks, warming up with hot chocolate, talk turned to the ride.

“What a great route!” exclaimed Hugo. “It was just the ride I needed.”

He had ridden the whole way in the small chainring, to keep pressure off his recovering knee.

I felt good. I rode that route at a faster pace than I usually do, and while I fell back a few times, I was with them at the end. It once again was a reminder that riding with faster riders will make you faster. I don’t think I’m ready to rejoin any A rides, but I might be challenging myself more often from here on out.

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