My riding so far this year hasn’t been anywhere near the level of last year, when I racked up over 4,000 miles. That hasn’t particularly bothered me, since I’ve been riding regularly and have been enjoying myself on the bike. But I did a ride today that put things in perspective.
I met some B-level friends out in Dripping Springs for a ride in the country. Debra, who is a fellow club member, lives out that way so she doesn’t come into town a lot for rides (last weekend was a welcome exception). Joining us were Debra’s husband Russ, her friend Barbara, and Beth Ann, a newcomer to our rides.
We decided to head out on a favorite route, mindful that Beth Ann wasn’t used to riding with us. She kept up without much trouble, but when we reached a four-way intersection about 10 miles into the ride, she opted to turn around and head back to the start. Russ rode with her.
Barbara is training for some long rides at the end of the summer, and wants to get as many miles behind her as possible. I was only too glad to join. Looking back over my ride log, it appears the bulk of my rides are shorter than 27 miles. I’ve ridden more than 30 miles only 10 times since the beginning of the year. Like I say, I’m not riding at the level I was last year.
The three of us had a lot of fun riding over the irregular hills. At one point, I led a three-person paceline for over a mile, as we flew through a level-to-slightly downhill section. Another spot had us roaring down a big hill at about 34 mph into a ranch that straddled the road.
We stopped for a break and opted to take another road that would lead us farther away from the park where we started our ride. By this time, it had gotten hot. I had no snap in my legs for the uphill sections. Debra lagged back with me, while Barbara– the “Energizer Bunny” — kept a steady pace and was soon well ahead of us.
We were past the 30-mile mark by now, and I was having trouble on the uphills — none of which was especially challenging. I found myself in really low gears much of the time. The energy bar and water I had taken in at our last stop didn’t seem to have much effect. I watched Barbara and Debra as they pulled steadily farther ahead of me.
But then, I hit a nice downhill section. Gravity is my friend, since I’m a bulky guy compared to those two. I flew past them and kept up my momentum — a good strategy in rolling hills. Soon both were out of sight to my rear. I kept up my brisk pace, and felt as though the food and drink were starting to kick in. When I reached a twisty section with a poor road surface, I pulled under the shade of a tree to wait for them.
We rested and chatted a bit more, then headed out. All the energy I had displayed in the past several minutes must have stayed under that tree. I couldn’t get going. I rode well enough to keep them in my sights, and even stood to pedal on hills, but I didn’t make up any lost ground.
The last mile or two into the park is slightly uphill, and I crept along the road thinking only of the cool of my air-conditioned car when I got there. I think I was going a whopping 7 mph. I saw Debra make a turn into the park, and I could see Barbara who already had her bike on her car’s rack. I was about as blown out at the end of the ride as I have been since the LBJ 100 last March.
I don’t think this ride qualifies as a bonk. I had kept myself fueled with a Clif Bar and frequent (for a change) swigs of the water bottles. But at 41 miles, this was the longest ride I had done in months — and about 10 miles farther than I’m used to.
My typical weekend rides have been in the mid-20 mile range. I’m usually fresh when I’m done with those. Twenty-five miles is easy for me. But I might be in a rut with rides of that distance. I’ve got to start riding farther, and getting used to being in the saddle longer. I might be the King of the 25-Milers, but it’s a dubious honor.