I’d been pretty good at following my slow biking strategy since the beginning of the year. But today being Sunday, I decided to do the club ride. The main ride would go north in the city — a ride I’ve been on before, and liked all right, even though I’m not a big fan of urban riding — but I was concerned it would be too fast for me.
The club also has a Saturday ride, that was canceled Saturday because of wet conditions. They rescheduled for today, and planned to start later than the regular group, at 9:30 instead of 8:15. The leader of the Saturday group always adheres to a “no drop” policy, unlike the main ride, and I figured its pace would be more to my liking.
I was disabused of that notion early on. One rider with a reputation for going fast showed up on a tandem, and his stoker was a blind female triathlete who apparently has something of a stellar record in big events — like Ironmans. The others who wandered in were mostly A riders as well. Oh, what the heck. We set off.
To my surprise, I stayed with them for quite awhile. In fact, I fell back only when one of the other riders told me there was some concern about my rear wheel alignment. One person thought it was out of true, another thought it was off center, perhaps due to the axles not going into the dropouts correctly.
The group waited at the Walgreens in Buda, and several milled around my bike when I arrived. No one was able to find anything wrong, and one rider opined that it was my 25 mm tire that was the cause of the problem — because it fit between the rear stays with little clearance. “You’ll prefer using 23s on this bike,” he said. I didn’t tell him that I’d dropped the 23s I used to run in favor of the 25.
Out of Buda, I was with the group again, until we reached Farm Road 1626. That road has a good shoulder, but it’s a slight uphill grade for several miles. I’m terrible on those. By the time we reached the turn toward Kyle, I was trailing by a wide margin. Again, they were kind enough to wait, and even insist that I grab a breather before we got going again. “It’s no fun to push yourself to catch the group, and then not get a little rest,” said one. “I’ve been in that situation lots of times.”
Jerry, the ride leader, decided to pace me all the way into Kyle. We trailed the peloton by a considerable distance, but finally got to the gas station that serves as a rest stop and turnaround. The break was only about 10 minutes — just right, I thought. I looked forward to the return trip, which featured a fast downhill with a tailwind most of the way back to Buda.
Okay, I trailed again, and Jerry paced me again. We made pretty good time, but the rest of the riders got to the town well before me. We regrouped, helped by a red light, and began the final 15-mile push to Austin. This time I wasn’t so far behind, because the tailwind pushed me a bit. We took a hilly, curvy road up to an intersection where all the traffic was stopped by a freight train., Then it was a recently-paved shoulder on a mostly downhill leg where we could make good time.
Pow! My friend Rick ran over a shard of glass and punctured a tire. Four of us stopped — the rest were too far ahead to realize what had happened. I was sent to catch up to them and tell them to keep heading for home — Rick and the two other guys would meet us at Starbucks.
The last couple of miles involves riding on Slaughter Lane — a divided four-lane that I hate to ride. Traffic is usually heavy, and not tolerant of bikers, who do not have a shoulder here, but must take the right lane. We did, and didn’t even get honked at. After sitting at another stop light, I took off after Nancy, who jumped out ahead. We pushed hard to the Starbucks where our rides begin and end. There, some nice outdoor tables awaited, and we could unwind with riders from the earlier ride, and swap stories.
It wasn’t until after I got home that I realized just how hard I had pushed it. After a quick shower and a sandwich for lunch, I couldn’t stay away from the bed. I flopped down, but didn’t get my usual post-ride nap — I was just too worn out to sleep.
At 43 miles, the ride was the farthest I’ve gone since the new year began, and to couple that distance with the faster speeds of this group really wore me out. I’m glad I’ve been practicing slow riding lately, but it’s obvious that it’s time to step it up a bit in order to tackle longer distances at a decent pace.