August 30, 2011

Friendly competition

In a far better showing than a couple Monday's back when, after a long weekend, I mistakenly showed up at the Monday ride start on a TUESDAY night (doy), I was happy to see a large gathering grow at the local Monday Night ride.  Bumped into both members of the Scruggs-Train (tandem couple), and a lot of the usual suspects that I saw out a couple months earlier.  I really want to try to make this ride more often.  The group energy is just addicting, electrifying!
I also love the "bike show" aspect.  I don't nearly have the retro-grouch factor like I used to.  While I have my personal likes and preferences, I can geek out harder than most over what the engineers are able to do with advanced materials and design software these days.  Yet, toss a brightly polished all-steel touring hub on my desk or the latest photos from the NAHBS and I'll probably still pick neo-retro over anything carbon.  The great thing about the start-line parking lot at any "welcome" ride or multi-staged ride like this is the gigantic range of equipment.  Tandems, recumbents, old tourers, new tourers, racers old and new.  Campy to Simplex, Shimano to SRAM, MAFAC to TRP and everything in between.  Granted, it's like this at ANY organized ride - but I don't do very many so it's always a rare treat seeing (for example) Douglas full-custom carbon equiped with SRAM Red lined up next to near-mint mid-80's Panasonic steel with downtube Shimano 600.
It was a good ride - I was feeling pretty good considering how stiff my legs had felt after a weekend hike/run of about 8 miles.  Not sure what came over me there, only that I'd wanted to just get out on a long walk - and, as is typical - bit off more than I probably should have.  This was mainly a ride to shake out the cobwebs and start ramping up for my next rando ride, and maybe to push the HR up a little to hopefully translate into faster-at-distance.  While I'm defintely leaning more towards "randonneur" rather than "ultra-racer", I think its still important to "train" faster than I plan to ride the longer events.  This usually - with proper rest - translates into slightly faster overall performance and a good endurance base.  Whether this eventually translates into a more-successful Tejas 500 or a good showing at my first-ever 1,200km grand randonee, who knows ... but it's fun to stretch the legs and play "racer-boy" every once in a while.  Speed... it's only what you want to make of it, personally.  Same as equipment, I don't lose sleep over numbers the way I used to -- but I do know for myself that using the group rides to chase someone faster than I am and build some fitness always yields more enjoyable randonneuring later.
I didn't start out with any giant plans - only to ride how I felt; but that always changes with that first "pass" on the road.  This time, it was the 'Hilsen -- ridden by a super-nice guy that has SAG'd more people off the roads on average weekends than anyone else I've met in recent years.  I've bumped into him on numerous occasions lately - at the Sonic in Louisburg during our bike camping trip after he'd offered to sag-in Gene, and then at the shop after he'd picked up someone with a messed up rear wheel on a bike trail ride.  I've taken to possibly nick-naming him "the guardian", as I'm sure he's saved a lot of folks from a long walk home after flats or mechanicals.  He's a strong rider on the bike, and it was neat to be part of a miniature lugged-steel, tan-sidewall paceline as we jockeyed back and forth along Mur-Len, then 167th, and then Ridgeview - even though I was sucking wind quite a bit on the flats while he tucked in and dished out a strong tempo off the front.  Without my usual self-paced solo 30-mile warmup, I wasn't quite prepared and regret not having taken a good turn.  Finally, things started to click for me a little south of 187th street and the first real uphill.  I stood up for the climb, and that was about it for the group element of the ride -- I found myself alone with my sights on a lone jersey or two -  up the road near the high school at 199th.  The fast bunch...which had left about a minute earlier and had made good time... could it be?  Target acquired!

HA ...turned out to be a recumbent... I'm not THAT fast.
Part of my building-speed approach, thought, is to try and start a little bit behind the fast bunch and try to bridge up - but that doesn't always work well when I'm not fast enough to really keep any of them in-sight.  So, I guessed on the route:  I rode west on 199th and out of habit I climbed up and over the railroad bridge at Ocheltree, headed towards US-169 instead of turning left and taking Woodland Road south to 207th.  I ended up heading south through Spring Hill to 223rd, then back east under the new railroad bridge and back north again on Woodland, adding about five miles to the route and ruining my chances of seeing anyone else for the rest of the ride -- ah, well... it was a nice evening, cooler temperatures for once, and clouds that indicated a change in season is on the way.  High cirrus, reflecting the fading suns rays in brillant shades of orange and pink. 
Finally, zig-zagging my way back to the route at 199th and Lackman, tussling with the headwind, I began to see the shapes of bikes and bright jerseys on the road ahead - I didn't really know if they were from the Monday group or not, but I chased anyways.  A "good-for-me" average, and feeling spirited enough to continue to try and push to maintain it, I caught up to the pair of riders at about 167th and Lackman just in time for the turn back west to Murlen, and just in time to catch the last images of the giant red disk of the sun dipping behind the trees.  Finally back to the parking lot in the fading light where most everyone had already left for burgers and beer at the tavern across the road.  There was a lingering grouping of about seven of the fast pack still hanging around in the parking lot, sharing stories.  Good enough for me, even though I knew they'd been there for probably 30 minutes.  I stopped in to eavesdrop on the latest stories while I cooled down before rolling home.  Talked to a couple of riders that'd made the fast bunch, their first time out at this Monday ride - and they'd had a good enough time to make plans for next week already.
Home, shower, and food -- feeling good from the effort, knowing I've added a little "ompfh" to the arsenal for when times get tough on the longer rides.  Next time, however, try to stick to the route.  Yeesh.

To Captain 'Hilsen, the Guardian... thanks for the pull... I'll pay it back next time out!  Cheers!
Thanks for reading!

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