Monday, January 05, 2009

Training - New Years Day Ride (Sort Of)

Actually, it was Jan 4th, due to snow and stuff. This worked out for me since I was in no shape to ride on Jan 1, but by the 4th my double secret training had made it possible for me to do a 50 mile ride with no problem.

Okay, I'm fibbing.

I was just really tired on Jan 1. And I didn't quite make the whole ride, not with the group anyway.

Whatever. I did do the ride from Bethel Cycle in Bethel, CT.

I met up with Hob and SOC prior to the ride, and we did several hours of riding to get to the start of the ride. Or maybe it was several minutes, I don't know.

You can see from the pictures from the first link above that it was relatively cold. I think the high for the day was 33 degrees F, which, in the scheme of things, is not too bad. The turnout was pretty good, all considering. The folks at the shop (including me) waited for the hardcore flahutes to ride in from Exit 14 off of 82 (another dozen miles or so away). When they rolled up, we rolled out.

Since I didn't have a Connecticut Coast Cycling (CCC) jacket, I wore a generic Nalini thing which has served me well for many years. If, in the link, you see pics of a short guy with a light blue winter jacket, sunglasses, and a patriotic helmet, that's me. I saw myself in those pictures, twice at the front, once near the back (beach side shot - Compo beach for the locals), and one or two more times in the background.

The route took the group down to the coast, along it for a bit, then it headed back north to the shop. Except for a few exceptions, the route is mainly slightly downhill on the southern leg, flat along the coast, and a steadily climbing pain in the arse for the northern leg.

I quickly found my group riding mentality, sitting a couple inches off of wheels, scooting by riders with minor margins (and apologies to the guy who I passed on the outside of that hairy downhill turn - I think I got too close for comfort), and sitting so close next to riders to the point that I almost rode a few guys off the road.

Um, scratch that last bit.

Anyway... Since I fully expected to get sawn off the back on the way back, I tried to get a lot of TV time on the other two legs. Combine this with the desire to descend my own lines (and due to my immense density, my incredible coasting acceleration on said descents), I ended up at the front for much of the ride down to the coast. I felt like one of those early flier pros, destined for failure but eating up a lot of air time before flaming out.

Rare times, these, at least for me - sharing the front with such illuminaries as Funk, Davis, Peck, Badger, and other talented riders. I even got to chat a bit with them, at least until the wind and effort got to me.

I should point out that on one of the minor rises on the way back from the coast, I noticed I was at full throttle, my heartrate pegged, using all my tricks to hold my position. The guys around me were chatting nonchalantly. I rhetorically asked if I was the only one breathing at that moment, but my desperate huffs weren't clear enough to warrant a response. At least that's what I told myself.

I used all the tricks I knew. A lot of guys pointed out that I'd been at the front a lot, and they seemed rightly impressed, but it wasn't because I was strong. It was because I wasn't strong, and I was trying to buy myself room to drift back on the climbs.

On said climbs I'd immediately get into my "desperate climbing mode", one where I'm spinning a bit, sitting forward, and focusing on the wheel directly in front of me. I did this on each climb, and each time I saw the wattages creep up.

First it held at 100 watts over my 20 minute max. This meant I could sustain such an effort for a while, maybe 5 minutes or more, so I felt like I could do it. As the ride went on, the strong riders' patience started eroding, and my required wattage started to climb accordingly. On one short climb I was 200 watts over my 20 minute max, and I was in fact over a "recent-test" 60 second max.

This meant that I'd blow up in less than 60 seconds.

Thankfully that climb lasted a little less than 60 seconds, and although I drifted back a few spots to hold something in reserve, I quickly returned to the front bit of the field. I'd drifted back instinctively, in case someone attacked, but this wasn't one of those kinds of rides so no one attacked. I knew that underneath but, still, it's hard to get rid of those urges.

We headed back up the dreaded (to me) Route 58, a steadily climbing monster that has struck fear in my heart since I'd first ridden there back about 25 years ago. I got shelled on some flat bit, which, as I realized a few years later, was actually a slight climb in the middle of steeper pitches.

I made it over a couple of those pitches and started feeling a glimmer of hope, but then I saw some steps, those dreaded climbs followed by climbs. Mentally I collapsed and my legs stopped working. I made a furious (to me) effort to pull up next to the guy in front of me - this was so that the guy on my wheel (I think it was Chuck) wouldn't be gapped when I sat up.

Then I sat up.

Guys passed me, at first ignoring me (I looked like I was drifting back on purpose), then encouraging me (I was too far back to be drifting back on purpose), then ignoring me again (riders at their own limits typically don't see anything except the wheel in front of them).

The latter rule applied to me too because at some point Hob rolled by me. It charged me mentally and I immediately got on his wheel, boosted by an extra hundred watts just from seeing him, plus a huge draft off of his 60 cm framed body.

I started thinking of different times I'd ridden this part of 58. The double Bloomin Metric, with Mike H and the crew. I thought of what this "rolling along, aware of nothing but the tire in front of me" sensation felt like - it felt like sitting on John S's wheel in Belgium, feeling the thrum of the cobbles beneath my tires.

My adled brain pointed out to me that sitting on a 60 cm bike rider (Hob) is easier than a 66 cm bike rider (John S) because a 66 has me draft just knees and calves. A 60 puts the rider squarely in front of me so I actually get a draft.

At some point Hob eased up, and although he might have eased to tell me, "Okay, it's only a few miles to go", I took his easing to say, "Okay, I've pulled for about 6 hours, you pull for a minute."

So I pulled for, say, 30 seconds.


Watched Hob accidentally ride away from me.

I chased furiously at 22 mph, caught him, and promptly re-exploded.

He patiently waited, sipping from his bottle, and we rolled in, perhaps a mile or so later, to the shop.

I realized, while chasing that second time and watching Hob drink, that I had yet to take a sip from my bottle or to eat an energy bar during that ride.


We returned to our home base (several hours or several minutes away, whichever seems more plausible), where Mrs Hob, Mrs SOC, and Mrs SDC were waiting, pizzas, lemonade, and water at hand.

I'd joked that my goal on this ride was to show people just how weak I was, to get dropped, and to put them off-guard for the upcoming Bethel Series. But, although I sort of did that, I also surprised myself in some ways, mainly because I could climb with guys going so easy they were almost falling off their bikes. But, hey, I climbed with them, sometimes even leading them.

So, for the road race roll outs, neutralized sections, and charitable non-race group rides, watch out.

For everything else?

There's Memorex. Or something like that.


josh said...


id have joined this weekend if i knew there was a ride....are the bethel guys riding every sunday or was that a one off?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I have the same question as josh. If you guys are doing this every weekend or something. I'll drive down and try riding with you guys once or twice. It should be good for me, if my back lets me that is.


-Young rider

Aki said...

The ride I did was especially planned, but you can call the shop about their regular rides. They definitely do the New Years Day ride annually, but I think the shop (or the guys at the shop) have some more "normal" rides. I'd call the shop (link's in the post) and ask.

Anonymous said...

You can also go to the Bethel Cycle website and click the Bulletin Board link. There is a group rides forum that announces all such rides. Ride leaders are trying to be a little better about posting rides there, but sometimes we forget.

Sean said...

hi aki -
sorry i wasnt able to make this ride due to my dad's bday. glad to hear that many turned out, as the new years ride is a favorite. congrats on riding relatively well- 58 can be brutal!


Aki said...

Sean - we'll see you at Bethel, no? heh.

Oh, that short video clip I took during the ride? I hit the stop button as soon as I hit the start button. As usual the problem was with the nut that was running the camera.