I finally made the decision to become involved in organized cycling club training and racing after more than a decade absence. I knew instinctively that it was NOT going to be an easy year for me, especially coming back from a prolonged illness and relatively little training preparation over the winter. For some inexplicable reason I have been suffering from asthma caused by excessive gastrointestinal acidity and reflux. I know, that’s pretty weird, but it crops up at the most inconvenient of times, including our club training ride last night.
The weather was a little cold (6C) to start and we faced an early sprinkle of rain. I made a classic mistake of riding the 20km or so out to the start point at Condie Nature Refuge and suffered the consequences of my poor choice. By the time we started as a group, I was cold from previously sweating, not breathing well, and seriously questioning what I was doing out there in the first place.
The early Spring brings out most of the hard-core cyclists including a handful of FOG’s (fast old guys) and a bunch of young roadies in the prime of their cycling prowess (age 27 to 34 roughly). I know better when someone claims that the ride will be an “easy” training ride. Most of these guys have been penned up in their basements riding a trainer since November. They come out of their caves in the Spring with a zeal and exuberance that would chase away the barbarian hordes. This was NOT going to be a leisurely ride in the park – NO WAY! Someone was going to suffer on this ride, and that someone was me.
And you know what? I am OK with that. I accepted the fact that I was going to be dropped (left behind by the group) and would have to fight the wind on my own along the set course. What surprised me was how fast I was dropped. Yet, I was determined, and once my breathing began to iron itself out, I grabbed the drops of my bars, lowered my head, and entered into time trial mode. At first, I thought I might just catch on to the back of the pack.
“Come on guys…can you slow down even just a few clicks per hour for a minute or so?”, I thought to myself. All my internal screaming fell on deaf ears. The peloton or pack slowly began to disappear from sight.
“Hang in there…”, I kept telling myself. Persistence often pays off.
“NO… not this time”, I mumbled. I am on my own now for the duration of the ride.
“Perhaps I can hook up with the group on the return leg”, I encouraged myself. There is ALWAYS hope for a second chance.
I made it to the top of the hill (the turn around point) in record time. Well, at least a record for me. Always good to see a new personal record (PR) on Strava!
A few other stragglers came along (late comers who missed the start) and a couple of us started back on the return leg of the course. Hopefully, we will get swept up by the peloton and get a “free” ride home.
The sunshine finally came out and our shadows began to dance upon the exquisite colours of Spring.
“Here they come…”, I casually mentioned to the other rider.
“And man…are they ever moving”.
I could literally hear the rumbling of rubber tires on pavement and the click clack of downshifting. I instinctively shifted into my big ring and started to pedal furiously. If I don’t latch on to the back of this pack, I am in for another difficult solo time trial to the finish.
“Awesome…I’m on”, I shouted. Now if I can only hang on for a while before I am shelled out the back of the pack once again. Unfortunately, somewhere down the road, I lost contact with the peloton a second time. But, this time I did not feel so bad, as others, about 300 metres ahead of me, were being dropped like dead weight also.
“Shit…I can’t even catch the stragglers”, I swore to myself.
“That’s it…no more fooling around.”, I proclaimed in anger and disgust.
“I am going to get to the finish line even if it kills me.”
Once again, I shifted down, placed my hands in the drops, lowered my head, and started to hammer. My weary legs are screaming right now, my breathing is really laboured. I am just past my heart rate threshold and holding. I am really flying now (at least in my imagination), but how long can I hold this pace without literally blowing up?
The good news is that I did not come apart at the seams. Even better, my friend, and ride home, was still waiting in the parking lot chatting with a few of the early finishers. I came into the parking lot dead last with a big smile on my face. I looked over to one of the guys and said, “Well, that was fun…”. A few riders even came over and shook my hand. A job well done 🙂
The following video is about a Regina Cycling Club (RCC) Group Ride on April 4th, 2017. The ride started from a new meeting place within Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, Saskatchewan.
The audio is a little rough and my camera suffered some distortion from a short spat of rain. Sorry for the elevator music, but at least it’s not copyright protected 🙂