Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Payoff

It's the most satisfying feeling in the world when you find that your hours and hours of hard training have paid off.

Today I did a different Sunday ride, this time further out in the eastern sections of Jefferson County, where the hills are longer and harder and the country roads much rougher. At the front with me was a group of ten guys, all fairly strong and capable. I rode near the front of this group for most of the route, periodically skipping up the hills ahead of everyone else just to ease off and let them catch back up.

On the way back in, the mighty climb of Sleepy Hollow lay ahead of us. It's a long climb, with a fairly steep grade the whole way up. At the bottom, several guys surged ahead of me. I'm not sure what they were thinking, and I ignored their attacks as I settled into my rhythm---around 17 miles an hour in 39-19 then clicking down to 39-21 as the grade gets slightly steeper halfway up. I kept my heart rate at 190, just under lactate threshold, and never reached a level of oxygen debt that would have forced me to slow. Sure enough, I streaked past all the early attackers as they blew up one at a time. If you learn nothing else about hard climbing, at least learn the importance of pacing!! Follow your breathing and listen to your legs!

I finished the climb at least 15 seconds clear of everyone else, which gave me time to rest as they caught back up. That's my favorite thing about out-climbing people on group rides. By the time everyone catches back up to me, I've had time to rest and regain my composure. They're all still breathing hard and suffering, while I look like I just took a stroll through the park!

Anyway, the rest of the way back I stayed in the front, and once we hit River Road for the final flat run-in to the park, I led the pace at 24-26 miles per hour and dropped everyone but two guys. They didn't last much longer, and once I gapped them turning into the park road, I was gone. I was able to hold the pace for the final mile and finished a healthy four or five seconds ahead of the next guy. I know I shouldn't take these group rides so seriously, but it's good training for next season, when I begin racing full-time.

Tomorrow will be a well-earned rest day.