Apparently word of my Sunday Afternoon Exploits has gotten around town.
While out riding with some racing buddies on Saturday, it was mentioned that a Sunday afternoon group ride in town was becoming another "Worlds" ride similar to the infamous local Tuesday Evening ride. Confused, I asked where this Sunday ride started from, and was told that it started from Heine Brother's Coffee on Chenoweth Lane.
Wait a second, that's my Sunday group ride! The one I almost never miss! I probed for more information. One of the guys with us said, "I hear they hammer pretty hard on that ride."
The little gears in my head started turning. I almost always "win" that ride, and almost always I'm the one who rides the hardest, driving the pace lines and sprinting for the finish like a mad man. If other racers who don't do the ride had heard about so-called "hammering", then somebody, somewhere had been talking about me!!!
Be still my beating ego.
I laughed and told the guys with me that if there was any hammering going on, it was my fault. The majority of the riders on Sunday afternoons are older, more touring-oriented Bike Club members, and few if any racers ever show up (me excluded of course). There are some strong guys, but none from the "big" teams like Roadhouse, Papa Johns or Barbasol. Those guys hit the Tuesday ride, not the Sunday ride. Being the only somewhat-serious racer present, it's no shock that I almost always finish first.
Subsequently, these rumors of hammering had piqued the interest of several other racers, looking for late-season fun. One of these other racers was Eric, the newest (and youngest) member of the Papa John's "We're-All-Forty-But-We'll-Still-Drop-Your-Ass" Cycling Team, and a frequent riding partner of mine. Eric is my age (26 or so), but as a Cat. 2 he is much stronger. He's been racing longer than me, so it's no surprise.
Today at the ride he was present and accounted for---and naturally "the regulars" paid dearly for it. The pace was much faster, the climbing harder, the sprinting fiercer. At one point I finished my shift at the front of the pace line and started dropping back, not realizing that Eric was next in line. He surged forward, over 30 miles per hour, and dropped half the group, including me---stuck at the very back behind some much older, much slower guys. It took all I had to fight the wind and catch back up. Eventually we regrouped (after much suffering on my part) and made for the finish. I was cooked by the end and had nothing much left to give, so I missed out on the final sprint, finishing somewhere around fifth or sixth. Eric won, of course---but not by much.
Eric was surprised by how hard the regulars ride, and said he would definitely return for another Sunday go. I'd love to have more competition at the ride. I will, however, miss my old habit of winning...
The weather has been cold and rainy here for almost a full week, and because of it, I haven't been very motivated to ride. I got out a bit on Saturday, but with the combination of the temperature and various life-related issues to take care of, I'm a little behind on my mileage. Granted, it's still my transition period between this past season and the next. I don't have to get serious about endurance training until early November, which is still a week away.
Then it's build build build into next Spring, where I will race hard and try not to crash. Crashing is bad.
I'm still not riding a lot, mostly due to my busy schedule and a lingering aprehension about my left leg.
Yesterday I got out (for only the third time this month!!) and rode 25 miles, periodically at a fast pace or up a hill. The leg is coming along nicely, with far less pain and stiffness than before. What isn't good is my aerobic conditioning. Since I've been off the bike so much, I've lost a lot of my fitness, and hard efforts yesterday were made even harder by my heavy breathing.
I'd worry, but training for next season doesn't start until next month, so a couple weeks of good Zone 2 riding should get me back into decent shape. I've got lots of endurance riding ahead of me anyway, so I'm not worried in the least bit.
My leg is still not right, but I guess that's to be expected. Normal recovery time is no less than two weeks, according to every medical source I can find, for a grade 2 quad strain. Since I'm still in the midst of week two, it's no suprise that my leg is still a little sore and stiff.
Today I decided to hit the bike again as part of my active recovery plan. I said to myself, "no more than 20 minutes, and stay in the neighborhood." Because I planned to stay very close to home within the relatively enclosed series of streets near my apartment, I didn't wear my helmet.
I ALWAYS wear a helmet when I ride.
Today, though, I didn't. I left the house wearing only my trusty Fassa Bortolo cap. A cold front had just come in, and the weather became breezy and cool---a nice change from the last gasps of Summer that have been keeping temperatures high around here for a couple of weeks. The combination of the cool weather and the even cooler feeling of riding without a skull bucket instantly changed my mind about the ride. 20 minutes? Ha!!
I left my safe little neighborhood and headed toward Seneca Park, my usual warm-up spot and a great place to gawk at all the athletic lady runners who never fail to show up every day. On the way I ran into a Barbasol guy testing out his new pair of Power Cranks™. I've never seen such a desperate look of pain in someone's eyes before I saw him---those cranks really are a hell of a workout, apparently. We rode together slowly for a while and chatted about his new toys and about the cool weather. Before long, he turned for home and I continued on toward the park, feeling better with every passing minute.
Those passing minutes started adding up, and before long I had been out for an hour. Unfortunately, the sun was going down and the clouds of the storm front were rolling in, so I was losing light quickly. I headed for home, still in slight disbelief that I had actually left the house with no helmet.
To be honest, it was one of the best feelings ever. I know now why so many pros insist on training without them, and would still race without them if given the option. It's stupid, and dangerous, but it's really really NICE.
But I know better, and I'm not going to make a habit out of it. All I need is to get hit by a car and get made into a human vegetable, right? So my helmet-less days have come to an end as suddenly as they began---but at least I have a perfect ride on a perfect evening to remember them by...
With the exception of some trainer time I logged over the weekend, today was my first day back outside on the bike since tearing my left quad to pieces playing soccer. I stayed off the bike for almost a full week as the muscle healed. Since the swelling and all but the slightest soreness is gone, I bravely put on the old kit again and stepped out into the early-Fall heat to ride for a little while and regain some strength.
I did just over an hour, slowly, but felt really good. The leg was talking to me just a little bit, but for the most part felt strong and responsive. The overall effort was very light, but a couple of times I gave the bike some gas and did some very easy sprints just to test the muscle. No pain.
The leg may be getting better, but my aerobic conditioning is totally shot. The form I had built up over the summer is officially wrecked all to hell. In September, I rode only 400 miles for the entire month, down from around 1000 for each of the three months before. The combination of burnout and injury really stopped me in my tracks.
October is young, though, and the weather will soon be getting cooler. I love riding in the Fall, and I'm really looking forward to some long, endurance-focused group rides, falling leaves and cold breezes. Bring on the knee warmers!
"Road racing requires stamina, strength, mental focus and fortitude. But the rewards are huge and grow the more effort you put into it.
More and more men are discovering that riding a road bike can be the perfect counterpoint to our cosseted and quick-fix modern lives. We’ve become so used to instant gratification and sanitised pleasure that we have forgotten that the greatest highs come from the deepest lows, that there is a unique satisfaction from applying yourself totally, then seeing the results. From pain comes pleasure."