Distance: 30.5 mi.
Avg. Speed: 17.02 mph
Weather: 57-61º, 74-58% humidity, Wind NE 10, partly cloudy
Song stuck in head: Don't Stop Now - Crowded House
Today's ride really let me know how much I lost during the winter. And I couldn't have had a more appropriate song stuck in my head for the ride.
Among the MRC crew who set out this morning at 6 a.m. from Stow Plaza was Della, who I rode with quite a bit last fall and seemed to be on a par with, fitness-wise and Tony W. was there too - he, like me, didn't do any indoor training during the winter. My impression was there was to be an "A" group riding at a 20+ mph pace and a "B" group averaging 18 mph. My hope was keep up with the faster group as long as I could and fade back to blend in with the B's when I began to flag, hopefully completing the two laps.
The course took us through West Acton and across Rte. 111 to Liberty Square Road where a planned 20 minute interval began. Man, these guys are fast! But I was able to hang onto the wheel of the rider in front of me until just before the point where Liberty Square Road crests. I knew I'd be lagging on the hills but thought I could catch up on the descents. Hah!
That one rise in the road separated me enough from the front pack that they were nearly out of sight by the time I was crossing 495 and Rte. 2. As I bombed down Taylor St., somehow there was one rider still behind me, who as he passed me, encouragingly called out, "Let's go get 'em!". I slipped in behind him and hung on for a minute or two, but soon enough, he pulled away as well. I was prepared for this to happen and so settled into just keeping my legs moving the best I could for the rest of the ride.
As I made the turn at Sanderson Road, I could still see a few riders ahead of me. But I also knew Oak Hill Road loomed not far ahead and this might be the last I saw of them. Up I went, alternating between out-of-saddle and seated pedaling, able to just make out the last two riders when the road straightened out here and there. I kept wondering how much better my climbing ability could get given the lack of winter effort... and my age. I wasn't feeling down on myself, really just trying to be realistic. It's obvious that I will improve if I spend more time concentrating on climbing.
As I crested Oak Hill and crossed over Pinnacle, I was glad to see that no one had turned back to look for me. I knew the area and had my mobile with me but for the future, I need to be sure that the protocol is that for certain rides on familiar roads, we are treated like grownups who can take care of themselves.
Down into Harvard Center and up Rte. 111 I went (missed the turn for Bolton Road), then down Stow Road where I crossed paths again with the "Let's go get 'em!" guy. Once again, I got in behind him but only kept up for a couple hundred yards, but not before I let him know I was counting on the "B" group coming up behind. The rest of the route is just rollers and part of many of my regular rides - I was able to keep a pretty good pace all the way back to Stow Plaza - 20 mph+ most of the way.
When I got back to the parking lot to wait for the "B" riders, I pedaled around the parking lot partly to stay warmed up and partly to keep ahead of the gnats/midges/no-see-ums that were swarming about there. 10 minutes of this took my average ride speed way down (it was at 18.5 mph over 27 or so miles when I got there).
Soon enough, Rebecca rolled into the lot and confessed that she was the entire "B" group and was only doing one loop. I put a note on Tony's car, letting him know one lap was enough for me today and headed home to get some breakfast.
Post ride assessment: Really, no surprises. I'm a 48 year old pretty much starting all over again with cycling, I wasted whatever I achieved last summer by being lazy during the winter. I can't afford to let that happen again. I'm happy that I kept up as long as I did and didn't explode, bonk or give up. I hope that there are other MRC members that could populate a robust "B" group but short of that, I'm content to be the "A" group's "sweeper" as long as they don't feel compelled to go looking for me: I'll be back there somewhere!