Distance: 35.3 mi.
Avg. Speed: 19.93
Weather: 62º, 80% humidity, wind NE5, cloudy
Song stuck in head: Birdhouse In Your Soul - They Might Be Giants
Good size group at the start for the mid-week MRC ride: Smudger (John), Chris, Tony, Gary D, Bruce, Carl (?) and two others.
We set out at a 19 mph pace and made our way to Liberty Tree Square Road without incident, I was able to sit in the pack comfortably and then the bigger hills came up and I started to fall behind, as usual. No worries, on Wednesday's the group will pause after the big climbs to allow stragglers to catch up. At the top of Liberty Tree/Taylor, Bruce took a left and went his own way.
A few hundred feet further up the road, I saw Gary doubling back to pick up a dropped water bottle. He went off on his own after that as well. I did my best to make it back to the pack on the Taylor Road descent, staying tucked down tight and pedaling hard, only closing the gap a bit before Littleton Station were we sorted out who was still with us and who was gone/dropped.
The six of us turned up Oak Hill Road, my plan being to do what ever it took to keep my speed above 10 mph the whole way up - ignoring HR, I monitored my cadence, trying to target 90 rpm or higher. The pack spread out right away with John, Tony and one other up ahead. It was good to have a couple of other riders close to me as I climbed - both in and out of the saddle.
As I crossed the long straight that parallels Rte. 2, I peered down and back through my arms and noticed a wheel tight on my tail. I don't know how rude this was (after all, Gary had lent me his wheel up Bolton Road this past Saturday), but I was feeling like I had more in me than merely grinding my way up... I was feeling competitive. So, I clicked down one cog, jumped up and cranked up my speed for the next 100 feet or so, the settled back into the saddle at this new pace. I was actually able to catch the rider who was some distance ahead of me as well. My breathing was heavy and labored as usual.
When I got to the mailbox at 223 Old Littleton Road, I calculated that I had shaved about 30 sec. off my best time for that climb: new record is now 9' 20". Woot!
Pushing on towards the Pinnacle intersection, I caught up with those that be me to the top. We regrouped, bombed down the other side and into Harvard Center where we took a right onto Rte. 111, up a short climb and then down towards the left onto Depot Road. Two riders opted to go straight on 110 and meet us on the other side of the Fruitlands climb.
I stuck with the pack until the actual climbing part started and drifted back again. At this point, both of my calves started doing that pre-cramp twitching on each upstroke, thus slowing my rate to below 10 mph. I caught up with the others just around the corner on 110 and stayed with them until the climbing south of Bare Hill Pond (I'm still fuzzy on the actual roads we took through this stretch, so beware of the map posted below). My lower legs were cramping hard and anytime I had the chance to coast a bit, I tried to stretch them a bit by pushing my heel down below the pedal as I stood on it. I also drank more bug juice as I went. It was very hard going.
When I got to Bolton Road (I think), the group was there waiting and Alan had met us there by riding the route in reverse. Bolton road is a nice, mostly straight stretch with a slight incline and as a group, we where able to cruise along it at 20+ mph. The balance of the route is the same as the Saturday morning route that consists of descending Cameron, Westcott, Stow and so on.
I was able to spin out the cramping in my calves and stayed right in with the group as we made our way down to Eldridge going 23 mph or so. Even though I couldn't carry that speed without drafting other riders, it was still all I could do to not let a gap form in front. At one point, I did feel like I was going to gap and so I flicked my right elbow, pulled left and let the next rider pull up. As I drifted back, the last rider conscientiously called out "Last" to let me know that this was my chance to grab his wheel or get dropped. I latched on.
As we worked our way along Taylor, I again felt myself fading and pulled out of the paceline to the left. I was barely in my new line when I felt a hand on my backside, pushing me back up to speed. A quick look over my shoulder revealed that it was Smudger generously giving me a boost.
Back into the line I went and we continued onto S. Acton Road where I got a turn at pulling the group for a minute or so and then the pace really picked up (over 25 mph) and my calves really began to hurt. I was able to keep my speed at 20 mph or so but the rest of them were getting pretty far ahead. Everyone eased up on Robbins and we rode together as a group the rest of the way back to the parking lot.
I'm extremely happy with how I did on this ride, despite the cramping. Almost 20 mph average speed over a very hilly route. I need to spend more time stretching as well as ensure that I am well hydrated BEFORE I head out for hard rides.