This weekend I was dropped for the first time on a group ride.
Blame my overly-cautious sandbagging (not on purpose), but I’m usually one of the stronger riders on a given ride. I feel most comfortable riding sweep only because I like to keep the group in front of me so I know where to go. I’m about fifty-fifty on hills – sometimes I gear down low enough to stay behind the person in front of me, other times I attack. Depends on my mood that day or how slow I need to go to stay at the back of the group. The goal being to not be the person everyone groans about because they picked a ride too far outside their abilities.
Bouyed by my successful first time of bike commuting on Heavy Bike, I got up super early on Sunday to ride to the start of a training ride for the team I’m riding with for the Bike MS: City to Shore event in late September. It’s only 15 miles and riding on Electric Dream Machine, it only took an hour to get to the ride start. Simulating the ride profile, the training ride was on the Schuylkil Trail from Center City to Valley Forge and back – a false flat with a few hills in Manayunk.
The training ride split into two groups – Fast (15+ mph) and Slower (12-15mph). I decided to stick with the Slower group – more people to chat with and didn’t want to obliterate myself before heading to brunch with some girl friends. Ultimately I’m glad I did – definitely ended up on the higher end of the average spectrum without killing myself.
About 5mi from Valley Forge, we saw the Fast group coming back and decided to take a communal break. Most of the Slower group planned to continue on, one of the Fast group decided to ride to VF again with his wife, and two of us from Slower group decided to head back (we were running about 20min behind schedule). So I’m now in a group of four: Three fast guys and me.
Even though I was maintaining a rolling speed of 19-21mph, which is fast for me, I was slowing getting dropped. I watched the three guys become much smaller on the trail ahead. In this moment, you have a choice: give chase or solider on where your abilities are. I chose the latter. I wasn’t upset or angry or even frustrated – this is the reality of life. Someone will always be better and faster than you. It’s OK.
My bike commuter friend happened to also be out riding (different route). He rode up behind me and we chatted for a few minutes before he turned around to continue his ride. It boosted my flagging spirit.
At some point the guys realized I wasn’t with them and stopped at an underpass. One rode back to find me and I wasn’t TOO far behind so he encouraged me to just keep going. As I rode by the resting guys, I yelled “Drop me like a bad habit, eh?” with a big smile and the chase was on! They finally caught up to me and we rode together as a group. After a short rest break, we hit the trail again. We were doing fine until the same Super Fast guy took his turn at the front. The guy behind me said “Time to pick up the tempo” and once again, I was left behind.
I didn’t mind, really. It’s my own issue if I can’t keep up, not theirs! And on this ride, we were on the path – there really wasn’t a way for me to get lost. It was just this one guy – his turn at the front meant rolling 21+ and I’m just not there yet even in the Big Ring. To his credit, when he came off the front this time he noticed I wasn’t in the pack, slowed a bit, and let me draft him for a few miles while the other two Fast Guys rolled slightly ahead of us.
The rest of the ride was good – I was able to keep up with the group as we rolled back into the city … until the Super Fast Guy caught someone’s tail and zoomed off. I tried to chase this time, but after 50mi of riding near the top of my abilities my legs were gstarting to feel hosed. The two other guys were behind me and eventually caught up and the three of us rolled back to the start together. Great ride.
Post-ride Brunch was fantastic. My legs were definitely less enthused on hills going home, which is all uphill. Ended up riding 72mi and averaging 14.7mph over just shy of 2000′ of elevation gain. Pretty respectable.