Monday night: another group ride from Cycle Sport! It was a great evening for it. I went with Rich (ride leader who also works at the store), Glen, and Glen's teenage son Austin. At 5:30 and we headed off!
Leaving the shop, we immediately tackled the first hill of many for the evening - Cottonwood. It wasn't too bad. I had warning, so I shifted my gears in the lowest set and steadily climbed up. It definitely got me breathing hard, but my legs were fine.
From there, we toured through Loveland, back down the hill and got on the trail for a very brief time. It was in this stretch that some decisions were made. Rich and Glen asked me and Austin what we wanted to do. I said I was open. I was feeling really good and strong, so I was up for a challenge. :) Austin didn't have much opinion, or at least none he vocalized. It was either a) what we did the last time I was with them, or b) hills up on the ridge. Austin looked at me, so I said hills. [cue ominous music] There is a road that is not far out of the downtown Loveland area junction called Adams. It runs parallel to the trail for a little bit, then crosses it and goes uphill. That is where we went. They all warned me it was a big climb and to stay on the far side of the road. Austin said he'd probably walk part of it. Hmmmm. I got in front of Austin, in case he all of the sudden decided to jump off his bike, and worked up the hill steadily. It was rough! It was steep, then got steeper and had a sharp turn. My breathing got into a fast rhythm, not matching my pedal stroke at all, but just the rhythm needed for me to keep pumping. I stood up on the pedals and focused. Basically there was no stopping. I had passed the point of being able to securely clip out of my pedal, so it was either keep going or fall over. I kept going, and the road slowly leveled out to a flat. We had lost Austin though - he jumped off at some point and walked up. It allowed us some time to recover, which I wasn't going to complain about.
We were warmed up now! From here, we rode on beautiful, winding country roads. There were large freshly planted fields, farms, horses, cattle, pockets of trees...all in very lovely settings. The road continued to go up and down, with some moderate climbs that you had to get out of the saddle for. There were also some great descents. :) I think my bike topped out at 33 mph on this ride.
After a good handful of more short climbs and rolling hills, Austin was struggling. His father stayed with him, and we lost them on a few turns. Rich and I pulled over because we had seen them behind us. But they never came, so Rich doubled back to see what was up. Turns out Austin had had it, and they were heading back. While I waited for Rich to return I took these pictures of the intersection we were at. I really wish I could have taken more pictures while we were on the ride. It was just so gorgeous and peaceful. The only noise was the wind rushing past my ears. These pictures aren't very pretty though.
We headed straight out the road in the last photo, which was Dallasburg. It was a long country road with no middle line :) The hills were great – a set of gentle rollers. Eventually we turned and continued on more of the same. We saw a buzzard off to the field at the right, pretty close to the road.
Coming up on one intersection, another group of cyclists passed us. There were probably about 8 of them, and one pulled up next to Rich and said hi. Rich dropped back and told me that was their racing club. I think it is the Cycle Sport sponsored team. He said they were probably on a recovery ride. It was so cool to see the pack. I wanted to be in it. On this road, Rich and I chatted a bit and road side by side, really closely. That is what roadies do, if you're not drafting. I kept my eyes forward, since I was on the right and closest to the ditch. But it was a pretty neat feeling to be zipping along in unison. Oddly, for a little bit it didn't even feel like we were on bikes, but more like we were just riding on something smooth. I think it might be because side by side, you lose sight of seeing legs going up and down, so you lose that rhythm and just feel the gliding.
Rich showed me how he knew where he was going. There are a few markings on the roads out there to designate routes that clubs have painted on the pavement. The one we were following was the Beers for Gears route, which used three orange dots. Their configuration pointed you in the correct direction before each intersection. Looked like this:
Yes I photoshopped that. :) So we followed the three orange dots through more amazing scenery, over rolling hills and S-turn roads. I really wish I could have taken pictures! A lot of people were out mowing. Some people were out in their yards doing various yard work. I noticed red cardinals flying in last season's corn fields – the red color popped off of the tannish-yellow so vividly. There were numerous run-down barns that were falling apart (which I really like seeing for some reason). And I saw a few old cars, abandoned and left to rust in the midst of weeds at the back of properties. I saw one man looking at his garden set up. With the combination of the lowering sunlight, the smell of the air, and the quietness, I was reminded multiple times of how evenings were spent where I grew up.
Rich told me about a 400 mile ride he is going to do in May. He turns 60 this year and thought it would be a good way to commemorate that :) It's over 4 days through Ohio. They take a break each 25 miles. Sounds like quite an endeavor! I wonder what the bicycling equivalent to the marathon is. Seems like 100 miles 4 days in a row would be really really hard!
Eventually we came to some pretty big descents as we were heading back down into Morrow. At the end of the one where I glanced at my cyclometer and noted the 33 mph, a steep uphill followed. I wasn't prepared. I was grinning ear to ear after the fun downhill and didn't think about coming out of it. The hill was steep and had me at a crawl very quickly. I was in the wrong gear :( So, tired legs pulled me up the hill. It was another case of either keep going or fall over. I stood up and mashed down hard on each stroke. When I wasn't in a down stroke, my bike was stopped – that is how steep it was. I thought for sure I was going over. I felt my back tire slip a couple of times. My breathing was out of control but I didn't want to fall. Eventually I made it to the top, with Rich way out ahead of me. I slowly recovered, hanging my head out of tiredness. That one did it. I was spent, and I knew it.
That was our last climb, and we soon got to Morrow, where we got back on the bike trail. But first, Rich pointed up to a tree full of buzzards! It was so cool - they were so large and looked like big dark balloons spread out evenly through the treetop. There must have been 20 of them in the tree. Riding through the town, I could tell I had faded a LOT. But I thought that after getting back on the relatively flat trail I would be fine. We spinned along side-by-side, cruising around 16 mph, but this felt hard. I kept dropping back, unable to maintain the pace. And then I got a horrendous stomach cramp on my right side. It didn't feel like anything I had ever felt when running. It hurt to be bent over on the bike and I tried to stretch it out. But it kept getting worse. So we took a little break in South Lebanon. It hurt so bad I was wincing. It was hard to be in that much pain around someone I didn't know. I just wanted to go slowly. Rich offered me some Hammer Gel and just the thought of it nearly made me throw up. That stuff can be rough on your stomach already, so while my stomach is throwing a fit? No thanks. He also offered to go get his car and pick me up. But I felt like that was ridiculous and said I could try to make it closer, but just needed to go slower. So we proceeded, me wincing and grunting while Rich told various stories, probably trying to get my mind off of it. We got to the Powder Factory and I just couldn't do it anymore. I had no idea what was going on, but had a suspicion it was the effort of the ride combined with not enough food eaten in preparation for the ride. I know how much to eat with running, but I'm still learning this whole long ride biking thing! :)
So, Rich left me at the Powder Factory parking lot, heading back to the store. I laid down on the bench, but that made me feel like I had drank too much and the room was spinning. So I sat up and then paced. My legs were tight anyway, it was better to keep moving. I paced and stretched, and checked facebook on my phone, played some solitaire, texted people, emailed... where the heck is Rich? 9 miles shouldn't have taken this long. I texted Greg - he was in Loveland at Youth, but I didn't think he'd answer his phone. He did get my stranded messages and came down to provide a warm car for me to sit in while waiting. I don't think my bike would have fit in his car...not with much dismantling of it anyway. Meanwhile I had heard from Rich...he was locked out of the store! So he couldn't get his keys and car, nor could he get a hold of anyone he worked with to let him in, so he called Glen to the rescue. Rich left his bike in Starbucks which is right next door to the shop, and they both came up in Glen's SUV. I felt pretty bad for the inconvenience, but they laughed at the entire evening and what the hills had done to us all. And it's what you do as cyclist – that's why you ride together.
Finally back at my car, we loaded my bike on top and I headed home to take a very long hot shower. I was chilled to the bone. And then I ate and crashed into bed. Recovered now, but wow. Lesson learned. Eat more before a ride like that, and take food along too! That's what that back pocket on my jersey is for! :)
Overall, it was such a great ride! I felt so strong and had a smile on my face the entire way. It was just the last 5 - 10 minutes of it that got ugly. The other couple of hours was amazing. I enjoyed being out in the country and seeing the scenery. I'm glad to know they do rides like this. Gives some nice variety to the boring trail. I am looking forward to the next one. I also learned that there is a women's ride on Fridays that just started up. I may try this out some time. And there are group rides on the weekend from various locations too. Weekend rides would be easier – there would be more time to get it all in rather than cramming it in the few hours of daylight after work.