Things have been fairly quiet on the bike lately; after my epic 150-mile ride on Labor Day, I’ve slowed the pace of my riding a bit. I’ve done a few long rides since then, including a 72-mile ride and an 85-mile ride, but I haven’t ridden as often, averaging probably 2 rides a week for the last month. I like to have a stretch of at least a few weeks where I don’t ride at all, or ride minimally, in order to give my mind and body a chance to rest. I don’t want to get burnt out. Ideally, by the end of this period, I’ll be longing to start riding more once again.
So I’m thinking the next couple weeks will work well for a rest, and the timing is right because I had a great opportunity to do a challenging end-of-season ride last weekend to wrap the year up. (I’m not talking about wrapping things up for 2010 — I’ll be riding seriously again in November and December — I just mean wrapping up the racing/heavy-duty riding season.) On Saturday, Hobgoblin and I attended a charity ride organized by my friend and fellow-blogger, Debby from She Knits by the Seashore, and her husband Chris, from The Suitcase of Courage. They organized it to benefit Forgotten Felines, an animal shelter for cats and kittens, where Debby volunteers. Debby came up with the idea a year ago or so, and I’ve spent the last year in awe of her as she has gone about planning everything in a supremely organized and careful way. Let’s just say that event planning is NOT one of my strengths, so I admire those who take it on and succeed.
And everything worked out wonderfully. The turnout was twice what everyone expected, the weather was gorgeous (it was a beautiful weekend sandwiched between horrible rain storms), and all the riders were happy. Hobgoblin and I showed up a little on the late side so we could ride with Chris and another cycling friend, Aki, from Sprinter della Casa, and after waiting a bit for them to return from making sure the road signs clearly marked the route, we set off on the 50-mile loop. We were under a bit of time pressure, since we wanted to return in time to hear the band that was playing for lunch, so we set off at a brisk pace.
It was the time pressure that made us go fast, but also the fact that Hobgoblin had fresh legs and wanted to ride hard. So, as we rode along the beautiful Connecticut coastline, the three of us worked hard to stay on Hobgoblin’s wheel. I had to remind myself to look around so I wouldn’t miss the view, because otherwise, I would have spent the time staring in dismay at my heart rate monitor, which was telling me I’d better slow down if I wanted to keep riding for another couple hours. Eventually our pace moderated a little, but only a little — once you set out at a fast pace, it’s hard to pull back and slow down. And I didn’t want to slow down because I was having so much fun riding with three people who know what they are doing on a bike — how to ride in a pace line, how to ride hard while staying safe, how to communicate and keep the group together. We sprinted for town line signs, a tradition whose source I don’t know, but one we follow regularly on all our long rides. The trick for someone like me, who can’t out-sprint three male bike racers, is to catch the rest of the group by surprise by being the first to spot a sign, so I spent the ride surreptitiously looking ahead for the green signs marking a new town. I managed to take a couple of the sprints that way. Most of the ride I was right on the edge of what I’m capable of — working very hard on the short hills, recovering on the downhills, and spending as much time as I could drafting on the flats, to keep my heart rate down. By the last hour, my legs started to ache, and at the end of the ride the ache was pretty pronounced. I was ready to get off the bike, but it’s immensely satisfying to get off the bike having pushed just about as hard as I can.
It’s also satisfying to hold my own with the guys, riders who can trounce me in a bike race but with whom I’m a little more evenly-matched on a longer ride in a more relaxed setting. I hate being the slow-poke woman, the one all the guys have to wait up for (even though I don’t mind at all waiting up for other people), and nobody had to wait up for me this time.
So now it’s a couple weeks of rest, and then I start up again, gearing up for winter riding and spring races (unless, of course, I retire from bike racing, which is always a possibility!).