2013 Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Hike, Bike, ‘N’ Paddle – Memorial Day Edition
The “Hike-n-Bike,” as I still insist upon calling it (though it now includes canoes, kayaks, and so forth as well), is actually one of my very favorite recurring rides.
Twice a year, about 6,000 folks on spokes gather on the waterfront to go for a ride together (the hikers and paddlers take different routes). The route runs about sixteen to twenty miles (there are a couple of different variations) and welcomes all comers, from carbon-jockeys in full team kit to grandmas on cruisers towing trail-a-bikes … even family trains (I saw one consisting of a workmanlike road bike, a trail-a-bike, and not one, but, two baby trailers!). If you want to ride fast, you can ride fast … and if you want to tootle along, that’s fine, too. If you want to battle it out at the front of the (enormous) pack, you can. If you just want to cruise along and see the sights, there’s room for that.
The good folk of Louisville lining up at the Bike Doctor’s Bike Check tent
This past weekend, I was delighted to make it out to the Hike-n-Bike. Last year, I missed the Memorial Day ride (we miss the Labor Day ride every year — that’s when we’re out in the desert). In 2011, I rode it with Denis. In 2010, I did the Labor Day version (I wasn’t doing Burning Man yet, then), and turned out one of the flat-out fastest rides I’ve done in my entire life, banging out the twentyish-mile route in about an hour.
This year, Denis wasn’t feeling it, so I went alone again. That meant I got to roll out at the front and hammer like it counted … and that, in turn, meant I belted out a moving average of 18 MPH over the 16.4 mile course on the Tricross.
|A view of the pack…|
rarin’ to go (and, in one case, apparently phoning in last wishes, just in case). There’s a tandem with a dog riding in a rear carrier in this shot, but it might be too small to see.
|My view of the Start line.|
|Me at the start…|
…sweaty enough that I look like I should be at the finish.
On the back half of the outbound leg, I fell into a group that was attempting to work in a paceline (which is somewhat difficult when the group in question frequently encounters riders that have decided to slow down a bit). I tried to put in a few pulls. That was pretty nice. I haven’t ridden in a group in a while now (my best intentions in the direction of the regular Friday ride out my way have thus far been eclipsed by the need to catch up the housework left over from the rest of the week — summer classes are tough!), and I had forgotten how cool it is.
My group broke up at the climb into Iroquois Park (which, deceptively, is the toughest part of the Iroquois climb altogether). I kept it in the big ring and wound up pulling ahead of a number of guys, then stopped for some fresh water. Between getting ahead of the other guys who stopped for water and behind the ones who didn’t, I lost the group pretty much entirely. I basically rode solo for the whole of the return leg.
Towards the end of the outbound leg, I formulated a goal: keep the moving average at 17 MPH. It seemed attainable, and like a step in the right direction after months of not trying very hard. Nearing the home stretch, I realized I had a shot at keeping it above 17.5, and kept the engine revving … but it wasn’t until I got home and uploaded my data to Strava that I realized I’d actually pulled down 18 MPH. My ride time was around 54 minutes or so, including the water break.
This ride puts me really close to one of my long-standing cycling goals: maintaining a moving average of 20 MPH for an hour. It also, however, demonstrated something much more important: something that I guess I’d somehow forgotten.
It reminded me of precisely how much cycling is a mental game.
At no point in Monday’s ride did I feel like I was killing myself, burning too many matches, or working at maximum capacity. Instead, I was riding a pace I could have ridden for a lot longer — maybe not all day, but certainly for a couple of hours or more. I finished the race without burning all my matches, or even I think, half of them. Only on the climb into Iroquois did I ever feel like I was making a challenging effort, and that was mostly a question of accelerating around other riders (I spent much of that little climb out of the saddle). After the ride, I snagged a quick bite to eat, then rode home.
In short, even though I turned out the fastest ride I’ve managed in about two years, I had a lot more left in me … and that tells me two things.
First, I could work a lot harder on the bike than I do.
Second, I underestimate my own capacity. Drastically.
I suspect that’s true of a lot of us, especially those of us who ride solo a whole lot (and especially, especially those of us who ride solo in the city most of the time, and rarely get to really open up that throttle for long enough to see what they’ve got).
When you ride alone, you only tend to go as hard and as fast as you think you can. Put yourself in a group, and often that self-limiting tendency falls by the wayside. Put yourself in a big group that’s riding hard, and throw in that element of competition (with yourself and/or others) that tends to arise from such situations, and it’s almost guaranteed to vanish.
Suddenly, you’re sailing over those cracks in the pavement that you thought were ravines.
If we want to get better and faster, it seems like it’s probably important to get out and ride with other riders. I suppose every guide for would-be racers out there says the same thing: to get faster, get out there, ride with people faster than yourself. Go hit up the fast club rides and get dropped. Do it enough, and eventually you’ll be able to hang with the pack. Keep doing it, and you might someday find yourself at the front of the pack.
To get fast, you have to go fast — and every time you go fast, “fast” will get a little faster. The best way to train for racing is to race. Et cetera.
Oddly, I don’t know if I would’ve done anything anywhere near as impressive in an actual race.
Yesterday, I was only racing myself (okay, and all the guys around me, and especially everyone I passed ^-^). I wasn’t worried about killing myself and having to drop out or about being too slow (I was worried, very briefly, that I’d forgotten how to corner in a pack: I hadn’t). There was no “too slow.” There was just the group with which I was riding and the pace we were riding, a pace I felt like I could maintain.
This ride left me thinking that maybe I will try a few crits after all (it’ll probably have to wait ’til next spring, when our local crit series starts up again) … and maybe this fall, in addition to my gravelicious ambitious, I’ll hit up a couple of ‘cross races for real. For any number of reasons, I don’t expect to win any ‘cross battles, but my unvoiced fear that I didn’t have the capacity to go hard for anywhere long enough has evaporated.
I feel like my big goal is in sight. If I can do eighteen for almost an hour, soon I’ll be able to pull down nineteen for an hour. Soon after that, I’ll get my twenty-for-twenty (20 MPH for 20 miles).
…Or, rather, I will if I don’t let myself get lazy again.
I think it’s time to get back on this (race)horse and see where things go. After all, it’s only six months ’til Gravel Grovel!
Pictures are forthcoming. I seem to be having upload issues. All fixed!