Friday, January 1, 2010

The metric system.

Nice, hard ride today.  I'll give the rundown and then some stats at the end.  If my sentences seem short and less descriptive than previous posts, it's the fatigue...and that nice Terrapin Golden Ale I just enjoyed. 

Duane, Whit, Barry, Mitch, Kristin and I saddled up for today's ride.  We were to start at 9am amidst some fog and mildly wet conditions.  Here is the view from the truck on my way over to the start.

The route, a fairly rolling course through the western piedmont, is a doozy.  I imagine it wouldn't be so bad at a sane rate of speed, but that was not to be today.  Starting out from The Cricket's Nest on Country Club, the large group of 30 and 60 milers rolled smoothly to Jonestown Rd.  Shortly, we came upon the big intersection with Hanes Mall Blvd (one of the most cursed roads in existence!).  As the light went to red, many riders simply rolled on through.  We waited a bit, but the pull of the ever-escaping lead group was too strong. 

Once the crew thinned a bit, we were left with 20 or so folks humming along between 20 and 30 mph.  Notables include David Flynn, Joe (the man in pink), and a few MOB guys, one of whom is a Cat 2.  Bob Land was also with us, and at any age he is a sterling cyclist...I am sure he is approaching 70. 

Happily, the CLM was representing with 4 members in the lead group.  That is, until at about mile 20-25, when Barry took a big pull up a steady hill and hit the limit before dropping back and then off the back.  This can happen in the blink of an eye.  For the uninitiated, let me expand:

  • A cycling group may take on a few different organizational shapes, depending on the number of riders, the terrain, and of course, speed.  The slower the group, the more likely you are to see a "bunch" of riders, 3-4 or more wide and probably talking to one another.  You might even see a smile. 

  • As the speeds increase, riders will seek shelter from the increasing wind resistance and form a double paceline (2x2) or in cases of significant stress, a single-file line.  When the line goes single-file you know it is going to be painful.  No smiling.

  • If a rider is on the front of a group or line, he/she is "taking a pull" and doing about 25% more work than the rider directly behind them due to drag.  When they tire, or are too fatigued to continue at the group's accepted (or expected) rate of speed, the rider up front "pulls off" and drifts back to the back where one can rest a bit by "sitting in the draft" of the riders ahead of them.  If one has pulled a bit too hard or is fatigued, even the little kick needed to get back up to the group's speed after drifting to the back can be too much.  I've been there many times, and I would be there again today (later).

It's all quite scientific in terms of racing:  A rider has a certain amount of fuel in his tank.  If the guy is macho and wants to show off, things may not work out well in the end if he burned up too much gas sitting on the front pushing the pace.  There is a corollary however:  If said rider is strong enough to do that extra 25% at a pace fast enough and for long enough to put other riders over their limits, he may succeed.  But, I digress, let's get back to Barry.

The line was single-file, uphill, and I'm pretty sure there was a smokin' headwind.  So Barry comes rearward and slips off the back, just too cooked from his big pull to stay on the back of the paceline.  This is extra-difficult if one is trying to hold a good pace from a flat into a hill...the fatigue comes on so quickly.  I didn't realize this had happened for probably 1-2 minutes, and by the time I looked back, the man was gone.

Sadly, with one CLMer down, we had to press on.  Things were relatively stable for the next 20 miles, but for one notable exception.  Crossing a set of railroad tracks, Whit's full bottle of liquified EPO flies out of the bottle cage.  This excited the group considerably, as a white mouse might excite things in the elephant tent in a cartoon circus.  The real worry (after everyone safely avoided the gyrating bottle) was that Whit was down a bottle of liquid.  NO WAY this crew was stopping at the rest what was Whit to do?  Kindly, David Flynn gave him one of his water bottles.  Ah, the spirit of sportsmanship.

As for me, I started to skip a pull (meaning I didn't take my turn at the front) here and there coming into Farmington.  I was already feeling pretty whipped and since I knew the road ahead, I was trying to secure my own passage.  We were already averaging nearly 22mph over 45 miles, which was satisfying to me.  As we began the long climb up Farmington Rd. to the Battle Branch Cafe and Courtney-Huntsville / Shallowford Rd., my legs were really going numb.  No longer did they just hurt or ache, I was unable to fully control their usually smooth rotations without a jerk or wiggle here and there.  That is muscle fatigue.

At the corner, we took a right onto Courtney-Huntsville / Shallowford Rd. and I hopped back on the front, feeling just good enough to pull a bit.  There is a sense of duty here, after all.  But, as with that euphoria that is said to set in during severe hypothermia, it was short lived and I soon just wanted to lie down and sleep for a while.  David Flynn pulled through and punched it as I drifted back and when the last guy went by on my right...I had to let him go. 

49 or so miles with the fast guys feels pretty good, considering the other rides I've been on this week.  Soloing in wasn't so bad, and I tried to keep a good pace and effort level.  As a not insignificant side note, Whit and Duane stayed on to the finish.  That is really impressive.  Final note:  Barry rolled in just 15-20 minutes after I did, which means he rolled 40 or so solo miles and came in quick.  Nice work!

Here are the stats, noting that I forgot to start my speed-o-meter until I was already a few miles down Jonestown Rd. 

Time:  2:55.43
Dist:   59.48mi
Avg:   20.3mph

Pics from after the ride: 

Two rest days coming, with the next ride on Monday night.  Short and sweet!


Northstar Bikes said...

liquified EPO, man alive, hilarious, sorry to be a pansy and fall off the back...lame!

Erich said...

No pansy are you, bro. That group was stacked and probably could have gone even faster if the big dogs wanted to. We'll just have to up the distance and speed on those weekend rides.

Dieter Drake said...

Outstanding blog. See you in April.


Erich said...

Thanks Dieter! I'm humbled to see the blog is getting out in a positive way, especially to folks at the Battenkill.

Keeping checking back, it's sure to get interesting, especially as I take the cervelo off road next week...


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