Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tuesday Night A ride - Let the good times roll

For a few years, when I finally made the A ride ability level, I always posted to the other club members a soliloquy about what it means to me to be an A rider, and the mental games I played with myself. Every year, as the rides began, I would wonder if 'this year, I had what it took', 'Did I do the work necessary in the off season to not make a fool of myself on opening day', 'Was last year a fluke and I'm really NOT an A rider'. All these things, and more, would go through my head just before the season started. I would work myself into panic until the rubber started to roll.

I try to give readers some feel for what riders and racers are going through as they train. The posts are long because each part of a ride has it's own flavor, set of tactics, and different circumstances that may arise. Which riders show up, weather, your personal status - including mental, nutritional, and recovery, and lastly, the terrain to be covered in the ride. Some riders are good at everything, Some are great at a certain discipline like hills or time -trialing. Others are just trying to hold on and not get 'dropped' or LFD. (Left for Dead) These are terms that basically mean becoming separated from the group by a large enough margin that the group as a collective can no longer wait for you. Like Spock said in some Star Trek movie, "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one."

This particular Tuesday the weather was mild, the group was small, and my legs were tired. I had done the horrible rain ride Saturday (See post "Is that All You Got!") and followed it up for a leg buster on Sunday with a few Tri guys. Ended that I beat them up for 78 miles. Kind of felt bad. (Not really) All that fun had left my legs looking for some time off. Yeah, So I'm at the Tuesday Night A ride for what purpose!? This is the antithesis of some time off. On this ride you either "Fly or Die" as my buddy Jim says. Well the group was small so instead of 15 guys that can/will try to crush you there really was only 4 hard core A riders, 2 A- rider and a B rider. Phil was the sole B rider. He has been attempting to jump up a level and try the A rides. Today I knew we would stay more steady and the group was small so I goaded him into to trying the A ride one more time. Can you see where this is leading? I'll shorten this story about Phil first so we can move on to the blow by blow aspects of the Ride itself.

Phil is a tall guy with a good bike and can ride 3 times per week for several hours. All of this should make it painfully hard but doable for Phil to hang on the A ride if he plays his cards right. This Tuesday was probably not the one I should have goaded him on. We were going to do hills AND long mileage...but at a steadier pace. Phil kept falling off the back on each hill. This is actually VERY normal for a new person trying out the A ride. You may not know the route, you certainly do not know when the other riders normally start pressing their efforts and it would be only normal to be somewhat 'off the back'. Let's just say I spent oh, about 3-4 years there. Since I goaded Phil I was more or less responsible to make sure he knew the turns and had a bit of either help or motivation to keep it going. He was pretty blown after the first series of climbs and we were within 10 miles of the start. Uh Oh, We got 40-50 mile to go like this. He fell back more and more and on a final circle up where the riders wait for the last I asked him some questions about his training. Seems he rode hard Sunday for 6000 feet of climbing. Slow or fast THAT will have an effect on a rider of a lower ability and volume of training. I also found out he trained relatively hard every day. Another red flag. Phil let me off the hook and told me not to worry if he came off again and to go. I counselled him to take a 'spin' day as to recover some ability back. He was definitely not riding as well as he usually did and I think he was over trained. When athletes always go hard without recovery bouts and enough rest the max ability keep coming down. So even thought that athlete is going as hard as they can their top end and power level is getting lower. A good recovery week and conditioning and Phill should be back to full power. We started our ride in earnest now as we would no longer wait for Phil at the tops of the climbs. Hanging back with Phil had made me miss climbing Echo Hill with the other A riders so I was a bit bummed. This is one of MY hills. I've made peace with it and it has understanding with me. It lets me climb it in the big ring when most riders do not. I, in turn, enjoy the pain it brings and respect its leg wrenching ability. From the top of my favorite missed climb we were really ready to ride.

We swooped down into the center of Monson at a a quality 35+ from the descent off Echo Hill. From here we went up 32 toward Wales Rd. This is a great climb and the start/finish of the Monson Rd Race. It's steep but not real steep. Of course THAT would have been easy. Instead we took the left hand fork off of Wales Rd to Munn Rd. When looking up from Wales you are already on a steep pitch. Seeing Munn Rd all you see is pavement going vertical. Ouch. The good news is it comes at you in sections that you just have to gut over. Each section is bad but you are just feeling it when you reach the top of each steep. The problem is that when you climb with the group you need to ride at the best climbers ability. I am NOT the best climber by any means. Instead I just suffer and breath like a diesel locomotive and hope for it to be over as soon as possible. Sometimes I feel great and can out last climbing faster then I normally do and others times I just 'blow up.' Chris Adeletti paced us up and he has a very efficient and smooth pedalling cadence. He rides his easiest gear but spins fast enough to stay in front. I have been practicing but Chris A can be too fast for me some times. I was breathing hard but finally we hit the plateau that signalled circle up. We were at a turn and we needed to get our last 2 riders up with us. Chris Shickler is a new member but an avid biker. He pushed the pace on the first climb. I wanted to go with him but I had to stay with Phil then. He had less starch in his legs for this climb. It isn't as long but it is steeper. George Fetcko is the other A- rider. He is making big leaps and bounds with his riding. Just having joined the club last year and STARTED with the A riders....that's saying something. Wow! We found him doing a weekly ride to Boston AND BACK (?) on one of the weekend days. Like, All in one day! He was wearing baggy shorts and his phone on his belt. Well he doesn't wear those clothes and he certainly rides like he means it. Big progression in this last year. He was bringing up the rear on the climbs.

After collecting Chris S and George we headed up a stair step climb that is about 4-5 miles long. I call it Partridge Hollow Rd. It brings you back up to Rt 19 in Wales. Chris A pushed the pace most of the climb and Jim was right on my wheel. Royce was fourth wheel as he was feeling less then perfect. Royce is very strong and is a winning the mountain bike series so far this year. Everyone has an off day. Royce was with me when I exploded on the hills of the Berkshires. Thankfully he got me back home that day. Eventually Jim and I took over from Chris and we brought the group into the circle up area. A small wait later and Chris S and George pulled in breathing hard. I asked Chris A if he was working hard on those two climbs. He assured me he was if not at, close to red lined. Thank God! I was at the max too but Chris looked like it was a walk in the park for him. You know the rule. It works in interviews as well as bike riding. "Never let'em see you sweat." Well, I was sweating AND breathing like a locomotive. No guess work there. I would have to trust Chris that he wasn't setting me up for later. Now if it was Mike Norton...I wouldn't believe a word. '"I'm tired" means he is going to spank you later and "I feel great!" means 'I'm bluffing and want you to take it easy so I can recover from the weekends races.'

The next series of hills were not too hard and could be classifies as roller. But at 30 miles and legs tiring they get to you. We made a quick right on to Rt 19 and then a quick left by the lake. This road would take us out to 190 by Ashford Ct. Our pulls were getting longer and the effect of rolling terrain on the miles was stacking up. I was trying to warn Chris S what was coming. I yelled to him what was ahead and how the road ended. It ended in a nice steep chop that could almost be classified a climb. When you come around a corner and over a small knoll you are faced with one wicked site for a climb. I had just came off the front a few riders ago so I was more or less tail gunning. I watched as Chris S almost sat up. I have to admit it is a daunting site but knowing whats coming helps. This psuedo climb has two levels. The first is a steep chop for about 300 or so meters. Long enough to make you work. If you know the hill you have information that the grade softens considerably before it goes up again and to the right. Collectively it is a hard hill but segmented it is doable. I began pulling out from the pace line in the back as the first hill started. I moved up a rider or two and watched as all the riders clicked down into their small front rings. NOW! was the time to hit it through this first chop. Fly or Die baby.

I rode the first hill in my big ring (55) and 21 gear in back which opened up a good gap on the rest. When I finally got to the false flat I dropped down into my small ring and just buried myself to make the next hill. Sit, stand, sit stand and keep on pedalling at red line max. Finally the hill top was there and I was able to drop into the big ring again and motor. Now my worry is that Jim, the Giant Slayer would track down Quadzilla (My new nick name I guess from another member of the club). If Jim hooks up with Chris they could catch me. 2 strong beats 1 strong most times. Thankfully I held them off but I noticed that Jim WAS the next rider into the circle up area. I yelled over to him and Chris A to not call me a 'fat boy' anymore. We all cracked up. I got some KOM mojo deposited into my account. (King Of the Mountain is prestigious but it all has do do with so many variables it only lasts until the next ride, sometimes only the next hill)

We ambled up 190 toward Stafford Springs and home. This is a rolling section of easy hills and fast downhills. Royce went in front for miles at 30+ MPH with help from the terrain. Eventually we headed in from the backside of Greystone Mtn. Nice rolling uphill again. Joy. We averaged about 21-23 MPH through the rollers but eventually we came to one of the two final choppers before the descent. Chris A put in a nice hard press on the run up to the chopper. Instead of 6 we were now 4. I came around on the actual chopper in my big ring and went for the top. Chris A had had enough of the 'fat boy' getting KOM's and motored by me again. He crested a few feet in front. Even if it was an inch he got the KOM. Jim was next just behind or with me and Royce soon after.

Down hill all the way to the next chopper. At least you can somewhat recover. Jim did a lions pull to the base of the chopper and I stayed in the Big Ring again and just stood to the top. This is NOT a tough hill but it always seems at the end of the Tuesday A ride it feels like Everest! We all circled up and waited for George and Chris who were actually only 2 circles behind.

Down the Greystone brakes of course. We had a near miss with mother nature in the form of a well fed Whitetail Doe. She was just about to cross the road right in front of me when she turned, thank God again, back the way she came. At 40 MPH it would have killed her, seriously banged me up and totally trashed my bike not to mention leave me stranded 10 miles from my car.

I grabbed the town line at the base of the descent. Royce was going for it..or at least lining up, but I was behind both him and Jim who was leading it out. Having a 55X12 has it's advantages. Not often is it going to get beat by a 53X12. I saw Royce line up and before he could engage to sprint I was by him and over the line. Norton rides a 55X11...he does the same thing to me.

We motored up Allen St for home and started a nice pace line that almost got run over by a car. (Nightly occurrence) Chris A did a monster pull to get us back up to the riders in front. From there, George and Royce did some nice 30 MPH pulls. We stayed together until someone hit a piece of metal that sounded ominously like a tire going flat. Jim, Royce and I brought it home with me going by Royce for an uncontested sprint. It never counts when its uncontested so we shifted down and had congratulations for a good ride all around. I have met a lot of riders and other clubs over the years but there is something about these people in
the cyclonauts that is great. They will kick your butt when you need it but they are all generally the nicest people around. Yeah, we are odd in our own way. (See above essay containing words of pain and suffering being enjoyable) Other then getting my wife's ability up to A ride status and having HER on the ride, I can think of no other people I would rather ride with and spend a Tuesday evening suffering. 'Cuz when it's all said and done, we all understand what HAS been done that night and are off to our caves for a good nights rest.

It was tough and my 3rd hard ride in a row but very satisfying. NOW I can go and noodle on Thursday and feel good about a light spin. It's always a good time when the rubber is rolling well.

My Garmin GPS is still under repair so no chart today. Maybe next week it will be back.

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