Random Rantings and Ravings from a Slow-Poke Runner in the Heart of the South. (A Weeekly (sort of) Blog about running and just about anything else)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


My exercise regimen has been humming along the last couple of weeks. The cycling as cross-training has helped me avoid the nagging injuries I experienced on and off last year – at least for now. Plus, I really enjoy it! But this past Tuesday, I had one of those humbling experiences you often have as you start off in a new sport.

I went on a Saturday ride with several guys this weekend and I was mentioning, to one of the more experienced riders, my desire to bike some during the week to work on my skills more often. He mentioned a group ride he knew of on Tuesday evenings that includes cyclists of “varying levels” with some going “as slow as 13 or 14 mph”. “GREAT!” I thought. This would be perfect! I could try to keep up with the faster group but slow down to the slower group if I needed.

I left work a bit early Tuesday, arrived in the parking lot, and quickly scanned the crowd of about 15 cyclists. There were several who looked like professional bikers with high dollar bikes. Immediately I knew that these were people I would not be able to keep up with, so I kept scanning the crowd. I saw a guy who looked more like a recreational cyclist and pulled up to ask about the ride.

He was nice enough and told me they would be glad to have me. I asked him about the pace, telling him that I usually average 15 mph or so for a 20-mile course. He kinda’ of got a look that told me, “That’s a bit slow for us.” But said that there would PROBABLY be other cyclists about that speed and the group would not leave anybody behind. I was getting skeptical but felt it was too late to load up in the car again.

But then I looked around and saw a couple older guys in their fifties. There were a couple middle-aged woman as well. I looked over and saw a woman I often see at the Wellness Center in the mornings. She is probably in her 40’s but in decent shape. She often runs at the track at the same time as I do but I usually go at a faster pace. Suddenly, I felt more comfortable. Maybe I am going to fine! Surely I can keep up with this crew.

“I completed my century this weekend!” the familiar woman proudly exclaimed to the other bikers. Uh oh – sinking feeling in my stomach. (A century is a 100 mile ride.) “How did you do?” another cyclist asked. “We averaged 17.3 mph for the day”, she answered. 17.3 miles an hour average for one-hundred miles!!!! My feelings of comfort suddenly vanished! I felt like I was in trouble and I just now taken my bike off the back of my car!

The ride included 21 miles through the countryside surrounding Tupelo. There were a few rolling hills, one pretty steep but short, but nothing much different than what I normally ride. The first few miles I was hanging pretty well. “Maybe I can hang with these guys,” I thought. Once we left the city limits, however, they were off. The professional guys left us like they had an engine on their bikes. There about five of them and they zoomed off to the tune of 25 or so miles an hour. But there was acceleration in the secondary group as well. I tried my hardest to keep up, keeping my speed at about 17 mph, 20 or so on the flatter sections, but I could not stay in the line.

I was dropped.

I finally made it to their first short water break at 9 miles. I had kept them in sight for the ride so far so they didn’t have to wait long. But they were ready to start again before I could pull my water bottle out of its cage. I started off fast, trying to get a lead and some momentum but they had dropped me once again not more than a mile later. I tried as hard as I could but this time, I lost sight of them.

Fortunately, there was one man who was also having some trouble and I was able to keep him in my sights. I tried to catch up so I could draft off of him, after all, I would be willing to take turns; however, he was not too fond of the idea. Once I caught up he swerved to the right and left, a move I took as him not wanting me on his back wheel. So I fell back again but stayed within 100 yards of him.

I had actually dropped one of the women in the group but did not realize it until getting to the second water break of the ride. I pulled up and was saying something to one of the cyclists. Apparently, I was not paying enough attention until it was too late. Before realizing it, I had come to a complete stop and could not pull my foot off the pedal. In that slow manner many cyclists are familiar with, I fell right over with the bike flipping on top of me! There I was looking up at the sky through the frame of a specialized! Yes, that’s right. I fell right in front of this group of superior cyclists without knowing a one of them. It was a humbling experience to say the least!

They made several comments that made me feel better. They said they had all fallen on the ride before as well, sometimes in the parking lot before even getting started. I told them I could at least provide their entertainment for the ride and we all laughed together.

The last 7 or so miles were pretty uneventful. The group spread out more and I was able to keep up with about half of them. When I pulled back into the parking lot, I made it before the secondary group had dismounted their bikes. I had a chance to talk to a few of them and they were accepting, despite my poor showing.

I told this story to my wife once I got home. She and my sister-in-law who is visiting both laughed their heads off and said, “I bet you won’t go do that ride again!” But actually they are wrong. I averaged 16.4 mph for the ride. That is almost 1 mile per hour faster than ever before for a similar ride of this length. So my desire to improve will probably drive me back there once again, feeling a little more humble once again, but, hopefully, getting faster in the process!

By the way, the 4 miles of intervals were pretty tough this morning! One of the downsides to cross-training I guess, huh?


Blogger PLANET3RRY said...

You raised your level of expectancy when you realized that your comfort level wasn't going to cut it.

Congratulations to you and stepping out of your comfort zone! You now know that you are capable of 16+ mph for that distance. What you were trying to avoid in the beginning, now has shown you that you can do it... now all you need to do is polish your technique, that's all.

Always surround yourself with people who share your values, are where you want to be and who challenge you... this is true for all aspects of life.

Thank you for sharing the story!

11:00 AM


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