Tuesday night was the group ride.
Note the last time I tried group rides was back in 2005. “Tried” being the operative word. Meaning, I went once or twice, got dropped far too quickly and decided driving 45 minutes west to hang on for 40 minutes was not a good use of my time. However, they are back as part of the 101 ways my coach is trying to kill me with intensity in a group format this year.
Enter the group ride.
Once again, I drove 45 minutes west to find myself in a forest preserve in St. Charles. My husband meets me there as he too is in for the group ride. The difference is that there is a very good chance he will actually hang on to the group ride while there is an even better chance I will just go for a very fast, but short ride.
You see, last week I showed up and hung on for 42 minutes. I know what you’re thinking – that’s not real good considering it’s over a 90 minute ride. However, two years ago I hung on for 40 minutes so you can see I have made some progress there.
Two minutes in two years. That’s almost as good as dropping 15 seconds from my 1000 free time.
My goal this week was to hang on for 43 minutes. Raise the bar by 1 minute from last week and from there just hang on for dear life. I was feeling more confident this week because Chris had removed my compact crank (seriously who needs a compact crank to climb the flats of Illinois) and gave me big girl gears. Add that to my new road bike which now has 700 wheels plus I wore my big girl shorts so I felt like I might get somewhere. Or for 43 minutes at least try.
Chris and I warmed up for awhile along the roads with the other antsy cyclists waiting to start the ride. Everyone circles, vultures, and paces in anticipation of what could be a whole lot of hurt tonight. Finally we all wait at a stop sign for the rest of the group that starts at the bike shop. There is nervous talk of let's get going and comparison of bicycles between the guys. I stood in the back even more nervous pretending like I did not realize I was the only girl there, nor did not realize I might get dropped once we cross the street, nor did not realize that based on the bikes and number of race wheels I might be out of place on this ride.
And then it happened.
“Mumford, we hear you’re going to be a father soon.”
(we interrupt this blog to allow for a long pause in which the author emptied out her big girl shorts from the load she just dropped in them and put on her plastic pants when she realized Reid Mumford just rolled up for the group ride)
Reid Mumford? REID MUMFORD? The Reid Mumford that was the only amateur strong enough to hang with the Toyota Pro Cycling team in a crit a few years ago? Reid Mumford that finished 2nd at some elite national road race championship? Reid Mumford that currently rides for a pro cycling team?
I look at Chris and mouth the words “I AM SO DEAD.”
He looks back at me with a grin and says “I know.”
Understand me being at this group ride with Reid Mumford is about as ridiculous as if I had shown up at masters, found Michael Phelps in my lane (bad choice on his part) and said “want to do a few laps?” Better yet, remember the other night when I showed up at the state meet wearing a normal swimsuit while everyone else was in fast suits? This is similar except add a snorkel and swimmies to my arms.
What to do what to do what to do. Look down, look at the gears. Do I see a motor attached to my gear set because that is the only way I will survive. No. DAMMIT! So I stand there and chew on my nails. I think about turning around. Then I say to myself all you have to do is hang on for 43. 43 MINUTES not a minute more. Then I decide I can’t do it. Then I realize I should at least try. Then I decide I am crazy for trying to try. Then, well, the group started rolling. It was time to ride.
Half of the group crosses the street while the other half gets stuck waiting for a few cars. I am in that other half. The good news is that so is Reid. The bad news is that I realize it is me, two other guys and Reid which means once we cross this street I might get dropped from this group ride. Which at that point would pretty much be a group-cross-the-street-and-stop for me and not really a ride.
Finally we cross and I just play it off like this is totally normal for me to be a part of this ride (it is not). I am sure someone was thinking oh this poor girl please someone tell her she is way out of her league and bound to hurt herself. Oh my dear boys. You are so right.
I sit behind Reid’s wheel and realize this is perhaps already one of the coolest rides - no matter what happens. I am sitting on Reid Mumford’s wheel. He doesn’t need to know that up until this point in the ride I have only averaged less than 100 watts. He doesn’t need to know that me sitting in his draft has already gotten my heart rate up. He doesn’t need to know that his ass is right at the level of my eyes.
My eyes? Yes, my eyes. Which means he’s a pretty tall guy. And he has great legs. I know my husband is on this ride but he is in the group that crossed the street first. Plus I kind of have a thing for pro cyclists. Remember George? A few weeks ago one of my athletes told me that she had been watching the Tour of Missouri and George’s elbow touched hers as he rode by. I told her I might just have to touch her elbow. I was thinking I might just have to touch Reid’s ass too but then realized that he is probably married, I am definitely married and I would like to at least survive more than 2 minutes of this ride.
Some time elapses and the pace is still slow. Apparently there is yet another group joining us for the ride. In the meantime we ride slow. Very slow. I know I was “hanging on” to the ride but this can’t count for overall time. This is not part of the 43 minutes that was my goal. Regardless I enjoy the ride.
But it was still slow. A few phone calls and we are still waiting for a group that was supposedly joining our ride. Soon we will run out of daylight. Let's go! Finally Chris and I just ride ahead with another man. We continue for about 10 minutes and then we see the other guys riding towards us. I’m not sure how that happened but all of a sudden we realized all of the groups had merged and heading towards us was the group ride.
“Liz, you better get going.”
It was like being told to head to the basement as a tornado approached in the sky. I believe that was Chris’ way of giving me a generous head start or at least a small fighting chance. I start rolling ahead with the other guy. We rode for a few minutes nervously looking over our shoulder to see when the group would arrive. Finally the guy said “they’re coming like a freight train, let's go.”
And holy crap. Freight train was right. I accelerated well over 22 mph and they passed me like I was just standing on the platform waiting for the train. Passed me going - oh - about 28, 29, rumor was they were at times holding 32. And then the line kept passing me. A man said “come on, you can do it” and even opened up a little gap for me to get in but they kept going faster and faster then someone surged the entire group up a hill and I kept going backwards, they kept rolling forwards and rolling further and further until….
Just like that they were gone.
I was off the back. Actually I was pretty much standing still. So I stopped and turned around. And unlike last week when I burst into tears for 30 seconds upon being dropped this time I just laughed. I'm learning to have a good sense of humor about it all. It could have been worse. I could have been dropped when crossing the street at the original stop sign. Instead I realized I had hung on 2 minutes 11 seconds in the ride.
I pulled to the side of the road and with my left leg quivering I called my coach. Told her I happened to show up to Pro 1,2 night at the group ride. She came back with a “PERFECT” which was really her way of saying unless your rear wheel had fallen off in the middle there is probably nothing worse than having shown up to this ride.
She told me to just ride it out easy until I get back to the car. I rode myself back an hour and realized that even when dropped and alone you can still have a glorious ride. The temperature was perfect. The roads were quiet. The grass was growing green again. And the sky was fading with light.
As I rode back, I promised myself I would keep showing up to the group ride. No matter how many times I get dropped by the end of the season I will hang on for the entire ride. Each week I’ll get a little better. Each week I’ll hang one for a minute more. I’ll be the crazy girl that just can’t take a hint – the one that keeps showing up, getting dropped, and coming back.
Next time I will hang on for 43 minutes. If the wind is just right and it's a good night, maybe 44. Of course that is unless Reid Mumford shows up. Then I’ll just hang for 3 minutes, stop to unload my big girl shorts, ride it out easy and head on home.