Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Ride

I have a bunch of biker friends.  Not so much "biker" as in Harley but "biker" as in Trek. These friends are road biking people.  They all meet a few times a week and ride 30-50 miles (maybe more, I don't know) at lightening speed.  If you want to join them, they welcome you...but they won't "wait" for you.

And so I found myself with nothing to do last night except the option of riding with my biker friends.  I sent a quick text to the ring leader (and dear friend), Kenny, to just check what kind of pace they were going these days.  You see, I haven't ridden with them for at least a year and I know how they roll...very, very fast.

He quickly texted me back, easing my mind like he always does saying, "You'll be fine Heather. Just come and join us."

That actually means, "You will suffer Heather. We will not slow down for you just because you are a girl or haven't been training.  Just come and join us...and good luck."

I know this. I accept this.  I am used to this and actually appreciate it. I don't want the group to make special conditions for me, especially when I " show up" every now and again. I can't expect wouldn't be fair to those that ride and ride and ride.

I understand because, I run and run and run and therefore I can.  My brother told me a few years ago after I asked him how I could bike faster. He told me quite frankly, "You have to bike to bike."  Okay. I completely understood but I have failed to make that happen.  I average about 3 biking workouts a month. Can you imagine trying to run a marathon with 3 RUNS a month?!

See, I understand.

Armed with total understanding, knowledge of the pain I would be in, the group I was riding with and the acceptance of my lack of training (I do have a wonderful heart muscle you know... biking quads...not so much)...I packed up my bike, water and other necessities and went to join the group.

I quickly see Kenny (the fastest dude ever), Pete (another fastest dude) and a myriad of acquaintances that I have seen from past rides...yes...all fast.  I then began to search the unloading cars for the following:

other women or "out of shape" men.

Today was not my day. No other ladies and no men that looked out of shape.  I knew it wasn't going to be an easy ride.

The only hope I really have when I ride with these guys is drafting.  If I can stay right on the tire in front of me, I have a chance to hang with the group and avoid "getting dropped." If you get "dropped" you can say good bye to a lovely "pull (when you draft behind someone, you really get a ton of help and you exert less)." You can also say good bye to everyone and hello to a solo ride.

No one waits.

And I am totally okay with this. Growing up with a brother that was and still is an amazing athlete, taught me early on that "waiting" for someone makes the slower person's workout torture as well as the faster person's.

The ride began and I was ready to push myself just enough to stay with the group until the first set of hills.  The first hill, Waterfall, is a lovely place where each rider blazes past me (except for the one really fat guy...who then races past me on the downhill...yeah, Newton's good old, "Law of Motion" takes over).  For the next 8 miles, you are pretty much on your own.  Groups of riders with similar abilities make their way up and down hills, catching some, leaving others. It is a complete free for all.

I was pretty much alone for that section due to my inability to move quickly up a steep hill.  My heart was racing, sweat was dripping (even off my legs) and the mass of riders could be seen leaving me in the distance.

The good news for me (and maybe 4 others), the lead riders wait at one of two points in the 30 mile ride.

And then, off they go.

During this section, we head down a steep road that turns quickly onto a smaller road lined with fields of corn, cows in pastures....simply beautiful. I normally enjoy the view, take in the beauty of my surroundings but not when I am riding with these boys.

They cruise around the corner and pick up speed and start some silly "let's see who is the fastest rider" game.  I try to hang on but quickly get left in the dust.  It is a slight uphill section which just doesn't work for me.  I find myself with a group of three guys.  I hang onto the back tire of the last guy knowing, I must, if I want a free ride on a flat, long section of road that is coming up.

If I lose them, I am once again on my own, exerting more energy than if I were drafting (and letting one of them, get tired out).

I begin to fall further behind.  And before I know it, I am twenty feet behind. I spin like mad trying to catch these fellers before they hit the open road. No luck.  They take off and I am solo. I must use my own power to make my way down this road until the next meeting point.  Darn.

But, if you think I am the last rider at this point, you are wrong.  I actually make it to the waiting riders with guys still to come. Yay me!

The final section of the ride is tough. We have to make our way back the way we came (remember the hills). The guys are all warmed up, ready to "race" each other once again as they rocket themselves home.  I simply want to burn a few calories and chat about the goings on of my day.  See men and women are so different...

We begin the first hill and I can't believe it, I am leading...okay for only a matter of seconds!  Then the entire group starts passing me one after another, leaving me with words encouragement:

"Get off your seat and start pedaling!"
"Go faster, woman."
"Spin girl, Spin!!!"

As each passed, with their "encouraging" remarks, I stand up, I feel faster and I spin like nobody's business. But it doesn't work. 

Until...Mike pulls up next to me and says, don't move, keep straight.  He then pushes my bike and I rocket past everyone.

He does this a few more times, keeping me with the group.  In addition, he tells me to focus on someone in the middle of the group, rather than simply keeping with the last guy.  With words such as, "You got this," "Awesome," "Steady," "Don't lose sight of that tire," I am able to keep up with everyone.

Until...they all raced down the final hill and onto the last 8 mile stretch.  This section is fast and furious. This is the part I totally need a tire to keep focused on....someone to pull me along in order to keep up.

But remember, these guys don't wait. And they didn't.

I saw two lone dudes up ahead...and I tried with all the power I could muster to catch them. I could not.

I was alone for the final stretch.

A few minutes in, I teared up.  I thought, "Why am I crying?"

It wasn't that I couldn't complete the final miles, I was in great shape for a bike ride.  It wasn't like these guys had done anything mean, I knew what this ride entailed.  It wasn't like I didn't know what I was doing or didn't know where to go...I did.

I then thought about offers each of us so much.  Along our "ride" we have others to encourage us, help us when they can...but it is still up to us to ride.

If we want to ride fast, we have to train fast. If we want to be strong on the hills, he have to build a stronger body.  And we need to spend more time on the road to give us the ability to endure. 

It is up to each of us individually to make that happen.  Mike can push, Kenny can encourage, Pete can cheer...

But only Heather can finish.

How fast or slow you up to you.

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