Fool that I am, I returned to Reston to ride with either The Bike Lane or Evolution Cycling. Perhaps because it was overcast, it seemed colder than last week and the numbers showed. They were way down.
Like last week, stopping for gas and food left me dangerously close to missing the start of the ride. I rolled up just as four riders were rolling out. One woman was left in front of the dark Bike Lane store telling me she was waiting for their group ride. Instantly I determined, correctly, that there would be no ride from The Bike Lane today and made my decision to catch the Evo boys leaving on the trail.
Although temperatures were in the low to mid-30s for most of the ride, the low overnight temperatures and some rain during the week left some ice patches on the W&OD. But they presented no problems.
What was neat was that we started out with five riders and actually picked up riders along the route eventually getting up to 10. We rode on the W&OD until we could get safely off onto other roads and streets.
Almost immediately I wondered why I had come back. We were in a paceline of 10 riders rolling along at 23 mph on a 3% uphill grade. There is no way, even by being paced, that I could keep this pace. I was afraid I might have to excuse myself. But we took turns pacing at the front and once the strong leader dropped off another rider took over and I didn’t have problems staying with the group again.
Out of Leesburg towards Hamilton, we climbed Dry Mill Road, in the process dropped a rider aptly named “Turtle.” At the top of the climb, where Virginia Routes 7 and 9 intersect, we waited. Eventually, Turtle came and then graciously announced that he would ride the trail back and not hold us up.
It was actually amazing that I jumped in with this racing team and hung with them. At the same time, one of their riders could not keep pace.
We headed out through Hamilton, out Harmony Church Road, and back towards Leesburg. I was able to hang on with these racers most of the way. Leaving Hamilton we could smell the fire from a fireplace burning nearby. One of the riders said, “it smells warm.”
I never thought something could smell warm — we’re mixing the sense of touch with the sense of smell — but I could agree with him. I’d love to be inside feeling the warmth of the fire.
The route today would encompass more than 60 miles. I noticed after 50 miles that when we had moderate climbs of 2-3% grade that I had difficulty keeping up with the group. Usually, I would drop 10, 20, or 50 meters behind only to catch them on the other side.
The Evolution is a Cycling Racing team, most are younger riders and these old legs just don’t have the recovery in them to be able to spin up these moderate climbs. The steep climbs are different because everyone is working hard but these lesser grades are ones where the younger riders can sit and spin and after 50 miles I have difficulty.
Maybe it’s the old legs or maybe it’s that I still suck at nutrition on the bike. I had one energy bar with me but didn’t open it. Stupid.
Without about five miles to go, I sat up for a moment while a couple of riders dropped off to go home. I lost contact with our remaining riders. Mostly they were never more than 100-200 meters ahead but that is still dropped.
I felt my energy level drop. I hadn’t eaten on the ride and should have and fumbled around to find the energy bar. I felt a little better after ingesting it and rolled on back alone to the start/finish.
Not sure where the rest of the winter takes me. I’d like to ride with Evolution more but every Saturday between now and mid-March is booked and then begins soccer season. I was asked to join the team and race with them but feel that I would probably bring them down.
I was feeling bad about not being able to stay with what was left with the group but Adam, back at The Bike Lane, reminded me that these are racers who log base miles every Saturday and Sunday plus are younger too. As I read in Bicycling magazine once, when you feel a little discouraged about not keeping up with the Cat 2 and Cat 3 riders, take a stroll in the Mall and compare yourself to those guys.