March 11 was the last day I rolled out without kids in tow. It was the day before my last surgery. Kids on a ride, while enjoyable, slows the pace significantly. My 17-year-old son keeps up very well, but he doesn’t always pay attention to his use of the path. It can be alarming the way he weaves around. He’s also been known to stop without warning. I hate that. My 11-year-old daughter, can’t keep up. With her, we slow the pace significantly and we shorten the distance. She’s able to make a 20 mile ride, but it has to include lots of stops, a plodding pace, and the promise of a park with a playground somewhere along the way.
Since my surgery, I’ve been out on a couple of rides, but they haven’t been long ones, because the kids ended up going along. The weather has also been nasty and, while I ride in just about any weather, pouring rain is one forecast I’d rather not encounter on my bike.
On Saturday, there was a break in the weather and I was able to get out and ride to my heart’s content and until my legs gave out. It was the most mileage in a ride ever. The SO and I logged 42 miles in 3:34:00. That’s a pretty steady 11 mile an hour pace. It’s not the fastest we’ve ever ridden, but considering it was my first long ride since surgery and in a month, I don’t think that’s too bad for an ole gal getting back in gear.
The fun thing about this ride is that it also included our first group ride with the Southern Oregon Velo Club. We’ve been members since last May, but have not felt confident enough in our riding skills or in our endurance level to attempt a group ride. A month ago, I found out that there is a group that rides shorter distances at a slower pace so I got on the email list in order to be notified of upcoming rides. Yesterday it finally worked out that we could attend a ride. The only problem is that the ride scheduled wasn’t going to be nearly long enough for our purposes.
To remedy that, the SO and I got up early and headed down the greenway on our own. By the time we met up with the other club members, we had almost 27 miles in. We rode 10 miles with the club, and then after an enjoyable stop at the Badass Coffee Company, we parted ways and headed home. It was a very positive first group ride experience and we learned some cool stuff. We also learned that as soon as we are able to get those road bikes. We’ll be ready to join the group that rides a little further at a bit faster pace. Without the road bikes though, we will slog behind the faster group.
By the time we got home, the SO’s legs were cramping up. I’m doing fine so far and am only mildly sore. Just lucky this ride, I guess, because that’s not always the case after a long ride. I hope we can head out for another long ride again today. Putting in 80-100 miles on a weekend would be a new milestone to celebrate.
It was shaping up to be a disappointing Saturday. Face it, during the school year, for a teacher, the best and most wonderful day to ride is Saturday, weather permitting. Sunday rides have to be shortened due to getting ready for the week. Rides during the week must be shortened due to running out of daytime.
This Saturday, was beginning to look like it was going to be a wasted one where riding was concerned. The weather was perfect, but the night before, my Significant Other broke a spoke on his back tire. We both thought one or the other of us had hit a rock, but no, it was his back wheel. It shortened our ride that evening significantly. Since we were six miles out with no other transportation available he rode the six miles home on it. On the return trip I watched his rear wheel wobble more and more with each mile. We definitely needed to head into the Bike Shop for that repair.
To make matters worse, my bike was creating all sorts of annoying rattles, creaks and squeaks. In particular, there was this loud and very irritating click, click, click on every down stroke of my right pedal. My bike most of the time, is entirely silent when I ride, so I was fairly worried that it was complaining so loudly to me on this first ride off the trainer.
The combination of these woes, cut our ride short on Friday night. It also meant that our first objective Saturday morning was to get the bikes into the shop to see what and how serious the trouble was. We feared the worst, that our bikes wouldn’t be back out of the shop until Monday.
I can go into all the details of what exactly was wrong, but that’s boring for most people and I don’t yet have all the vocabulary to adequately convey what was wrong. In the end, what we thought was going to mean missing a weekend of riding really only ended up delaying our Saturday ride, by a couple of hours. The guys at Marty’s Cycle and Moore literally dropped what they were doing and fixed both our bikes right there on the spot. They didn’t have to do this, but we are so grateful they did. About an hour and $47 later, we were walking out the door with our bikes healed.
We wasted no time getting on the road, since we heard rain was on the way. I figured we still had about 20 miles to go to make our hundred for the week, so we needed to get on the road quickly. After some waffling about whether to take it easy on the greenway or hit the hilly road and head out in the country, we opted for the road. We definitely took the more difficult option. The roads between Central Point and Gold Hill are not for the weak. In fact, there are several really intense, long hill climbs on Old Stage Road between Scenic Avenue and the I-5. These climbs weren’t made any easier by the presence of a very strong headwind and the fact that we were riding hybrids instead of road bikes. Even in our marginal fitness condition, we would climb those hills faster on a road bike. Which, makes me really want a road bike very soon. This in turn depresses me, because I don’t believe that will be my reality for at least another year. But I digress.
We inched up those hills at a whopping 5-6 miles per hour. It was the toughest 5-6 mph I’ve ridden to date. Every muscle in my legs burned (this is good), I was fighting for every breath, and I even felt as though I might vomit at one point (yeah, that’s probably not so great). Then suddenly, about halfway up the climb, I hit the right gear and, crazy as it seems, I was able to almost rest while I climbed. I was still pushing hard, but I caught my breath and kept going. I felt a small amount of comfort when after glancing back I realized the Significant Other was suffering just as much as I was.
The downhill on the other side made it all worthwhile. Except that the headwind slowed our descent significantly. We were still having to push even when going downhill.
It was a crazy ride.
Upon arriving in Goldhill, we stopped in at a little dive bar called the Longbranch Saloon. It clearly was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon. We tied up our mechanical horses and stepped into the local watering hole to quench our thirst and gear up for the ride back.
Instead of coming back the way we came (read, we chickened out and tried to get out of facing those hills again) we opted for the Blackwell Road route home.
I’ve heard that one of the cycling rules of the road is that you always have a map and a repair kit with you. At minimum, you should know where you are going, shouldn’t you? We had the repair kit, but we had no idea where we were going. All I knew was that if I took Blackwell Road in far enough it was going to come out somewhere near I-5 and Central Point and I could probably find my way home from there. The SO was following me blindly, trusting that I knew where we were going. Little did he know…
Blackwell Road proved to be just as challenging as Old Stage Road in its own way. The climbs weren’t as steep, but they were longer. Trying to avoid the work, and really wishing by this time that we had some more level terrain to deal with and no wind, we turned onto Tolo Road. Around the corner, there it was, another hill and beyond that one, another. At this point, my entire body felt like mush and I wondered seriously if we were going to make it home without having to get off and walk…or call for help. Just as we wondered if we should turn around and head back we saw Scenic Avenue in the distance and knew we were within 3 miles of home. From the intersection ahead, the ride was going to be a nice downhill ride leveling off once we reached town. We knew we were going to be okay.
We rode the hardest 25 miles we’ve ever ridden since beginning our cycling adventures. We hit our highest speed on a downhill of 29 miles per hour, which means we were flying on our bikes, and dead if we’d fallen. We returned home tired, but happy, because we’d pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone and succeeded.
We stepped up to a new level in our riding. Hill work is now going to be a regular part of our riding. It has to be. There’s nothing more painful at first, but it is so rewarding when you crest that hill knowing you still have gears left to shift and energy left to ride.
When we got home, I turned to the SO and said, “You know, that was a really hard ride. How many people do you know that could have stayed with us on that? I think, other than the guys at the bike shop, I know about two. Those two would have dusted us, but other than that…I can’t think of anyone who could have done 25 miles uphill both ways like we just did.”
Not too bad for an ole fat lady pushing 50.