Prepare to cry!
With summer vacations peaking there were but a half dozen of the black and orange men rolling this past weekend. Most of us still have some significant Dolomite fitness in our legs so every week is another chapter in the book of leg breaker throw downs.
I had reason to believe that there were some tired legs in the group which I thought could lead to a more social ride. When Moonlight Burnside rolled up in all of his deep dish carbon glory my hopes were squashed like a late inning Mariner lead.
I often channel my inner Jens Voigt and try and animate rides for entertainment value. Sometimes my actions lead to levity and the group takes a kinder, gentler pace. This was my secret hope this overcast morning.
In a hushed voice I said to El Chefe’, “Let’s see if this works” I rolled forward and pointed to Moonlight’s rear wheel and said, “It looks like there is a crack in the carbon right by the spoke nipple.”
As Moonlight and the rest of the group all leaned toward his rear wheel with eyes open wide I took off down the road unnoticed. Just for fun I got down in the drops and pushed the pace.
Typically a move like this, first pioneered by Scott Zorn, gets caught within a minute or two.
As the climb started I downshifted and kept a good cadence and felt my legs strain as I kept the power high. I felt like I was putting out some big watts but I expected I would back off any second when the fast guys caught me and then ride the rest of the way with the group that had tired legs when they caught me.
I maintained a pretty hard effort and reached the top of the hill and I was still alone. I was in a moderately aero position and although my legs were starting to burn I kept pushing. They had to be coming up fast and I didn’t want to give up too early.
The road bobbed and weaved back and forth with nearly constant little rollers that gave me a reason to click up or down a gear. I was nearly pegged and was wondering where the hell the fast guys were. I knew I couldn’t keep this up much longer but it was fun to be out front.
I was able to choose good lines and the island was unusually quiet traffic-wise so now and then I could take the whole lane on a left hand corner. My legs were growing increasingly upset with me as the duration of my folly kept increasing. It was now well over ten minutes and I was still a lone man settled deep in my pain cave.
I focused on relaxing my shoulders, using my hip flexors and keeping a smooth pedal stroke. The focus may have helped me go faster or it may have only been a distraction that kept me from dwelling on the fire burning in my quads and hamstrings.
By now I wasn’t sure if the group behind me was singing camp songs, the victims of a horrible accident or about to catch me at any moment. This ride had now evolved into a threshold test and I was determined to drive on until I was caught or whatever. I say whatever because I was getting hypoxic so my ability to reason was compromised thus my mental options were limited.
I began to contemplate how I would approach the one hill on the loop as it was fast approaching. If I attacked the hill I would blow up and if I took it easy I would squander my hard effort. As I was pondering this question I felt a hand on my back as the boys finally caught me.
They were a sleek paceline of OCD middle aged fellows in perfectly matched kits. I tagged onto the back and tried to recover ahead of the climb.
A smarter rider might have employed the technique known as the “sprinter’s fade.” That is where you start a climb in the front of a group and then finish the climb in the back of the group. You are still in contact therefore you can latch onto the paceline and the draft can save you as you recover.
Instead I was at the back at the base o fthe climb and when the paceline blew apart our group of six was splintered and El Chefe’ and I were left chasing Coz whilst Moonlight, McWoodie and El Jefe’ were growing smaller and smaller up the road.
What is the point of having a maximum heart rate if you don’t reach it every now and then?
El Chefe was spitting lactic acid and laughed at his promise to keep the ride limited to Z2 or below. We finished the loop in TTT mode.
We turned around and all too quickly it was on for round two. This time El Jefe’ was the instigator and soon we were flying northbound on the west side of the island.
At first I thought McWoodie was keeping Moonlight pinned in so he couldn’t rotate back forcing Moonlight to tire and possibly avoiding a shootout. That option faded and we rotated through and I took my turn in the wind.
When McWoodie and then Moonlight came to the front it ramped up and then up again and finally it was all on. We were going faster and faster and I kept upshifting even though we were going slightly uphill. I was running out of high end gears and we were going crazy fast.
One of the ways I know I’m nearing my limit is when instead of my quads or calves hurting everything from my toes to my shoulder blades starts to burn. I was still feeling the burn from my solo effort thirty minutes earlier and wondered how long I could keep this up.
El Chefe’ who had gone long the day before shot off his flare gun and dropped back when his heart rate caught and passed his power output. Moonlight finally pulled off and El Jefe’ took up the charge with a vengeance. In the moment of disorganization Coz then pulled his ripcord and swerved off and waved us through. McWoodie dropped back pretending to form a chase group but then powered up and started up and pulled away from me but a gap had formed and I could not close it. McWoodie bridged up and then Moonlight, El Jefe and he drove on as I looked for the team car in hopes of getting a pair of fresh legs.
El Chefe’ and Coz and I formed a grupetto of broken men. On the climb up to the bridge we waved at Moonlight who was now headed home and we said kind things as we silently cursed him. The five survivors reassembled in the park and crossed the bridge together.
One of the hot topics (pun coming) these days is the use of spicy concoctions as a remedy for cramps. I didn’t see anyone take a swig but there was a bottle of hot sauce on the table when we partook of coffee and lies following the ride.