This past Saturday Shane & I joined some people from our tri club to meet up with other cyclists for a charity ride, The Stenholm 100 Ride. The plan was to meet at the gym and ride up to the start, about 7 miles. The loop was described as a 100k/62mile RIDE, not race. While we all know that people get in groups and ride quickly turns into race, I knew at least Shane & I could just take it easy if people decided to take off.
We met at the group ride start and I was shocked at how many people were there - maybe a few hundred or so. The police went through some rules, but notably the one we all caught on to was the "it's not a race and we will be pacing the group no faster than 20-21mph." Ugh oh, this was gonna be a LONG day. If you've ever done a big group bike race you know that lead packs push in the upper 20's for an average, faster on the downs, but not much slower on the descents. The good thing with this logic is the group splits up and you aren't stuck in such a huge, dangerous peleton if you are a strong rider.
We started the ride shortly after 8am and I have to admit my nerves were a mess. Being around hundreds of riders so close together and not trusting any of them made me very uncomfortable. It did remind me of my bike crash in this year's El Tour de Phoenix, and I was not in a good place. I did my best to stay to the outside of the group and if anyone around me seemed too wobbly I would get in front of them. Every time the group seemed to be picking up pace and I thought maybe we could break up a bit, the police would force the front to slow down which led to all sorts of shouts and braking and a whole lot of trying to stay away from other riders.
The first sag stop was around 25 or so miles and the police led the group into a parking lot so it wasn't really an option to go on. Since the ride was led by police escorts the support also stopped. We had a group of about 10 or so riders from our club and we all started talking about how dangerous it was and came to the conclusion we all wanted to just head out on our own. We didn't mind stopping at the lights and not having the escort. I was completely relieved to say the least.
As we headed out on our own I noticed right away it was going to be a tough day. We were with some VERY strong riders, including our local pro. The group immediately started pacing in the mid 20mphs and I was hanging on to the back for dear life. When you have been playing around for 2 months at a leisurely pace of 17mph for up to only 2hrs, 24mph on a false flat - draft or no draft is HARD. My legs were on fire and my HR was soaring.
I may or may not have done some complaining.... or teasing some of my friends for trying to kill me, but when all was said and done I held my own and survived. We ended the ride with about 68miles averaging 20.1 even after a slow first 25miles! I'll take that any day. It was a beautiful day, great group to ride with and even though we didn't stick to the organized ride, we still all donated to the cause. A win win in my book.
It's just another example of getting out of my comfort zone, riding 30miles more than my longest ride in 2 months and hanging on with the big kids. I know things like this make you stronger both mentally and physically so I'm going to make it a goal for the next year to do things out of the box. Get out of my comfort zone and just "try." Who knows, I might just surprise myself one of these days :-)