I found myself asking Joe that as the sounds of our deeply drawn breaths paced our pedal cadence on one of the many steep ups on yesterday's ride. After 4,000 miles +/- last year, shouldn't this be EASY by now? The answer is, it never gets easy. But you find yourself doing rides that you would not have considered before, and yesterday, I actually found myself getting stronger as the day wore on. Go figure. I should have let some other hardy soul take the first pull into the very stiff breeze and done my heavy lifting once the leg muscles had loosened and limbered.
It was sunny and cool, but not cold and very windy. I'd ridden all of the roads before, but not in this particular combination. We would have flat into the wind, 2,000+ ft of climbing with 14% grades, and even a short section of dirt road to navigate. It was a super workout. Before the ride, I attended this month's men's breakfast at Ryan's. That's one of those all you can eat buffet places, but with the quality of the food, you don't want to eat all that much. I ate a slice of toast along with bacon and eggs for pre ride carbs, in lieu of the usual NutriGrain bar. I only needed one trip to the buffet. Even the coffee was pretty bad. The men, on the other hand, were great. Alex came and we all heard a good talk on self control. Counsel that works in so many situations in life. Here we are paying close attention as Steve delivers the message. Sharp eyes will note the Rapha gents cap on the table.
I wore my bike stuff under some track pants and it was easy to reconfigure after eating and meet up with the other guys. They were all bundled up pretty well, but I didn't dress all that heavily, and from the sweat soaked stuff I peeled off later, I could have gone lighter. The route started off with a tailwind for 2 miles but then we turned into it for what seemed like an eternity. 15 steady and gusts to maybe 20. Flags out straight and when it hit you coming unobstructed off a barren winter crop field, you felt it. I stayed on the middle ring and tried to maintain cadence. After a much appreciated store stop, we continued on for an easier part of the ride before climbing Indian Hills. Zach was easily the cool looking one of the group. And the only one not close to retirement age either.
Familiar to our legs, it was just work. Instead of the cut off, this time we climbed the steeper pitch near the end of the road and then rolled around to downtown Prattville to take break # 2.
Tom snapped this picture of Joe, me, Pete, and Zach (L - R)
Leaving Dismukes store, we again had wind AND an uphill climb. By the time we reached our turn, CR 85, Tom had sprinted on ahead. None of us was up to chasing him down, so we rested while waiting for Tom to notice he was doing a solo and come back to look for us. By 5 minutes time he breezed on back and we all headed up the hard pan dirt on CR 85. About 3/4 of mile in, it turned to coarse old paving. Both surfaces were best ridden by Joe and I on our fat rubber than the crabon/skinny tires folks, but everyone made it. Then the road got steep with a long climb including 2 stretches at 14% and a steady 9% - 10%. I think all of our legs were talking to us. I know mine were. Crossing Upper Kingston, we were on a familiar section of CR 85 but still uphill when we came upon about 4 dogs at once, from both sides of the street. 3 got out my way, but 1 pain in the butt got a hold of my Baggins saddlebag and yanked the bike sideways. He was a big 'un, I'm guessing a Lab and Pit bull mix. I was thoroughly irritated at him and he finally ran off when we yelled at him. He left two tooth holes in my bag, but did not rip it. I'm sure Grant at Rivdendell will be pleased to know his wares passed this field trial. My companions found the whole episode to be entertaining. Glad to be useful, I always say.
No other excitement on the ride. Avg pace was under 13 (when you can only make 11 into a headwind and 6 uphills, it slows you down!) 2,452' of climb, and here's good news, 2,244 calories were toast! I think if I could get back into the mid week hill ride routine, my weekend rides would sure go easier. My Theoretical max HR is 163, so I guess doing 166 and surviving is good, right? Right?