Last night, I heard from Matt that a couple of pretty fast guys (local hero John King and used to be local hero but transplanted to Colorado Russ Griffin) were going out for a slow & steady long ride in the morning. I had a similar ride on my training schedule, so I figured I’d join them and add a little to the end if I needed any more saddle time.
When I met them this morning, it was actually a group of 8 at that point- a mix of all ages and abilities. Under sun and blue skies, we rolled out of the city limits north towards Shelby Forest (gorgeous, rolling old growth forest in the north end of the County). Rain was in the forecast, but at that point, it was nice, and everyone chatted and randomly pedaled harder than easy up some of the hills, only to coast at the top as the group caught up.
Two hours later, the rain had rolled into the Forest. At the top of one of the steep riverbluff hills, we stopped to regroup, and a majority of the riders decided they’d turn back early (you know- family obligations and whatnot). So, John, Russ, and I headed back into the forest in the rain to put in our allotted amount of work.
There’s something beautiful about riding with other fast, experienced riders. It’s quiet- you avoid potholes early rather than yell and swerve about them, there’s less droning of freehub bodies, and no one is breathing harder or shifting more than they need to. Everything is intuitive. You read each others body language and decide on a pace without verbal discussion. For a while, Russ and John pulled me around. It wasn’t that I was having a hard time, it’s just that they’d silently decided that it’d be faster that way.
Once we were headed back towards home (still in the rain), we started to share the work in a continuously rotating paceline. We were cold, totally saturated, and every time you’d rotate from one rear wheel to the other, you’d have to pass your face through a roostertail or two of road water. On top of that, I found the sound of most cars approaching us from behind in the rain to be utterly terrifying. Not only did we share the work, we were equal partners in misery as well.
As we came back into civilization, we exchanged our “what gratuitous act are we going to do to warm up when we get home” plans and joked at how our hands had turned into useless ice flippers. I think we also shared the tiny feeling of smugness that, while others turned back or stayed inside today, in fulfilling our “local hero” obligations, we’d ridden through it like it didn’t matter and come out faster and a little tougher on the other end.
That ride was the perfect end to the pre-Ouachita buildup. I have a rare two-recovery-day weekend, so I’m going to enjoy some yoga and lots of time with the foam roller trying to encourage my right glute to continue unknotting itself. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about Ouachita, so hopefully the healing process stays on track.