I only thought that it was time for the weather to start being not-as-ishtty. I know, it’s only February, but I was hoping that at least the overnight lows in the teens were in the past and daytime temps would be drifting up into the 40s and 50s instead of being stuck at 20 something. Alas… it’s 14, and there’s ice on the road right now. The whole city is shut down, so it’s likely that I’ll have photos of making my own fun today. We already talked about trying to start the scooter…
Anyway- I’ve been dealing with it. The motivation of having a good race two weeks ago fed in to the training I’ve done since then. I managed a 4 hour ride in the 30s, and some intervals in in the 40s. As an aside, before you comment about how cold it is where you live, just know that A)Ryan’s mom, who is from the U.P. of Michigan, and spends most of her days outdoors in all of her region’s weather, commented about how she couldn’t stay warm in the 40s here because of the humidity, and B) I’m cold here, so how cold you are in Minnesota doesn’t matter to me.
I digress. It was actually really nice on Saturday for a group ride (contrary to what some people put on social media, it was not a race) in Oxford, MS. Ryan went to Arkansas with his team for the Crosswinds Classic road race (I had a disappointing experience at that one last year). I had a long ride on my schedule for the day (a great follow-up to the 4 hours on Wednesday and 20 minute intervals on Friday), so Matt and I packed up early and drove down to the Clear Creek trails for the “Tuff Guy” ride- a 60 miler that left from the Clear Creek system, took roads/bike paths out to the Taylor Trail system, back on roads, then a lap of Clear Creek to finish.
Like I said, the weather was really nice- in the low 60s and sunny most of the day. When the ride started, it pretty quickly turned in to hammer time up the rollers between Clear Creek and the city of Oxford. Matt and I didn’t go totally apeshit like some people, and ended up somewhere behind two specific groups- the people going out hard and knowing that was ok for their abilities, and the people going out hard who were either going to make extended stops ahead/who were due to fall apart on the road back to Clear Creek. The latter of those two contained a few sketchballs (see footnote), so we didn’t mind backing off a bit as we were navigating the bike paths/streets of Oxford.
About an hour later, we reached the Taylor Trails. A lot of the group ahead of us had stopped at the trailhead, and were eating, changing, resting, etc. Matt and I rolled straight through since we had eaten/changed clothes on the way there. The next hour and a half were an exercise in not losing our minds looking for the end of what had to be the twistiest and most convoluted trail I’ve ever ridden for that length of time. I did my best to stay positive with happy thoughts about the view of the lake we passed a couple of times and how nice it was that we could play in the woods at almost any time because we don’t have any kids.
Eventually, the insanity was over, and we were back to the road to Clear Creek. We had to do some reverse-navigation, because the only signs out were the ones we’d used to get to where we’d already been. We did miss one turn and ended in a spot we knew from the drive in, so it wasn’t too hard to navigate back on to the correct route. The road back to Clear Creek is a long, straight drag. I kind of wanted to get it over with, so I pushed Matt to keep the pace strong and steady, and we traded pulls most of the way in. The result was passing by a lot of people who were not as motivated.
After a quick stop at the car, we went out for our Clear Creek lap to finish the course. It’s got a few nice, flowy sections, so it was a nice change of pace from the previous trail. About an hour in, someplace within a mile or two of the end of the course, we reached a “T” intersection where all the markings were torn down. In the woods to our left was a “Wrong Way” sign. My gut feeling was that we should go that way, but the sign on the ground in that general direction made me doubt myself. The trail to the right looked more broken in, and both directions were covered in tire tracks, so we were stumped. What I WAS pretty sure of was if we chose the wrong direction, that we’d end up riding backwards towards an intersection we’d passed miles before, and would add an unwanted chunk of miles to the ride. So, we bushwhacked a short distance up the nearby ridge to the road and went back to the car (later I found that my hunches were both correct).
It’s ok, I got my 5 hours worth of riding, and was ready to eat and get back to the house and lay on the recliner the rest of the day. As an added bonus, I picked up a few extra freckles and a decent start to my tan lines.
Five hours closer to being a little faster.
Footnote- sketchballs are a very general term to cover the handful of riders who scare, vex, or otherwise annoy anyone who is well-versed in riding with a group. Symptoms include excessive swerving (like, the act of breathing makes you swerve several inches left and right, while something more involved, like grabbing a water bottle, results in several feet of lateral displacement), inability to maintain a steady effort (including, but not limited to, hammering halfway into a hill, realizing he/she is over his head, then suddenly dumping into an easy gear), passing in a dangerous manner (either over the yellow line or off the pavement on the right side of the road (saw both of those at this ride), overlapping wheels, etc.