Wow, two blog posts in two days, this has to be some sort of record!
Last night was my first "Tuesday Night Ride" and I will for sure be back.
I told my boss (one of them at least) I had a meeting to get to, and bolted from work only 10 minutes late. I barreled home, downed a snack and loaded my stuff. This took a bit longer than usual as I had to mount the rack to the truck, and pull all my my gear together for my second outdoor ride of the year.
Once the truck was loaded, I hit the road at 5:00 for the 5:30 start. Then I turned around and went home. Once I had grabbed my helmet, it was back on the road headed towards Mason.
I arrived at the lot around 5:15 and there were already quite a few cars in the lot and some riders milling around. I got dressed, the bike unloaded and was surveying the group as others continued to arrive. I was relieved to see several bearded riders, many unshaven legs, and some long fingered gloves.
I rolled to the exit of the parking area where the group was coagulating, where we proceeded to wait around for a few more minutes on the stragglers. The introduction by the leader was informal, and I don't quite recall what he said, but mentioned some regrouping and double pace line.
As we rolled out I was imagining two smooth rows of riders rotating seamlessly around. What I ended up riding in was a group of people, 1-3 riders wide that was more of an amorphous blob, with an occasional rider coming back on either side. Not wanting to take anybody out, and not super comfortable yet, I stayed near the shoulder side, receiving a bit of crosswind.
I stayed close to the front of the 33 rider pack that was becoming more of a teardrop shape. I remember looking down, checking my heart rate, and thinking "This isn't so bad." The something happened, I am not sure what, but the front of the pack took off like a herd of scared deer. I began quickly drifting back along the edge of the group. We were maybe 4 miles in, and I wasn't sure how hard I should go at this point. The line stretched out and I was finally able to grab a wheel and see what was happening.
The fast guys and sprinters went out, and instead of riding in a group, I was caught in no-man's land with a smattering of riders in ones, twos, or threes. I began working my way between these islands, not wanted to fall off the back. I spent a lot more time alone in the wind than I wanted. It seemed that as I made it up to the next grouping, they were in a fade. When I would try to come around and spend some time in the front, the would just drop off and I would be alone again. Maybe the urge to work together wasn't as strong, knowing that a regroup was ahead (I had no idea when or where this would be until I showed up).
At the first regroup, I was probably mid-pack, and spent a lot of time riding alone. We took off again and just as we get rolling, I hear a *KER-POW* up ahead and saw a rider peel off. Flat tire, so we all stopped and waited. Once we took off again, the process from segment one was repeated, although I didn't fall as far back this time.
After the second regrouping, I was going to make an effort to stay near the front group. I didn't want to spend so much time alone fighting the wind and looking for a wheel. So as we rode alone towards the third sprint, I stayed with the front pack. Then the pack split, so I came around and clawed my way up to the front group. Once across the guy at the back told me that was a "beautiful bridge" and I was feeling pretty good. The pack kicked again and I hung with them, taking a gravely corner at a decent speed (I didn't look to see how fast) and ended up crossing the line 8th. It was a distant 8th, but still.
After this sprint, we regrouped and waited again for the second flat tire of the evening. By this time, daylight was getting short so we headed back towards the start, skipping one section and a sprint. This final section back (once we reconnected with the normal route) had a couple of small climbs that I felt pretty good on. There was one last sprint, and I was 11th across. Again, I still don't know where these sprint points are, so I am just reacting, and trying not to go too hard, lest I be left behind.
We rolled into the parking lot as dusk settled in. Just under 2 hours of riding and nearly 35 miles on the day. I loaded the bike back up, and chatted with a couple new acquaintances. To answer the common questions, it wasn't as hard as I had feared and yes, I will be back.
I returned home for a late dinner with my wife. She asked how my ride was, and I simply said "good." She must have noticed a twinkle in my eye, or a spring in my step, because she told me I appeared to be happier than I have been in a long time.
6 days and 5 hours until the next Tuesday night ride!