Today I was invited out for a ride with Scott, a somewhat-new and good friend of mine. He's a Ironman (did Kona on a lottery slot - sub-13hr, I believe) who's trying to return to the sport. Scott, his neighbor Ben and I headed out on a very cool and windy day. But while it was tough weather-wise (actually had a windchill below freezing!) it was a great ride.
If there was only one "downside" to this ride, it was that I wasn't on my Felt S22. It's not ready for the season yet (it's still on the trainer), so I took out ol'faithful - my Ridley Crossbow. I had forgotten how much fun that Crossbow is to ride, so it wasn't a downside at all.
I biked to Scott's house, and was challenged by a strong headwind the entire way - a strong foreshadow to the ride. Once we were all ready, I let the two lead since I had no idea of where we were headed. We meandered through north Kanata to get to the start of the real ride on Richardson Side Road. We picked up some fantastic speed on our first (somewhat steep) downhill to Huntley Road - I'm sure we were at least 70kph, not bad for such a short hill. Turning north we were "greeted" with the wind, so I took my turn at leading the threesome. Ben was right on my wheel, so I picked it up a bit, always afraid that I'd be slowing them down too much.
After about 10min, we had a major hill to climb. Only 30min in and we're hitting a steep one! I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into! Well, if I was leading, I knew I had to stay strong and lead up the hill! I hit my rhythm and started making the legs burn all the way up. At the top, my HR was 98% of max, my legs were about to blow up, and my lungs were burning.
I was also alone. Oops - I wasn't being a very generous guest on the ride...or perhaps I was a bit too generous. :) After a minute or two, Ben rolled up, followed by Scott. Ben laughed "You blew us up!" Scott bitched about being 50lbs overweight and out of shape (I think this is pretty tough for an Ironman to admit!). But now we were along the edge of the Carp ridge (it's like the bank of a now-dried-up river), and only had to experience rollers for the majority of the ride.
The ride through Carp was pretty cool. I've been in the village once or twice before, but was amazed at the number of cyclists riding through it. Heading north we went past the Carp Fairgrounds while they were hosting the weekly Farmer's Market, and just past that was the entry for the Diefenbunker, one of Canada's few cold-war relics. We kept heading north-west along a well-maintained and very scenic 2-lane highway along the ridge. I was so caught up in the scenery that I kept dropping Ben and Scott! Sorry guys - honest!
We turned right on Thomas Dolan Parkway and headed east towards the Ottawa River. We hit a HUGE hill - a two-stager yet - one right as we turned the corner. Ben was grinding the gears around the corner and up the hill when Scott calls "Go get'em Mark!" I caught him soon enough, and my legs were burning good, and I thought I had won...then I saw the SECOND part of the hill. I still beat them up, but I suffered more than I thought I would. :D
But after that, the rest of the ride back was either downhill or had a tailwind. It was very welcome at this point, but it did make us cold (it was still very chilly). We flew down Second Line Road with the wind at our backs, and it was the first time during the ride where we could easily speak with each other - the wind was so loud before. We did some chatting, and Ben and Scott kept "informing" me that it was early in the season and that they'd be able to keep up with me in the summer! :D
I really enjoyed the ride with them - it was my first ever "group" ride, and I learned a lot about the etiquette and roles of the riders. Great fun, and I can't wait to ride with them again.
On the ride home down Eagleson Road, I got to have a bit of fun. On Eagleson there's no bike lane or shoulder, so you're riding right in traffic. And I felt like testing the legs out - I knew the winter riding on the trainer has been helping, but I didn't know just how much. I felt like a thoroughbred! I was cranking out some major power, with tight and fast accelerations that were easily keeping me in the traffic flow. I'm sure I was carrying 45-50kph steadily for a couple of kilometers - not much traffic was getting past me in this 60kph zone! It was a great feeling, and it made me want to hit the trainer even more!
Oh yeah - my cold. I guess it's not affecting me like I thought.
Oh...no more excuses I guess. :D