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  1. #1
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    Ride Report: Too Big for my Britches!

    Well, it was about time I got grounded in true reality. Yes I have come pretty darn far from when I started in July last year. I have gotten better at miles, average speeds on the flats, better at hills, and lost a little weight. Commute to work now 3-4 times a week on my mountain bike commuter, thinking of squeezing in a short tour this year and ride a few more organized rides.

    So with that said, I decided to fit my big head through the door this morning and make it to a group ride with BCP. Cold and wind didnt stop me. Dont really care about those things.

    I have been eyeing this ride for about two or three months now:

    "Sun February 26, 2012 - Valley Forge Winter Ride - Sunday Edition.
    Level B, 14 mph, 35 miles. Meet at Valley Forge National Park - Betzwood Picnic Area (by bathrooms). The ride leaves at 9:00 am. Every Sunday thru March for a ride from Valley Forge to Harleysville. Indoor coffee break at the Hennings Market in Harleysville. Plan is to be back in VF by noon.
    Leader: (personal information removed by moderator)

    Dont know Richard at all. Talked with him a few times. I was thinking I could do 35 miles and perhaps keep an average of 14 mph. I know he gives cue sheets so that was good for me just in case. I have not been out to Valley Forge since August and forgot a lot about it.

    I know I was in trouble when I was about to the meeting place. All the hills in every direction. Getting a little nervous and having second thoughts but what the heck. Its a nice day out.

    Got to the meeting place and met the four other guys who were getting ready. All were skinny, fit, expensive bikes, knew each other well, etc. The ride leader quickly briefed us and said it was going to be some good climbing. I think I crapped my pants a couple of times right then. I told him and the rest that I am slow and not to wait up for me since I had the cue sheet.

    Off we went. On the flat we were pushing 19-22 mph and that was tough for me to keep up. The first hill and the rest after that I could hardly see them. Richard, the ride leader hung back and waited for me but I could not keep the average at all so I told him to go on. We lost someone a few miles back. He turned around because his hands were freezing (it was cold and windy). Luckily I had the cue sheet to get back.

    I learned a few things:

    1- Yes I have gotten better
    2- I still suck
    3- I need to work on hills more.
    4- Please read number 3
    5- Please read number 2 and then 3 and then 4.

    It was a great reality check for many reasons. I walked away feeling defeated but as I was sitting in my truck, I thought about what I learned and I came away with a few things to continue to work on.

    Also realized that perhaps I will never fit into the main stream club style cycling groups. I have been "fighting" this feeling for a while. As I have talked with many of my friends who I have cycled with since I started, the always saw that group rides are ok but smaller friend and solo rides are better. I never understood those comments until today. Don't misunderstand me. Today was not a negative day and I am not being negative, I am being realistic and it was a gut check for me. Sometimes knowing how far you have come and what you have to work on is the byproduct of challenge which might result in failure. I couldn't keep up but thats ok. I learned a lot.

    Thanks for listening!
    Last edited by CbadRider; 02-26-12 at 11:06 AM. Reason: Removed personal information

  2. #2
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Also realized that perhaps I will never fit into the main stream club style cycling groups. I have been "fighting" this feeling for a while. As I have talked with many of my friends who I have cycled with since I started, the always saw that group rides are ok but smaller friend and solo rides are better. I never understood those comments until today.

    I joined BCP when I started riding. This week, I got an email from them asking why I hadn't renewed my membership. I wrote back that part of the problem that in ANY group ride, the rider who is the last up the hill gets the least rest at the top. Right now, I'm a "D" pace rider but I have done "A" level distance on the flats -- and that's a hard combo for the rest of the world to accomodate.

    Putting the "d" in randonneur...
    - Jeneralist

    See video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv4CrEEg_N4 to see me in the Outrageous Outfit Challenge for the MS Society; or go straight to http://goo.gl/bALZDg to donate

  3. #3
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    I am pretty sure today ended my "need and want" to ride with a group in a club ride.

  4. #4
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    I've had some nice rides with clydes I work with. Clear deal from the start, very, very easy going uphill. I admire these guys a lot and if we should go out riding hard uphill together I should carry 75 pounds on my bike to equal things out. It is amazing the way cycling can be a way for heavy folks to get a long fatburning workout. Kudos to all of you !

  5. #5
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    IME, group rides are at their best only when all the participants are of roughly equal ability. And if they're friends to boot, so much the better. Those can be extremely gratifying experiences. That's not to say group rides that don't meet those criteria are bad times. Just don't expect much out of them other than a brief moment or two of camaraderie.

    In this case, the labeling of the ride as a "B" flight outing should have been pretty telling. The average speed listed was obviously a result of the hilly nature of the ride, and wasn't really indicative of the effort expended.
    Craig in Indy

  6. #6
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    I forgot how many hills were in Valley Forge.

  7. #7
    Senior Member ZmanKC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
    IME, group rides are at their best only when all the participants are of roughly equal ability. And if they're friends to boot, so much the better. Those can be extremely gratifying experiences. That's not to say group rides that don't meet those criteria are bad times. Just don't expect much out of them other than a brief moment or two of camaraderie.
    Very true. I had avoided joining group rides because I had a fear of not being able to keep up. However I joined a group and completed my third ride with them yesterday. I have throughly enjoyed all three rides and look forward to many more.

    The group rides at a moderate pace without too many hills and has a no drop policy. It's made up of people in their 50's, 60's, and 70's. Some are thin and some, such as me, are clydes.

    My only regret is that I didn't join them earlier. You just need to find the proper group for you skill level and you'll enjoy it.
    1999 Giant TCR 2T
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  8. #8
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    I forgot how many hills were in Valley Forge.
    Well, since it's probably only your second visit.....

  9. #9
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    I know. As soon as I saw it I thought about you and when you took me there. That was freaking cool.

  10. #10
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Sometimes a reality check can be a good thing - it doesn't have to be a soul crushing experience even if it does feel like it at the time.

    I recently attempted the ride I'd been planning for a time, to go visit my dad. He lives about 80 miles from here - the shortest route by car is about 75 miles but the route we normally take is more like 85 (it adds distance but saves time, as it uses fast roads rather than going through town). The best route I could come up with that was suitable to cycle was a little over 80 miles. I spent a long time looking at the route, checking the roads weren't going to be too fast or too tiny (it goes through a lot of places where a lane might be a muddy track) until I was happy the route was as good as I could plan and the only way to find out if it really worked was to ride it.

    So a week ago I rode it. I'd covered 80 miles in a day a few times before on a mountain bike so figured on the tricross it shouldn't be too hard. And it wasn't, at least not for the first 50 miles or so. Then came the rolling hills, and for good measure because I wanted to see how fast I could cover it I hadn't taken enough time earlier in the ride to rest and rehydrate. So as I got into the section with the hills, so my body started to tell me with ever-increasing urgency that it really did need more rest and more electrolytes. At one point I had cramp in both quads on a hill in the middle of nowhere and ended up literally on my knees at the roadside trying to stretch the muscles out.

    I completed the ride but the last 20 miles were at a significantly slower pace than the rest of the ride, not least because every once in a while I had to get off and walk to work through the cramps. I abandoned the original plan to ride back home - my wife had driven down so I put the bike in the back of the car and drove us home instead.

    At the time I felt like I needed a major reassessment of my abilities. And to an extent that's exactly what I needed, having done a few long rides in the past I'd gotten a bit ahead of myself and forgotten that even though I can cover the distance I still need to stop and take on water and electrolytes, and to keep hydrated as a proactive measure rather than gulping water once I've started to dehydrate.

    As a learning process it's better than any amount of reading text books. It gave me an idea of what I can do, where my limits are, and what I need to do next time to make sure I don't run up against those limits in the same way. So next time I do the ride (and there will certainly be a next time) I won't be going at it as a total unknown. So hopefully I'll improve my time and complete it without feeling like I want to curl up and die at the end of it.

    So while in your post you mention your points 2, 3 and 4, don't forget to also look at point 1. You've gotten better. There's usually scope to improve further (at least there will be until we see you in the yellow jersey in Paris one year), but as you look to where you want to be don't forget to look back every once in a while to see how far you've come.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  11. #11
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeneralist View Post
    I joined BCP when I started riding. This week, I got an email from them asking why I hadn't renewed my membership. I wrote back that part of the problem that in ANY group ride, the rider who is the last up the hill gets the least rest at the top. Right now, I'm a "D" pace rider but I have done "A" level distance on the flats -- and that's a hard combo for the rest of the world to accomodate.

    Putting the "d" in randonneur...
    BCP started as a group for touring cyclists, believe it or not. They've gone a long way toward roadie since then.

  12. #12
    Neil_B
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    Did you complete the ride?

    It reads to me like you joined a ride that was a class above you, and the expected happened. Most clubs, including BCP, recommend you ride a class below what you think you are capable of until you know the ride. That would mean riding a class C ride, not class B. The Delaware rides you have been doing are on flat terrain, not the washboard stuff of Montgomery County.

    BTW, I'm only a dozen miles from Valley Forge. Why didn't you invite me to lunch afterward? :-)

  13. #13
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    +1 - edit your post and delete Rich's contact info.

    And 2... there's always somebody better, faster, skinnier, better bike etc. the corollary to that is that there is usually somebody out there who's ... etc.

    And +3 - find a group that's near your skills / abilities and you'll have a great time. of course, that's not to say they won't kick your butt some days but other days you'll kick their butts and it's rewarding when that happens.

  14. #14
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    I have done D rides and C rides but agreed... most are on the flats with some hills. I have been working on my climbing with hill repeats as well. But at the end of the day, I was over my head.

    At the 15 miler marker I was out. Could not finish. But thats ok, I have gotten better.

  15. #15
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    Thanks Mods for removing the info. Just about to do that.

  16. #16
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    Like I said, the realization was not negative, it was a gut check on where I need to improve. I have improved a lot. But my error was thinking I could handle the average speed on the climbing combined. No big deal, just a gut check.

  17. #17
    Senior Member nkfrench's Avatar
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    OP, if you've just been on the bike a year you can still look forward to making pretty darned good improvements.
    I'm 3-1/2 years back on the bike and still getting stronger. Progress is not a straight linear progression and you may stall or even get slower.
    Remember that your body gets great fitness benefits even if you're not riding as strongly as you would prefer.

    I don't know how "hilly" your rides are, it's all relative to your local terrain. Any idea how many feet of vertical climbing on your route? What grade were the steepest climbs?
    If you are having trouble keeping up on the flats you're probably not going to keep up with that group unless you're strong on hills and they are flatlanders.

    I have ridden many many miles in that situation. The ride goes best when you look at it as a game of chase. It can be great training. Hills make us strong.

    I have outridden skinny younger fit-looking riders with expensive bikes. (enjoyable and amazing to me)
    And I am regularly outridden by fatter older couch-potato wannabes on crappy bikes. (sigh)

    You may be slow on the hills. You may never be a great climber. But you can improve.
    You may also surprise yourself. We never know what we are capable of unless we persist.

    Amaze yourself.

  18. #18
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    I have done D rides and C rides but agreed... most are on the flats with some hills. I have been working on my climbing with hill repeats as well. But at the end of the day, I was over my head.

    At the 15 miler marker I was out. Could not finish. But thats ok, I have gotten better.
    Still didn't call me for lunch. :-)

  19. #19
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeneralist View Post
    I joined BCP when I started riding. This week, I got an email from them asking why I hadn't renewed my membership. I wrote back that part of the problem that in ANY group ride, the rider who is the last up the hill gets the least rest at the top. Right now, I'm a "D" pace rider but I have done "A" level distance on the flats -- and that's a hard combo for the rest of the world to accomodate.

    Putting the "d" in randonneur...
    Exactly where I am.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Seve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Off we went. On the flat we were pushing 19-22 mph and that was tough for me to keep up.

    I learned a few things:

    1- Yes I have gotten better
    2- I still suck
    3- I need to work on hills more.
    4- Please read number 3
    5- Please read number 2 and then 3 and then 4.
    I think you are being pretty hard on yourself.

    19-22 mph on the flats is a fast pace and you had no experience riding the route which the group surely had ridden a few times before. No question you would be at a disadvantage so don't beat yourself up over it. Clearly you have improved both your fitness and yourself all of which is great stuff.

  21. #21
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    I dont think I was hard on myself but just a reality check. I give myself a lot of credit for where I am and credit for showing up and trying but at the end of the day, it is where I stand. I can sugar coat it but that gets me no where. I see where I am at and I will continue to get better.

  22. #22
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    Neil: I should have. New phone and no old numbers in there. PM your number and I will put it in my phone. I would have loved to do lunch. Could have used a pick me up.

  23. #23
    Senior Member rec3036's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    As a learning process it's better than any amount of reading text books. It gave me an idea of what I can do, where my limits are, and what I need to do next time to make sure I don't run up against those limits in the same way. So next time I do the ride (and there will certainly be a next time) I won't be going at it as a total unknown. So hopefully I'll improve my time and complete it without feeling like I want to curl up and die at the end of it.

    So while in your post you mention your points 2, 3 and 4, don't forget to also look at point 1. You've gotten better. There's usually scope to improve further (at least there will be until we see you in the yellow jersey in Paris one year), but as you look to where you want to be don't forget to look back every once in a while to see how far you've come.
    well said!

  24. #24
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Neil: I should have. New phone and no old numbers in there. PM your number and I will put it in my phone. I would have loved to do lunch. Could have used a pick me up.
    I will if you promise me you won't post it to a thread on Bike Forums.

  25. #25
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    lol. I promise.

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