Last night I went on my first group ride of the season from the LBS. Those around here last year may remember my season was spent working to get from the "C" flight "fun and fitness" group to the slowest of the three "B" groups, the so-called Bumble Bs (the next fastest group is the Honey Bs and the fastest is the Killer Bs; the As are simply called the "racer dudes and dudettes"). Well, I thought this year I'd start with the Bumbles and see how it goes.
Well, it was an interesting experience. We left the shop and headed north into a stiff 15-17 mph wind out of the northeast. For some reason the group never formed echelons, but a double pace line instead, which was probably just as well, since we only had half the road to work with. They kept a consistent pace of about 19.5 into this wind, and I sat at the back, dodging the half-dozen or so who got shelled off during the northerly stretch, but I finally lost the leaders in the wind at about 12.5 miles.
Fortunately they stopped to regroup at mile 13, the half-way point. I thought the leader talked about splitting into two, with each group trying to stay intact and work together, so when we started off again I didn't make any effort to stay with the front bunch, and kind of sat up waiting for the 6 or 8 behind to catch me, but after a mile or so I looked back and they were nowhere to be found. I guess rather than complete the loop they decided to turn around and go straight home.
So now I'm out there all by myself trying to bridge a gap of about a half mile to reach a group I couldn't stay with in the first place. Over the next 12 miles I did manage to reel in 4 or 5 stragglers, and finished within a few minutes of the lead group, but I was exhausted. 26 miles at 17.7 mph average (for me - I don't know how fast the leaders came in).
It's kind of demoralizing to be going 18.5 to 19 mph and feel like you're the slowpoke in the bunch. But that's OK. I'll be back and I'll keep getting better/faster. But all that time chasing by myself gave me time to wonder which is the better metaphor when considering a group ride that you can't quite keep up with - is it a mother devouring its young, or simply Darwinism in action?