I'm pretty new (relatively speaking) to cycling and I've just bought my first proper-ish road bike a few weeks ago. I've been flipping bikes for 2 years and I started riding regularly last year in Colorado and was logging 50-60 miles a week commuting and riding recreationally on a steel frame 700 x 35 setup with a 46/18 with some hills. I've moved back to NY and I'm riding a modern reasonably fitted Schwinn axios 16 spd road bike with drops and aero bars on mostly flat terrain, getting about 70 miles a week at 17+mph average, with 30 milers once a week or so, and having a good time doing it. I have a large frame but I am down from 217 to 200lbs @ 6' and feeling much more lean and powerful and generally feeling great on my rides, but I've hit a plateau . . . I made a ton of improvement in the first 2 months of riding and it came so fast it felt amazing! Every ride was better/faster . . . and now it stopped. Here's some of my setbacks so far:
1. I ride exclusively solo (not by choice, just don't know anyone and ride in my free time which is limited as I have a 2 month old and a full time job) and as such I have nobody to pace or push me. The few times I do "drop in" with another rider, I find they are often much slower than me (90% of recreational riders around here), and sometimes MUCH faster (mostly the kitted out bike shop types I see on the multi-use trail I ride locally). Also, I almost never have the advantage of a draft, and I'm vulnerable to sometimes fickle and strong/changing winds. I made loads of improvements in the first few weeks but I just can't break through now. I sometimes finish 2+ hour rides nowhere near feeling depleted but I just don't have a training plan to push me. I did 30 miles in 1:47 the other day and was basically bored and not exhausted at the end - this kind of ride would have killed me 6 weeks ago.
2. I have nobody to help me with technique or fit adjustments.
3. I have no idea what is fast/reasonable for an average committed cyclist. I was an avid snowboarder and coached at a Colorado mountain for the last 4 years, logging 120+ days a year of riding (at 10,000+ ft altitude!). I am a reasonable recreational athlete with good muscle tone and good cardio fitness (but probably still 15 lbs of excess fat) and have an excellent idea of what sort of skill/endurance/ability is common among advance skiers and riders and mountaineers, but this simply doesn't translate to cycling.
4. I have no idea what to do next?! I just keep riding the same route over and over, trying to get the time down. Honestly doing it by myself and not having a plan for an interval/shakeup workout in my routine is getting pretty boring.
So now what?! Simply going farther isn't gonna happen, given my time constraints 30ish miles at a time is probably the most I'll ever get in one sitting as 2 hours is the upper time limit, and I have to start damn early to even make that happen. Do I shoot for group rides? Interval training? Anyone have tricks for pushing yourself to higher cadence or interval training? Do I just push through the plateau and expect to pick it up again?
I've learned so much from this forum and I need to step it up to the next level. There is a local race in my area with a 14 mile loop for "citizens" in June and I'd love to enter it. How do I get there?! HELP!