Monday, April 16, 2012

Never Let Em See You Crumble: The Art of Checking Out of a Group Ride

Twice it’s happened this year.   “We going right?” I asked over the hum of coasting hubs.  “No.  Straight.  Straight.  We’ll take Tanner,” was the response.  I knew fully well, straight wasn’t the fastest way to Tanner.   All the bridges back across the Ohio River were east of us, and we were headed back west.  It would surely tack on 8 extra miles to what should’ve been a 70ish mile ride from Cincinnati to Rabbit Hash with some of the fastest dudes in town.  To complicate things, Tanner wasn’t the fastest way home.  Tack on another 6 miles.  At that moment, you’ve mentally checked out.  It’s like being on a club century when your computer hits 100 miles and you’re still a few untold miles from the finish. 

It happened again yesterday on Cincinnati’s Hyde Park Ride, a ride that’s been going on every Sunday since Neanderthals rode wooden bikes with Flintstone brakes.  Normally the ride has a predictable flow over its 60 miles out and back from Cincinnati to Morrow.  A soft rollout from Hyde Park to the top of the first hill in Madeira transitions into a hard tempo into Loveland.  Between Loveland and the sprint in Morrow, it’s race pace.  On the return, it’s relatively tame until the last few miles before the sprint back into Loveland.  After that, guys peel off to respective suburban areas, you pick the train with the most neighbors and ride the steady easier tempo home.  My train is usually the one that takes the bike path.  Only, they didn’t take the bike path back and the switch flipped back to the “game on” position. 

Say Goodbye To Noodling
It wasn’t extra miles, but extra hurt.  I mentally checked out at Loveland.  The bunch that should’ve continued chatting about how the sprint unfolded, their cool new spring kits or how much yard work they had to do at home, strung out and shut up.  On the five mile climb back into Madeira, the pedal was slowly squished to the floor.  I suspect Strava glory is messing with tradition.  Like drowning as the ship pulls away, I slowly slid to the back.  The tank, filled with only a waffle and an Odwalla bar, emptied.  Pop!  Bye bye time.  At least the last time anyone saw me I was setting tempo with my bud Tracy on the front.  (We're on the border of the north and south.  Guys have names like Tracy, Kerry and Kelby.)  I went out on a high note.

F*** you wind!  I shouted it out loud, but was too far off the back for anyone to hear.  It reminded me of a girl we used to mountain bike with that cursed out loud to encourage herself to get up tough climbs.  "S***.  Crap!"  She'd stomp her way to the top.  I stopped at a convenience store for a Coke infusion and was on my way home solo, struggling on the Camargo downhill with this b**** of a headwind.  17mph.  I swear we went up this hill faster than I’m going down.  There were three ways home: up the hill on Erie Avenue, cutting the corner but driving into the full on headwind on the wide-open Columbia Parkway, or dropping into the industrial area along Wooster Pike.  Offering the most protection from the wind, the smallest hills, and the most stop signs, I took option 3.  I even took a neighborhood trail on my road bike across the railroad tracks in Linwood by Terry’s Turf Club to shave a few blocks.  Emergency mode.

The art of checking out of a group ride is to go out on a high note, never letting anyone see you crumble.  It’s like zipping up your jersey before your big finish.  “Good ride you guys.  I’m taking the bike path.”  “I’m going right.  I said I had to be home by 2.”  “I’ll see ya next week.  I’m gonna grab a few things at the store before I go home.”  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

No comments: