Friday Group Ride #487

Friday Group Ride #487

When I’m getting dressed, I’m sure I’m forgetting something. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve dressed to ride thousands of times before. I’ll catch myself putting on the wrong socks, forgetting a baselayer, walking away without gloves. I know that I forget things, and that knowledge somehow compounds the sense of disorder I feel, as I’m trying not to forget things.

Then I’m pulling my shoes on, and suddenly my mind jumps to the ride, the route, the distance, the companions. There is an analytical matrix that springs up in my head. Will this be hard? Do I know the way? Is Bruce as fit as I think he is? Sadly, I only put this particular line of neurosis to bed once I identify one person on the ride who is likely weaker than I am. What does that say? Don’t answer.

We roll out, and I go through the shakeout mile. Here I’m catapulted back to the things-I-forgot portion of the process. I have probably remembered to bring each of the items I meant to, but I somehow chose the wrong ones. This isn’t the right jacket. I’m going to be too hot/cold, but whatever. I can deal with it. I have a long history of dealing with it.

At some point I shift gears (no pun) to trying to “get on” with the ride, which is probably me pushing the pace a little to try to get into the work. I’m warming up, in a sense, by overheating, like I need a little spike of effort to allow me to back off, settle down, and find my rhythm. This plays out not overly well with my usual riding companions, but they’re all doing some version of what I’m doing. The patterns are established at this point. We’ve accepted each other, for better and worse.

Then there is the magical middle part where you’re in the flow of things. You’re working away, moving through time and space. You’re comfortable with the discomfort you’ve cultivated. There is, in some alternate dimension, a countdown clock running. It marks the moment you will no longer be comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s the next shift in thinking.

OK, I overcooked it, or underestimated my friends, who have obviously been training in secret. I’m now in the real struggle, trying to hold wheels. I’m not looking around anymore. I’m not taking in the sights. I’m focused on survival. There are some occasions where my body clears some hurdle and I return to relative calm to finish out the ride, or my friends slow down because they too have overcooked it. We’ve somehow stacked our egos against each other and all come up wanting. That’s ok. It’s nice to roll down the street to the house shattered.

The reckoning comes in the kitchen, where I strip down and empty the refrigerator into my face. At this point, I’m wondering what the rest of the day looks like. Have I gone so deep that I’m useless until the next morning, or can I cobble myself back together with cold pizza and seltzer and a hot shower?

This week’s Group Ride asks, what are you thinking on ride days? What does the arc look like for you? Do you have it so dialed in that nary a flicker of neorosis appears on your mental horizon? Or do you follow the same worn path I do?

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  1. Jason

    coping with the first 10-15 minutes of cool weather before being warmed is a hurdle for me ever since I started riding . Being cold at the beginning of rides is my ultimate weakness, and has kept me off the bike too many times. I find that I’m better at smashing myself in cooler weather and being able to handle the rest of the workday. my very best rides have occurred in cold, and foul conditions. Nothing makes me feel better, than finishing 2 hours in 35-40 degree cloudy northwest Georgia. When I smash myself during a summertime morning, I’m always lacking during the day therefore I prefer riding in the afternoons.

  2. Scott M.

    Ride days occur almost every day. So I have a pattern that works — usually. On Friday night before a big one I spend a good 30 minutes checking every step from wake up to roll out. That includes laying out jersey, shorts, and socks; pinning the route and syncing my Wahoo; putting sunscreen and my thyroid pills where they can’t be missed; grinding coffee and filling the pot; putting funny food in my helmet (on top of my gloves and balaclava); making sure the Chamois butter is tucked into my shoe (so I won’t miss it); setting the alarm; and doing a half dozen other tiny-but-critical things I’d likely forget were I to attempt these tricks while half asleep. After double checking that everything is in place, I do a walk through from the point where my feet hit the floor to the back door to make sure I can get from wake up at 5:45 to rolling by 6:45.

  3. Mike Brown

    Parallels to my motorcycling days 30 yrs ago. Making sure tire pressures, fluid levels and, everything in good mechanical order for the Saturday morning roll out. Later, when going at an indecent speed one doesn’t want to wonder if the steering head bearings (equivalent of a headseat) are tightened properly.
    Now that my two shells of choice are my bicycle, I still focus on having everything in the same good mech. order. This time the engine is up to me and I know if I’m in a good state of tune or not. Like Jason, the damp cold can keep me off the bike but with the Chilly Hilly event here where I live ( held at the end of every Feb) I make myself put in the miles regardless of the weather, cuz I like to ride strong and it also makes me think that I’m kinda like the hard men in the spring classics. [Start laugh track]

  4. TomInAlbany

    I”m still in that mode where, I suddenly realize no one cares if I’m home right now. Maybe I can sneak out for a ride. 15-20 minutes later, I’m out the door. With any luck, the bike is ready (usually) and I’ve chosen the right layers (50/50) and I have food and drink for the effort I still haven’t chosen.

    Why do I not plan? Because I hate having to break the plan. I’d rather surprise myself than be disappointed. It does mean, though, that I always ride alone and I don’t always get the distance/time right.

  5. Chris

    Until recently, I lived somewhere where summers were dry and hot and winters were dry and cold. Dressing for rides during these extreme seasons meant wearing as little as was permitted by local laws (except, of course, that I always 5-6″ long socks) or wearing every piece of cycling clothing I owned, respectively.

    Spring and fall, however, involved a multi-day process of checking hour-by-hour weather forecasts, taking inventory of my wardrobe, reviewing the route, the time of day, the duration, with whom I was riding with. Then, and only then, would I decide on the appropriate attire, only to decide 10 minutes into the ride that I’ve got it entirely wrong, once again.

  6. Lyford

    A lot of rides start with “I feel tired and slow and old and maybe I should just sell all my bike stuff and do something else….. ” I know it’ll get better, but it’d be nice not to have that voice in my head. It does take longer to warm up as I’ve gotten older.
    For me a big part of ride prep is food. I like homemade — rice bars work well for me — and it’s comforting rolling out for a long weekend ride knowing I’ve got a good fuel supply. It doesn’t feel right to have empty pockets.
    Some rides are planned, others are more “Let’s see where that goes”.

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