As RAGBRAI creeps closer, I’ve been trying to do more group riding. This is because I can only push myself so far. I’m not so much a fan of suffering that I can push myself to my suffering limits and hold myself there. I need someone else there to hold my feet to the fire. However, while I would say I’m “training” for RAGBRAI, it’s training in the sense that I don’t want to die on the Iowa hills or from spending “all day” in the saddle. So I’m not interested in doing intervals or going faster or doing massive climbing training. But I would like to challenge myself! So I’ve been trying out different group rides.
I went on a few rides with the Sassy Sisters. Their name is silly, but I do have fun. It’s nice riding with all women and their pace always makes me feel really fast. I also went on one ride with the Bicycle Space shop.
That one was a lot of fun. There were only five of us, but by a funny coincidence, one was a girl who I had ridden with on the first Sassy Sisters ride- the ultra slow group ride. The leader was pretty cute, too- bonus! I’m actually usually quite intimidated by cute cyclists, but am starting to feel a bit more confident about my abilities, so I’m not as much anymore. ANYWAY. While that ride took us to the same neighborhoods and trails I’ve been riding on since I got my bike, it was fun to experience them with new people. I think I impressed the guy leading the ride. While this makes me feel good about myself, I’m never sure if I’m actually good, or if I’m better than they think I would be and their expectations were so low that that doesn’t really mean much. So I’ve wanted to go on a proper group ride to assess my fitness level. Because I have no idea where I am. I know how I feel, but feeling can only get you so far.
Both of the groups I had already ridden with were like, “We’re nice! No one gets left behind! You don’t have to an expert to ride with us!” But when I was looking at the Potomac Pedalers website for this one particular ride, they were like “we’re nice, but we’re not waiting for you. If you get dropped, you better have a cue sheet so you can find your way back!” So, you know, tough love. And I felt I was in need of some tough love to challenge myself! So I committed myself to going, to the point where I couldn’t back out. Because unless I’m held accountable I won’t do it! Once I did commit myself, I was soooo nervous. I felt a bit ill even. It’s the same sick feeling I get when I’m going on a date for the first time.
I had no idea what type of people would be there or if I would even be able to keep up with the pace. My only consilation was that if I was dropped, I knew the area well enough to be able to find my way home!
When I got there, there were about 20 and 30 people there. It was a bit intimidating, as most groups of cyclists look pretty intense when you first see them. But then as you look closer, past the lycra and the shoes and the fancy looking bikes, it’s clear there is a wide range of riders- they aren’t all racers ready to crush you with their intense pace. When we started, it was really cool to be riding in the huge group of cyclists, taking over an entire lane. I’m sure the people in the cars hated us, but we had them outnumbered! Before we left, the leader had pointed out a girl who would probably be going close to my pace. So when we started going, I stuck with her. And when the guy in front of me turned off, but the girl kept going straight, I followed her. She was with 2 other women, and after about a half a mile of us not catching the group ahead of us, one of the girls said, “I think we’re on the long route!” As opposed to the shorter route the slower riders do. And now we were too far away from the slow group to get back with them, and too far away from the fast group to catch them. So, the four of us decided to do our own ride! It was tough but fun. I definitely went further than I thought I would, but it was okay. Somehow, doing a longer, tougher ride is a little easier to do when you’re with others…
I’m definitely starting to feel more confident in my abilities and more comfortable on group rides. It’s a lot easier to get motivated when I’m riding with other people! Also, the group rides are good for another reason- since I graduated from grad school, my social life has constricted dramatically. While I was in school, I was interacting with a bunch of different people and going to a lot of different events. Since I’ve graduated, my life consists of work, home, and a few nights out with friends. And lots of movies by myself. I’ve started to realize that while I’m actually fine with this, it’s not a great way to live your life. So I’m trying to find a new group of acquaintances like I had in grad school and group rides are a great way to do this. I feel like I’ve gotten a good start and I hope I can continue to find new rides to do!