Remember the joy of “just riding”

I have a confession to make.  My bike sat in the basement from Monday to this Saturday morning.  Actually, I didn’t even know where it was.  Was it in the basement or was it still in the back of the Suburban?

Thankfully the beautiful redhead was watching out for me and had moved the bike out of the truck to its spot downstairs.  I crawled out of bed with just enough time to wake up a bit and then go look at the Giant that was waiting for me in the darkness of the unfinished portion of basement.

It was unchanged.  I looked at it for a bit.  Did I really want to go out there?  Unlike a dog, the bike couldn’t wag its tail and act excited.  The desire to get back on that thing had to come from within me.  I’d like to say that at that moment the desire washed over me.  Nope.  What made me get on the bike was the realization that the guys were going to be waiting for me and I would soon be late.

My Saturday morning ride

My Saturday morning ride

It was the Sunshine Cycle Shop’s Hour of Power ride that I was leaving for.  Almost immediately after getting in the group I started to feel better.  Group riding isn’t just about how “I” feel – it is really like an organism.  Sometimes you can receive strength and encouragement from those around you.  Yes, on the flip side, it can also be a drain.  However, with these guys it is always good.

There is plenty of time for socializing as we ride easy during the “neutral” sections.  However, as we neared the first sprint of the day, John talked to Luis and me about the upcoming effort.  “Let’s do this like a race.  One of us go for it and the others cover any moves that come.”  Tony was nearby and I got the impression he figured something was up with those POA kits grouping together like that.

Sure enough he went uncharacteristically early.  Luis went with him.  “Oh good,” I thought.  “I don’t have to work on this one.”  John and I sat back to let Luis go man-on-man with Tony.  Just for good measure I did a short sprint to see how the legs would do.  Hmmmmm, not bad – at less than 100% I put out 1100+ watts.

Tony held off Luis at that point.  I determined he wasn’t going to get the next one.  That one would be the quarry road.  We made the left turn out of a pace line and then headed toward the base of the climb.  Bryant had taken the lead so he could get a head start up the climb.  I drafted off of him – he just never ceases to amaze me.

As the road kicked up, Web moved to the front and I sat on his wheel.  Earlier I told John I would try to stretch out the field and let him conserve for a final sprint at the top.  However, I had enough of a lead that as I went around a right hand bend that would obscure me from their view, I attacked in hopes that I could get a lead before they realized what happened.

Sure enough as I topped the false flat and made the left hand turn toward the uphill finish, I could not see anyone behind me.  I eased up to rest.  My heart rate was knocking on 180 bpm at this point and there was no need to make things worse.

I looked back again and here they came with Tony at the lead.  I picked up the pace just slightly.  There was a full on field sprint coming behind me!  I tried to time it so that I could go as slow as I could and still make it before the group.  As I was passing the finish, John came out of nowhere to take second.

The State Park finish was fun as usual.  Tony and I had another battle on that one.  It was one of the funnest of the day for me as it was neck and neck to the finish.  Mt. Mitchell hadn’t taken the kick out of my legs and I was able to barely hold Tony off.

Nature Trail has always been a climb I hate.  However, I’m finding that it is coming to me.  I started near the end of the group today and still managed to work my way up to finish 1-2-3 with John and Luis.  I’m starting to enjoy that little stretch of road.

At the top most of the guys headed toward the shop, but John and I headed toward Paris Mountain.  He was on his way home and I was enjoying riding so much that I didn’t want to call it a day quite yet.  We talked as we climbed Altamont and then separated as we neared his home on the way to Travelers Rest.

I went on to TR and stopped at Leopard Forest Coffee Shop.  It was nice to sit for a bit with a muffin and coffee checking my Twitter and e-mail (have I mentioned that I am LOVING my new iPhone?) before heading back home.

I hopped on the Swamp Rabbit Trail right there and started home.  I wanted to see how far I could go.  The trail went quite a ways out of TR, through the back of the Furman campus, and then finally to section where they said not to enter.

At that point I wasn’t sure where I was.  I turned in the general direction of Greenville and started pedaling.  This led me to Berea.  Things seemed a little more familiar as I continued until I got to Highway 25.  This was a section of Greenville I don’t frequent every often.

At long last I came upon a sign telling me that Greenville was only 3 miles away if I would just take a turn.  Otherwise, I would end up in Easley.  I made the turn and after a solid 3 hours on the bike I arrived at home after 53 miles.  I didn’t see that coming while I was looking at the Giant in the basement this morning!

Sometimes it just pays to get on your bike and ride.  No big event.  No big goal to train for.  Just ride.