bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike in front of a statue of an apple (baldwin monument)
Worry: unnecessary. We had a beautiful day for the NER 107k, a great crowd (evidently registration skyrocketed at the last minute when the weather forecasts cleared up), and the course was its usual hilly self.

I dithered some more after my previous post about riding to the start vs driving, and decided that if there was any way I'd be ready for the 200k, I needed to ride. So I did. Up at too-early-o'clock, breakfast 1 at home, and I was off on my way. In Lexington another rider passed me, and then slowed up to ask if I was headed to the ride; we had a nice chat on the way there. Passed two more people stopped by the side of the road but clearly heading that way, and then tons of people were there when I arrived at ~7:40 -- lots of people I knew, lots I didn't, and the now-familiar feeling of "ack how do I answer that" when people innocently ask me how I've been. "Undertrained", I answer, mostly. And then we're off.

I let the packs I can usually hang onto for a while go; not this time. I don't even know that I could have burned a lot of matches to keep up with them at all, but I'm not going to try. So a few miles down the road, I'm surprised to find I've acquired a small posse. A little three-person group, with two other riders with similar climbing abilities. A woman I met on the Honey 100 last year (whose SO was out on the course far enough ahead we didn't spot him on the out-and-back section), and a guy I hadn't met before, whose name I did not commit to memory, but who kept us entertained by identifying birdsong. Neither had done the ride before, so I got to impart wisdom of where the worst hills were. We weren't making terribly fast time, but we weren't in any danger of missing control times, and while a group always stops more (you have to stop whenever *anyone* needs to), none of us wanted to dilly-dally either. We chatted and spun and the miles flew by.

It was fun seeing the sport through new eyes -- my compatriots were impressed at how friendly everyone was, waving us upwards while they cruised down the out-and-back section to Stirling. (I was reminded of this past summers' PBP first-finisher, who soloed off the front before Brest and did the entire return on his own; 6000 people waving at him since he was the only one going the other way.) We got going before a bunch of people who'd arrived before us, and got to play yo-yo with a big group on the way back, adding to the party-bus feel of the whole ride. One of them was the rider who did his first 200k at my overnight ride last year; I was thrilled to see him back again, and we chatted for a bit before he dropped me on a hill. And I tried to convince anyone who would listen to come back for the 200k in three weeks.

I felt great, if slow, until about the same time as we stopped at the Harvard General Store for a snack and to use the facilities; my legs were done having any extra energy at that point. Which actually wasn't far off schedule for this early in the season; it was just that my "fast speed" and my "slow speed" were both slower than usual. My friends pulled ahead of me on the final hill, but we rejoined after the Stow descent, which I was glad I was comfortable taking at speed; I wasn't sure how nervy I was going to be on descents after the crash a month ago, and I love that descent. Didn't PR it, but that's primarily because I wasn't hammering the slightly gentler sections, I was just letting gravity do all the work.

Bird-dude did start pulling away from our little group, but just as he did, my other companions' SO showed up to see how she was doing. So he pulled us along for a bit, until I started pulling away from them; I felt kind of bad -- we'd spent the whole ride together and finishing together would be fun, but my neck was starting to cramp and I wanted to get off the bike for a bit, and the finish would be the place to do so. All the stoplights through Concord seemed to be on Team Finish Together, though, so we stayed within sight of each other, if not in an actual pack.

My finish time was 6:17ish, which is slower than even my first year doing this ride, but that's OK. It was perhaps the most *fun* I've had on it, too. I'm not really ready for the 200k, but I'll take my own advice: if you're smiling at the finish, do the next ride. I plan to, and I plan on dithering over driving to the start again (prediction: I will dither dither dither and then ride out again.)

(I have, however, refrained from taking the other piece of advice I doled out, which was that back-to-back rides are great training; while my legs feel great today (yay!), my butt is really quite sore, and my neck has cramped up. Which is half being an overstressed software engineer and half lack of core strength. I'll ride tomorrow, on the spin bike as it's supposed to rain and I hate rainy commutes; I don't mind rainy brevets but I hate rush hour traffic in bad weather.)
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike from the front (seven)
With this long cold winter, plus a long recovery from a cold that knocked both [livejournal.com profile] dphilli1 and I on our asses for weeks, the NER 107k was only my second long ride of spring. The first was a different 107k ride in January, but that was before the snow; it feels almost like the last ride of last year than the first of 2015.

So, of course, it had to sleet. On both rides -- January and yesterday. Yesterday was bad enough that even hardy randonneurs were offered the chance to ride next weekend instead, but that's Passover and I will be cooking up a storm, not riding through one.

It was hailing as I rode out to Hanscom... )
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike from the front (seven)
First things first: I have absolutely no pictures from either ride. Just those in my memory. (Which is partly why this report will be so detailed; to pin those images to my mental scrapbook, but alas, I cannot share them with you. I'll link some other people's photos at the end, though.)

The first ride of the weekend was the biggie. The Boston 200K up into New Hampshire to New Boston, which would be my longest ride, ever (I was going to say second-longest, and then I realized that I cannot add. 127.5 mile brevet + 22.5 miles total to and from the start = 150, not 140. I think I'm glad I was thinking second-longest the entire day.) It would also be second-hilliest (and that figure I'm sure of.) Plus, after taking 46 minutes off my time on the 100K, which is hilly, I was aiming to do this fast.

Fast for me, at least.

So I latched on to a quick pack heading outbound... )

11 hours, 16 minutes. 12.4 (ish -- I didn't have data for the whole thing) mph rolling average. Over two hours built up over the limit; if this were a longer ride, I could have sat down for a meal and a real rest and still been well off. That was the goal.

I took it easy on the way home, and was entirely sure I was going to wake up when my alarm went off in the morning and blow off the second ride in favor of sleep.

I woke up an hour and half before my alarm... )
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
The ride today wasn't the first RUSA kilometers of 2014*, but it was the big glitzy kickoff ride for the Boston Brevet Series. I'm hoping to do the entire series; this was the warm-up. For those of you whose ears I haven't talked off already about these rides, the series (as specified by the Audax Club Parisien, the organizing body, because French sport is French), is a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K, all done as effectively non-stop rides. You can sleep if you want, but the clock doesn't stop.

The 100K today was a warm-up and an easier introduction to how the rides work, with 68 miles to ride and a time limit of 7 hours 8 minutes. Also an introduction to the fact that these are "scenic", which is a euphemism for "hilly". Here, it's easier to show you:


A gentleman (not sure if he was on the Populaire or not -- there were a lot of people riding out there because the weather was so nice) asked after I photographed my bike if I wanted one of me**.

The route is a really nice one, even if you think riding on the clock is silly or unappealing; it takes mostly back roads out to apple-orchard country in Bolton, then swings up to Sterling and back, and then meanders through Harvard for a bit racking up hills. The ride back gets busy through Concord; it takes the direct route back ([livejournal.com profile] ron_newman, this is the way we came back from that Harvard ride), but it's not bad, and would be a good place to stop for ice cream if one is not on the clock. The Sterling out and back (which is the least pretty part) can be cut off and a lunch stop added in at Bolton Orchards or Nashoba winery, which I've done quite a few times for fun. Some day I'll take a real camera with me when not on the clock.

Though I also usually cut off some of the Harvard hills, because they're kind of gratuitous, and only some of them have really pretty views of Mt. Wachusett (it's in the background of the photo above, although it's not obvious). Which we did not have to climb today, although looking at Strava apparently a couple of the fast guys realized how close they were, and added 20-ish miles to zip out and up it and back onto the course, which cracks me up. I do keep the big swoopy Stow Road descent, because that is worth climbing up to at least that high.

Even with the gratuitous photography stop, it was a fast ride. (For me.) I was hoping to get close to 5:30 for the ride, and pulled in at 5:15! Whee! I am rapidly approaching if not already at the point where my legs are a machine for turning food into miles, and I feel like I can go indefinitely as long as I stop to eat and stretch. My lower back is not quite there yet, but it's getting stronger.

There were a couple people injured; I saw a police car whiz by with lights on, and all I could think was "please don't be a bike, please don't be us" and it was, but no major injuries and the tandem team in question finished the ride not long after I did -- I gather it was an interaction/dodging a pedestrian or possibly a dog, not a car. I didn't stop, not because I was going for speed but because there were a bunch of people stopped already from the pack they were riding with, and the police and a fire truck had already arrived.

*There is a post about DNFing the ride I was packing for in my last post here, but this is not that post. Later. I have tl;dr to use it to springboard into about trying hard things and sometimes failing at them.

** There is also a post about being visible as a heavier woman riding, which is why I posted this picture even if I'm self-conscious about it. But IDK if I will ever actually write that post.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
Finally had a chance to get to Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe and get the weekend-only chilled noodles, too. Yum.

The ride rolled out a few minutes late, me fighting to get my GPS to start (and I managed to fail to start it recording, but it did give me friendly beepy prompts that were about 95% correct). I do need to figure out why it sometimes decides I'm on the wrong road when I'm not, but it's mostly really nice.

But I didn't need it at all, because I hooked onto the tail of the giant group as it launched itself up the Mass Ave hill, and stayed on. I'd been expecting to get dropped there and to have a great, solo, ride, perhaps seeing some people on their way out of the lunch stop. Nope. The group strung out, but I ended up in a pack of 6-or-8 (a pack of two came and went). Specifically, a pack of 6 including the route designer, so there was really no possibility of getting lost.

Riding a brevet-style ride in a group was a different experience; I am not super-used to pack riding, although I did a women's group ride with Landry's last summer. I'm never sure when it's OK to pass and when it's not in these loose pack confederacies. (We did do a little paceline work with the Landry's group ride, and while that's tough, the rules are clear and I know how to do it. This wasn't a paceline, but a chatting amoeba slithering up and down the rolling hills.)

The key issue is that, while my average speed had me able to stay with the group, I was, as usual, the slowest climber. Not by a horrible amount, but by a significant bit on anything other than a little short-steep rise. I was sprinting to take the climbs at my top speed so that people didn't have to wait for me too long, but it was tough. Especially since I was braking on the downhills a lot to keep with the pack in the opposite direction. (240ish pounds (me + bike + gear) is a lot of momentum, and I usually take more advantage of it.) I did open 'er out a bit near the end, because I was getting tired, and if I got ahead, I could sit back, coast, and have some sports drink, which I wasn't getting many chances to do otherwise.

I did tell them repeatedly they didn't need to wait, but since I was almost keeping up, I let them continue; I'm not sure exactly how to politely pry a group loose if I really don't want to keep up any more. In this case, I was happy to ride with them if they really didn't mind waiting; but I couldn't tell, and it made me a bit self-conscious. Especially when I was asked if I needed sugar -- no, I wasn't bonking, I'd just had a snack, I just am that slow uphill. None of them tried to chit-chat while I was climbing, which was very helpful; I have had people do so, thinking they're being friendly, but I get stressed out because I either need to slow down to be able to parse their speech and say something in return, or I need to ignore them rudely.

At least I got a couple of positive remarks, which helped me not be too self-conscious -- one compliment to my handling skills downhill, and the gentleman who usually hung back and bridged back to the group with me did, I think honestly, compliment my speed just post-hill on the flats -- as I work hills, I mostly seem to find what happens is that I get better at being ready to keep on trucking with no rest after one. Which is good, since on this kind of group expedition, I'm the one who doesn't get a rest (unless I pull ahead on the downhill to get it).

I do have to credit the group with me getting the chilled noodles -- a few minutes after I ordered mine, the SOLD OUT sign went up (they only have a limited amount each weekend). I wouldn't have made it in time for them on my own. The noodles themselves were wonderful, as were the little chunks of gluten; the sauce was a little too vinegary for me but nice and spicy without being overwhelming. I'll try the garlic noodle next time.

My legs were pleasantly prepared from riding the trainer and not doing much else; the only things that hurt were one: cramps of the PMS variety and two: not enough time in the actual saddle means a sore undercarriage. That's one thing commuting is very good for; my usual route is too traffic-y to really push the pace, but I spend a lot of time toughening up my skin.

The route itself was wonderful, though Eastern MA roads right now are terrible. The route on ridewithgps for download/cue sheet printing, if anyone cares to ride part or all of it, and Velouria of Lovely Bicycle has a great description with beautiful pictures from a previous group permanent ride (that I was not on). It's possible to get out there from greater Camberville mostly on bike paths, which would make a fun friendly expedition some time.

Ride stats: 62.02 miles @ 12.6mph for the populaire itself. Total for the day was about 76. Time of record for the populaire was 5:50, although if I'd rushed inside and immediately found the person taking the cards rather than fussing with my GPS and chatting with people it would have been under 5:45. Rolling time was just under 5 hours at 4:58 or so.

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