Since returning from NYC i have been back to training, training, training, and more training! But there is nothing like a race to get your blood flowing with so much adrenaline with which almost no drug can compare. I say almost because i am somewhat of a drug neophyte. I have tried most of those that accompany broken bones and such, but my list of drugs for recreational use - or at least ones used when there is no medical emergency - is a pretty short one, namely alcohol. I havent even tried pot.
When i was in California last April, my friend told me about a story of a 75 year old guy who arrived at his girlfriend's house before she did, rummaged for food, found the big bag of special chocolate chip cookies laced with hash and ate them all. Luckily he didnt die but was awfully confused and probably a bit perturbed. Since i never tried that drug, i couldnt help but wonder if he would have enjoyed the high more had he been privy to ramifications of his cookie monster indulgence.
Back on the topic of training, i am pleased to report it is still going well. Last week i included four group rides in my training! And at each ride i got much needed feedback on my fitness level at the moment.
The first was the Begijnendijk ride that averages about 35-36kph. There are so many cyclists in attendance that the ride is usually split up into three groups of fifty. Usually the first group is the only one to ride in a double paceline where each rider takes pulls of 2km on the front of each line before making her way to the back. The second and third groups often ride the same speed as the first but without trading organized pulls. But for some reason, on Tuesday the second group was riding about 5km slower than the first. So in a spur-of-the-moment decision, Jonas and I decided to bridge to the first group. Within a millisecond of our decision he was gone. While i was chasing behind, i noticed that my speedometer read 51kph. How thrilled was i to see that i can put my face in the wind at speeds of over 50kph (30mph). That little maneuver to the front group totally made my day.
The second of the group rides was last Thursday with the Zaventem riders who average 36kph - no matter wind, rain, a passing train. Thursday was no exception - strong winds and sprinkles (or maybe that was sweat from the guys in front) made for a tough 36. From the proverbial gun, the ride was up at full speed, standard single file formation while weaving in and out of the neighborhoods on tiny streets riddled with parked cars and trees planted in the middle of the street (a strange belgian thing).
This is my second time doing this ride so i learned a thing or five. One of the lessons learned from my first ride was to never show your face in the wind for long periods of time if you want to be assured to finish the ride - with the group. First time around i showed my face a few times in the beginning, making the rest of the ride one hell of a struggle.
This time i kept to the back. Lesson learned here was the same every racer learns during "Racing 101". It is harder in the back due to the yo-yo effect, where you have to sprint out of every turn faster and longer than the riders in front. And if that wasnt enough punishment, with about 10km to go Jonas jumps out of the peloton in solo pursuit of the two-rider breakaway. Without thinking, which is usually how these things happen, I jump too. With no draft from him, I too had to bridge with no help AND a whole peloton in tow. Just when i was almost bridged, my engine stalled. I remained three meters behind them for what felt like forever. Thankfully, the guy in queue behind me gave a little push and i landed on the three-man train. No less than a minute later, the rollers hit. Bad timing. I worked so hard my head was spinning but i stayed tough to the end and even finished well in the uphill sprint.
The next two group rides were yesterday and today - both mtb rides (although i use my Ahrens cross bike.) Here in belgium they have about 10-50 mtb tours per week. You pay 3-5€ and you get marked trails, riding companions and feed zones filled with cookies, cake, bananas, raisins, dark chocolate, energy drink and water. Not a bad deal! During these two rides I got to test my cyclocross skills at top speed through turns, lots of sand, cobbles and tight twisty singletrack. And it was a success!
Now that i have positive feedback that my fitness is on the right track, I am ready to start pushing the envelope as they say. First up is this Thursday's Zaventem ride. Maybe i will try a few things...And motorpacing starts this week as well. My first race is scheduled for July 4th. It is a local race in a neighboring town so i will fill the backpack and ride over. Last time i did this race i placed 2nd. Although i dont have any designs on winning it this year as it is my first race of the season, i remind myself that stranger things have happened...
BTW, the fruit tart has nothing to do with this story but i posted the foto in honor of cherry season.