Now, this past weekend was jam-packed with athletic pursuits.
Looking at the weather for the weekend, I had opted for a run Saturday and hopefully for better weather and a ride on Sunday. When I started running back in January, I struggled running for even 20 minutes. The cardio endurance was gone so completely that I could feel a sense of loss. Like most accomplishments in my life, I decided to start working on my running by creating a goal, a goal to run 8 miles by the end of February. Having a Saturday off in February is a rarity for any speech & debate coach in Ohio so I had lots of plans for the day and got out there and on the trail around 7:30. Now, it wasn't the fastest 8 miles I have ever run, but they were run at a much faster pace than I ran my 6.25 the week before. It was quite windy and definitely cold, but once I started, I was fine. When I looked at my watch about 3 miles into the run, I realized that I was running much faster than I had anticipated. I was worried it would prevent me from accomplishing my goal so I slowed down, but when I finished the 8 miles, I felt pretty good and hadn't slowed down all that much. In fact, the last mile that felt so hard was one of my faster miles. Now, I did wear knee high compression socks all day, but I was really surprised by how I didn't really feel any stiffness in my legs from the run.
Now, I also did some very "girlie" things after feeling very non-female when I got called out for not knowing that LBD stands for Little Black Dress. I got my hair done (first time since September), went shoe shopping, and even made a couple of purchases at Ulta (a cosemetics store).
Sunday, though, was a perfect day for cycling... well, as perfect as a Saturday in February in Ohio can be for cycling. When I was all ready to go, I took at look at the people who showed up, and the first thing I thought was, oh geez, seriously, all the heavy hitters??? There are four guys who ride with us regularly who I consider to be beasts for the pace they can push and continue to push for the entire 100 miles of a century ride, and they were all there! Jeff and Tom are just strong, especially on flat rides. SO doesn't even realize his superman riding skills (even TC said SO doesn't count because he's not human), and I think TC considers 100 miles a SHORT ride. Oh man, if these guys decide to push pace, there will be a lot of us dying in the wind.
The group opted to head south from Berea through Lodi then down to Wooster. There are some gentle rollers on this route, but for the most part, it's pretty flat. Part of me thought to myself, I will just ride to Lodi then head back, but riding short while others keep going is just really hard for me to do. I haven't ridden further than 40 miles this year, why force the issue and ride all day? But, here's the thing. Since the surgery, I have found everything unexpectedly difficult: swimming, running, cardio in general. SO said he thought I could handle the ride, and I tired of not being able to do what I want to do, so I did what I wanted to do: ride long.
I made it to Lodi in prestine fashion. I think the guys were making a conscious effort not to destroy each other in the headwind so I spent the bulk of my time sitting behind the lovely wheels of Jeff, TC and SO. On occasion, I would find myself to the left of SO's wheel, and I would think, "well, this wind just stinks, back to behind my lovely windshield that these three guys have created." Now, I don't think I stayed there the entire way, but there was no pull in me through that crap.
After Lodi, we had another 20 miles to Wooster. We rode on a road called Overton (and we refer to it as Overton valley), and after about 10-14 miles, I got dropped by the group. I wasn't the only one, but I got pretty nervous as the road kind of zigzags from one side of the valley to the other, and I was scared I would zig when I was suppose to zag. Playing safe, I waved down a car to make sure she had passed a group of cyclists, and she did, but as I turned, I saw TC behind me? What??? Well, apparently, he hadn't been riding long throughout the winter and hadn't really planned on riding the whole ride, and he was hurting a bit (he was also riding a fixie and getting dropped a bit on the short incline bursts), but he was a welcomed site as he helped tow me through that headwind to Wooster. As we got closer and closer to Wooster, we worried about making a wrong turn, but then a figure appeared, and sure enough SO came back to gather the stragglers. In total, five of us fell off the pace, three behind TC and me, but that wind was nasty, and once you were off the line, you were dropped pretty quickly.
As we ate our gas station lunch, we prayed that the wind wouldn't shift! As we got out, it had turned slightly, but not substantially enough to get rid of the tailwind we had earned for the way back.
For the most part, the group stayed together for the 20 miles back to Lodi, but we were starting to break up as we approached Lodi. Truth be told, Jeff jumped off the front and road there through the Overton valley. As we left Lodi, we had established an A and B group for the rest of the ride back to Berea. It was a little weird, one of the guys who got dropped on the way down, was riding with the A's on the way back. SO made a comment last week that seemed pretty appropriate, the wind can only break you down if you let it.
I was definitely in the B group and was scared I was going to be the dropped member of B. One of the guys and I kind of looked at each other as "drop buddies," but we managed to hang on through the rollers until we got to a pretty flat Station Rd with about 15 miles to go. On Station, one of the guys got a flat, and as he and a couple of others got it fixed, I started getting colder, and I started getting this really strong "I want to be finished now" feeling. So, when we got back on the bikes, I took over the front and stayed there for about 40 minutes. Now, pulling in a tailwind isn't exactly the exhausting task pulling into a headwind is, but I kept the pace up and kept everyone on board. When I dropped to the back of the line, TC said to me, "pretty good pull...for a girl!"
As we approached the finish, Eric, TC and I pushed off the front as we just wanted to be done. A couple of guys were really hurting those last 30 miles from Lodi to Berea, and I don't think having the only female in the group beating them up for the last 15 helped their egos much either.
Eric (the organizer) later told me that one of the guys commented to him about how fast I got towards the end of the ride. SO often yells at me for something similar, I play it safe for the bulk of a ride and then when the end is in sight, I drop the hammer like there is no turning back (because there isn't) and make everyone else suffer. It's probably good that 95% of the people who let me ride with them are so much stronger that my hammer is their slightly exerted, but I along with 10 friends, got in a century in Ohio in February!
I should say that Eric really went out of his way to make sure that the B group didn't get lost and didn't waste away riding inefficiently in the wind. I also found out that my computer was mis-calibrated for this ride, being about 3 miles off from everyone else's total.
All in all, I feel lucky to be included in this group and being able to get in so many miles and feel relatively safe that I am not going to get lost in the middle of nowhere.