Sunday, April 26, 2009

Upstate SORBA is the talk of Paris Mt Friends and Family Day!

There you have it - At the end of the day it was Upstate SORBA that people were talking about. This according to the head Ranger Jason after the event. What were they talking about exactly? Guided rides on Paris Mountain's Turtle trail and the skills course over at the amphitheatre. BIG props to Brad, J and whoever else helped them build the obstacles for the skills course.

I didn't arrive until just past 1pm, and the event was already under way. Chuck was manning the booth while Brad, J, Meeker and Chris were out with a group. It was only a couple of minutes before people started lining up for the next group ride.

About 30 minutes after they departed, the group returned. We already had almost a dozen people lined up. Some of them had brought their own bikes! Since I had brought my riding gear, and Meeker was finishing up for the day, I got to go out with the next ride.

It was pretty fun. I had not seen the obstacles that were built by the U.S. folks, so at my first view, I was quite surprised! There was a teeter-totter, several plywood boxes, an adjustable skinny (you could put turns in it), a couple of log bumps and a large bump (for lack of something else to call it). I'll put up a link to the Upstate SORBA site when I locate Brad's photos of the event.

Chris was our official ride leader, and she talked about how to navigate obstacles to our group. The group was great. It was a mix of kids aged from about 3 years old up to about 15 or so (and a couple of parents). Yes, the youngest was riding a tiny bike with training wheels! His brother was on a slightly larger bike (12" wheels maybe?) and might have been 5 years old. These little guys were going for it on the bumps. Our bumps were actually larger than their tires could really handle! They did great though (with a little assistance from Steve and Chris).

After everyone had a chance to ride over the bumps, we headed out for the turtle trail. I took a small group of 4 first because they seemed to be a little more advanced. In this group, there was a 6 year old girl who was already riding like a pro. OF course there was James, son of Steve - he is quite advanced, so I let him ride out front. Told him not to crash, otherwise, have a blast. He was tearing it up while I led the other 3. They did really well, especially the little 6 year old girl. She's gonna be tearing it up in a few years!

At the road we re-grouped before heading back to the shelter. All the kids did great. Even the parents! By the time we got back to the shelter, we had another full group lined up. This group was made up of older kids and adults that had experience on bikes and on mountain bikes. We took them through the same routine (skills course, then turtle trail) and returned again.

Chris and her friend were already taking down the booth when we returned, but there was another dozen or so people getting ready to ride. I helped fit a few of them with helmets and bikes and we took off. Since it was late (relative to the closing time of the event), we skipped the skills course and went directly on to Turtle trail. I rode near the back this time with a couple of more experienced kids behind me and an older mom and her daughter in front of me.

It's fun to watch the kids (big and little) ride on the trails. For many of them, it is a new experience from riding on the paved roads or paths at the local park. The mom in front of me had a bit of trouble on a couple of hills, and when I looked she was in the small cog. I gave her a couple of pointers and she adapted quickly. When she stalled out on a small hill, I took the two younger guys past her and we did a little rocket action (not really that fast, but a little faster than when we were behind her).

When we got to the road, we waited for a few minutes for the mom, her daughter and Chuck. When they didn't show after a couple of minutes, I headed back down the trail to check on them. Mom had started to feel a little dizzy, so they had stopped. Chuck was still with them, but none of them had any water. I gave her a little from my camelback and they said they would be coming in a few minutes. Sure enough, moments after I arrived back at the road, I could see them coming up the trail.

As the group started back, a little guy who had gone on the earlier ride asked if I had to be the last. "Why", I asked...."I want to go fast!" he said. So, I made a deal with him. He and I could wait until the group was out of site, then we would take off. As a bonus, I would let him go in front of me so I wouldn't slow him down.

He was having a great time as we 'rocketed' down the trail. He was whooping and laughing as we rolled through the trees and over the rises. Although the speed wasn't my normal speed for this trail, I did have a huge smile on my face. This little guy was going to be talking about this ride for a while. Turns out, everyone was talking about it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What happened to the sprint zones?

Yes, the sprint zones are no longer to be promoted at the Tuesday night rides. As I mentioned previously , the Spinners Board of directors has considered the sprint zones as an experiment and was monitoring us closely. I received the news today that we can no longer actively promote the sprint zones. The reasons for this are quite good - it is all about safety.

The CIIa group seemed to be the largest group out there (until tonight anyway) and with that many bikes on those roads - it had some potential for safety issues. No problem, I went out as a renegade and marked up the roads without permission. The board was very understanding in allowing me a period to try it out. The have made their decision, and I am actually in agreement. We will no longer actively promote the sprint zones.

Ce la vie! It was fun while it lasted. Ask me about it on the next ride though ;)

What about tonight though? I had posted a comment after last week's blog that I had an idea to give the hammers an opportunity to ride the ride they wanted - well that idea came to fruition after some discussions with Dan. He volunteered to pick up as the leader of the CIb group. That group is the bridge between the CIIa and the C1(a) group. Turned out, his group was the largest group tonight. I'll have to see how it went for him.

Back to our ride. The group was much smaller than the past couple of weeks. This was really cool, and it made it more intimate (I think anyway - tell me if you don't agree!). Everyone was super cool about stopping at the stop signs - even when I asked to stop for a little to allow others to catch up. I really appreciate this as it is definately part of what group riding is about - THE GROUP!! That's not to say we didn't drop some people tonight though.

That is because tonight's ride was TOUGH! That wind seemed to be against us for the whole ride! How does that work anyway? Thanks to Bob and Braden (I hope I remember that right) - also to a couple of others who I didn't get their names. These guys were up at the front helping to keep us in our target pace for most of the ride.

I was a bit surprised early in the ride - we were struggling to keep the average above 18mph for the first 11-12 miles or so. It was not too long before we turned on to old hundred road that we started to find a groove and begin to pick up the pace a little. Of course, I think that little section of old hundred road gave us some opportunity to stretch our legs. It seemed after that, folks started to feel a little more frisky.

Personally, I feel pretty good about how we stayed together with multiple re-groups at stop signs or stop lights, some soft pedaling in some areas. Unfortunately, I think it is inevitable that we will drop some people. It's a tough call as a ride leader - do I keep the pace low to keep everyone together? Or, do I do my best to give peeps opportunity to catch back up with the tail end of the group with the re-groups while maintaining as close to our target speed as possible?

I know our target is a range of 18-19mph, so really, I consider our target to be 18.5mph. Of course, we'll vary a bit as we did tonight. My opinion is I take option 2 above (shoot for the target while giving opportunity to catch up). That's really the best I can do.

So, after old hundred road, we were feeling our oats a little. Our pace was picking up slowly, by the time we turned onto Holly road, we were at a solid 18.2mph average. The ride through Holly road will always be my favorite part of this ride. I think that section is the most picturesque with the rolling hills, the green pastures...not to mention it is just plain fun to ride on that twisty, narrow road!

We got onto Reedy Fork Road and did a pretty good job of pushing the pace just a little to bring us towards the 18.5mph target. Opportunities for re-grouping at the stop lights worked well to keep us together and again, those guys up front were awesome. Once, I even got called back for pushing the pace a little too much! Nice Job!

We made the turn onto Michelin Road, and the group was still pretty cohesive. I think we had a high percentage of our original group, and we had picked up some guys who hammered up from the group behind. I think too we may have picked up some folks who started with Dan's group, but I can't really be sure on that. When we stopped at the Michelin road stop sign, my computer was showing right at 18.5mph. I'm going to call that a success.

Unfortunately, when we turned off of Michelin road, we got a gap in the group because of traffic. The guys who had been doing a lot of pulling on the ride were in the lead group (maybe 6-10 guys), and then there was the rest coming behind. As the lead group made the right turn onto Perimeter road, I stopped to wait for the main group. I joined them briefly, before I asked if we wanted to see about catching them.

A few people pulled in with me to give chase to the lead group. I could see the lead group was already starting to fracture. I knew if I didn't bridge the gap quickly, I'd never catch them. Riding out in the wind is a terrible physical drain. I was feeling pretty good and I began to use the fractured group to help pull me up towards the front.

Braden and Bob were pulling at the front, and I managed to get on Bob's wheel. As Braden started to tire and pull to the side, Bob and I moved up. I called to Braden to pull in the draft and we got into a rotation for a while. If you haven't worked with a few people in a rotating pace line, you really need to try it. The three of us kept up a pretty solid pace for a while before we finally dropped Braden.

Bob and I went into a 2 bike rotation. This was truly the most fun I have ever had on my bike! Bob and I were hammering for about all we had (well, I was pretty near my limit, I think he was feeling it as well), and we were in a constant state of rotation.

As soon as the lead rider (rider 1) would get out front, they would begin to drift to the left (coming out of the lead position). The tail rider (rider 2) would maintain the pace (in fact it was a bit of a slingshot coming out of the draft) and come up to the lead's right.

Rider 2 is now in the lead and drifting to the left. Meanwhile, rider 1 is drifting back to take the position directly behind rider 2. Rider 1 would never actually hold the wheel of rider 2 for any amount of time, as the slingshot effect would nearly throw rider 1 back toward the lead position and the rotation would continue.

The best part was that the rotation was so dynamic we were constantly in a counterclockwise movement. Bob and I held this rotation for a while - don't know exactly how long, but when I looked down, our pace had gone up to 18.7mph.

Finally, Bob and I looked at each other and we knew we couldn't hold the pace up that last long hill on perimeter road (near that small pond). We backed off the pace and gave a relatively easy pedal in to the finish.

Thanks go to everyone who rode with us tonight. It was a really fun ride - the way every ride should be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What's it mean to be a ride leader - part 3: When the hammers strike

So I've led the CIIa group (18-19mph w/ sprint zones) four times since the start of this year's Donaldson season. Here's the links:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And of course, tonight was the fourth time. The first two rides, we maintained excellent group integrity throughout the entire ride and we did a respectable job obeying the rules of the road. Excellent feedback from a lot of folks and I think it got people pumped up about the upcoming riding season.

Last week, not only did we have some horrendous winds to contend with, we had some hammerheads out there. I was pleased that we maintained excellent group integrity for as long as we did. Those hammers wanted to push from early in the ride. Thanks to those folks who helped maintain our pace up to Reedy Fork Road (after Holly Road). Once we got on Reedy fork road for the big pull back towards perimeter the hammers started striking. I was surprised that we were actually fairly cohesive even in front of the Michelin Plants. Once we turned onto Perimeter road, the hammers let loose their blows and the group totally fractured.

Tonight, it was much the same. However, the hammers who got out there today weren't super interested in holding back the pace at my request. It was only after an excellent move by another rider (who I unfortunately didn't get his name) that these folks held back the pace a little. I was starting to get a little frustrated as we made the climb up Woodville road and made the right onto Davis road. Our average pace was already hovering at 19.1 - 19.2mph, so I was trying to get the leaders to back off just a little.

As we approached the right turn for Reedy Fork Road, the leaders were still pushing through the stop sign. As I rode through the stop sign, this guy was right next to me. I didn't really intend for anyone to hear it, but I muttered "this is the last time I'll be leading a ride". He gave me some encouraging words, then rocketed up to the front of the pack and spoke with the guys doing the pulling. They backed off, and I re-gained some motivation. I wish I would have got his name - he made a big difference tonight. That wasn't the only time he stepped up to help bring the pace down a little.

Of course, that little stretch along Reedy Fork Road leads right into the first sprint zone. It was like holding back a thousand head of cattle keeping those hammers reigned in even a little. Some people will probably get the idea I'm a control freak and I'm holding them back from the ride they want to ride. So, let me give my perspective on the purpose of these 'intermediate' rides.

Yes, I call this group, traveling at an average pace of 18-19 mph an 'intermediate' group. Why? Because I don't really know what makes a cat 4 or cat 5 rider (or cat 3 or cat 2 or cat 1 for that matter, but that's actually besides the point). My vision of a ride at this pace zone is for those people who are building strength and group riding skills / bicycle racing mentality. These individuals are still are not quite strong enough to move into the B group or to ride with the C1 group.

The individuals in this group have been riding on the road and in groups for some time - a week, a year, several years - whatever, they have good understanding of group dynamics and have good bike control skills. They can maintain position in a pace line, and are comfortable and confident enough when the pace lines break up a little. For example when starting a pull up a hill and slower riders begin to drop back in the pack - the pack tends to get a little less organized and the individuals in this group are aware enough to handle that smoothly.

However, I think also that there are others who have just moved up from a slower pace group, and are looking forward to improving their group riding skills and want to do that at a pace that will offer them some challenge. It is for these folks that it is important to maintain the advertised pace. Perhaps they are capable of riding at an average of 19mph, but even kicking that up to 19.2 or 19.3 pushes them beyond their limits.

So, what can I do about the hammers if they don't want to hold the pace back a little? What I can do is give them something to think about. I mean, that's the purpose of the sprint zones. The purpose of the sprint zones has less to do with your overall physical prowess than it has to do with the thought process and strategy you use to get through that sprint zone. Sure, its likely the hammers will be the ones up in front and 'winning' the bragging rights for the sprint zones, I just hope they are thinking about it a little. If they are able to launch immediately from the whistle and pull the pack all the way to the finish, then they are sandbagging and should move up into a faster group.

So that's my nutshell vision of the sprint zones, what about the rest of the ride? Instead of thinking about this ride as purely a physical workout, combine it with a mental workout. Cut the pace back a little, give other people a chance to lead the pack. Talk to the other riders up front - set up a rotation for pulling the group. Think of this ride as an opportunity to develop those other teamwork skills that are so vital in bicycle racing. It's not a race!

It's funny actually, there for sure was one actual team out there with us tonight. I saw several other riders who were also wearing team kit, so I'll assume that there was at least two 'teams' out there tonight. It was indeed some folks from these teams who pushed our pace tonight. Of course they weren't alone, there were unaffiliated riders who were contributing hammerheads as well.

What is interesting to me is these 'teams' didn't even maintain their own 'team' integrity once we got back onto Perimeter road. The hammers got out front and pushed the pace from 19.0mph (actual reading when I stopped at the Michelin Road stop sign) up to 19.4mph (actual reading as I rode alongside the golf course) - this was on maybe a 3 mile section of Perimeter road - they were definitely hammering the pace.

My vision for these rides is really pretty simple. Instead of pushing the pace because you can or because someone else pushed it for a while, consider the group as one big team whose goal is to maintain group integrity for the entire ride. I'm willing to bet that the big bike teams don't go out there and push the pace all the time, they stick to a pace that is likely pre-determined (perhaps determined on the go based on who's attacking or whatever). The point is to try and develop those skills that are necessary beyond the pure physical. It's likely to make you a much better rider in the long term.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Furman to Saluda - 68 miles of bliss

Saturday, 11 April, 2009. My friend Kip and I took a 'little' ride from Furman University up to Saluda North Carolina. I have to admit, I knew this was going to be my longest ride to date from the outset. He is already signed up to do Mount Mitchell next month (his 11th or 12th time), and I am waffling whether to do it or not. Regardless, I can only benefit from following along with his training plan.

Kip (who has done many long distance rides - including the aforementioned Mount Mitchell 10 or 11 times) encouraged me to take it easy from the outset. That's to say we don't need to push too hard, we just need to continue building our base. Last week we did 46 miles with lots of climbing from Tigerville to Saluda.

We actually broke the ride up into three legs. The first leg was about 15 miles (give or take - I didn't really look at my odometer). We stopped a few miles short of Tigerville due to a flat tire on Kip's bike. What should have taken us about 10 minutes to fix, ended up taking for sure 30 minutes and maybe longer. We trashed two tubes (one by pinching it between the bead and rim, the other by snapping off the presta valve core!) before we ended up patching the original tube! Something (glass, metal or whatever) put a pretty good slice in his tire and of course, punctured the tube. Thankfully, Dan showed up and had a tire patch. It worked out well and the repair lasted the rest of the ride.

The second leg was from the repair stop up to the Bakery at Saluda. Nice ride, of course we took the more direct route up the watershed (instead of the mine mountain route we took last week). This was because we (I) didn't know for sure how we (I) would feel after so many miles.

So, those of you who are accustomed to doing centuries every weekend, go ahead and call me a wimp or whatever - My previous PR for distance was 57 miles set just this past January on the First Fifty which of course wasn't really 50 miles, it was 57!

That's not to say I don't ride my bike - I ride plenty, but a typical mountain bike ride for me is in the 12-20 mile range. A typical road bike ride is in the 20-40 mile range. A few years ago, it became more important to me to enjoy my workouts than to pressure myself to always reach the next milestone (faster per mile pace in my runs, longer distance, higher average speed etc.). So, my current philosophy is get out as often as I can (the past couple of years it is 4-7 days per week, probably averaging 5+ days / week) and enjoy it.

What this means is if I feel good, I push. Sometimes, I push really hard. Usually this is more common when I ride in some type of group (or run in a local race). Mountain biking in a group allows me to go really hard for the hills, and use the downhills to catch my breath. I'm still working out what it means to do the group rides on the road. See my archive on Donaldson Center and Sprint zones for my recent ramblings.

What it also means is if I don't feel good, I sit back and grind it out. Sometimes I'll shorten a ride when I don't feel inspired. That's OK for me. In the end, it is most important for me to look back and say 'that was a good ride'.

So, with this in mind, Kip and I did the direct route from Tigerville to Saluda. We got surprised by the weather as we climbed up the watershed. We actually got a few sprinkles and the temperature was much cooler than we expected. Normally, I'm the guy who has the proper clothing for almost any conditions - this time I left Furman with no extra layers!

Despite the weather, the climb was pretty nice. Kip is a really strong rider and I found myself working pretty hard to stay with him or close to him on the climbs. Something in my DNA makes me give an extra boost as I approach the top of the climb, so although he may have pulled several bike lengths on me in the lower and middle climb, I usually managed to bring him back a little as we approached the top.

Downhills are a completely different story. Years ago, I was heavily into motorcycle road racing. I did some racing of my own, and spent a lot of time studying the mechanics of performance riding (in this I mean what does it take to make that motorcycle go quickly through that turn). Of course, this translates quite nicely into bicycle riding. Obviously there are some differences, but screaming through a turn on 2 wheels is still screaming through a turn on 2 wheels. As we crested the top of the climbs, I had to work to keep from totally riding away from Kip.

Of course, this wasn't really an issue as we climbed through the watershed, but even in that short downhill into Saluda, I held back a little so we could maintain some sort of visual contact. We got into Saluda and stopped for a little snack at the Bakery. It was cool enough we sat inside

We laughed at how cool the descent from the top of the watershed might be for our third and longest leg back to Furman. Kip went so far as to put a newspaper in his jersey to fight off the cool. I didn't know how it would be, but was wishing for my light jacket! It turned out not to be too bad. The temperature really was borderline for me - I would have worn my jacket if I had carried it, but I survived fine without it.

As we passed Tigerville, the temperature had definitely warmed up, but it seemed we had a bit of a headwind. We re-traced our route which includes Sally Gilreath road - a very picturesque little country road that winds through really beautiful farmland. One of the great things about this ride was the relaxed pace we took. We actually had an opportunity to look around and enjoy the scenery!

As we made our way closer to Furman, the temperature continued to climb. To our delight, the wind seemed to calm down a bit. I was feeling pretty good after more than 50 miles in the saddle, and we took an alternate route through the 'Little Texas' area just north of Paris Mountain.

This is a really beautiful area - who would have know this place existed!! Part of what I really liked about it was the several little climbs along the route. Nothing terribly difficult, but enough to make our legs really feel the distance we had traveled. I was feeling surprisingly good! I would like to think I was at least as strong as Kip on these hills. I can't say for sure as the hills were too short to really gauge - and usually they occurred at the end of a short downhill. Which of course put some distance between him and I.

Little Texas road put us out on the Hwy 276 frontage road near the end of Altamont road. I looked at Kip and asked him if he was ready for the ascent up Paris Mountain! I was kidding of course, and he had been plagued with a neck or shoulder cramp for the last few miles (maybe another reason he didn't appear so strong on those hills).

We crossed Hwy 276 and made our final run back into Furman. We made a couple of laps of the mall area as cool down then went back to the car. I don't know how much longer I might have been able to ride at that pace, but I felt like I could have kept going. It was a great ride to share with a great friend. What better way to spend a Saturday?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sprint Zones - decisions, decisions, decisions....

A little late in posting this one, It's been a hectic week. Tuesday the 7th of April was the toughest ride of the year so far. I learned a few more things about leading a group, and I realized how much effect the wind can really have.

I need to start with a note about the board meeting that I attended on the 6th. One of the main topics was insurance for the tuesday night rides, so I thought the sprint zones might come up in the meeting. Better I was there to hear the verdict than to get an email telling me to cease and desist!

I was surprised that the sprint zones did not come up during the main discussion about the insurance. That discussion was really all about insurance for the A and B groups. Let me simply make the statement as I understood it: If everyone who rides in the A and B groups was a Spinners Member (or a first timer), the insurance would cover them. So, if you're not a member, JOIN!!!

The sprint zones actually came up later when the individual board members were going around the table discussing the various topics / projects under their care. I understand how they could be concerned. I'm an unknown who shows up out of the blue and starts making things up as I go along.

I have to thank the board for allowing me to sit in on the meeting, as well as allowing me to express my ideas / thoughts on the situation. It was an interesting discussion and I was happy to hear of only one board member who was opposed to the sprint zones. In the end, the board acknowledged the existence of the sprint zones, but cautioned me that it is still an experiment (it's like I'm on double secret probation or something !!! ;). I did tell them I would cover the markings and stop the madness (ok, you know it's not really madness - it's all for fun) - all they had to do was ask.

So tuesday night, I'm stuck at work until after 530! I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to make it in time for the start of the ride!! I made it, surprisingly with time to spare. Lori was still making the general announcements. After the C1 group's departure, Lori started to explain the sprint zones, but ended up handing me the bullhorn! While it may not have completely solved my communication issues, it certainly helped! I hope it was more clear for those in the group.

We had a powerful group. Our average speed almost immediately shot up to 19mph. It's very important to me that we maintain our pace. I asked everyone to think of the group as one big team. Striving to assist each other and maintain group integrity throughout the ride. It worked pretty well (more on that later). We managed to keep the pace at just under 19mph up to the first sprint zone. I was very happy to see a number of people coming up to the front to pull the group.

As we rode along, Scott, one of the Spinner's board members (who I had exchanged emails with very early on after making my original posts about the sprint zones) rode up next to me and said 'hey!'. I didn't know he had joined our group, although he did mention he would probably do so at one time or another.

We approached the first sprint zone and I let the group know. We turned on to old hundred road and went into a soft pedal. I feel like it worked out ok - those who wanted to participate seemed to be moving towards the front, those who didn't seemed to be drifting towards the back. Could have just been me wishing for it to be so.

I gave the signal just as the group passed the 1 mile mark. It was shortly after that I realized we had a group of hardcore racer-types in the group tonight. Those guys were pulling hard from the whistle, and only seemed to get faster as we neared the end. I'm back there in the pack somewhere, but I saw that Scott, Luis (sp?) and Steve were up near the front. There were others too, but I don't know all the names. Later I heard Scott talking about it and he sounded like he had a nice little battle with Steve. Great fun!

Everyone was super cool that night. There was several times we had to make longer stops (traffic, allowing someone to re-join, etc) at stop signs / intersections. Nobody seemed to complain about it at all.

As we came on to Holly road, I called again for another soft pedal. This time I drifted toward the back, reminding folks to watch for traffic on this narrow, twisty road. When I gave the signal, the pack increased the pace, and a guy who I didn't get his name rode by me, looked me in the eye and said 'This is crazy'! Wasn't quite sure what that meant - hoped it was meant in a good way.

Again, I saw that the same group of people were the first to arrive at the stop sign. Not surprisingly, it was the racer dudes (some of them wearing their racing kits). We took a bit of an extended stop at Reedy fork road to allow a couple of people who had dropped off a bit during our sprint.

When we turned on to Reedy fork, I could feel the group integrity starting to crack. Some stronger riders were pushing the pace (I was showing around 18.5mph at that time), but me and others were lagging behind a little. The wind was really doing a number on us. It was hitting us from the side and even when I tried to ride in an echelon formation, I found little help from the draft. Thanks to Scott who gave me a push briefly to bring me back into the pack.

It was about this time that Scott introduced me to Steve. It might sound silly, but I felt pretty honored that these guys, and the other racer type guys had joined our group for this evening. Ok, so they were just having a recovery ride while I (and others) were fighting for our lives out there!

We managed to hold the semblance of a group until we got to Garrison road (next to Woodmont high). Apparently this section of Reedy Fork (after Garrison) was one of the original sprint zones back in the day. The stronger riders really pushed the pace and the cracks in the group started to widen.

We had a brief moment to re-group as we waited for traffic at the stop sign on Michelin road, but as we came around and turned right onto Perimeter (yes, new direction for this summer), the group quickly fractured.

I found myself with two or three other guys chasing the stronger riders up front. We would have a great pull on the flats / downhills - we would actually gain ground on them. But their strength really showed on the hills (even as small as they are on Perimeter road) where they would pull away again.

I finished up with an average speed of 18.5 mph. That 18.5 was much harder than the 19 from the week before. The most difficult part of this ride was in trying to decide what to do when the group started to really fracture. Do I maintain the advertised pace? I could have slowed a little and still come in within the 18-19mph pace range. Do I base my decision on where we are in the ride? I mean we pretty much stayed together until the last 5 miles or so...

In the end, I decided to just do my best to hit the mid point in the pace zone (it was really about all I could do anyway). Even though I'm the ride 'leader', I can't control a group of people who are pushing beyond the pace zone - and I don't know for sure - they might have come in within the pace zone anyway.

Regardless, although it was a tough ride, we had some great group dynamics and some fun friendly competition. I'm looking forward to next week!