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!

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