I had such a different post in mind than the one I am writing.
The measuring stick ride in southeast Tarrant County is the Thursday night ride out at Joe Pool Lake. It is known throughout the metoplex as one of the toughest rides. Ironically, I started the ride back in the mid 1990s as an 18+ mph ride. Now the lead group is finishing the 32-mile course in excess of 23 mph.
The start of the ride is next to the lake and is flat. It is usually into a head wind. There is no warm up and it ramps up right from the start. About five miles in, we start a three-mile climb that at one point is an 11% grade. When I am in good shape, I end up in the chase group. There were brief moments in my early 30s that I actually made it with the lead group up the hill, only to be dropped at the next climb that comes in about 10 miles. I have never made it with the lead group at the finish since the ride became a hammer fest in the late 1990s.
My fitness level has really improved and I came to last Thursday’s ride with high hopes. I am now one of the older men in the group, most of riders is in their late 20s or early 30s. My goal was to keep my heart rate in check, ride in the draft and survive the first climb, and then see where it goes.
About 30 of us started out. I was with the group at the start of the climb. I kept my cadence and after the first pitch, I was surprised to find myself leading the group up the final part of the climb. I knew it was not going to last and expected at any moment the 130-pound climbers to come whipping around me. When the attack came, I dug as deep as I could to stay with them. My heart rate came close to max. (I think my max at this time is 185 and I was at 180)
A group of five riders separated as we finished the climb and three of us started a chase. One of the riders in the chase got quickly dropped and it was just my buddy Brent and I to close the gap. I rested behind Brent and watched my heart rate dropped down to 160. Brent was beginning to struggle and I told him, “Let’s go get’em” and came around to lead the chase. I could see the group up the road within reach. We were dancing around 28 mph as I closed the gap.
Brent and I had just bridged to the group and I was looking for a place to hide to recover as we had 20 miles left in the ride. As we made a right hand turn, my rear tire blew with a load “BLAM”. I remained upright, but the lead group was gone. As I pulled over to fix my flat, all my friends in the chase checked to make sure I had everything. I told them to go finish the ride.
As I put in a new tube, I shooed away a nice couple in a pickup truck that stopped to made sure I was all right. The young man noted that someone stopped for him before, so he was just returning the favor. As pickup drove away, I released my CO2 cartridge to fill my tire and “BLAM” it goes again.
Now the day has gone from bad to worse. I am prepared to fix one flat, but two, not so much. As I watched the nice couple drive away, I looked down at my bike with all sorts of frustration.
Apparently, a couple in a Honda Element could tell I was at my wits end and offered me a ride back to my car. I graciously accepted the good Samaritan offer from my new friends, Rich and Kathy Drake. I was again rescued by the kindness of strangers, but I must also note, these were parents of an Eagle Scout and the owners of general contracting company in Dallas. So to all my Dallas friends, put Contractor Services Unlimited Inc on your call list.
I hope that sometime in the future I will get to post how I stayed with the lead group. I bought new tires as a start.