I guess I should thank this guy John in our group, because he kind of was the one to start it all for my expansion into the Sonoma County cycling world. John told us about the Riviera Ride with West County Revolution. I went to the Riviera Ride. I met Jeff. Jeff rides with 2 Wheel Racing so he knows lots of other folks. Jeff said to Lee and I last week, "hey. This cool dude Pedro is having a Winter Training Camp and you should come."
Then I realized "hey, Pedro comments on Courtenay's blog!" Because Courtenay came from the cycling world. The circle was complete. And therein lies the coolness of the connections of the cycling world.
SO. I checked out the ride announcement. I hmmm'd and hawww'd.
I had a good feeling there would be some fast dudes (and chicks) on this ride. But...as I always say, I know the roads so in the worst case, I knew how to get home if I got seriously dropped. Besides, when I woke up Saturday morning and looked out the window, all I could think was "how can you NOT GO OUT? IT'S GORGEOUS!!"
Cold, but gorgeous. And the rain that was supposed to arrive that morning looked nowhere near in sight, so I had to take advantage because there will be plenty of days ahead to become reunited with my trainer.
I arrived around 9:40 a.m. at Peet's to get some coffee. There was only one guy there so far. I began to wonder how many people would show up. Within about 10 minutes, cyclists from all directions began to appear. Many in team kits, some like me in no-name gear. I began to get excited. This was going to be a *big* ride!
At 9:55 a.m., Pedro stood up on a chair to announce how it was going to go:
"Out to Occidental, up Coleman Valley, out to the coast, up to Jenner, back inland and back up to Occidental from Monte Rio. There will be a group heading back into Santa Rosa from Occidental from there. There will also be a group continuing south toward Petaluma then east and back up via Petaluma Hill Road and catching Crane Canyon on the way back. We'll have SAG support the whole time. Oh, and you guys - yesterday people went a little fast. You need to SLOW IT DOWN TODAY."
Gulp. Right...slow it down today, guys, right!!!!
Jeff, Me, Jim and Lee listen to Pedro...
And off we went. About SIXTY PEOPLE were there! By far the biggest group I've ever ridden in. It was awesome. And inspiring. And fun. And I loved it. We headed out the bike path and all the people who stopped to let us go by just smiled, some even counted because they couldn't believe what a huge group it was.
We hit the road at Fulton and out to Hall Road - that's where this picture was taken. The pace here was mellow still, just warming up the legs and chatting.
Things picked up just a tad as we headed further out, but I was still just having a ball and enjoying the gradual warm up my legs were getting. I was rather thankful, actually, given that I was STILL sore from boot camp on Thursday! We passed an empty barn that seemed to be deemed "pee spot" so I took it as an opportunity to work my way up through the group and find my friends.
Up at the front, I had an opportunity to chat with Pedro himself, who is super cool. We talked about why Courtenay wasn't there (ahem, Court...actually she was doing a 10K so I can't give her too much crap), all the beautiful rides in Sonoma County, and how much fun cycling is.
Then we all regrouped as we turned right onto Green Valley. Uh oh. Turning right on Green Valley means only one thing: Harrison Grade! I knew that's where I'd really be put in my place...but oh well.
Good thing I was up at the front, because it gave every...single...person...a chance to pass me on the way up. Yes, Pedro said to take it slow...half these guys weren't even BREATHING HARD as they danced on their pedals past me. There were a few other women there, too, and they also passed me. Nothing like getting dropped on a huge climb to remind you where your real ability is.
Me, on the other hand...HR skyrocketing, going faster up Harrison Grade than I've ever gone (had to keep them in sight, AT LEAST!), breathing harder with every pedal stroke and just thanking my lucky stars that I've done this climb before and knew 'how much longer.'
Then Ronnie, our awesome sag woman, drove up next to me. I didn't want her to think I was hating life or anything (because even though it was hard I was still loving it in that weird sadistic sort of way), so I smiled a huge smile. And then I kept smiling. Because it felt good, and it sort of made it better. Not easier, but better.
This picture is from Harrison Grade...don't know if I was smiling at the top or that was before the pain really started, but it was a genuine smile. :)
Wheezing, I reached the top. "YESSSSSSSSSS!" I shouted. "PHEEEEWWWWW!" I yelled. All I could think was "now THERE'S a climb I need to do more often."
Jim and Lee weren't too far up ahead. We regrouped and began to make our way down to Occidental. As we made our way down, all I could think was "wow. Those guys kicked butt. I need to do that. I need to get better at that. I can do that. YES I CAN!"
Flying down the hill I got this huge smile on my face. Because my goals for 2009 became much clearer. I want to ride. And I want to ride a lot.
Once we reached Occidental, Lee, Jim, Jeff and this guy Michael all were going to head back b/c they had to get back home. I initially had the same reason for cutting out early, and admittedly was afraid the rain would catch up with us. But after Harrison Grade I thought "yeah...my butt is going to get dropped SO BAD on Coleman Valley..." so I joined them to head home.
We had some coffee when we returned. Not bad - about 40 miles, some good climbing and great company. THANKS AGAIN, PEDRO! (and THANK YOU to Lee, Jeff, Jim and Michael for the good company on the way home!)
I was so inspired by the group I was with. And I realized that no matter if I'm by myself, with a small group or a ginormous group, I love cycling. Whether it's a slow ride, a medium ride or a ride that makes you wish you'd stayed in bed because you're going so hard (but only for a few minutes and then you forget the pain and keep pushing), I am always glad to be on my bike. And I want to be better at it because I know I can be.
I will still do some tris in 2009 but I have been doing this sport for four years now. I'm ready for a slightly new adventure. For new experiences. For new lessons. For new accomplishments.
It's time to ride!!!!! (yes, this means I will be posting my 2009 schedule soon...)