Comfortably Moderate. Those were my marching orders for the Habitat for Humanity’s ride out of Blythewood. This made sense, as I was officially in my off-season, and towards the end of an injury recovery. I passed the first test this week with five days on the trainer. With strength training to begin the following Monday, the last thing I wanted was to set myself back. That is one of the reasons I passed on the Hincapie event, and opted for an easier, local ride.
Quite a few changes were made for this year’s ride. I had participated in the same event the last two years, although it had a different name and starting location. It started from Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, with a police escort out of Columbia, and the route went to Lake Wateree and back. This year the starting point was moved to New Kirk Presbyterian Church for good reason – traffic. While it was not an issue leaving Columbia in previous years, it could be annoying coming back, trying to share the lane with people doing their grocery shopping. This year that was no longer an issue.
The route was a good bit different as a result. Starting from Blythewood, we had easier access to country roads. Those would take us over to the same Wateree route, sharing maybe 20 miles from the previous route, including Lake Road. All-in-all, it was about 10 miles shorter than the longer route from last year. That was fine with me.
Unlike the last couple years, this time we had unseasonably warm weather. The ride started in the 60s-70s. Despite these temperatures, it still felt cool because of a stiff wind and cloudy skies. At the starting line, I heard someone say “this is the coldest 60 degrees I can remember.” Arm warmers were in order, although we would not need them for long.
The front pack was tempting. Jeff Brandenburg was there. He was also intending to do a comfortably moderate pace, although his ‘moderate’ is a lot faster than mine (ended up being 22.4 mph). I could have possibly hung with him, but it would not have been wise.
The ride started with JB and his hammerheads way out in front. Some friends and I pedaled comfortably out of the gates. Kevin Lundy and I ended up next to each other. As we watched the lead pack get further and further away, Kevin said, “I say we head up group number trois.” That worked for me.
At first our group grew to about 15 riders, then we hit the first big hill. That thinned us out to about four or five. We separated again at a rest stop, which left our group at three – Kevin, Mike Egbert, and myself.
We paced together around Lake Road, which was not as scenic given the overcast weather. We climbed out together, again not pushing the pace, just riding easy.
The wind really made a difference on the way back. For awhile it was at our backs. Now that felt great. I ended up in front for a long stretch of flat road, and I just let it fly. When we reached the next stopping point, they complimented me on taking such a long pull, but it really was not much effort. The wind did the pulling.
If only the wind had stayed at our backs, we could have comfortably rode on back. That was not to be the case, as a few headwinds were waiting for us. There was one stretch where it seemed like we were climbing a long hill. Kevin noted that the climb was going on forever. I looked at my Garmin and noticed that we were only at a 2-3% grade, which is nothing. The wind in our face made it seem like a grueling climb.
The last few miles were mostly uphill, and I went ahead and kept the front. It was a good way for me to get in some work, while not punishing myself. I kept it comfortably moderate, and felt strong at the end. Overall this was a much easier day than the alternative, and yet another test passed along my way to recovery.