I'm very hard on myself. Always have been. I set my goals high and can be very negative when I don't reach them. Sometimes I start the negative talk before I even have a chance to see if I will reach my goals. Not very healthy and makes it hard to see what progress I've made. This week was no different come the group road ride. I was tired after a full block of training with lots of hard workouts. I was already hesitant of how I would handle myself and if I would be able to keep up to Link Road. Then the fast people started showing up. Russel, Fernando, Kalan, Kelli and a whole host of honest to goodness pro riders. The only one missing was Danny Pate! At that point, I was making plans for a nice long solo time trail into the wind. I was very confident I would get dropped and dropped hard early in the ride. But I pushed that to the back of my mind. I was there to ride hard, get some practice with bike handling and see how long I could last.
I made sure to stay in the front 3rd as we rolled east. Smart move as we hit the light on Chelton on yellow. There was a momentary panic as the front quarter went through and the next quarter debated then bolted. This time, I was far enought front that I was able to sneak through. So there was already separation in the group before the right - and I was in with the fast people. Yikes. Time to focus and ride my bike. There was a bit of lull before the right as the leaders slowed to let a car through. Then the line strung out for the turn as the speed picked up. And I was right there, fourth wheel. Okay - I've made the turn, now to keep it up. With the headwind, I wasn't spun out like last time, but I couldn't put my nose out in front. I tried once and did a half decent but short pull, knowing that it would be the only one I would do. The rest of the time I was following wheels, staying close but never in the front. A short stop at the first light and I was able to keep the gap tight and get back into the group. Brian made short attack and I jumped on - but couldn't help so we were swallowed again by the bunch. Another very brief stop at the second light - not even long enough to unclip and we were off again. I was still there, but starting to struggle with closing the gaps down. Got yelled at by one of the guys to shut a gap down - which I managed to do - without his assistance. The sweeping right was fast approaching and I was still in the main pack. Allowing myself some hope that I might make the left onto Link, I kept my nose out of the wind and my wheel tucked in. It was a bigger pack then I was used to - I'm normally out the back at that point. After the left on Link, we bunched up again and I panicked a little. Instead of soft pedaling and just drifting out to a safe spot, I tried to force my way out. A little bumping, handlebar to my hips and I relaxed. It was more aggressive then I needed and I was lucky nothing happened. The pace picked up as the Link hill approached. I was still there, but struggling more and more. I knew getting up and over the hill in the group would be hard. Somehow I managed to crest the hill right at the tail end of the bunch. I tried my hardest, but never quite managed to bridge back up into the pack. Just over the railroad crossing and I was done. Popped completely. I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming up - no luck. I seemed to be the only straggler. Kalan and Trevor would catch me about halfway down, but it was just the three of us.
But I made my goal. I made it all the way to the top of the Link Hill in the main pack. All the training, strategy and stressing about the group ride, I'd turned in a solid performance. Not the smartest or nicest, but solid. All I had to now was to survive back home! No more Fort Carson so we took a meandering route through Fountain and Security back into town. I stayed in the back and just followed wheels. I couldn't do anymore work at all. I was in survival mode for sure. All the rolling hills were another nail, but I wasn't willing to give up yet. I was safe in the pack and wanted to stay there. And I almost made it all the way back. One hill too many and I was alone. After all the doubts and negative talk, I'd made my goal for the group ride and then some. All the training paying off - getting fitter and stronger. It's not always fun, but it's getting the job done. Looking forward to the next block of work!