When an easy ride might be a sacrifice
Sometimes the right answer is the lowest common denominator
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It seems odd to think of a long ride on a nice day with a good group as a sacrifice. But maybe it can be; but just a different kind of sacrifice for some in the group.
For the past nine or 10 years Birmingham has had a weekly winter ride on Saturdays called the BBL. It’s traditionally an endurance or winter pace ride and a great way to build base miles and spend time with a good group.
On a chilly Saturday morning we rolled out on one of my favorite routes, an 88 mile loop on some low traffic roads that wind through farmland, up and along a plateau, and down to a cattle farm where a donkey and a herd of cattle ran along side us.
It was a good group of 14 guys who knew from the outset this would be endurance pace. And that was the catch: The group varied widely in age and strength, so endurance pace for some was slower than that same level of effort for others. The only way to keep the group together was to opt for the lowest common denominator endurance pace.
And there’s the sacrifice. I got almost six hours of solid riding at my endurance pace, but I know my teammates Eric, Clinton, Clay, and Scott (and probably others) were at the low end of endurance if not at their recovery pace. But they didn’t roll off the front or push the pace; they stuck to the bargain and the group stayed together. I hope they enjoyed half a day with a good group in exchange for giving up some training benefit.
It always takes discipline to stay at endurance pace, but it’s especially hard for a strong rider to stay at someone else’s pace when they could easily ratchet up the tempo, stay in their endurance zone, and maybe do it without even noticing. It reminded me of the first time I rode with Said, a Cat 2 racer at the time who had just moved to Birmingham. About six or eight of us went for a ride and he joined. It was a fairly casual pace and you would have never known he was a very competitive racer: When he was on the front he held a pace that was comfortable for the whole group — a group whose capabilities he didn’t know until we rolled out of the parking lot.
It takes talent and discipline but that’s the bargain we strike when we join a ride where the goal is something less than hammer until you can’t. Sometimes you give up some training benefit in exchange for the company and fellowship of a good group. Maybe that’s a sacrifice, but only if you view it as one.