This past weekend we set out to ride with the Salt Creek Tri Club and the first time since October that Schmitty's tires were in contact with the road. And it showed. No amount of riding on the bike trainer can prepare you for the elements not to mention stops, starts and surges of riding in a group (on the flip side of the coin, no amount of outdoor riding can make up for all the missed episodes of "Justified" and "Parks and Recreation" - so there).
The original route called for us to do some hill work (or what we Chicago call hill work). I really wanted to measure my fitness after the long winter of riding indoors but Schmitty didn't make it to the first set of climbs....the group simply burned me off the back. Regardless, the parameters of my workout slated me to turn back for home anyway to keep my saddle time to three hours (it takes Schmitty a half-hour to pedal to the group ride departure point...adding an hour to any of my group rides).
It's been a while since I rode with the club or on a dedicated group ride. I spent so much of last year riding on my own during Ironman training. Sure I'd meet a group of people for a ride (like meeting to ride the course up in Madison) but those were coordinated rides and not true group rides. Riding with a club or in a pack is a totally different beast. Riding with (or in my case behind) stronger cyclists pushes you out of your comfort zone. You need to dig deep to stay on the wheel in front of you or risk falling off the back having to play catch up at stop lights.
And this is the debate that Jen and I have over and over. Jen dislikes club rides because of the pressure to keep up with the pack...that the pack may push you out of your comfort and workout zones. There is also that understandably self-defeating and self-conscious feeling you experience thinking that people are waiting on you. Riding with groups can be daunting and intimidating because of this.
However, If you can set your mind, there are big time rewards to be gained by sticking with it....you will get stronger...you will get faster. Trust me. I mean, did you see Rocky III? Did Rocky beat Apollo on the beach run the first time? No he did not! But with hard work, a kick-ass music montage and bangin' knee-high tube socks, Rocky finally beat Apollo. A stirring example of the triumph of the human spirit (and probably some steroids).