Miles: 70 Climbing: 4511’ Route: Downtown--Mercer Island--Lake Washington Blvd. East—89th—May Valley—148th--Jones Road—Cedar Grove—Lake Francis—200th—Tiger Mountain climb (optional)—Issaquah Hobart Rd. to Issaquah—Wildwood climb of Squak Mountain (optional)—Newport Way—Somerset climb via 150th (optional)—Mercer Island—Downtown Attrition Rate: 0%
Just like Christmas, sometimes you get what you ask for. I inserted one little new sentence into the weekly ride description, hoping to make it even more abundantly clear as to what we do on a summer HOWC. The line “Riders should be capable of taking short pulls of between 23-25mph” seemed to make a selection even before the group assembled. I added this line because that’s how we ride, and on quite a few rides, it’s actually been 23-25++. Considering the HOWC is somewhat climbing focused and not a paceline type of ride, we cook along pretty good.
It’s never fun to turn someone around on a ride, but it’s also not good when the integrity of the ride is compromised. Dealing with riders who are in over their heads is even more awkward when you have a big group, and I figure the use of the new line would tend to reduce the group to a smaller sized number of very capable riders.
Looking at the bunch this morning, I knew right away we had more than a capable group. I knew them all from past HOWC rides, and what I had was a group of eight gunslingers. All were capable of the type of effort described in the ride listing, and I knew they wouldn’t be taking any prisoners. Shootout at the OK Corral, here we come.
Just as I thought, after a very mellow warmup, the ride went off at a really hard pace. There wasn’t much chatter early on. I felt pretty good at the start, but I seemed to fade early. Normally my strength seems to build as the ride goes on, but I knew early that I didn’t have “it”. If I were to survive, I’d need to play some defense.
For all of the simply brilliant summer weather we have had, today was the first day not one person started with armwarmers. At 8 AM, the air was humid, the wind was calm, and we all sensed it would be a cooker, in more ways than one. Speaking of the weather, Emil has jumped through the hoops to become a CBC Ride Leader, and he told me that he would like to lead the HOWC through the fall and winter. When I started the ride six years ago, I envisioned the HOWC as a year round group ride, and now that I have all the help I get from other people leading the ride we will get back to it.
Defense I did play, and along the way, I decided to configure the ride to include three very hard, yet optional climbs. One could go up and over, or circumvent each climb by going around it and meeting up with the group after the climb. As usual on Sunday, we had a friendly group, the ride turned conversational, and we had a great time. Not that I had a lot of opportunity to sit back and ponder it, but I did ask myself if I was the only rider today who was not in their 30’s (or 20’s?).
Towards the end of the ride, after the caffeine kicked in I felt relatively strong. It wasn’t that I had brewed up some magical power; I think the group just came back a little to me. Sitting out a few really hard climbs paid some dividends, and some of the early protagonists slowed the pace a hair. Even Luke seemed to poop out a little, and Luke is normally indefatigable and super strong throughout the whole ride. Jeff put in a solid showing, especially considering that he is still recovering from his first Ironman two weeks ago. Jordan never slowed down for a second, and I’m not sure anyone was disappointed when he left the ride a little early to shortcut to home. Not that Jordan isn’t a super guy, he is; but man, did he lay down some serious pacemaking.
And what about the Shootout at the OK Corral? It never materialized, and everyone worked as a cohesive group. We stopped at stop signs, and no matter who happened to be on the front, they rolled off easy until the “all on” call came from the back. Sure, there was plenty of the usual HOWC competitive fire, but we rode together, stayed together, and finished together.
What a concept.
I hope to see you on the road.