Well, this last weekend, I turned 31. My mom called me and told me what she always say, every year: “I remember exactly what I was doing at this time X years ago.” Now I have a kid, I can finally say it to him, too! Anyway this year Mom even elaborated that at that exact time 31 years ago, she was really hungry because the hospital had stopped serving lunch and wouldn’t be serving dinner for four hours, so she sent Dad to get Kidd Valley, and it was the best burger and shake she ever had. I have to say, the donut I ate after Benji was born sure did taste amazing, so I can understand where she’s coming from on that.

In unrelated news, on my actual birthday, Dad and I rode to the Ramrod Training Series (hereafter RTS) ride we intended to do. But it was raining at the start, and the route actually rode towards more rain, so we gathered a group of people and rode off to do our own ride away from the showers. In that respect, the alternate plan was a total success; the rain stopped shortly after we headed back north, and the remainder of the ride proved dry. But in terms of riding, I’m not sure whether to classify it a success or not.

The group Dad and I collected turned out to be almost entirely guys way faster than us — and by way faster, I mean that if I ride at 20 mph, they ride at 25+ mph, steady. That’s a huge speed disparity. Fortunately, thanks to the physics of drafting, I can ride with those guys…when it’s flat and I don’t have to pull. But as soon as we hit a climb, I’m working twice as hard as those guys just to keep up, or even keep them in sight. After 40 moderately hilly miles with an average (average, mind you, including all the climbing) of 20 mph and speeds on the flats surging to the 27- and 28-mph range, Dad and I fell back.

We had a couple other guys going our speed, so we rode with them. But I’d burned up all my matches, the matchbox, even singed my fingers; I’d saved nothing. So instead of doing the 100+ miles I intended, I did 85 miles, but really hard ones, and felt a little frustrated with myself. I really wanted that 100-mile day. It was a great workout, but I didn’t achieve my goal.

This really made me think about what I want from my rides: To build power and strength, I should keep trying to ride with the fast guys until I can’t hang on anymore. Eventually I’ll be able to stay on longer and longer. If, however, I want to ride longer endurance rides and have a little more fun (if you’ve ever played a sport with someone a level above you, you know the feeling of just barely hanging on for dear life — fun for a while, but exhausting and ultimately a little discouraging, at least to me), I should probably slow down.

On Memorial Day, Dad and I had a great ride with one other guy, where we all went about 20 – 22 mph, steady, but took turns rotating through regularly. It felt great to contribute, and it also felt plenty hard. Pulling at 20 mph is like drafting at 25 mph…or so. Anyway, that reaffirmed for me the enjoyment to be had riding at a slightly less breakneck* pace, but working together with people of a similar skill level.

Also on my birthday, we had friends over in the evening and ate delicious sandwiches and amazing cake from Hoffman’s, played with kids, and then later played a party game called Concept. I’m thinking the Hoffman’s cake will become a family tradition. We had a really fun evening, and I appreciated the love of my friends. Sometimes I feel very alone, but I’ll try to remember that gathering when I’m feeling that way.

*Hopefully not literally.

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