Thursday, January 3, 2008

2007 - Year in Review

I did a lot of riding in 2006, including a 3-day 240 mile North to South tour of NJ. I did not think I would be able to match the mileage I racked up in 2006 in 2007. By the end of July 2007 I had only logged 683 miles on my road bike. Almost 375 miles less that the previous year at the same point. So at that point, I accepted the fact that I probably wouldn't match 2006's totals, made peace with it, and moved on. Instead of pressuring myself to try and match 2006's totals, I just made a goal to get out when I could and not worry so much about the mileage numbers.

Then something funny happened. Without even trying, I logged just under 600 miles in the months of August and September! The (Blog:) Century I did with the Naragansett Bay Wheelmen [NBW] Club in August helped boost the numbers. After September, the evening weekday rides ended and the weekends were taken up by non-biking commitments (and crappy weather). All in all I came to within 34 miles of my 2006 total (1315 vs. 1349). Not bad for working at a full time job in Downtown Boston and having two daughters ( 5 & 1.5 ) at home craving daddy's attention (BTW, they get plenty of it :-) With good planning, one can have both cycling, and family time [Blog: To Dover and Back (with Blueberries in between)].

The biggest difference between 2006 and 2007 was my average speed. This is due mostly to my finally getting to ride in some serious pace-line riding. In 2005 and 2006 I was primarily a solo rider. By September of those years I would average a hair above 17 mph. Even my solo rides for 2007 averaged just above 17 mph by late summer. However, starting in June of 2007, I was taking part in some pace-line oriented group rides where I was averaging above 18, and sometimes 19mph, over the course of a ride. It brought my riding up to a whole new level, physically and mentally. More about that later.

Bicycling Magazine :-)

One of the cooler things to have happen this year is getting my answer to the Big Question published in Bicycling Magazine. Blog: Bicycling Magazine - The Big Question! Just plain cool :-)

Group Riding

2007 was really the first year where I really got to experience some quality group riding. When I ride by myself, I am always the fastest one out there ;-) I had taken part in a couple of club rides in 2006, but I still rode them as if I were riding solo. In both cases, towards the end, I WAS riding solo.

NBW Club Rides (Blog Entries)

This year I managed to do 3 club rides with the Naragansett Bay Wheelmen. I did The "Ville" Ride in March. The "Animal Farm" Ride in May, and the South Shore Century in August.

The "Ville" ride was fun because I love riding in that part of Rhode Island and this ride introduced me to some new roads/areas that I would not have normally ridden on. When I usually ride in the Northwest Corner of RI, it is typically an out-and-back ride from the Bellingham-Franklin, MA area, so I do not explore a lot (typical: west to Harrisville-north via Wallum Lake-east back home via Rt 16/140). This ride was a nice way to see other parts of this region that I normally would not have. Winter riding is not for the meek however. Though the rides are typically shorter, the cold (and wind), saps the energy out of you. Add to that the one big climb towards the start of this late winter ride and it became a solo ride for me. I started out at the head of the pack and watched everybody pass me over the course of the ride. Serves me right for not hitting the bike trainer over the winter.

The "Animal Farm" Ride was actually the first warm weather club ride I had taken part in (all the others were in winter or early spring). This ride was relatively close to home in the Blackstone Valley. I love riding in this area, but just like Northwestern RI, I rider west-north-east across it. This ride had a more North/South orientation.

Funny thing happened at the start of this ride, I saw my friends bike. I noticed somebody riding a bright orange recumbent and struck up a conversation. The bike looked a lot like my friends bike. It turns out that is was. He had just recently sold it and here I was looking at it. Small world.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to ride a lot in the Northwestern part of RI, or the Blackstone Valley Region this year. I love the roads and the solitude out there. (I even had a ride in 2006 that dipped into Connecticut that had a 25 mile gap between convenience stores!). Maybe in 2008 I'll head back out there...

The South Shore Century was fun for the first 60-70 miles. Then it became a personal challenge just to grind it out and finish it. This was the first ride in a long time where I actually decided to wear my Camelbak. Typically I can ride up to 50 or so miles with just two water bottles as long as I know I can refill them along the way. However, this was unfamiliar territory and I did not want to have to break off from the group just to refill. I'm glad I did. I hooked up with a group of riders that rode a comfortable yet quick pace. They did not stop for rest until mile 50, at which point we were averaging above 18 mph. After that I just couldn't maintain the pace. Luckily I was still able to ride with a couple of other riders who weren't "up for that pace".

Phat Tuesday Rides

"Team Phat Tuesday is a cycling team based in Franklin, Massachusetts. We are a charitable group organized to fund raise for The Jimmy Fund, through the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Some of our riders have participated in the event for the past 20 years."

More about Phat Tuesday

Sometime around May or June I had read an article/column in Bicycling Magazine talking about "Tuesday Evening Rides". Right about the same time I got word of a local "Tuesday Evening Ride" from a neighbor. This local ride was called "Phat Tuesday".

Riding with this group was a great experience. I learned a lot from riding with this group. Particularly how important it is to bike "tactically" in a group and how important your mental frame of mind is. I started out sucking wind and getting dropped a lot to finally being able to hang with the faster riders by the end of the summer. Below are my stats and here is the story behind those stats.

My Phat Ride Stats
Date Distance Time Avg Mph MAX Mph
June 12, 2007 25.24 1:23:38 18.1 36.2
June 26, 2007 25.25 1:24:51 17.9 36.3
July 10, 2007 25.20 1:21:14 18.6 35.7
July 24, 2007 25.26 1:22:17 18.4 37.9
August 7, 2007 25.26 1:22:24 18.4 35.7
August 28, 2007 25.26 1:18:35 19.3 37.2
September 4, 2007 25.25 1:19:03 19.2 36.8

Fairhope Alabama

In August the family headed down to Fairhope Alabama to stay at my wife's Aunt's Summer Home on Mobile Bay. I packed up the bike and brought it along for the second year in a row. There are only so many roads down there and I noticed there was a good number of riders. So I searched for a local bike shop to try to get some local information. I started an email correspondance with Phil at Eastern Shore Cycles. He told me about a group of riders that headed out of Fairhope early every weekday morning @ 5:00 AM. It was a great experience overall and I look forward to bringing my bike down again in 2008. ["Fairhope Alabama Blog Entries]

The roads down there are straight and flat. I swear you can see the curvature of the Earth. I didn't because it was dark. Riding with a group on mostly flat terrain is a much different experience than riding with a group through the hills of Massachusetts. No tactics, no strategy, no saving yourself for the upcoming hill, no resting on descents, just flat out pedaling.

My Fairhope Alabama Pace-line Ride Stats
Date Distance Time Avg Mph MAX Mph
August 1, 2007 22.72 1:10:53 19.2 29.4
August 2, 2007 26.08 1:20:47 19.4 32.2
August 3, 2007 22.88 1:14:59 18.3 29.7

2008 - Pan Mass Challenge? Maybe Some Bike Racing?

What's in store for 2008? I'd like to do the Pan Mass Challenge. The biggest challenge for me would be raising the money. That is more intimidating to me than the actual ride.

The Northeast Bicycling Club holds a race clinic in the Spring for only $25. I may sign up for it even if it is just to learn better bike handling skills.