First and foremost, let me say that the BikeMS event this weekend was a huge success. With my comeback well underway, we rode 190 miles (110 on Saturday, 80 on Sunday) in what proved to be the fastest times I have ever ridden. We had no rain thankfully, and was overcast both days which kept the heat down to bearable levels. Over 2,000 cyclists departed in a mass-start from UMASS Boston with a destination of Mass Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. For some of us, it would be a 75 mile day, while others decide to take on the century-ish route.
I was in the latter category, and began to really stretch my legs pretty early as we were still leaving the outskirts of Boston. Within 15 miles of the start, we were rolling at a good clip, around 22mph or so, and other riders began to form a paceline around us. Rotating the line was straightforward enough, as everyone seemed to know how to rotate, call out holes and traffic and within 30 minutes or so, we were in the groove. And then something changed. You could almost smell that there was mischief afoot. Someone faster had started their turn at the front, and they didn’t appreciate the pace we were setting.
The paceline increased to 23mph, then 24, then 25mph. We were no longer rotating. We were chasing. I am in the rear position of the paceline, with my friend B right in front of me. I am doing all I can to stay on his wheel after about 30 minutes at these speeds, and I can see him starting to gap from the rider in front of him. This is that terrible feeling. When you are doing all you can to hang on to the wheel in front of you, and it starts to gap. Normally, a little extra push and you can recover, but even that is too much. The gap forms, first a foot, then two, then four, and the wind hits you. You have seen the whole thing play out in your head seconds before it happens, and there is nothing you can do but accept your fate. The paceline races off, around the next bend, over the next hill, leaving you exhausted and trying to recover. You have been dropped.
In this case we were both dropped, but I was happy to have a moment to get my heart rate below 160, where it had been for the past 45 minutes. In the end, we formed other pacelines that were better organized and perhaps more cohesive and even one of the guys from the first pace line was spending the last 50 miles trying to recover from his morning sprint.
It was a great day on the bike and an ever better testament that my failure at the B2B for asthmatic reasons is not going to beat me. I am coming back faster, stronger and more determined.