This Flying Wheels report is the story of a group of middle-aged males, each in the deepest darkest depths of midlife crisis, who share the obsession to do longer rides at a very strenuous pace. It’s embarrassing to admit I’m a member of this underclass of humanity.
Sensible human beings like Coach Tammy Metzger opt for 65-mile rides that finish in the nearest beer garden. I hope to one day achieve a similar state of contented enlightenment.
I rode with a High Performance Cycling (aka “HPC”) group (plus a few friends) that consisted of about 7 riders for most of the route. The day’s ringleaders were Scott Urban, known as one of team’s best climbers, and Nick MacPhee, who regularly organizes strenuous HPC rides. Nick rode to and from the start and logged 140 miles for the day!
For good measure, I invited the secret weapon, Mark Mirante, who with the boundless enthusiasm of a puppy dog, took 25+ mph pulls for upwards of 5 minutes each.
The rest of us took ~2-minute pulls at a seemingly modest 20-23 mph.
During the post-ride debrief I discovered I wasn’t alone in feeling dread when it was Mark’s turn to pull. During one of his stints at the front, I was in the slipstream at third wheel and amazed to see my heart rate at lactate threshold. There was no rest for the weary in this paceline.
I think this was the first time I ever drooled during a “fun” century ride.
I’m not a fan of big rides like Flying Wheels since the large crowds can make it difficult to ride safely even if you do everything correctly. During the pre-ride meeting Nick emphasized safety, riding single file, and good communication. We moved fast enough that we rode mostly alone. Our paceline would periodically attract some passengers, but eventually Mark would take a pull and the guests would pop off the back.
The teamwork and camaraderie was exceptional. The pace was steady and even, and everyone got positive acknowledgment for their hard work at the front. “Thanks for the pull!” “Good work!” We worked so well together that the only time we needed to regroup was after the final strenuous climb at mile ~80.
I knew it was going to be a fast day when, at mile 35, I began to feel the same sort of nausea I feel during a race.
We rolled through mile 50 after about 2:25 in the saddle, and it quickly dawned on everyone that the possibility of a sub-5 hour century, a benchmark for recreational cyclists, was within reach.
The pace accelerated and we devoured the road like a 14-legged dragon.
At mile ~80, and approaching the final strenuous hill, the group showed signs of strain. My legs cramped, and Scott and Nick had a peculiar gray-green complexion. Almost everyone admitted they were toast.
Despite the difficulties in our bodies, everyone maintained a positive attitude and struggled onward with smiles.
I got dropped at mile 90 when I got delayed behind a construction project on Lake Samammish Parkway. While I was waiting for the go-ahead from the construction flagger, I turned around to see a crowd behind me.”We’re following you because we know you need to catch your fast friends!”
As the minutes ticked by I knew there was no way I could catch them in the final 10 miles; the hammerheads were definitely smelling the barn. But, as another demonstration of the day’s camaraderie, Mark looped back so we could finish the final miles together.
The group finished in about 4:40 of riding time (about 5:20 elapsed), which goes to show how efficiently a paceline can move over a long distance. No one person (maybe except for Mark) could have pedaled at that speed for 100 miles, but our group was large enough and worked so well together that each cyclist only had to push hard for a couple minutes out of every 20 or so.