I decided to suck it up and show up to the TNWC ride last night. I really wasn't sure exactly what to expect considering I've never actually watched a bike race other than TDF and a few snippets of various races here and there. I've certainly never been in a race and only have minor experience with pacelines. It was time to jump in with both feet and I have to say I was definitely nervous about it.
It turned out to be a pretty decent sized group with 20-30 riders or possibly a few more. The rollout was pretty easy and I felt good as we headed out of Des Moines. The headwind we were expecting had pretty much died down and even though I was advised to just sit in and not take a pull, I did a very short turn at the front as I got shuffled up there. I actually felt pretty comfortable with being in the pack and was really concentrating on not making any stupid moves or creating gaps in the line.
Pete told me the first sprint was coming up and I braced for the worst. It wasn't so much a sprint as it was a HARD push up a pretty decent hill. I hit redline for the first time here with my heart rate shooting up to 193. I managed to stay on the pack without getting gapped and felt really good about that. We cleared the top of the hill and rolled to a quick stop sign where I got my breath back. It was to be short lived as we rolled into the south edge of Ankeny and though it didn't look like it, the grade was slowly rising and I fell further towards the back before getting spit out around mile 12. About the only cool thing was seeing one of the tri-riders (JJ?) in the back on his aero bars just hanging back and zinging right up to the tail of the pack with almost effortless ease. Damn that was cool.
I kept the pack in site for another mile or two as the gap opened up and finally lost site just north of Ankeny. Thinking ahead, I printed out the route so I knew roughly where we were headed. As I pulled out north of Ankeny I caught sight of a couple riders taking what appeared to be a shortcut on 125th Street to Polk City and I followed suit. I did my best to keep my pace and heart rate up in zone 4 without going much higher. While I didn't reel them in by any means, they didn't appear to get any further away. Just as I came up to the turn back south into Polk City I decided it was time for a sugar rush in the form of a Hammer Gel. I was wokring on squeezing it out as I made the turn and looked to my right.
Oh Shit! Here comes the peleton bearing down on me at full on ludicrus speed! I shoved the gel back in my bento bag and put the hammer down. I heard Pete yell out something about good job Rick as they road by and that was it. I cleared 30 mph chasing them and stayed with them for another mile, but they gapped me again and I was toast. The peleton rolled through yet another stop sign and it appeared the city cop in Polk City gave them a bit of warning as he flipped his lights on as they rolled past. I climbed out of Polk City and made the turn to the bridge. another rider shot past me just before the bridge and I hopped on his wheel. We bridged the gap to a third rider on the bridge. It was Sterling from Rassy's.
I figured he'd be as good as anyone to work together with for the ride back and slowed down. He was hurting and so was I by this point. He'd been one of the two riders I was chasing on the shortcut. We slowed our pace and rested a bit before I pushed us back up a bit faster and led us back into Johnston. We parted ways at the turnoff to Lower Beaver as I am comfortable with that route versus heading down Merle Hay on my own. I pushed harder once we split and kept my heart rate in the mid 170's. A few hills more and I was back on the return shot down Urbandale ave to the bike shop.
I rolled in just as the last few people were leaving. I was burnt toast at that point. My legs were fighting cramps, taking a deep breath put me fighting the urge to hurl, and my back was aching. I'll be back for more! At least tonight we have the Ritual Ride to recover.