TNWC #1 and #2 are now in the books for the year. What a change since last week. In episode #1 not only did I make it north of Ankeny, but actually made it to the Slater turn before popping off the back. We had a large group that was well mannered if not down right civilized. Even after I fell off I was able to hop in with the B group and rotate through a paceline for a bit and then got dropped again when we turned south, but at least there was tailwind at that point. Temps were in the 60's and overall great. A northerly wind kept the pace pretty mellow as we headed out which I'm sure helped to keep me on as long as I did. Previously, the north edge of Ankeny was my best for sticking with the group. I think a good part of it is that I need more than just the roll through town to really get warmed up.
Last night was a whole different ball game. I was glad for not only the long sleeve jersey, but the long sleeve winter base I had on as well. 50 and WINDY was the name of the game. We had cross tail wind all the way out which meant I knew we'd be going fast out and suffering back. I got popped early on and then caught back up at a stop light before getting dropped again another mile down the road. Such is life. At least I wasn't the first one off so that's an improvement over last year.
I ended up pretty much alone as we headed out of Ankeny and then an A9Y rider hit one of the shortcuts turning west 2 miles before the normal turn. Bratz also tagged in with us and we shared the work into the west wind. We were working hard to maintain low teens even rotating through the paceline as the wind howled at 25+ mph. Once we turned back south to hit Polk City, the wind seemed a lot less wicked. I knew we weren't done yet though as we still had to cross the mile long bridge. We caught a number of other riders who had taken another of the shortcuts in Polk City and formed more of a paceline as we hit the bridge. Just keeping in the draft was a chore as we were buffeted from the front and side. We all made it just fine and turned back south.
Just a mile or so into the south we got passed by the lead group that had run the full loop (we cut off 4 miles). After too much hesitation, Bratz and I gave chase and were actually making up ground as we rotated with each other. Being new to drafting though, Bratz gave it a bit too much gas on his pull and popped off the back when I took the lead. Alone again, I just held my speed to what I could muster and the front group headed off into the distance. Just before the tanks at Camp Dodge another rider passed me and indicated I should hop on, so I obliged and we blew on into the Merle Hay turn. We held up waiting for another group of riders at this point and were joking a bit on how much the wind sucked. We finally rolled back to the start with 2 hours on the clock.
My pace dropped 1.5 MPH from last weeks average. and I'd gone 4 miles less. My muscles ached when I got done, but nothing major. While I know I'm in better shape right now that at any point ever before, I'm starting to have this annoying habit of trying to keep some gas in the tank at the end of the ride. I remember numerous rides from last year getting back to my truck and having to fight the urge to hurl if I breathed too deeply. I'm actually staying with the group easier this year with less effort, but I still think maybe I should be pushing harder to stay with the group and hammering through the entire ride rather than keeping something back. TNWC is supposed to simulate a race effort so I should be giving it my all, I just haven't made it click yet.