With spring in the air, the snow melting off quickly, and the first TNWC firing up this week, some hard efforts were in store for the weekend. My original plan was to get a 2-3 hour ride outside on both days. The lovely weather people screwed that call up though and I awoke to overcast, threatening skies, wet streets, and winds out of the NW at 17 mph. Yup, I wasn't headed out for a morning ride. Luckily teammate Steve D has been gracious enough over the winter to open his garage up as our training studio on the weekends. Most of the usual suspects gathered at 7:30 for a spin session. We ran the gammut from building interval on top of interval all the way to 5 minutes of puke threshold (zone 5), before backing off to a mix of Z2/Z3 intervals for the remaining hour. With some proper motivation I managed to up my highest indoor heart rate by another beat or two up to 194 during the last little bit of our Z5 joyride. 2 hours and 20 minutes banked and I was cooked.
Sunday had people itching to get outside. I wanted to get a long steady ride in and spent some time Saturday evening trying to get things ironed out. We finally decided on 11 AM leaving Grounds for Celebration and rolling the proposed reroute for the TNWC. I stayed committed to my ride to the ride plan and rolled from home around 10:15. A solid group of 10-15 riders from Rassy's, PRC, and a few others showed up to enjoy what would turn out to be a gorgeous ride in the sunshine. The new routing left a bit to be desired as we rolled through too many stoplights and residential sections before we hit roads where we could really open it up. The group stayed pretty tight until we made the turn north on east 29th. Then the hammers did what they do best and opened up the engines. 6 of us rolled slowly off the front and began a well oiled rotating paceline into the wind out of the NNW at 13+.
We rolled into the residential section and then found ourselves stuck at a gravel crossroads.
Looking east (with Pete flooding the ditch):
One person doubled back to the other group as gravel wasn't in his cards for the day while the rest of us pondered which direction to go. Squirrel pointed out that 1 mile east was a north/south pavement so we opted for that route. The gravel was in perfect condition for road bikes and we didn't have any troubles zipping through that section. Once back on the pavement, the wind reared its head again as we found our form back in the paceline. When we finally hit the west turn to Sheldahl, the crosswind showed us how much we'd been pushing against. We upped the pace now that we weren't fighting the headwind anymore and worked back towards the connection with the original TNWC route.
As soon as we hit familiar stomping grounds, it was game on. Lou, Squirrel, and I had been rotating while the others got their legs back under them for a bit. Lou announced it was time for fun with longer pulls. I made it through 1 rotation before firmly affixing myself to his wheel for the next few miles. We opted out of the north turn to Slater feeling that the extra routing had all ready taken plenty of extra time. From their, Lou laid it out and left us off the back until we regrouped on the south turn. Now it was time for the real fun. We got a small paceline rolling with easy pulls as the tailwind pushed us nearly effortlessly along in the mid to upper 20's. We hit Polk City and stopped for a quick water refill before rolling the last section.
At this point, Pete suggested we roll nice and easy all the way back. We kept that up on the hill out of town, but once again the pace got CRANKED by Lou as we hit the mile long bridge. He kept turning up the wick until I was in the bottom of zone 5 while still in the draft and doing everything I could to not lose it off the back. We shelled one of the guys at this point, but got him back on as we hit the stop sign on Beaver. The only real jerk in a motor vehicle gave us some exhaust action as he buzzed us on the right in a big diesel. Rolling south again, we kept the pace a little more friendly with Lou doing most of the long pulls as we were all pretty fried. I took the last pull as we hit Camp Dodge and the final sprint. I was cooked at this point and watched the guys walk away from me.
One final regroup as we rolled down Merle Hay and we banked 50 solid miles for the day on that loop. Squirrel and I opted for some liquid refreshment at AK's and were joined by the second group that had rolled backwards down through Ankeny.
I got my legs slightly back under control and made the most of the tailwind headed back south to home. In all a really productive ride of just under 4 hours that left me with some very tired legs when topped off with Saturday's suffering. I can definitely tell I'm pretty far ahead of last year at this time. I'm not sure if I'm ahead of my high point of last season yet or not, but I feel like I'm at least pretty close which should mean I'm in for some good things as my fitness builds through the summer.