"Ride with others, train alone." No matter what training philosophy you're hearing from, this one is pretty universal. I've definitely wasted thousands of miles on rides where people had varying and competing training styles, or often no particular training style at all. Usually this winds up in some variation of the "sometimes ride hard enough to blow your wad and be unable to do much more than roll junk miles the rest of the time" failure mode. Actually, it almost always winds up there. Someone feels great and goes chasing bunny rabbits. In the best case, the problem contains itself to that person and he/she becomes your only "off the front or off the back" issue. Too often, the thing goes viral and you want nothing more than to take a left turn and leave people to their own devices.
This weekend, I went on two team rides that defied every problem that I have with trying to train in groups. It was awesome.
Saturday, we had a small cast for the previously described "suffer fest out west." A lot of the credit for that might have to go to the wind, but it was also a disciplined group with the common goal of four hours of constant pressure.
Sunday, we had a slightly larger group that rolled out for our somewhat regular "Savory Sunday" team ride. We started with six, one of whom had to turn back early, so we did most of it with five. The two of us who'd done Saturday were in sort of a weird way early on Sunday, both of us I guess still being numb from the day before and rolling out hard. We wound up gradually rolling off the front a few times and needed to recalibrate a bit, both of us also realizing that what we were feeling (or not feeling) could change at a moment's notice and we'd better keep a lid on it. Once we stopped being the problem, it was another case of a few hours of just good, constant pressure. A couple of challenges at times, but completely lacking in the whole "look at me, look at me!!!" asshattery that too often ruins a ride.
One particular instance came when we were inbound on River, on the downhill that precedes the big WSSC facility on the right. The guy in the lead kept enough pressure on the pedals that it was easy to manage the gap and not coast through him. Each of us stretched out behind the person in front enough so that when we hit the uphill, the guy in front started pedaling slightly earlier than the guy in second, and so on, and we all stayed perfectly in line, and we all got the work of the hill that followed. Except for a few 10am rides where some psycho is pressing the pace so hard at the front that what's left of the entire ride is strung out chewing the bars just to stay on through that section, I've never ever gone through that part like that. To that point, the ride had been similarly disciplined, but that particular instant was really tight. Following that, the rest of the ride was more of the same. The unusual experience of a headwind coming in on MacArthur had us hooking up a really tight paceline that was really fun.
The accumulated effort of the weekend's riding hit me sometime about 30 minutes after I got home. I was shot.
An outstanding weekend of riding, thanks to all who shared it with me. Hopefully some more nice(ish) weather this coming weekend.