It was Spring of 2008 that I purchased a 2003 S-Works E5 road bike off of the classifieds on a twin cities car forum. Prior to that the only road bike I'd ever ridden was my Dad's 1960s Legnano- interestingly although not relevent to me at the time equipped with nuovo record and some of the first ever Phil Wood hubs. I rode it a few times that summer, never venturing further than 20 or 30 miles. August of 2008 a few co-workers and I planned a trip to do some mountain biking, camping and hiking. I pulled the trigger on a new mountain bike at that time- my 1996 Marin was stock, fit me poorly due to a 130mm stem, and sort of falling apart at that point in time. Not long after that trip I decided I wanted to become a "cyclist" for lack of better things to do here in Rochester. Mountain biking seemed the most fun and accessable option. I participated in the Halloween race at Hillside and then at the Cold Bear Series races at Hillside over the winter. I was slow! I had a great time and I was hooked. I kept riding all winter, even indoors on a trainer and on the exercise bike at the gym. I read a few books about how to train and how to eat, but didn't take any related action.
The first weekend in March of 2009 (almost exactly 2 years ago as I write this) rolled around and I decided to join a local road group ride. As we were leaving town my chain broke. I was able to fix it, and cover myself in grease, but that ride was done for me. I was disappointed, but motivated to get my road bike back going ASAP. I figured there would be no substitute to riding it when it came to preparing for the upcoming season of races. I tracked down some tools, my recently purchased Big Blue Park Tools book and a new cassette/chain. While I was at the bike shop I heard there was another group ride the next morning as well. I'd be there!
Of course the Saturday group ride had been a huge group of riders with varying abilities. As a RASC ride it had a no drop policy and a group for almost any pace. Little did I know that the Sunday ride was not quite the same thing...
Looking back on it now I should have seen it coming. We left from Dunn Bros. South and down circle drive to 8 then up the hill. The pace felt insanely high, we were climbing at 15 or 16 mph and my lungs were screaming. Keep in mind that I'd never even been in a paceline so I also had a bit of learning to do there, all while climbing out of town faster than I'd ever gone. I hung on. I rotated through and followed the lead of the other rides. I had no clue where we were, where we were going or when we'd be back to town. I was working so hard I couldn't speak, my motor skills were so low due to the exertion that I couldn't even get my water bottle from it's cage. I couldn't believe how fast the group descended. After ~35 miles I just couldn't keep up with the group on a small hill. Dan Gaz came back for me and helped me catch back on. It happened again on the next hill. I thought about quitting the ride and finding my own way in. Two more excruciating climbs, embarassment!, but now I could see the water towers and knew I was close. I felt real fucking alive spinning back into the Dunn Bros parking lot (I'm pg13 now remember?). I can't imagine what the other riders thought, I think they let me ride with them because I was willing to try. I certainly had no business there. It must have taken me an hour to pick my way the 5 or 6 miles back to my house.
I didn't ride with that same group again for another year, but I sure as hell kept riding.