I totally believe that, no matter what we're talking about -- dog training, food, sex, or, here, triathlon -- that you should always try something before proclaiming that you don't like it. (Except for sauerkraut... I will NEVER, EVER, EVER try that, and I KNOW I don't like it even without trying it! Sauerkraut is an exception to my rule.) So yesterday I tried an all women group ride.
I HATED it.
Let me be clear that I am not saying anything bad about Fraser Bikes, the shop that hosted the ride. They did a great job with the ride, and they also have a great shop. They set up a food tent and a bike first aid station for us at the turnaround point, they fixed me up with new cleats for a good price and put them on for me, they even gave me a free Gatorade from the cooler because I had to wait while they put on the cleats. I am sure that for a lot of people on the ride, it was, like, an epic event. I totally accept that it was my mistake that I ever would have thought this type of event was something I would enjoy, and I would never say that Fraser Bike sucks or this event sucked.
It was advertised as a free, no-drop 25-mile ride (celebrating Women's Ride Day) from the shop to Metro Beach. The wording of the announcement was something along the lines of "...no drop (so you'll never have to ride alone!)". I assumed that what this meant was that there was someone who would commit to riding with the slowest people in the back, but that everyone else would kind of spread out and go at their own pace. I also thought since the food tent at Metro Beach would be open from 9-10 a.m. that we could just stop by, grab a snack, and move on. I was wrong on both counts.
We headed out at 8 a.m. The shop had orange juice and bagels and yogurt pre-ride, which was nice. There were probably about 25 women there. Let me just say that in general, the more women there are present in any group, the less happy I usually am in that group. (The only exceptions to this are [thankfully] my workplace, which is like 5:1 women: men but with the highest concentration of awesome women I have ever seen anywhere, well over 90% awesome, and the Women of WOG in Tucson.) I like individual women perfectly fine but there is something about being in a group of too many women that puts my hackles up. I get quiet and critical and don't want to talk to anyone, and it's like I start with a mindset that anything the group talks about is going to be silly and uninteresting. Obviously I am the bitch here, not them, but rather than work on it and try to improve my attitude, I just try to hang out with groups where men outnumber women. Really I wouldn't have even gone on this ride at all except that I needed a 25-mile ride and I really, really wanted to know how to get to Metro Beach on the Metro Parkway bike path, because this is supposedly a bike path that I can actually access from my house with a minimum of Michigan road time on the bike. So I figured, perfect, I can learn the route, take advantage of the free bike support, and just go at my own pace.
Not two miles after leaving the shop, the cyclists in the back stopped for some reason. The rest of us stopped, too, but further ahead. We couldn't tell exactly what happened, whether they were out of energy or had a mechanical problem or what, but as the minutes dragged on I got more and more impatient and annoyed. This should have been AT MOST a 2-hour ride -- and that would be taking stop lights and traffic into account -- and here it was 8:30 already and we hadn't even hit two miles. Not only that, even though we had beautiful weather for a ride, just sitting there in full sun was pretty miserable. It seemed like whatever the problem was, those people should just gracefully bow out. I know I would. Hell, I could have a mechanical problem ten miles into the ride and I would tell everyone to leave without me and I would somehow get me and my bike back to my car by myself. Even if I had to walk the ten miles in bike shoes or call a cab. I totally think it is wrong to make the whole group wait for me.
We finally got going again. I never did figure out what happened to whoever was having the problem, or even whether the person (people?) with the problem dropped out or stayed in to bring up the rear. I was riding towards the back of the group because it had dawned on me as we set out that I had not actually ridden in any proximity to anyone else since El Tour, and that was, like, two years ago. So my group riding skills were not great and I didn't trust my reaction time. It turned out everything came back and I did not have to worry about riding too close, not paying attention, et cetera. Which brings me to another thing I don't like about group rides. Why is it necessary, when, say, another cyclist or a runner approaches from the other direction, for EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the line to say, "Cyclist up!" or "Runner up!"? It's like a giant game of Operator at full volume -- in other words, an un-fun game of Operator. My belief is that if you're riding on a wide bike path with great visibility, at most two abreast, is it too much to ask to just, I don't know, look at the freaking bike path in front of you so that you can see there's a cyclist coming? And shouldn't you just, like, stay on your side of the multi-use path rather than taking over the whole thing so you can ride three or four abreast and chatter non-stop while you cruise at adult tricycle speed? (Okay, I am cranky, I admit it. The training schedule for Steelhead is getting ridiculous and I resent every moment of wasted training time because that's time I can't spend reading, writing, napping, or hanging out with Frieda and Duncan, and I think that resentment is the source of this cranky, bitchy blog post.)
I don't think my heart rate ever topped or even nudged 100. I thought about just saying, "See ya," and taking off, but I couldn't quite bring myself to be the one to do that. I should have; I should have just invented some event that I had to be home for at a reasonable hour. Instead I just slogged along in cranky silence. We waited at every light for the second half to catch up. It wouldn't have done me any good to move up in the group -- the leader just wasn't going any faster. And, judging by her amazing body, her bike, her wheels, and the fact that I never even saw her pedal her bike -- it looked like she and her bike rolled along on awesomeness alone, no work required -- she could have dropped me in a second. She seemed to be enjoying this leisurely ride even though she appeared capable of doing the route three times before the group had even finished it once.
Once we arrived at Metro Beach, I felt a little better. It was a gorgeous, breezy, Pure Michigan day and Lake St. Clair was huge, sparkly in the sun, and absolutely amazing-looking. The food tent was set up in the parking lot and we rolled up to it and stopped. My watch said 10.5 and I was confused; this was supposed to be a 25-mile ride. The guy at the truck offered food and water to everyone and then said, "You've still got a half mile to the point, you can fuel up now or when you come back." I wanted to ask why we stopped at the truck -- and were still stopped there! Why not just go to the point, turn around, and come back and eat and drink THEN? I must be missing something. After several minutes of standing, we finally rode off to the point, where we all posed for endless group pictures and then rode back to the truck and proceeded to kill almost half an hour there. I appreciated the banana and the opportunity to fill my water bottle. But I did not appreciate the standing, standing, standing while the group talked about pregnancy, Lululemon, vacations, and all sorts of other stuff in which I had zero interest. I didn't even try to participate. I read Feedly on my phone and thought every second that NOW was the time to apologize and leave, saying I had to get home. But I didn't. I told myself to just suck it up, finish the ride, and never do another one.
Finally we took off again. To add insult to injury, I had stupidly forgotten to restart my Garmin when we left the point after taking pictures there, so I was now behind on miles. The ride back was better than the ride out. We had a tailwind and we went a little faster than the first time. Like, maybe 10 mph instead of 8. Someone got a flat tire a mile from the shop and they called the shop SAG wagon to come pick the bike up. The rest of us waited until that was done. (If it had been me who flatted, I would've ordered the group to go on and walked the bike back myself.) When we got close to the shop again, I excused myself from the group to get my Garmin to 25 exactly. The freedom of being alone was glorious! Those were my favorite 2.5 miles of the ride.
I feel like I can barely count that as any type of workout, but honestly with the schedule the way it is now, maybe it was good for my body to have a "workout" where absolutely nothing but staying upright was demanded of it. Also, some good did come out of the whole thing. I found a bike shop I liked much better than KLM (not only a bike shop -- it also sells tri supplies, and the owner is an Ironman), and I now know how to ride to Metro Beach and know I can do it from my house for a nice, long, safe ride. I am definitely not doing any more group rides. I pretty much always hate them because I'm either too slow for the group, or too fast. (Usually, almost always, the first one. Trust me, I have no illusions about my ability or lack thereof on the bike. Among people who do any type of racing at all, I suck on the bike and have no technical or mechanical bike skills at all.) It's just going to be me and my bike from now on.