The other day, I rode for the first time with a group.
I'd gone by a bike store in a nearby town recently, and asked about bike groups in the area, and they'd given me a lead. There are a number of biking groups in the area, but I hadn't known how to get in touch with them. The lead they gave me was for a group of women who ride.
I was worried about being strong enough to keep up and stuff, but I got up my nerve and called. There are three groups the woman I talked with rides with, one morning, one afternoon, and one weekend. The morning group sounded the least scary and soonest, so I joined them for a ride this week.
It went surprisingly well! I'm excited. It was fun to ride and chat, and I did fine keeping up. (I don't think they were slowing down for me.) We did 30+ miles, and while I was nice and tired after, I wasn't unpleasantly tired. We started out towards the country roads south of town, went through a tiny town I'd only heard of, and then circled to come into our town from a different direction, and got on the bike trail. We cut off the bike trail to avoid the center of town and rode back to where we'd met and parked.
South of town, we have hills. I've come to like hills once I'm up them. I look at them and think, hey, I rode up that, and I'm happy like a little kid. And then I get to ride down the other side and up the next one. (NB. These are little rolling hills, not mountainous hills, not the Rockies, Sierras, Adirondacks, Alps, etc.) Riding down, I'm trying not to be scared. Wheee!
I asked, and the women said I'd be fine with the other two groups, too. That's good, because once school responsibilities start, I won't be able to ride with the morning group, alas. But I hope to see these women again!
Sometimes on rides, I realize how far I've come, how much stronger and more in shape I am than I was when I started biking regularly a couple years ago. There's a hill off the side of the bike trail; after I'd been riding a bit, I would ride up and back down the hill as a bit of extra "training," a way to challenge myself. And it was a challenge.
The other day, near the end of the group ride, we headed up that same hill in order to avoid going through the center of town, and we just spun up it, none of us slowing much, because compared to the other hills we'd ridden that day, it was short and not too steep. I laughed, and told the woman I was riding next to about using it as a big training hill before, and she laughed, too.
Today, I went out for a short ride, just a relaxed ride. But the bike felt good. It just felt good, and I started going faster, and then I wanted to see how fast I could keep going. And I set a new Bardiac record for 10 miles: 17 mph average. For me, that's blazing fast, and a big improvement over my best speed at the beginning of the summer (when I was thrilled to average 16mph for 10-15 miles). And it felt good; I got into a rhythm of breathing with about every few pedal strokes and at certain points, it was just my legs and breathing, rhythm. I finished with five slower miles, though I think I could have kept up the speed for another five. There's tomorrow...
Tomorrow, if the weather looks okay, I'm going to try another group ride with the larger, weekend group. I'm told that they ride from some point in the area (broadly speaking), go get food, and then ride back. It looks like tomorrow's ride is planned at about 40 miles.