“Well, it’s not like the Friday ride.”

For months, I’ve heard the women who lead (and the men who follow) our (non-Friday) training rides utter this phrase to express our relatively tranquil pace.

For months, I’ve felt ambivalent as our patient leaders kept us at a speed the weakest link could handle. On the one hand, I could relate to being the slowest rider. On the other… I wasn’t the slowest rider, and wanted to see what I was capable of.

For months, I asked oblique questions, hoping to get a, “you should go out and try it,” instead of, “well, sometimes they go really fast…”

I almost showed up last Friday, looking to kick off my 50th year with a kick in the ass, a wake up call to remind me that I wasn’t all that.

When I went in to pick up my bike and its new Garmin, I summoned the nerve to ask directly.

“Do you think I could handle the Friday ride?”

The response was not the unequivocal affirmation I’d sought.

“It goes about 18 miles an hour. Lots of lights on the way out. People get dropped on Ballona Creek, but we regroup…”

I rolled my bike out to the parking lot, resolved to head out and give it a shot. I need to get dropped. I need to be pushed. As I was loading up, another one of the guys said, “hey, you should come out for the Friday ride.”

Just like that.

Friday morning, I woke up 15 minutes before the alarm, the same nervous anticipation I have before big rides in unfamiliar places. I opted for the well-planned nutrition (Greek yogurt instead of almond milk on the granola, beet juice smoothie in addition to the big cup of coffee) I usually plot for a long ride, not a relatively flat 30 miles. I donned my Happy Hour jersey, which would tell the group I know Matt’s wife Kate, instead of the brand new LACBC kit I was dying to wear. First day of school, I don’t want to seem to be overeager. I’m overeager. It’s cold on the ride down. I wish I’d worn the long-sleeve jersey. Everyone’s in a full racing kit. I feel like an amateur. I am an amateur. I’m going to get dropped before we get to Beverly Hills (less than two miles in).

Matt and Kate are the last ones to roll up, and I feel better about my fashion choices. Then we roll out, and I’m scrambling from the get-go. This is one of those packs of riders that roll stop signs and blow through red lights.

eep.

So, this happened:

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I finished.
I wasn’t dead last.
I posted a couple of PR times.

I won’t be back for a month, but…

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I’ll be back.

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