The opening line of the song New Year’s Day by U2 is “All is quiet on New Year’s Day”. In a similar sense, the week between Christmas and New Years has always had a special quiet, contemplative feel to me. Children are out of school, many adults have time off from work, and friends and family gather to eat, drink, be merry, and reflect upon another year passed. In that spirit, I’m going to take a second to reflect on the year that was, and my view from the in the saddle in 2014.
While I never quite hit the same zenith of fitness that I hit in 2013, I did set some new PRs, got a few Strava KOMs, did some truly epic rides – notably, the 125 mile Ride Studio Café’s Pioneer ride in June, which stands out as probably 2014’s best ride. Wednesday Morning Worlds, the famous (infamous?) weekly throw down open to any who dare show up at 6am every Wednesday at RSC, continually proved to be the highlight of the week. There’s nothing quite like arriving to work at 9 am on an endorphin high, already having ridden 55 miles at a race pace. The weekly Saturday rides out to Harvard, Mass, too felt like a race in July and August, sometimes averaging over 21 mph. As usual, the KIT Super Saturdays in March were totally fun while also totally draining, and provided the perfect base miles to burn off the winter flab and prepare for the relentless lung-searing throwdowns that the summer of ’14 had in store.
You may have noticed a common thread running through the above rides – Ride Studio Cafe. They created, hosted, publicized, supported, and in some cases, all of the above, every one of the aforementioned rides. In the case of the Pioneer ride, complete with a perfect après-ride party. It’s easy to take things in life for granted, and forget that there was once a time before they existed. I’d been riding about ten years before RSC opened. In that time I’d made a grand total of maybe 4-5 riding friends. The vast majority of my rides were solo. While a long solo road ride can, at times, be just what the doctor ordered, the enjoyment level tends to quickly wane. Before RSC, there just really wasn't a place to hang out and meet fellow cycling-obsessed people. Thanks completely to Ride Studio Cafe, I have many riding companions now, am a member of a team, and have a seemingly endless number of group rides to choose from at any time of the year. This has added immensely to my enjoyment of cycling, and made me love the sport all the more. The number of epic experiences I've had on the bike, or all the friends I've made directly as a result of Ride Studio would be impossible to comprehensively list here. Suffice to say I've had scores of unforgettable adventures, met countless new friends, and increased my riding level beyond what I ever imagined possible. One of the best things about RSC is, though, at the end of every ride, I have a place to hang out where it feels like ‘everybody knows your name’.
A speedbump in 2014 was me coming down with pneumonia in October. This threw a wrench into my plan for a pan-New England cyclocross campaign. In the course of three nearly ride-less weeks, my fitness went from race-ready to ready for winter. So with it, obviously my mileage and hours for October were down the drain. I gained weight. I was far off from reaching my self-imposed goal of at least coming close to the 392 hours of riding I did in 2013. Things didn't look good for the two months left in 2014, riding-wise.
A word about weight gain: many accept it as an unavoidable consequence of the indulgences of the holidays and the cycling off-season. Well, my rugged RSC compatriots and I do not accept defeat to the gastric onslaught quite so easily. I know of some people who have lost weight in the holiday week, myself included. Rather unsurprisingly, as it turns out, when you aim to amass 500 kilometers of riding in harsh New England conditions in the course of one week, you tend to burn off some excess holiday 'cheer'.
Despite riding slightly more hours last year than this year, in 2013 I did not complete the Rapha Festive 500. I came in somewhere around 250k, a fact which as stuck in my craw ever since. The conditions last year were tough; which is to say, much more seasonable. In typical New England fashion, the only thing one can predict accurately regarding the weather is that it will be unpredictable. This year the Festive 500 kicked off this year on an inauspicious note with freezing rain on Christmas Eve, a ride which I deftly missed – major kudos to those who braved the elements.
I embarked on my Festive 500 on Christmas Day, with a solo 30 mile ride around the Arlington/Winchester/Woburn area. This was but a mere appetizer for what was to come. The next day, Friday, was the trek to Essex, Mass. Going into it, I knew the mileage for me would likely be over 90, making it the longest ride I’d done in quite a while. After getting in a few bonus miles before the start with Art, I headed off due North with Henry’s group. Essex or bust. Despite having been riding on the North Shore for over a decade, there were numerous backroads, in some cases, unpaved, on this route that I’d never had the pleasure of riding before. Some really beautiful quiet byways trough Ipswich’s Willowdale Estate park, as well as a pot-hole-strewn dirt road which twisted by a lake, through woods, past a dump, and eventually brought us to the center of quaint Manchester By the Sea. Upon reaching Essex and quickly chugging a hot coffee and half a tuna sandwich, we remounted the bikes, this time pointing away from the coast. Suddenly we realized the previous three hours we’d had a tailwind, and for the next 40 or so miles, it looked like we’d have to repay this debt. And we did. I split off with the group in Lynnfield to go straight home, rather than back to Lexington first. I was happy to arrive back after 95 miles still having energy left in the tank, and feeling pretty good overall.
The next day I did a solo ride out through Newton/Needham, West Roxbury, and back through Boston to Somerville, tallying about 30 miles. Sunday, despite a chilly rain, I managed to sneak in another 77 miles, and with the help of Jonathan, as well as Katie, Shane, Jenny, Ben, and others, completed the 5th ‘lobe’ of the Snowflake Century. Sunday was kind of a special ride. I elected to start-out later in the day, thus missing the start of the Snowflake Century ride, as well as the planned KIT ride, with the hope of missing the heaviest period of rain. To this end, I was mostly successful, though I quickly realized getting the 70 miles in that I had planned would be a bit tougher solo. Through the magic of taking a highly circuitous way home, I was able to hit my 70 mile goal for the day, and then some. I can't remember the last time I did back-to-back four-plus hour rides, let alone in December; I'm pretty sure probably never.
Thank you to Ride Studio for hosting the all the awesome rides this year, including the Festive 500, and donating thousands of dollars to Mass Bike, NEMBA, and Lexington Nature Trust. Here’s to a 2015 with even more epic crazy long days in the saddle, more friendships, more high-fives, and yes, of course, more KOMs!