I renewed my half-fast credentials…

on a recent ride with the Bombay Bicycle Club. It started innocently enough.

We met at a park near the edge of town. There were two options – short (30 miles) and long (70 miles). The ride leader urged those going long to head out first. There were maybe 8-10 of us. There were maybe 25 more doing the short ride.

As we headed out, we coalesced into one big group. A few folks worked their way up on the left. As we headed into more open road, the group started to spread out. A few faster riders began to disappear ahead. That was as it should be. I settled in near the back of the next group, at my usual leisurely pace for the first five miles. As we began to climb, I found myself moving to the front of that group. Another hill or two and I was in between the two groups. That was fine. I could enjoy the scenery and not look at a wheel or a back.

The fast guys must have gotten stuck in traffic at a crossroads, as I somehow found myself with them. The pace picked up to about 20 mph. Fine, as long as I was in a group. There were two guys who would ride along in the middle of the group, then one of them would accelerate up the left side and set a 25 mph pace. The next person would grab his wheel and we’d be flying along for a mile or two. Then he’d drop back and we’d settle into our usual pace. Then the other guy would do the same.

One year ago, crossing into Canada

It was exhilarating riding at a pace faster than usual. I had divided the route in my head into 7 mile segments – each 1/10 of the ride. At mile 21, my brain said “3/7 of the way. I can do this”. A bit later I said, “wait, that’s 3/10 of the way – this is not sustainable”. I drifted off the back. No way a half-fast rider can ping pong between 20 and 25 mph for another 50 miles.

One year ago – 100 is only a number. No century today.

I caught up with them when we all stopped for cold drinks at a gas station/convenience store. I had the sense to wait until they were out of sight before heading back out on my own, at a reasonable pace. I reached the MacKenzie Environmental Center, near the midpoint of the ride. The cue sheet said continue straight. The sign said “Road Closed”. The pavement said “I haven’t been maintained for 20 years.” I checked my phone for another route, but had no service.

I rode back out to the main road and picked up a signal. I began to plot a new route, when the map disappeared and all I had was a blue beacon telling me “you are here”; but there was no here there. The signal came and went. Three more riders appeared. They acted like they knew where they were going. I decided to follow them.

We rode back to the “Road Closed” sign and rode through the barricade. Garmin said to continue, according to one of them. The mix of pavement and green was about 50/50; except for the places where it was obscured by all of the fallen twigs and small branches. We picked our way through and, just as I made a cyclocross joke, the pavement came to an end. There was an expanse of grass ahead of us; nothing even remotely resembling a path – but we could see an actual road just ahead so we continued on. In retrospect, there oughta be some pictures here. I didn’t realize this was going to be a story.

Back on the road, we had about 35 miles of headwind to home. I managed to hang on.