Out on Block Island in August, the roads are pretty congested with all sorts of vehicles and pedestrians for much of the day, but if you get out early enough, the roads are simply magical. They are smooth and winding with modulating rollers and sea views from various vantage points along the way. For the past week, I've enjoyed riding these roads each day as I do my best to get back into form before D2R2 later this month.
Even though it's a tiny island, you never know exactly what might appear along the way. Yesterday, I felt a swift breeze as what first seemed like a locomotive but then turned out to be a young guy on a Cervelo tri bike dropped me like a cold fish. He must have been turning his cranks around at about 25 mph on the flats and I just let him go knowing I would not be able to hold his wheel. After returning home a bit demoralized, I looked out the window and saw . . . wait for it . . . a white and blue Cervelo with shoes still clipped into the pedals leaning against the hedgerow. "It couldn't be," I thought. A peek out another window revealed a small party assembling for cocktails on the porch next door, so I mustered some confidence and walked over to introduce myself to our new neighbors.
It turns out that the Cervelo in question was owned by a nice guy named Joe wearing an Ironman Kona t-shirt. "Kona?!?" I thought, "No wonder that breeze felt so pronounced." After chatting a bit about Kona, PBP and my accident, we arranged to ride the following morning at 6:00 am. At this point, I realized that not only had Joe raced in Kona last year, but he was also in training to race it again THIS October. "What was I thinking?" I asked my wife and sister-in-law as we prepared dinner. "This guy is going to eat me for breakfast."
I set an alarm for the first time this vacation (at 5:30 am) and predictably went to sleep a bit later than I might have hoped. The next thing I knew, I was tossing around in a difficult dream about oversleeping and alarm when I sat bolt-upright and realized that the sun had not even risen. I still had about 30 minutes of sleep in the bank. After a few more minutes of sleep, I rose alert and ready to ride, tossed on a clean jersey, fought with a pair of contact lenses and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee before heading out to face my sentence of suffering. Joe was bright and eager as I thought he would be as we exchanged greetings and carefully pulled out of the stone driveway together in search of the paved road about 400 yards away. Luckily neither of us took a humiliating spill and we hit the road with fresh legs.
It was not as hard or uncomfortable as I thought it might be to ride at 20-24 miles an hour while carrying on a conversation, but I found myself huffing and puffing a bit more than I would like on the hills. Despite that, it actually felt VERY GOOD to be riding in such a manner for the first time in quite a while. Joe was a gracious riding partner from the start who knew I was not eager to threaten his preeminence on the island. I made sure he knew that my feelings would not be hurt if he took off ahead at some point if I was holding him back, but he declined. It turned out that we both bought our bikes through Signature Cycles and had a few other things in common, so despite our different fitness levels, frame types and race goals, maybe we weren't that different after all.
We decided to stop riding after enjoying a vigorous single lap of the island at which point I pulled in for a family breakfast and Joe dismounted to run 18 more miles. While I'm not yet up to quite that level of hardcore exercise, it did feel really great to ride 16 miles full out, even if the guy I was riding with was holding back just a bit.