I went out with a group, something I am rarely able to do, for what was supposed to be a moderate, 36 mile ride. I needed something a little longer and so I biked to and from the ride and the day's total ended up at 54 miles. Perfect.
The group started off with the advanced group, mostly pros, leaving first, followed immediately by the intermediate group. The intermediate group eventually broke into a faster and slower group. I went right with the fast group, sticking pretty close to the ride leader and the front of the pack. The ride was a little hilly at first and then there were some fairly significant hills on the loop around the lake. I was pretty pleased with my performance until I miscalculated a hill... or more specifically, did NOT see the rest of it... and ended up losing all my momentum which sent me down to the granny gear by the time I reached the top. For this girl who learned to ride in flat, windy South Florida, the hills of Austin present not just a cardio and strength challenge but a technical challenge also. If you screw up your gearing, go with too small of a gear and lose your momentum, it can cost you 10+ mph by the time you spin your way to the top. Fail to get into a small enough gear and you will burn out your legs too fast. Also, a flub in the nutrition plan caused me to have some ground to make up at one point, but fortunately, given even a little gas, this engine is really pretty responsive. Another tri guy and I took off after the pack at a blistering pace down in a tuck, burning around a curve, and blasting up the hills like the devil was on our heels! It was like a little slice of TT heaven!
All this was all well and good. As the ride went around the lake, the hills got a little bigger. Also fine.. except... wait.. what the?!?! My bike wasn't shifting. I was headed up a monster hill and I didn't have a functioning front derailleur. Oh, and I was in my big chain ring because I was just blazing down a hill like my life depended on hitting 40 mph! Uh oh. Screwed doesn't begin to describe this. The little pack dropped me and it was all I can do to keep them in sight as my quads fill with lactic acid. Suffer. Suffer. Suffer. However, I did keep them in sight, which is fortunate since I did not know the route or the way home. There was never any question in my mind that I wouldn't give up. I was a long way from done, quitting. I couldn't maintain as much speed as I had been earlier but I was still fighting it out at a pace that took me sailing past a number of riders from the intermediate pack that had passed the leaders when we stopped to deal with a mechanical issue. I was attacking the hills because deep down I knew it was the best way to handle it. Keeping that bike over 20 mph was the only thing standing between me and complete misery. Momentum was the only thing going for me at that point. I had to keep the intensity up. I had to keep going.
That girl who decided to step up and fight the men, who finished the fight with her ribs smashed in, who climbed on unbroken thoroughbreds and rode her best when the horses were at their worst, who has never truly found the bottom of her physical reserves, who survives and thrives because of grit, tenacity, stubbornness, and toughness, ... yeah, she's still there.
...and she likes this video.