Each year it seems that I'm learning a lot about what I didn't know about the previous year in regards to cycling. This is not unexpected, but at some point I have to take a step back and look at where I am versus where I was previously and take stock of the changes.
During 2012 my whole goal was to get stronger. I completed my first big event (Wheels for Meals 2012), and was in the middle of my first big fundraising situation for an event (Stars and Stripes 2012). By the summer I was into full mode of experiencing cycling from a group ride point of view, and trying to get stronger. My routine was 3-4 group rides per week: Donaldson/SCTAC on Tuesday, Bike Shop rides on Thursdays and Saturdays, and a local church ride on Sunday afternoons. I'd go out with as fast as I thought I could keep up with at the front, working as hard as I could to stay with the group, getting dropped somewhere along the way, and working on my own back to the start point. By the end of the season I was adding in additional days on my own training for the Hincapie Gran Fondo, but the routine was pretty much the same.
Over the winter and into Spring 2013 my routine changed a lot. I was still going out 3 or 4 days a week, but the focus was all of the sudden on the Assault on Mt Mitchell. I was working on base miles. I was climbing Paris Mountain as much as possible to gain climbing strength. I would go out for the training rides with the Freewheelers. I had laser focus with a goal in mind. By the time that the normal group rides started up in earnest I was already well into my established routines, and I really didn't enjoy going out as much. I found myself in a strange location of wanting to ride with just specific folks, and not dealing with the group ride atmosphere. The last month or so I've been riding mostly with friends and on my own, working on personal goals and needs, and just enjoying going out and riding. I've found new routes out into the country north of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and used older routes I have riden in the past to get in my miles for my goals. The times that I've gone out on group rides, I've found them to be challenging effort wise, but not all that enjoyable because of the banter. Instead of pushing myself into more group rides, I've been finding that place where I can ride a group ride when I want, but I get my workouts in when I need to.
As the summer winds down, and many of the evening group rides fade off, the challenge of keeping up miles will continue. By finding ways to keep my rides fresh, and new challenges to put myself through without relying on a ride leader to figure out a route each week, I think I can better meet my own personal goals, and be more prepared for a fantastic 2014 in the process.