Pro triathlete Ben Collins makes some new discoveries with Edge 800
The ride started off casually. I introduced myself and chatted for a little while about triathlon and cycling and the usual handlebar small-talk. We weren’t doing the Rocket Ride route, so luckily there weren’t any big climbs to wake us up. Instead we meandered through the suburbs and eventually hit some country roads where the guys started rotating through a pace line. Each guy was taking a pull of about 2-3 minutes before pulling off, and you could tell this was the time to casually show off a bit. Now, because I was only in Seattle for a short weekend and was riding my old rain bike, my bike lacked a power meter, and I didn’t even think to add an ANT+ speed/cadence sensor to the rig. When I got to the front, my only gauge of effort was RPE (rate of perceived exertion), which is a subjective measurement that quickly loses its accuracy with every day of the off-season. I felt fine, so I kept the speed set by the pull preceding mine, and ignored the increase in pitch (both of which were displayed prominently on my 800’s screen). After four or five minutes I had unknowingly dropped half the group, and was unaware of the dwindling amount of energy remaining in my no-so-fit legs.
We dropped down into the Snohomish River Valley and proceeded north along the base of the western slopes. The area is still mostly unclaimed by the insidious housing abominations that we call suburbs, and the expansive agrarian landscape is a welcome beauty to the pedal powered recreationalist. The five of us began rotating through a pace line again, only this time there was no showing off. We rotated continuously and kept a strong pace along the flatlands. At some point my mind wandered from the joy of riding in a group and the beauty of the valley to a more urgent issue: food. I had skipped breakfast and had not eaten for the past 90 minutes of riding. This is not a mistake I would make during regular training. I scarfed down a peanut butter Powerbar and soon forgot about the strong possibility of energetic depletion. At some point we turned east and headed to Snohomish, a small town with an abundance of antique stores and a fun little river-walk to attract the weekend tourists. My legs were not happy with me, but my 800 said we were holding a steady pace, and my companions didn’t seem interested in slowing as we rolled right past town and began to head back south toward home. I sucked it up, refused to make excuses, and quickly forgot to continue eating. At some point I clicked “return to start” on my 800 and observed that we were still much farther from home than I wanted to be. I was no longer feeling very heroic and when we hit Broadway, a long steady climb that takes us back out of the river valley, I found myself dropped. The legs just wouldn’t turn over any faster.
At a stoplight we regrouped but the short break really didn’t help me. We kept climbing over the hill but as we approached a “Welcome to Woodinville” sign, I found myself dropped again behind those with enough energy to go for the sprint point. I was gone, bonking and too mentally hindered to realize it. Too far gone to remember that I had forgotten to eat for another 90 minutes of steady riding, and we were still 30 minutes from home. A few minutes later we were riding casually (slowly even) along a flat bike path and my legs just stopped turning. I looked at the cyclist next to me and just let out a laugh as he pedaled on ahead – I was bonking. Severely. I was two miles from my house and was wishing I had a cell phone to ask someone for a ride home. “Please god,” I prayed. “Let me get a flat tire so I can hitchhike home.” No such luck. I’d already gotten a flat earlier in the ride and that was the extent of my luck for unplanned rest stops. I was dropped on a flat trail with no wind going 15 mph. BONK!! By people with full-time jobs, families and “old school” Garmin Edge 705s. This was not my finest moment. The 800 said I was about 1500 meters from home when I said goodbye to my companions, thanked them for the ride, and coasted the rest of the way down the trail. If nothing else, it was a ride to remember.
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