Our tomatoes are turning red, the A/C is on full-time, school's out and the last Mules ride comprehensively kicked my butt. It's officially too hot to ride 40+ miles at 18 mph and I'm putting my Mules jerseys away for the summer.
Yesterday Kevin and I drove out to Zube for a new-format Mules ride - shorter, slower and a later start. To accommodate the less athletically gifted in the team, the Mules Committee (yes, we have one now) recently decided to offer an easier ride on Saturday, with a range of more challenging routes for the Sunday crowd. Our plan was to start with the group but to break away and ride the standard 45 mile loop at the appropriate point. Great idea in theory but Mules will be Mules.
No Mules in sight when we arrived but then a rider we didn't know came up and introduced himself - Nic, a friend of Paul's (and therefore a friend of the Mules), who spotted my Mules shirt. In due course Sean, Meggin, Lee and BJ and David and Alison materialised and we had a quorum.
The initial plan was to ride the standard route in reverse, with one group turning back at Prairie View, leaving the option to complete the ride for those with more energy. Average speed to be 14-16mph for the first group and presumably a bit faster for the second.
We set off, trying to hold the speed down, but pretty quickly we split into two and agreed to leave it like that. So there I was in a group pushing 20mph, surrounded by faster riders - a recipe for disaster but what can you do?
I was able to keep up pretty much all the way to the Exxon, but the hilly section along Wyatt Chapel road took a lot out of me. The wind was picking up ominously too, straight from the Gulf and straight into our faces on the way home.
At the break we agreed to cut the ride a little short, 38 miles instead of 45, fine by me after the heroics on the way out (average speed 18.5mph). Kevin started a paceline and settled in at a steady 18mph with me at number 2, clinging on. I was OK while we ran due east but when we turned south into the wind I couldn't hold on and dropped back. Kevin went into domestique mode and came back for me. We managed 14-15mph but I was feeling pretty bad. The others pulled ahead but they were fighting it too.
Onto Business 290 for the final few miles and we caught the fast group, presumably they had dialed it back for us, although Sean later told me that he was bonking badly. We rolled back into Zube and I was damn glad to stop and take off my shoes.
The slow group drew up shortly after us and we had a good post-ride banter session before heading home. I felt pretty lousy and have to accept that it's too hot and I'm too out of shape for these rides now. Have fun and be safe, everyone.