Last night my buddy PK and I ventured to the Greater Boston NEMBA MTB ride at my home trails over in the PR (aka the Landlocked Forest). I knew that the rides were going on but when I'd contacted another buddy, ThomP about riding last night, he'd told me his plan to attend and lead the A ride. He invited me to join and maybe take over as the tour guide, since I'm pretty familiar with the trails. It had been literally years since I'd done an organized NEMBA ride. In fact, the last ones I did were ones that I organized and lead in that very same area, many, many years ago. The previous century to be exact.
Why you may ask, have I avoided NEMBA rides like the plague for over a decade? It's not just the NEMBA rides, it's large scale organized group rides in general. Rides where the participants are unknown quantities tend to put me off. I'm not trying to be elitist or anything, it's just that with unknowns comes risk. Risk that folks will overestimate their ability. Risk that folks will be ill prepared. Increased risk that there will be mechanical incidents or god forbid, injury. Worst of all, risk that people will show up late. All of these cut into my ride time which is why, over the years, I've taken to cultivating and riding with only a very select group. You may at this point be saying to yourself, "wow, you're a dick", to which I'll reply "yes, but not necessarily for this particular reason". Time is limited and I'd much prefer to spend it riding vs. sitting around getting eaten by the bugs.
In years of both Cathy and I leading rides, particularly open rides including the old NEMBA rides, we found that each of the above points get wildly exploited. I got to the point where I was overly aggressive with the disclaimers on my rides, which if you have followed at all, I take pride in having elevated to an art form. Still, I would consistently get folks showing up who had drastically overestimated their ability which meant the rest of the group would suffer. Of course, Cathy would see the same though at one point she amassed a large group of many of the best female MTBers in the area that would regularly ride together. Other than that though, it was mayhem. This ultimately led to us withdrawing and become hermits, which other than a few forays back into the fold of society for some negative reinforcement, is primarily where we have been ever since.
Anyhow, last night PK and I got an early start and a good hours ride in the PR before showing up to the 6PM ride at 6:10PM and still standing around for 10 minutes waiting to get started. Of course, we had the fast group end up being the last of roughly ten thousand to start, immediately putting us into lapped traffic. This was OK, except we lost ThomP who was monkeying around with his camera apparently, and didn't even notice. The first but not the last casualty of the take no prisoners/left for dead, I mean Smurfy rainbows, group hugs and hand holding ride. We had a good group that included some old friends and some new guys who I've raced with but had never actually met. Great stuff and one of the seldom cases where change is actually a good thing.
I basically looped around and did the same old trails that I always do; all of the trails, in mostly both directions. However, it was fun to be showing them to new people. There were also guys that were dogging me hard which was great as it kept me motivated. I tried to show everyone all of the secret or extra credit big boy lines, which also forced me to do the big boy lines. This is something I often avoid, either because I'm by myself or because I'm a big fat wuss. Regardless, I was full of new group courage and had a good time running with it. The fact that I was on the very sweet Yeti 575 fun-hog that Brian hooked me up hard on last year, didn't hurt either. That bike really rocks the trails in the PR if you have the suds to get onto the throttle. Brian was also there last night rolling on his slightly under-geared SS 29er MTB.
Other than a couple of minor logistical issues, such as the start, I had a great time and got a good old fashioned ass-whupping by the end. It's a tall order to lay down nearly 25 miles in the PR given the nature of the trails but when I rolled home on my second nearly flat rear tire of the night, that was what I had amassed. Today my legs are tired but not totally blown out. I'm hoping that some rest over the past week has something to do with that. My lower back and upper body is defiantly tired and sore though from wrestling the bike around on the tight twisties for over 2.5 hours. All in all, I'm thinking this is just the type of thing that I need to help keep things fresh if I can possibly work it into the "training plan". It will also be good to get a fresh crowd to put the smack on me and maybe help me suck less. It really is funny how cycling and life for that matter really is cyclical and that something old like leading NEMBA group rides, could become new again.