I can go <em>far</em> when I'm not looking.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you go farther and push harder and do better when you're not even meaning to?

Like yesterday, I ended up staying in town too late with my bike and backpack and had to crash at a friend's house. It was convenient anyway because we were planning on cycling in the morning with the Chico Velo "Mellow Ride Group." Morning came, I reset my speedometer distance to 0.00 and rode off to meet them all.

But all I have to say about that group is "Mellow my a--!" To me, after a hard week of pushing limits, I was looking forward to an easy 20 miles of <18 mph. And it started out that way, with an easy-breesy 15 mph, because they were being considerate of me, being the newbie to the group and all. I must have made the mistake of sounding too relaxed and too happy with the jaunty 15 mph pace because a scant 30 minutes later the ride turned into a maddening 19+ mph chase over flatlands.

I had no problem keeping up, but both my friend and I were pretty worked from our previous week of training. After all, he ran 10 miles the day before and I had done my "mini-triathlon." Ugh!

Not to be whiners, we looked at each other, bit our lips, rolled our eyes, and sucked it up. It felt good, but I was also considering the fact that I still had at least 12 miles to ride home that morning.

Somehow, my friend and I survived. We didn't get dropped, but we did drop into Peet's Coffee and Tea. We had too-sugary hisbiscus iced tea to sip, and then rode back to his place. From there, I decided I should go home while I was still warmed up enough to go. I loaded up my stuff, and rode north into the foothills.

My backpack weighed 20 lbs. I didn't realize it until I got home and weighed it. It's interesting to note how 20 lbs above the center of gravity truly affects handling as well as effort. Panniers are starting to look very attractive now. (Are there any easily removeable ones, including easy-to-remove Pannier framing?)

Needless to say, that wasn't the workout I was looking for that day. I was already tired, already worked over, and I also wasn't watching how many miles I had already accomplished. I was staring at what time it was on my speedometer and thinking about how I really ought to have been home already doing homework and prepping for class this week. But I still had to make it home, first.

It started great, with energy and a strong pace of 17 mph with some slight rolling hills. Then, I felt the nagging, dragging sense of feeling heavy with legs like lead. Okay, 15 mph would suffice. I just kept switching between high-spins and low-spins until I made it to the main cross street near my home. I think those last 3 miles were the longest and hardest I've ever ridden. I had to keep switching my gears until I was practically in "granny gear" and cruising at a mere 12 mph!

By this point, everything was either slowing down or starting to ache. My gluts were twinging, my back was aching, my shoulders hurt against the backpack straps. Even my right foot was going numb. And for the first time in months, my seat felt uncomfortable! WTF?

I made it home, and I couldn't have been happier for it. I walked my bike down the driveway and parked it in the garage. It occured to me that I'd have to write down my stats, so I cycled through my computer to see how far and long I rode that day, anticipating 25-30 miles, tops.

Try 40.23 miles on for size. 16.3 mph average. 2.5 hours long.

No wonder I hurt. Damn, I'm impressed.