This mailbox has a story to tell - you know it by the little flag that's raised. I took this picture early one recent Friday morning. That's the sunrise coming through the trees. It was through that sunrise that our story began.
You see, I often - though certainly not as often as I should - wake up extra early on a Friday morning to meet the guys for the Friday Morning Throwdown (FMTD) ride. They come from the north and materialize through that sunrise as they ride down my street. Since it's a "throwdown" they come down my street pretty fast, so I usually - though not always - try to get out ahead of them so I can at least warmup.
After missing each other a couple times (once I waited, not knowing they'd already gone past; once they waited, not knowing I'd already left), we decided on this simple, yet effective, signal:
Whoever gets to my mailbox first, puts up the flag.
Once we began to rely on this signal, it made for a couple of funny situations. Once, a friend met me in my driveway before the ride and, being distracted, he and I headed out - forgetting the flag. After waiting down the road - for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time - the guys finally showed up. They'd been soft-pedaling thinking I was behind them. Ooops!
Another time, I was coming out of my garage just as two guys flew past. My first thought was - boy, only two guys - small group today. My second thought was - HEY! they didn't put up the flag! So I put my helmet on, clipped in and chased for all I was worth. I finally caught them about a mile later, me all breathless and dripping sweat. You guessed it - they weren't FMTD guys. The redness of my face wasn't just from over exertion. But we had a good laugh about it. And the guys eventually caught up with us (toodling again, since I hadn't bothered putting up the flag before chasing).
This morning presented a new variant, but it was my own d----d fault. With all the crappy weather lately and not having ridden much, I'd been looking forward all week to doing the FMTD and riding into work afterwards. The forecast was perfect. I got home at a decent time last night despite working late. I even woke up on my own, 30 minutes before my 5:30 alarm - sun streaming in through the windows.
But I stayed in bed, going 'round and 'round and 'round in my head, weighing all my options and not at all motivated for a hard ride, much less riding almost 60 miles by the time I got to work. No motivation. I needed sleep. I needed to ride. Etc. etc. Many of you may know this drill. I even made a couple false starts, only to get back under the warm blankets, snuggling up to the Mrs. That certainly was nicer than the prospect of having my legs ripped off and fighting cars all the way to Hartford.
It was too late though. I was wide awake and there were no excuses that would let me really, truly off the hook. I got up one last time and started getting ready.
Not quick enough, as it turned out. Either my clocks are just a wee bit slow or the FMTD was a wee bit fast this morning, but I saw the guys go past my living room window just as I was picking up the bike to head out. NOOOOOO!!!!!! One kind soul did stop to put up the flag (bless him), but my raising the garage door wasn't enough to stop any of them - they probably didn't even see it. I saw one straggler - who I thought might be Tim (though why he was OTB I couldn't imagine) and yelled his name. To no avail. I was going to have to chase.
Just as the garage door closed I realized I left my CatEye on the living room table. Usually, this is not a problem. I had my Garmin. Problem is - my Garmin mount's retaining tab is broken off and the CatEye holds the Garmin in. I opened the garage door and went back for the CatEye.
Now I really had to chase - and chase I did, going full gas from my driveway until I caught "Tim" almost 2 miles later, nobody else in sight. Turned out it wasn't Tim at all, but fellow FMTD-er JoeD. The guys were "just ahead," though I couldn't see them. I told Joe to get on my wheel and we'd try to catch up.
Going all out, we didn't see them until we turned onto Great Hammock's long straightaway - and they were a LONG way off still. I still had illusions that we could catch them, but by the time we reached the 4-way stop (which, as it happens, marks the start of the "FMTD Leadout & Causeway Sprint" Strava segment (ARGH!)), we realized we'd never catch them. We pulled the plug, turned left on Maple, and went from "Rescue" to "Recovery." Now, all we could do is try and intercept.
We finally met up in North Cove, huzzahs all around and with stories to share. It certainly didn't seem funny to me as my heart & stomach were in my throat while chasing, but in the cool light of the morning and in the presence of the rest of the gang (finally), the persistence of my pre-dawn procrastination was pretty hilarious. I'd certainly paid the penalty and was happy to noodle along and follow wheels for the rest of the ride.
Once we all got back to Chester, we said our goodbyes and offered good wishes for a great weekend and Father's Day. Strongman ShawnM (aka el Presidente), accompanied me as far north as his place in Higganum and then I was alone. Except for a mile or two when my path crossed with Joan, riding to work as well, who I'd met a couple summers ago during a home-bound commute. It was nice to see her again.
I had to do the usual car-dodging and traffic-fighting through Middletown and part of Cromwell. But after that, due to my new-found northbound alternate (thanks to JeffM), it was all farmland and cool breezes. Actually, a pretty stiff headwind, but whatever.
I remembered while lying in bed, debating whether or not to get up and ride, saying to myself: "Just do it - you've never regretted it and if you regret it today, just don't bother doing it again." Well, as you can see from the pic above - typical scenery along my alternate - it was a gorgeous morning. I got to see some friends - some unexpectedly - and I finally got a Friday ride in again. No regrets.
Here's to the beginning (finally) of summer, to long rides, fast races, and time with friends. Let me know if you're in the area, and I'll hook you up with some of the best riding around. But come next Friday morning, if you see my mailbox flag up, you'll know I've already left.
For the more numbers-minded, here are the stats - in all their gory detail, including the warmup/chase.