Friday, May 25, 2012

'The Drives' training ride

On Tuesday night I rolled up to the Falls Bridge on Kelly Drive in Philly at 6:25pm.  The locals here can tell you this is the launching spot for 'The Drives' ride.  'The Drives' is a blazing fast pace line training session with an average speed reputed to be in excess of 29mph so I was anxious to check it for myself.  It is laid out on an 8 mile loop connecting a 4 mile drag down Kelly Drive to a 4 mile drag up Martin Luther King Drive.

'The Drives' is also led my old friend and, back in late 90's, sometimes competitor Brian Walton.  Brian is Canadian and an Olympic Silver Medalist but has been in Philadelphia for well over 10 years working with his accomplished wife Dana raising a family and directing Cadence Cycling & Multisport in Manyunk.

Boat House Row on Kelly Drive
Today Brian coaches some of the worlds best professional racers as well as aspiring masters, amateurs and juniors.  He and Dana recently launched Walton Endurance which gives them even greater access and focus on mentoring and coaching riders in a very effective and results oriented manner.  'High and tight' is, I believe, how Brian described his coaching approach.

As chance would have it I saw Brian on the bike path that Tuesday morning while I was out on an easy spin.  He was with one of his clients doing a one on one ride and he was pretty focused but (referring to 'The Drives' ride) took a moment to ask me if I was going to do the throw down ride at 6:30 that night?  I said sure and he said we'd catch up there.   That sounded cool to me at first, like oh sweet I'll have a nice group ride to do later in the day but then I paused...... and thought 'Did he just say throw down?'  

You know what, the term throw down is used pretty liberally in cycling.  There are guys that say it and you simply have to smile and take it with a grain of salt.  Then there are guys like me that say it and maybe it means something?  But then there are those guys that say it and you know, every part knows, it's meaningful.  Brian is one of those meaningful guys.

I was thinking about this as I approached Falls Bridge at nearly 6:30 pm and saw 35 or more guys staged there loaded for bear and with angry legs on display.  Brian rolled up a minute later, didn't stop, just gave a glance and the pack quickly dashed up to him and formed a neat rotating pace line that rolled up to 30 mph within a minute or two and it stayed that way for the next 32 miles.  Needless to say it was the best workout of its kind I have ever had.  There were surges at times and hot spots on the loop but generally speaking it was smooth and uber fast.  I took pulls when I could which was pretty consistently but I was really impressed and appreciative of the skill and cooperation of the group overall.  In the end I think there were maybe 15 guys left.

Afterwards I pedaled off alone along the Schuylkill River by Boathouse row with the Sunset on my back.  I was dripping sweat in a killer adrenalin haze and fatigued just enough to know that after that level of training I was a leaner and faster bike racer than I was just an hour prior.  Wish I could bottle that feeling.  I'd call it Life Elixir or Awesome-Sause.          Peace and Roll Strong!

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